Monthly Archives: January 2012

Mail on Sunday encourages us to ‘forget global warming’

Apparently the Met Office and the University of East Anglia Climatic Research Unit have released some figures that will prove ‘an inconvenient challenge’ for the ‘supposed “consensus” on man-made global warming’. Naturally, the Mail on Sunday online article provides not one link to what it is they are actually talking about (seriously, the busiest ‘news’ website in the world cannot even use simple Internet etiquette) but the writer – David Rose – seems convinced that this data completely changes every piece of evidence ever collated to support the greenhouse model of global warming.

Those of you with a good memory might remember that the Daily Mail have covered the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit before when hackers targeted the unit and released internal emails supposedly showing that the unit had been massaging figures to maintain the illusion that global warming was real. Now it seems that their figures are to be trusted because they happen to coincide with the newspaper’s editorial belief that global warming is not real.

However, before this can be established we need to know exactly what data has been released by the CRU and how the Mail on Sunday has arrived at its conclusions. Sadly, thanks to the newspaper’s complete lack of transparency we can only hazard a guess because no MailOnline / Daily Mail / Mail on Sunday writer seems to have permission (or the decency) to link to any external website (unless they are cut and pasting PR copy, of course).

Visiting the CRU website shows that the most recently updated information sheet was updated back in January 2011 and states that:

The period 2001-2010 (0.44°C above 1961-90 mean) was 0.20°C warmer than the 1991-2000 decade (0.24°C above 1961-90 mean). The warmest year of the entire series has been 1998, with a temperature of 0.55°C above the 1961-90 mean. After 1998, the next nine warmest years in the series are all in the decade 2001-2010. During this decade, only 2008 is not in the ten warmest years. Even though 2008 was the coldest year of the 21st century it was still the 12th warmest year of the whole record.

This time series is compiled jointly by the Climatic Research Unit and the UK Met. Office Hadley Centre. Increased concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere due to human activities are most likely the underlying cause of warming in the 20th century.

Presumably, the figures that the Daily Mail has got hold of must completely contradict the figures that they have released previously; or that newspaper must have arrived at a very different conclusion to the report’s authors.

The latest press release issued by the CRU (October 2011)- at least the latest one that I could find on their website – seems pretty equivocal:

The University of East Anglia notes the provisional findings of the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature group (BEST) that any doubts about the previous peer-reviewed, published research showing that the world has been warming are unfounded.

If the BEST studies are confirmed by independent peer review, they will further strengthen the scientific consensus built over the last 30 years by groups around the world, including our Climatic Research Unit (CRU). They will also vindicate – once more – those in CRU unfairly accused of scientific fraud following the theft of their personal emails in November 2009. The university has stood by the science and stood by CRU throughout.

Prof Phil Jones, research director of CRU, said: “I look forward to reading the finalised papers once they have been reviewed and published. These provisional findings seem encouraging and echo our own results, particularly our conclusion that the impact of urban heat islands on the overall trend of global temperature is minimal.”

If the figures David Rose has found are that groundbreaking then the least he could do is point us in the direction of them. Instead he describes any climate change skeptic as a ‘leading climate scientist’, or ‘solar expert’ or ‘one of America’s most eminent climate experts’ whilst relegating the Met Office’s statement (‘But yesterday a Met Office spokesman insisted its models were still valid’) to one throwaway line without any fancy introduction.

You see it’s simple really, all of the graphs put together over the years by scientists who have demonstrated beyond question that global temperatures have risen in the last 30 years have now been disproved by those same scientists releasing another graph. The sole reason for believing this latest graph and disbelieving all the others seems to be that it roughly corresponds to the prejudices of the author and the newspaper that they write for.

And it’s even more simple than that. Everyone who agrees with David Rose’s view is ‘the very best leading expert in the whole wide world’ whilst anyone with any different viewpoint is not even worth mentioning.

This is ‘journalism’ at its very worst and the longer publications are allowed to publish propaganda rather than at the very least flirt with established scientific fact, the longer such manufactured controversies will be allowed to flourish.


Incidentally, The New Journalist has now been launched so if someone more scientifically-minded and patient than I wants to track down this Met Office report and cover it for The New Journalist that would really be good.

More on The New Journalist

This is just a quick message to all those taking an interest in The New Journalist project. Things are progressing well, a good range of writers have been in touch and the website coding has been completed. The project is now waiting for the following:

  • Completion of the website – mainly installing widgets, setting up profiles for writers and so forth
  • Completion of the various codes of conduct covering the website
  • Collation of enough content to launch – and enough content to keep the website updated for a few days at least whilst it gets settled.

If you can please spread the word, follow The New Journalist on Twitter and obviously get in touch if you would like to be involved. Click here for full details.

The MailOnline’s spinning moral compass

The MailOnline has become an increasing flesh-fest of celebrities, reality TV stars and anyone else vaguely worthy of a bikini-shot mention. However, at the same time the Daily Mail website retains the hypocrisy that has been a long-time feature of the print edition; as ever it is a case as do as we preach, not as we do when it comes to MailOnline judging the actions of other media organisations.

The Daily Mail kicked off the new year with an attack on the BBC’s much-talked-about and successful take on Sherlock Holmes daring to feature some women-back-flesh before the nudity claiming that the BBC was under-fire from viewers who thought that it had ‘gone too far with the raunchy scenes’. The MailOnline naturally took the opportunity to post the key screengrabs – on a 24-hour-no-possible-watershed-website and also decided to stick a large photo on page 9 of the print edition.

The Daily Mail has a special distaste for the Internet and the fact the entire spectrum of human depravity is available at the click of a button (providing you have entered the right key words into the search engine of course). The Internet – according to the gospel of the Daily Mail – corrupts us, keeps teenage boys locked in bedrooms with boxes of tissues, whilst teenage girls chat to pensioners in anonymous chat forums. Middle-aged people seek out suicide partners and meet in deserted industrial estates possessing nothing more than a desire to end it all with a stranger and a length of hosepipe.

But the thing is parents can install Internet filters onto their children’s laptops, middle-aged people have the free will to search instead for dinner-party inspiration and everyone makes the active choice whether to seek out the darker side of the Internet – we all know that if you wanted to watch a video of a hostage being beheaded you’d find a million websites hosting the video and so on.

What we can’t prevent is the young and innocent logging on to one of the largest news websites in the world and being able to watch a 7 minute video of an alleged rape that took place on Brazilian Big Brother. Or indeed, a video showing ‘Moment base jumper plummets 200ft and breaks both legs after botched wingsuit leap off Table Mountain’.

The rather obvious and indeed laboured point is that the Daily Mail likes to lecture us on morality and decency yet they will publish anything to gain a few extra hits, to draw in a few more curious rubber-neckers who just can’t resist a click on something illicit. The Internet has a million websites dedicated to people who want to watch dubious videos, but the point is that you have to actively seek them out and most filtering software can block them from younger viewers.

What shouldn’t happen is one of the world’s largest ‘news’ sites publishing them in amongst content that is supposed to be suitable for all.

MailOnline and children, again

This week saw Daily Mail picture editor Paul Silva face the Leveson inquiry. During the questioning he was asked about the privacy of children, here is a summary from the free speech blog:

Silva agreed with a celebrity asking for privacy for their children, and that he “would go along with whatever they ask”. He said it was the paper’s policy that images of children would be pixellated, and when asked by Lord Justice Leveson whether it was questionable that photographers should be taking such pictures in the first place, he responded, “possibly, yes.”

When the inquiry came to talk about MailOnline Silva made it clear that he only deals with pictures for the print edition of the newspaper, not the website. Which begs the questions: who is responsible for the pictures used on the Mail website, and why are they also not appearing in front of the inquiry?

The trouble with the Mail website is that children aren’t merely shown in pictures without any attempt to remove them or pixellate their faces, it is that they often are the story. Take this, for example:

This is just one example of a story that appears daily on the Mail website. The MailOnline business model is based around photo-led (the article contains 5 pictures) ‘stories’ in which photographers stick their long lenses into the private public life of a celebrity. We have a media model that thinks it is perfectly normal to photograph children, babies and families whilst they play in the park, walk down the street, get in a car, eat in a restaurant, play on a beach or perform even the most mundane task. How is profiting from the constant harassment of young children and families acceptable?

Just because we live in a society that provides a willing and paying audience for this invasive drivel, doesn’t mean we have to allow amoral websites like the MailOnline to provide it.

New Journalism project

Those of you who follow me on Twitter will probably know that I have created a new website called ‘The New Journalist’ and that I’m looking for writers and contributors.

The basic idea is this: I have blogged about the terrible state of the UK media for a few years now and whilst I do believe that this is a worthwhile pursuit, I also acknowledge that it is also never really going to make any real difference in the way that the mainstream media functions. I have therefore decided rather than just criticise the current state of a lot of media output, I would actually create a platform for young or aspiring writers to get their views into the public sphere to counter the increasingly dishonest and irrational content currently inflicted upon us by large swathes of the media.

Whilst many individuals may have a blog or want to start one, few people can properly afford the time and effort to build up a readership and many good writers often fall by the wayside because of this. What The New Journalist aims to do is offer them a well publicised shared platform to which they can make the occasional contribution, allowing them more time to research the topic that interests them and put together an article that they can be proud of [avoiding the late-night rushed blogging that so many of us suffer from].

I want to give a platform to younger writers in particular because so often they bear the brunt of negative media portrayals or indeed political decisions without necessarily having any real right of reply.

I have built the site on a spare domain somewhere ready for activation, I now just need writers to provide the site with some content. You can write about anything really because this is never going to attempt to be a news site [impossible given the constraints], but rather more considered articles on contemporary matters – or articles on topics of interest that are not covered by our throwaway news industry. General categories will be:

  • Arts & Culture
  • Education
  • Science
  • Environment
  • Business
  • Politics
  • Life
  • Technology
  • Human rights
  • Technology
  • Health
  • Essays

Here is what I expect from contributors [some of these adapted from NUJ code of conduct for journalists]:

  1. All contributions should be as accurate as possible. This includes hyper-linking to all online sources used and referencing all other offline sources of information using endnotes.
  2. All information disseminated should be honestly conveyed, accurate and fair.
  3. Opinion pieces should clearly be marked as such, and should not contain any confusion between fact and opinion when creating an argument.
  4. Any information within the article must be obtained by honest, straightforward and open means, with the exception of investigations that are both overwhelmingly in the public interest and which involve evidence that cannot be obtained by straightforward means.
  5. Produces no material likely to lead to hatred or discrimination on the grounds of a person’s age, gender, race, colour, creed, legal status, disability, marital status, or sexual orientation.
  6. Avoids plagiarism.

Furthermore, contributors should notify the editor as soon as possible if they spot any mistakes in their article/s or would like to add any form of clarification.

The editor reserves the right to publish only the articles that meet this criteria.

If you are interested in becoming a regular contributor, please email editor AT thenewjournalist.co.uk with details on yourself, what you are interested in writing about and preferably an article. All articles will be edited if needed before publication and for the time being no payment can be offered. What I do hope to offer budding writers is the chance for their work to receive a decent amount of readers from day one.

thenewjournalist.co.uk does exist but is currently just a holding page. The website will be launched as soon as a team of writers are in place. I made a resolution that in 2012 I would get my projects going, and this is the main one, but it cannot succeed without your help. Please spread the word, follow The New Journalist on Twitter and visit the new site when it is launched.

MailOnline fakes Austrian snowstorm picture

MailOnline have an article on heavy snow in Austria, and have decided to claim that a photograph taken in a famously snowy region of Japan is actually of one of the locations in Austria that they describe in the article. Here is the photograph from the MailOnline homepage (note a pretty dire headline fail as well):

In the article itself the photograph is accompanied by the following caption:

Tunnel vision: The road into Ischgi was briefly open before being closed because of avalanche fears

If you do a search for the image using TinEye you get 142 results clearly showing the Japanese origins of the photo. Here is a link to one blog that not only contains the picture from the Daily Mail article, but also lots more lovely snow pictures to look at to take your mind off of the mild, grey winter we’re experiencing this year. Also, check out the date of that blogpost: 29 December 2010. The Mail is claiming a picture that is over a year old has just been taken in Austria. Not to mention that the cars in the picture are driving on the wrong side of the road for Austria.

What baffles me is how the Mail ever thought they could get away with this obvious deception – a deception that has been pointed out numerous times in the unmoderated comments under the article. You would have thought everyone would be on their best behaviour whilst the Leveson inquiry was ongoing. Obviously not.

UPDATE:

Whilst is appears that the Mail website has now removed this image, they did not have time to remove it from the print edition of the Daily Mail:

The photo includes the same caption as the original online version of the article, claiming the photo is from the recent snowstorm in Austria. This is embarrassing considering the Daily Mail’s photo editor – Paul Silva – is currently appearing in front of the Leveson inquiry.

Daily Mail still not exactly racially sensitive

In the week that Paul Dacre tried to claim credit for bringing two racist murderers to justice the Daily Mail website is quickly returning to form with some standard comment moderation in which racially abusive comments are happily let through, even though the comments section clearly states that all comments are being moderated. The story is the police investigation into alledged racism that supposedly took place during the Liverpool – Oldham game last night and which resulted in a young black player breaking down in tears.

Considering what has happened in the last week, and considering the way in which Paul Dacre lorded his newspaper’s moral superiority over us all you would think that the comments would be closely moderated – even more so given the reputation MailOnline has for not letting through many a sensible, non-abusive comment if it doesn’t agree with the editorial line. But, sadly this is not the case:

Way to take the high ground, Daily Mail. Still, what most of these comments are saying – ‘grow up you baby, people have heard worse’ – only echoes what Steve Doughty wrote a couple of months back:

So, Mr Evra and Mr Ferdinand, I know you feel insulted. But perhaps in this case you could just put up with it and get on with the game.

The Daily Mail: institutionally racist even after the Stephen Lawrence case.

Daily Mirror falsely claim Liverpool fan ‘arrested on suspicion for racial abuse’

The Daily Mirror have reported that Liverpool FC have been ‘hit by new racism row‘ and more specifically that:

a fan was arrested on suspicion of racially abusing Oldham player Tom Adeyemi…

Eyewitnesses saw two fans wearing Luis Suarez t-shirts, and heard one of them clearly shout “You f***ing black b*****d.”

Police immediately moved in to restrain the two suspects, and later confirmed arrests had been made.

However, the Guardian allegedly also reported that arrests had been made – only to remove all references to arrests shortly afterwards. Furthermore, BBC Sports Correspondent Dan Roan has tweeted that:

LFC & M’side Police say they are investigating “an incident” that occurred in the 2nd half v Oldham “to establish details of what happened” …but police “can confirm no one has been arrested on suspicion of racially aggravated behaviour during the match at Anfield”.

Once again Twitter is full of many different reports from many different sources. Whilst the Daily Mirror that eyewitnesses clearly heard racial abuse, Twitter users claiming to have been at the match and witnessing the incident deny that any racial abuse. Indeed, the BBC’s Nick Parrott was at the game and tweeted:

No fan was ejected following Adeyemi incident. I spoke to fans nearby who claim “Manc bastard” was the only thing shouted.

He was then able to confirm:

No #LFC fans were arrested on Kop tonight. Three were ejected, but this was unrelated to the #Adeyemi incident. I was there & spoke to cops

Before addressing the false claims in the Mirror he also commented that:

There were black and Asian fans near the fan who hurled abuse at #Adeyemi, I didn’t see them react to the fan. #LFC stewards didn’t react

What is clear is that the sheer speed at which information travels through social networks can both clarify and confuse situations. The Mirror clearly jumped at the initial incident, without first checking if any reliable sources could shed more light on the matter. Clearly a BBC reporter at the game should be considered a reliable source – and it seems according to those tweeting about the incident that the Guardian certainly corrected their article pretty quickly. It remains to be seen how long the Daily Mirror will take to correct its article – especially now that Merseyside Police have confirmed via Twitter that no arrests have been made – but an investigation into an incident is taking place.

Daily Mail nicking photos, again

This time from blogger IanVisits:

The blog post in question is the one the other day about the anniversary of the Cock Lane ghost…

I trawled through my own collection of vintage newspapers and engravings to see if I could add much more to the story – but ended up with a summary of the facts. I did however visit Cock Lane to take a photo of it as it is today, and got copies of a couple of contemporary newspaper reports.

You can imagine my surprise then when one of the newspaper scans, and my photo of Cock Lane appeared in the Daily Mail.

Published yesterday by a “Daily Mail Reporter“, then rewritten, rather better to be honest, a few hours later by Nick Enoch – both articles used my photos, without permission, payment or acknowledging my copyright.

The blogger has emailed the Daily Mail and is awaiting response. However, they do know who he is and they really should have paid him given that:

the photo editor has been in touch in the past to ask about using my photos, and they have on record how much I charge for that.

I’ll watch and wait to see if the Daily Mail do respond. Online content theft is certainly becoming quite a serious issue with certain newspapers and it is perhaps something that the Leveson inquiry should also be looking into.

The Daily Mail’s initial coverage of the Stephen Lawrence murder

A lot of rumours and half-truths have been buzzing around Twitter and comment threads about how the Daily Mail initially reported the Stephen Lawrence case, and why Paul Dacre allegedly changed from being hostile towards it to one of its biggest champions.

In 1997 The Observer and Guardian newspapers covered the Daily Mail’s famous ‘Murderers’ headline in some detail and commented on the fact that the headline marked a significant departure from the Mail’s coverage of the murder up until that point. A Guardian editorial published on the 15 Feb 1997 comments:

Cynics can also point to a very belated conversion by the Mail. Until yesterday, the Mail’s coverage of the shameful killing had been somewhat peripheral. The murder was only mentioned in three stories in the last year before the inquest, only six the previous year, and just 20 since the murder was committed. Moreover, compare yesterday’s leader with the paper’s editorial shortly after the murder which, while hoping the guilty would be caught, was quick to sneer at the supporters campaigning for the Lawrence family: “What is not helpful is the gusto with which the more militant of the anti-racist organisations have hijacked this human tragedy. The black African leader Nelson Mandela was enlisted, while on a visit here, to give publicity to the case. Racism is abominable . . . but is there not also something contemptible about professional protesters who capitalise on grief to fuel confrontation?”

The Daily Mail editorial quoted by the Guardian above seems very ironic given the role of the Daily Mail in becoming the ‘professional protester’, giving publicity to the case through the ‘Murderers’ headline and in particular Paul Dacre’s grandstanding video ‘interview’ on the Mail website which was also published in full in the Mail’s print edition. An edition which was a virtual commemorative Stephen Lawrence edition – followed up with exclusive interviews with both parents of Stephen Lawrence.

Things could have perhaps turned out very differently according to an Observer article printed on the 16 Feb 1997 titled: ‘Hostile Mail changed tack on Lawrence justice campaign’. The article gives the full details of the incident that has been doing the rounds in various forms on Twitter / comment threads:

THE Daily Mail, the newspaper which last week named as ‘murderers’ the five white youths linked to the killing of black teenager Stephen Lawrence, was originally hostile to the campaign to bring his killers to justice…

the reporter dispatched to cover the story last night told the Observer that the Mail changed its editorial line to support the close family of Stephen Lawrence when it emerged that Stephen’s father had once worked as a plasterer and decorator for Paul Dacre, the paper’s editor.

When the newspaper first covered the story in 1993, Hal Austin said he was ‘detailed’ to write a ‘knocking’ story about the Lawrence campaign, which it believed was orchestrated by a ‘rent-a-mob’, did not have the family’s approval and which it condemned in a fierce leader…

In May 1993, shortly after Stephen’s murder at a bus stop in Eltham, south-east London, the paper sent Mr Austin, a black reporter, to interview his parents, Neville and Doreen.

Stephen’s murder had ignited passions in the area. On the previous Saturday, 19 people, including five policemen, had been injured in street protests. Several rival political and anti-racist groups had contacted the Lawrences to offer their support.

The initial Mail approach was to treat the ‘campaign’ with hostility. Mr Austin, who no longer works for the Mail, said yesterday: ‘I was detailed to write a story knocking the campaign.’

During the interview with the family, Mr Lawrence asked what would appear and made inquiries about the Mail editor. He asked if he was a tall, balding man with a house in Islington. It emerged he had worked for Mr Dacre some 10 years previously. Mr Austin advised the dead boy’s father to contact Mr Dacre directly. It is understood that there was a phone call to Mr Dacre at about this time.

‘The following day my instructions were suddenly changed,’ Mr Austin said. ‘I was told by the news desk to forget the previous instructions and that they now wanted a positive story.’ Mr Austin felt the original approach undermined the family’s case because it implied that their grievances were not to be taken seriously.

Furthermore, the Observer article also comments on the Mail not normally being sympathetic to the black victims of crime, quoting the example of:

One black journalist who wrote for the paper about a sexual assault on a Tube train [who had] recently found her photograph replaced in the paper by one posed by a white, blonde model.

The Observer article also quoted another Mail ex-staffer’s cynicism of the Mail’s sudden change of heart:

‘It’s not an ethical position, it’s just expediency. I’m disappointed how many astute people are falling for it,’… ‘The Mail has a cast-iron agenda and it’s not suddenly going to get a social conscience. It’s a one-off, a personal thing. The Mail wouldn’t really care if all British blacks were pushed off the cliffs of Dover.’

It has been widely reported in the past few days that the Mail was initially hostile to the campaign that was building up around the Stephen Lawrence murder, and that Dacre supposedly changed his heart thanks to his fleeting personal connection with Stephen Lawrence’s father. However, I just wanted to clarify just what was reported at the time to correct a few versions of events that I have seen being spread, and to highlight in more detail the version of events as given by Hal Austin – a name which I hadn’t heard connected to the story before.

I also wanted to give the details from the 1997 Guardian editorial which points out not just the initial hostility of the Daily Mail towards the Lawrence story, but also how little coverage the newspaper gave the story until that headline in 1997.

Given the evidence above a cynic might suggest that Paul Dacre was more upset by the mocking, uncouth and sweary attitude of the 5 alleged murderers towards the British justice system than the initial murder of a black teenager.