Reporting in ‘good faith’, again

The Daily Mail have jumped on some figures obtained by the Daily Telegraph from the Metropolitan Police on black crime statistics: ‘Black men ‘to blame for most violent city crime’… but they’re also the victims‘. As with most Daily Mail journalism this article – from Rebecca Camber – is a copy-and-paste job from the Daily Telegraph article and makes the following claims:

The majority of violent inner-city crime is committed by black men, police figures suggest…

Police hold black men responsible for more than two-thirds of shootings and more than half of robberies and street crimes in London, according to figures released by Scotland Yard.

The Daily Mail then goes onto detail – the same as the Telegraph article – the percentages involved. However, what the Daily Mail fails to include is the caveat printed at the very end of the Telegraph article:

The figures relate to those “proceeded against”.

This includes those prosecuted in court, whether convicted or acquitted; those issued with a caution, warning or penalty notice; those the Crown Prosecution Service decided not to charge; and those whose crimes were “taken into consideration” after a further offence.

As well as missing out this valid counterpoint:

“Just because the police treat black men as more criminal than white men, it does not mean that they are.” Simon Woolley, speaking as the director of the Operation Black Vote pressure group, but who is also a commissioner on the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said: “Although the charge rates for some criminal acts amongst black men are high, black people are more than twice as likely to have their cases dismissed, suggesting unfairness in the system.”

Seems odd to these such important contextual points out, I mean, given that Daily Mail journalists claim to be ‘reporting in good faith‘.

The comments, by the way, under the Mail article are pretty soul destroying with explicit racism in spades, even though the comments have been moderated in advance.

A lie about Tesco breaking the law

Another classic misleading headline – although misleading is a bit euphemistic, it is a clear lie from the Daily Mail:

Tesco Not breaking any lawHas the practice of selling lager below cost price now law? No, of course not as the content of the article clearly states:

Tesco has emerged as the only supermarket to be ‘caught’ pricing its alcohol below cost since calling on the Government to outlaw the practice only a month ago.

According to research compiled for Financial Mail, the supermarket sold Stella Artois lager at 6p below the cost of tax and excise duty alone, the day after saying below-cost sales should be banned.

It was also selling 24 cans for £10 in a promotion the weekend before it made its plea, according to market research firm Assosia.

So, it may have been hypocritical, but the practice has not been outlawed, so why the lie? Pointing out hypocrisy whilst lying to create more sensation kind of devalues your point – as does pointing out hypocrisy in Daily Mail.

Nonetheless the bovine readership clearly cannot understand that no laws have been broken here – thanks to the lying headline:

Tesco lager

Interestingly one reader points out a further inaccuracy as well as the headline:

Tesco Lager 2

Still, the journalist writing this crap was surely lying in ‘good faith‘.

Fact-checking and ‘good faith’

A while back  I posted a blog on the charming story of a pig that had a phobia of mud, and pointed out that it was in fact a story completely made up to sell sausages and promote a campaign for the fairer pricing of pork. I linked to the PR company which was using the example as evidence at how for a small fee it could get you in all the national papers and even onto Radio 5live and other BBC programs. Yet in the comments I was excused of being unfair to the journalist who ‘wrote’ the story and that:

If you had quoted the full Mail story, you would see that it was the owners of the pigs, farmers of twenty years, who are the ones saying she has a phobia of mud and that she likes to wear boots. The papers and media outlets reported in good faith what they said. Nor does PR woman Emma Cantrill say they are making this up – as Angry Mob claims – she is simply pointing out how they found a good angle that as well as being a fun story also helped advertise her client. Come on Angry Mob – once you were a source of light in the dark, but mow you are spinning stories as much as exposing the spin.

This comment was posted from an proxy IP address for one Associated Newspapers Ltd, owners of the Daily Mail. Brilliantly the commenter / journalist demonstrates just how stupid certain tabloid employees can be, given that his comment is full of complete lies.

Firstly: his accusation that the reporters reported the owner’s claims in good faith and that the claims were not made-up by the owners. The owners claimed – as I have clearly quoted in my blog post – that they ‘were at a loss, until they remembered the four miniature wellies used as pen and pencil holders in their office. They slipped them on the piglet’s feet – and into the mud she happily ploughed.’

Yet, as I clearly point out in a quotation from the PR agency in the original blog post: “Debbie and Andrew had suggested that we use one of their pedigree pigs for the campaign, as she had a distinct personality and was slightly more fastidious than her colleagues” – i.e. they picked a pig that was only slightly cleaner that the others – hardly sounds like a pig with a phobia of mud – and that: “Ross Parry Agency took this one step further and created the ‘pig in boots’ shot”.

So, the agency had the boots idea, not the owners, which makes the owners liars and the press lazy churnalists – this wasn’t a case that they happened to just have four miniature wellies in their office, but rather I suspect that the agency went out and bought some. I claimed they were making it up not because I was also ‘spinning’ ,  but rather because the PR agency is admitting to making it up. This is not the case of the PR agency ‘finding a good’ as the tabloid employee suggested, but it is a PR agency creating an angle specifically to draw in lazy journalists who can never resist a cute animal photo.

Secondly, the suggestion that ‘the papers and media outlets reported in good faith what they said’, well, forgive me for having expectations that ‘journalists’ are paid precisely because they don’t just ‘report stuff in good faith’. Even some basic checking would have revealed this story to be absolute pants, but then I’m 100% certain that 90% of tabloid journalists wouldn’t even care about truth in this instance, because at the end of the day this story makes good, quick and cheap copy and you get a cute picture of a pig in the paper.

As if to further prove my point that journalists really are a lazy bunch of gullible idiots who happily write articles without even the vaguest attempt at fact-checking The Media Blog reports this:

How journalism works: First, see this (ignoring the bit on the right about it being a parody):


Next, write this (ignoring the bit about it not being true):


Then, explain to your editor that you didn’t need a second source because you heard it straight from the CEO himself… sort of, before hearing the dim and distant sound of a penny dropping.

That is poor, I mean really, really poor. The Daily Mail have now done the usual deletion of the story, but a search for ‘Steve Jobs’ on their site still reveals the original article:

Steve JobsThere is something more sinister behind this idea that Daily Mail journalists simply ‘report in good faith’ because they don’t have the time or basic intelligence to fact-check and that is that Daily Mail journalists have plenty of time to dig around for alternate angles on a story when it suits them. Take for example the way they report health and safety stories, whereby they take an anecdote or measure and then spend a lot of effort kneeding it into an outrage story. Or the sheer amount of invented stories that only involve the reader taking the word of the journalist in ‘good faith’, given the complete lack of any sources whatsoever.

When it comes to spinning stories (or simply making the whole thing up) about immigrants, gypsies, homosexuals, the ‘PC brigade’, ‘elf n safety’, the public sector and any other Daily Mail target journalists have plenty of time to mould bullshit into an article. So don’t give me any bullshit about ‘reporting in good faith’, when clearly this is something you not only do not do, it is in fact the exact opposite of what you do.

Thanks to @deardamselfly for the hat-tip.

Another misleading headline about human rights

Daily Mail headlines are so frequently laughably inaccurate, just to secure the right amount of outrage as people rush straight to the comment section to shit-out their ignorant opinion. This is never more true than compensation paid out with even a vague mention of human rights. Take this top story for example:

Yuman rights

All that money for the loss of a filling? It’s PC-elf’n’safety-yuman-rites gone mad according to commenters. That is, unless you actually take about 1 minute of your life to read the article:

Michael Steele, one of the notorious ‘Essex Boys’ gangland murders, complained that being refused dental treatment left him in severe pain for years…

Soon after he was handed three life sentences, one of his fillings fell out at Belmarsh Prison…

[causing] almost seven years of agonising toothache

The irony is, of course, that if the prison had taken steps to properly safeguard the health of the prisoner (perhaps respected his human rights a little more…) then this whole expensive case would have been avoided. To those of you that might want to argue that as a murderer he deserves agonising pain for all those years I would merely point out that in this country we sentence people to prison terms; not to terms of agonising pain. Preserving the dignity and basic rights of everyone in society – irrespective of their actions – is what separates us from them.

A Fishy Tale

Hot on the heels of the cute pig in wellies suicidally promoting sausages comes this story about a Piranha supposedly caught in Kent: ‘Mystery of the killer Piranha caught by angler in a FOLKESTONE pond‘. As unlikely as this sounds the original headline is one of the most laughable that I have seen in a really long time: How can one fish – believed in this article to be released in isolation – into a small, landlocked pond, which would normally die within minutes or days (due to either acute stress or simply the cold water) possibly ‘raise fears’ of them ‘breeding in Britain’. Even for the Daily Mail that is a very stupid headline.

The terrifying ordeal, described by fisherman Derek Plum – presumably with outstretched arms and claims of ‘It was THIS big!’ reckoned that:

‘I felt an almighty tug on my rod. Next thing I knew it had dragged my line about 500 yards. It was going all over the place,’ Mr Plum told The Sun.

‘It took me about 15 minutes to reel it in.

‘When it emerged it was thrashing around and was going crazy.

‘The other fisherman were yelling “you’ve caught a Piranha”. I couldn’t believe it. Luckily the fishing hook had fallen from its mouth, otherwise I would have somehow had to remove it myself.’

I’ll simply point out that the Mail barely makes it a few more paragraphs before sticking in a scantily clad Kelly Brook still photo from the soon-to-be-released ‘Piranha 3D’ film. I’ll let some anglers respond to Plum’s tall tales:

Piranha 3D anyone?Piranha 3D anyone?Piranha 3D anyone?Piranha 3D anyone?Piranha 3D anyone?

‘These comments have been moderated in advance’

Bearing the title of this post in mind, imagine what kind of comments didn’t make it through on this article: ‘Cameron to host No.10 party for gay celebrities in bid to woo ‘pink vote’‘:

Gay 1Gay 2Gay 3Gay 4

And in the red corner:

Gay 5

Not surprisingly only one comment has passed moderation on this article: ‘‘Immigrants are making our country dumber’: Anger as board member of Germany’s central bank cites ‘ample statistics‘.

There’s Always One

Last night on Twitter I joked that someone might accuse Sir Alan’s Choice of Arjun Rajyagor as the winner of Junior Apprentice as ‘PC gone mad’, and the Daily Mail website hasn’t let me down:

PC brigade, again
Sir Alan, famous PC Brigade member

It is good to see this accusation well in the red, and the fact that he is pretty much alone in suggesting it is down to PC ‘again’ gives me a little more faith in humanity.

The ‘Wilful misreporting’ of Immigration

Tabloid Watch has already covered this, but I think it is worth repeating on this blog – in fact it is worth repeating on every blog until it starts to sink in: tabloid coverage of immigration is a dishonest disgrace. Panorama reporter Paul Kenyon has written an article for the latest issue of British Journalism Review, which has been cut down and published in the MediaGuardian today. Kenyon’s conclusion of his experience of tabloid coverage of immigration is clear:

the seemingly non-stop campaign against asylum- seekers, and the wilful misreporting of the issue among some tabloid newspapers, is getting worse.

‘Wilful’ is a strong allegation, but it’s a fair one.

Important distinctions, such as that between asylum-seekers and economic migrants, are often fudged or overlooked; the language is inflammatory; there seems to be a lazy hostility towards them, implying a universal acceptance that what asylum -seekers represent, what they are, is wrong.

Kelvin MacKenzie tried to argue on Question Time recently that the tabloid media was never responsible for whipping-up outrage, they merely reflected the outrage that the public already felt. I beg to differ. Likewise, when I post something on Twitter about Richard Littlejohn writing a disgraceful column full of lies and hate, I sometimes get replies saying simply: ‘who cares?’. Well I do for starters, and as I have argued before: we should all care because tabloid lies infect the lives of all of us, whether we read tabloid newspapers or not.

Most of us will have had the same leaflet from the BNP (or, indeed, the Conservatives) during the election campaign, a leaflet that just happened to neatly parrot the tabloid narrative of immigrants getting a better deal than pensioners. Something which is a complete lie, one driven forward by utterly dishonest journalists – none more so than the Richard Littlejohn that I’m supposed to ignore.

We also might happen to work in an area like Blaenau Gwent, in which 92% of residents were born in Wales (the highest proportion of any local authority in Wales) and less than 1% of people living in the local area were born outside of the UK and Ireland. The ethnic population in Blaenau Gwent is comparably small, making up less than 1% of the overall population (Wales 2%). So, this population, despite living in one of the least diverse areas in the UK, had a BNP turnout of 1,211 along with 488 voting for UKIP.

As research has shown, the BNP get significantly less votes in areas with a high immigrant population, and more votes in areas with low immigration. This research demonstrates that the tabloid narrative that it is ‘uncontrolled immigration’ feeds the BNP is false; and it instead points to the tabloid media as the real culprits for boosting BNP support in areas that have no experience with the reality of immigration (areas such as Blaenau Gwent).

When I deal with students and they repeat tabloids lies about immigration and express their hatred of immigrants it makes me even more determined to not just ‘look the other way’ as some commenters seem to suggest occasionally. There are real consequences to dishonest tabloid narratives, I see it in the people I meet and the students I teach. I don’t think I am strange or indeed alone in wanting a better tabloid media; one that doesn’t continually distort reality to create hatred and anger in groups that don’t know better and even some that really should.

A reader comments

Sometimes you read a comment on the Daily Mail website and you just cringe at just how mind-shatteringly stupid it is. What is worse is that the comment is normally rated green as well, because other Mail readers have decided: ‘you know what, he’s right you know!’. Today’s utterly moronic comment comes from John, England and has already attracted 26 positive ratings. The comment is under an article with some nice pictures of a WW2 fighter plane that crashed into the sea just off the coast of Wales:

These incredible pictures show how the previously undetected Lightning suddenly appeared on a Wales beach in 2007. Shifting water displaced sand which had hidden it for 60 years and revealed a gem find for aviation buffs.*

OK, so shifting sands have revealed the plane, got it. John on the other hand thinks this is more evidence that Global Warming is a myth:


Sometimes you just have to laugh at comments like this, otherwise you’d just collapse in a state of existential despair.

* Interesting that this was over 3 years ago, and surely it should read ‘Welsh beach’…

Hayley From Manchester Incurs Wrath of Chile

Every now and again a comment on the Mail website manages to stand out amongst the unpleasantness to be mind-numbingly inhumane, step forward Hayley from Manchester on the news that Chile has suffered an earthquake of 8.8 magnitude:

Another country that’s going to be begging for our money and resources? Fantastic.
– Hayley, Manchester, 27/2/2010 09:12

And after she attracted a series of red arrows and angry responses from Chileans she responded with:

For all of you you red arrowing me, I am not going to apologise and stand by what I said. Why should we help countries that have done nothing for us. Their problem, let them sort it out.

– Hayley, Manchester, 27/2/2010 13:15

Makes you proud to be British.

Hat-tip to Tom_MKUK from the Mailwatch forums for spotting this.