Category Archives: Press intrusion

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.

Children of famous parents and their right to privacy

Another thing I would like to see from the Leveson Inquiry is the conclusion that plastering the faces of young children across newspapers and their websites simply because they have been born to famous parents is utterly unacceptable. The PCC code of practice does mention Children and states:

Editors must not use the fame, notoriety or position of a parent or guardian as sole justification for publishing details of a child’s private life.

However, perhaps it should address the celebrity-driven nature of newspapers now and state specifically that it is not acceptable to publish lots of photos of them either – unless they are specifically engaged in a public appearance with their parents. Of course, whatever replaces the PCC will have to have relevant enforcement powers.

It troubles me that so many of the activities a family might want to engage in take place in public and that means the press have a never-ending supply of easy stories involving the children of celebrities. Like this published on the Mail website today: ‘Fun and hugs: Doting Olivier Martinez has a beach playdate with Halle Berry’s daughter Nahla’. The article includes 8 close-up long lens photos of Nahla who is not yet four years old – also rather disturbingly the sub-editor who writes the photo captions has a habit of pointing out that young girls look older than their years, today is no exception:

Growing up fast: Nahla will turn four years old in March, but already looks older than her tender years

This kind of article shouldn’t exist – let alone with such disturbing captions; people have the right not just to privacy in their own homes, but also the right to a certain level of privacy in public – unless you really want to argue that as soon as someone famous steps outside their house the press has every right to harass them with long-lens cameras and then publish beach snaps of 3-year-old children worldwide to make a few quid. The press constantly talk about privacy as if respecting it stamps on some kind of sacred right that the press has, yet the reality of 99% of press intrusion is the morally and ethically bankrupt pursuit of celebrity gossip.

This not only ends up with vulnerable young children being exploited, it also means that things of real importance are being ignored because the media have decided instead to focus on feeding us non-stop celebrity drivel.

Richard Peppiatt’s speech to the Leveson inquiry

Your must read article of the day, largely because it is someone from inside the newspaper industry confirming my own arguments about how media narratives are constructed and adhered to by all of the journalists working for a particular newspaper:

In approximately 900 newspaper bylines I can probably count on fingers and toes the times I felt I was genuinely telling the truth, yet only a similar number could be classed as outright lies. This is because as much as the skill of a journalist today is about finding facts, it is also, particularly at the tabloid end of the market, about knowing what facts to ignore. The job is about making the facts fit the story, because the story is almost pre-defined. Laid out before you is a canon of ideologically and commercially driven narratives that must be adhered to. The newspaper appoints itself moral arbiter, and it is your job to stamp their worldview on all the journalism you do.

If a scientist announces their research has found ecstasy to be safer than alcohol, as a tabloid reporter I know my job is to portray this man as a quack, and his methods flawed. If a judge passes down a community sentence to a controversial offender, I know my job is to make them appear lily-livered and out-of-touch. Positive peer reviews are ignored; sentencing guidelines are buried. The ideological imperative comes before the journalistic one – drugs are always bad, British justice is always soft.

This ideological imperative is bound to a commercial one, founded on one main premise: It is easier to sell people something that reinforces their beliefs and prejudices than to sell something that challenges them.

Your success as a reporter is determined by how well you apply this philosophy to your news judgements. Pitch a story to your newsdesk about a peace conference in Wembley attended by thousands of Muslims, you’ll likely get more sneers than you will paragraphs in print. Pitch a story about a three Muslim men shouting “death to infidels” outside a courtroom, you’ll likely be brought a pint and given the front page.

Such narratives, Peppiatt claims, are not driven by the team of journalists but the editor:

typically news stories are passed down the chain of command rather than up, with reporters being assigned stories by their editors. It is here that many of the worst journalistic and ethical failures occur.

News editors, keen to appease their superiors with eye-catching news lists, dump the onus on reporters to stand-up their fantastical hunches and ill-informed assertions. The question is not: “Do you have a story on X?” It is “Today we are saying this has happened to X -make it appear so.”

Go and read his full speech here.

Rebecca Leighton innocent, who will the press smear next?

Recently 8 newspapers agreed to apologise to Chris Jefferies and pay him damages for libel after they destroyed his reputation because he happened – unluckily – to be the landlord of murder victim Joanna Yeates. After having his character completely destroyed on the front page the newspapers only deemed an apology worthy of page 2.

Whilst the Jefferies legal case was ongoing another person found their photo on the front page of many newspapers – and discovered that the press would happily trawl Facebook to take any comments, photos or behaviours wildly out of context to paint them as some kind of monster. This time it was Rebecca Leighton, suspected of poisoning pensioners in hospital. The Daily Mail – the single most unashamedly aggressive newspaper when it comes to front page character assassination – led with these two front pages:

 

The Daily Mail – of course – are far from alone here in demonising Leighton; in the same way that that the tabloids attacked Jefferies as a rabid pack. Other bloggers have taken the time to go through just what smears other newspapers came up with – including the Daily Star labelling Leighton as the ‘Angel of death’. Of course, Rebecca Leighton has now been cleared of all charges and hopefully she’ll sue all the newspapers involved for libel, but I’m pretty sure she would have rather been left alone in the first place, to be treated as if she were innocent until proven guilty.

Anyone with a Facebook account, a blog or indeed family, friends or acquaintances is just one moment away from having the tabloid press pack descend on them. Who knows what you may have once innocently or jokingly posted on Facebook or Twitter that will be taken out of context as evidence to sully your character or to demonstrate your guilt. All you need to be is in the wrong place at the wrong time and you could find your every past moment turned over, speculated about and used to create whatever demon the press would like you to be. How much longer are we going to accept that this is simply an accepted risk when living in the UK? How much longer will spineless politicians acquiesce to this?

The Daily Mail is now covering the ‘hell’ that the nurse went through with no mention of their lead role in creating the very hell that Leighton complains of:

My life has been turned upside down. All I ever wanted to do was pursue a profession in nursing and care for my patients.

And her parents state that the whole experience has been a ‘nightmare’ and that:

We just want to be left in peace now so we can get on with our lives.

These are not complaints levelled at the police – who were just doing their jobs – but at the tabloid press, and chief amongst the guilty is the Daily Mail who happily and brazenly print this follow-up story as if this ‘nightmare’ or ‘hell’ had nothing to do with them. I think this is exactly what Jonathan Ross means when he refers to Daily Mail writers as ‘noxious human beings’ and ‘insincere hypocrites’.

Brief thoughts on today’s hearing

Just a couple of brief thoughts on today’s U.K. Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee hearing.

Firstly, in many ways it was exactly what was expected: politicians demonstrating that they are not often elected on merit or ability; those summoned pleading almost universal amnesia or simply skirting around answering questions with a stream of waffle or even trying to claim that they don’t understand things which they clearly must. In many ways they can get away with this behaviour because it is exactly the same behaviour used by politicians whenever they face similar hearings. One could conclude from such largely pointless prodding that our democracy is very weak.

Secondly, on a slightly more positive note it was interesting to see many, many people watching, listening, blogging, tweeting and generally being proactive in following the hearing. It was, after all, public outrage that got us here in the first place, so it is good to see this not appearing to wane. Although, it must be admitted that my timeline was always likely to make me feel this way because I tend to follow those people who might be interested in such things. However, the trending topics seemed to imply that it was more than just that.

Thirdly, it demonstrated how easily distracted we are by small events, or events that seem much larger due to their unexpected or dramatic nature. I am referring, of course, to the shaving foam ‘pie’ incident which did get everyone interested as Twitter demonstrated with ‘WTF’ trending soon after the incident. Rightly the perpetrator was roundly condemned for their actions, taking the emphasis away from Murdoch et al’s amnesia tactics or any of the good questions they had stumbled over by those politicians up to the job today.

However, let us not place all of the blame on the ‘pie’ slinger here, sure, he gave the press an open goal with his actions, but the press don’t have to take it. It is not the moronic actions of one individual that writes the headlines, it is the editor of each respective newspaper. They must take sole responsibility for their frontpages tomorrow. It will be interesting to see which editors can rise above the irrelevant actions of one man to focus on the more important, significant and serious events of the day and which ones will choose a screen grab and a silly headline. I really do believe that each pie-centric front page will be seen by many as just another example of how our press fails in its coverage of politics and thus weakens our notions of democracy.

And finally, Melanie Phillips might want to reconsider her comments on the BBC being obsessed with the story when she sees the Mail Online home page:

Mail Online
Click to enlarge

Whilst the Mail does offer extensive coverage of the days events, it is sad to see them place such prominent emphasis on the ‘pie’ attack instead of relegating the perpetrator to the obscurity he deserves.

Crime and _________?

One of the things that has always struck me about the Press Complaints Commission is that it rarely seems able to punish newspapers even when they make serious errors – or worse they are caught out deliberately lying. Very often this means that the only way a member of the public can feel like any kind of justice has been achieved – or to even get any compensation for any distress they may have suffered at the hands of a newspaper – they must go through the expense of hiring lawyers.

Take this example from the PCC website posted on the 7 July this year:

Adjudication – Hampshire Constabulary v Aldershot News & Mail

Hampshire Constabulary complained to the Press Complaints Commission on behalf of two women that an article published in the Aldershot News & Mail in August 2010 identified them as victims of sexual assault in breach of Clause 11 (Victims of sexual assault) of the Editors’ Code of Practice.

The complaint was upheld.

The PCC in their adjudication noted, in very strong terms:

This was a truly shocking case in which two alleged victims of sexual crimes had been identified by name. There was simply no justification for naming them – as the newspaper itself had recognised – and the women, who were in a clearly vulnerable position, should have been protected as the Code required. The newspaper’s mistake was an appalling one, and the Commission had no hesitation in upholding the complaint.

So, what would the punishment be? Well, here is what the PCC did:

Given the exceedingly serious nature of this case, and the catastrophic failure of the editorial process, the Commission agreed to refer the terms of its adjudication to the Chief Executive of Trinity Mirror, the owner of the Aldershot News & Mail, so that action could be taken to prevent this ever happening in the future. It requested that the response be referred back to the Commission.

They contacted the owners so that they could ensure it never happened again. All well and good you might think, but imagine of this kind of adjudication happened in any other walk of life. Would the tabloids be happy if a teenager found guilty of doing something ‘exceedingly serious’ was not punished in any way, instead the judge just passed on his thoughts to the parents in the hope that they could take the appropriate action?

What if the Chief Executive of Trinity Mirror doesn’t do anything? What would the PCC do in that case? What could they do in that case?

In reporting cases like this every single journalist, editor, sub-editor and so forth should have it drummed into them that they can never, ever reveal the identify of victims or alleged victims of sexual assault. Yes, mistakes do happen, but they cannot be undone and anonymity cannot be returned to these two women and therefore some sort of statutory punishment must be handed down to newspapers as a start reminders to others.

Just imagine the outrage of our spiteful, tawdry and hateful press if any other form of regulation was as woolly, powerless or self-serving as theirs.

What about the real news?

Today’s Daily Mail editorial condenses all of the basic arguments that have been trotted out by their ever-so-compliant columnists in the past week as to why we should all forget about hacking and move onto something else: ‘Never mind phone hacking, what about the real issues facing Britain?‘ [istyosty.com link].

In the real world, bleak economic storm clouds are gathering.

The euro crisis, which has already cost the beleaguered British taxpayer £12.5billion in bailout loans – an average of £600 for every family – deepens by the day.

Italy is the latest debt-ridden Eurozone country causing panic in the markets and even the credit-rating of the USA may be cut, which would spark a major crisis on both sides of the Atlantic.

In Britain, rampant fuel and food inflation cripple household budgets, unemployment remains around 2.5million and there’s fear on the High Street as big names like Habitat and HMV go under.

Despite empty promises from Business Secretary Vince Cable, the banks – whose criminal recklessness and greed created this crisis – cynically starve small businesses of vital funds they need to help kick-start the economy.

Even when loans are given, interest rates are usurious.

Mortgages are almost impossible to get for first-time buyers, leading to sclerosis in the housing market. Growth has stalled and we may even be back in recession by the end of the year.

In a sane world, politicians would be working round the clock to help rectify these dire problems. But sadly, they are far too busy enjoying a frenzy of vengeful score-settling against the Murdoch press.

It’s an insidious argument and the editorial reads as if it was written by Richard Littlejohn. One of the key narratives that the Daily Mail has tried to sell for the last week is that the phone-hacking story is only of interest to politicians or those in the media. Richard Littlejohn referred to the ‘politico/media village’ exploding into a frenzy as if the story had no impact outside of this sphere. In today’s editorial the writer falls back on one of Littlejohn’s favourite turn of phrases: ‘In the real world’. Basically this argument is used simply to dismiss one topic by implying that there are far more pressing problems to deal with – it is also used to again distance a topic from being in the public interest. In this case the editorial is clearly suggesting that only money problems impact upon its readership, whilst hacking is something that only politicians or the BBC care about (because it does not take place in the real world).

Clearly, the phone-hacking story is no longer about the actual hacking itself, but rather it is beginning to look at the utterly unchecked power held by a morally reprehensible press. This impacts all of us because we all realise that we are just one incident away from becoming a victim – whether we are a landlord of a murdered girl or the relation of a missing girl or dead soldier; we are all just one piece of bad luck or personal tragedy away from being hacked, smeared or otherwise invaded by a rampant press. This story is real, it is important, it dramatically affects the real world in which we live. The media for far too long have been completely free to lie, distort and attack anything that suits them, vastly impacting on political process and societal harmony. If phone-hacking is the foot in the door that allows us to tackle the wider unaccountability and ethical bankruptcy of the press then it is quite simply one of the most significant stories of our lifetime.

All of this is obviously ignoring the staggering hypocrisy of the Mail editorial telling us what is ‘real world’, important news and what ‘in a sane world’ would be ignored. This is, after all, the newspaper that regularly leads with stories about wheelie bins – followed up by ‘special investigations’ about them:


Tabloid Watch has also covered this as well, go read it.

David Cameron admits he was badly wrong about the PCC

Im May this year David Cameron – appearing on Radio 4’s Today Programme – defended the concept of press self-regulation and in particular he made sure he directed some praise towards the PCC. He said:

“I sense that there’s still more to be done to recognise that actually the Press Complaints Commission has come on a lot in recent years, and we should be working with that organisation to make sure that people get the protection that they need…. while still having a free and vibrant press.”

As Roy Greenslade noted at the time:

He added: “We don’t want statutory regulation of the press.” And, pushed further on the whether there was a need for a specific privacy law, he reiterated his support for the PCC.

Greenslade suggested that ‘it may be the only time’ that a prime minister had gone ‘in to bat for the PCC’. Perhaps his defence isn’t that surprising given that he had appointed Andy Coulson (director of NOTW from 2003 to 2007) as his director of communications and the PCC – along with the Metropolitan Police – had so convincingly failed to investigate the role of Coulson or properly challenge his denials of having any knowledge about what his journalists go up to during his time as editor. If Cameron criticised the PCC or gave the impression that it was failing to tackle the endemic problem of phone hacking then it might have opened up the can of worms that is only now being scooped out thanks to the Guardian.

As Greenslade noted, Cameron’s defence of the PCC was completely out-of-step ‘with the negative views on the PCC in recent reports by the media, culture and sport select committee, chaired by Tory MP John Whittingdale’. Furthermore, Cameron’s defence came at a time in which the PPC had ‘been under consistent fire’.

Suddenly, after the dramatic and ongoing revelations about the News of the World, Cameron has changed his tune, according to the BBC today:

He said the scandal showed the PCC was “ineffective and lacking in rigour” and there was a need for a new watchdog.

Furthermore:

Mr Cameron said a second inquiry would look at the ethics and culture of the press and he also said the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) would be scrapped, adding: “I believe we need a new system entirely”.

If the News of the World revelations were really shocking – i.e. we hadn’t known for a significant period of time that phone hacking was a standard journalistic tool employed by many more newspapers than just the NOTW – then you could perhaps understand Cameron’s sudden change of heart.

But it’s not. His backtracking has only come about because his hand has been forced by the NOTW overstepping the line in terms of what the public find acceptable. What needs to be remembered is that hacking the phone of Milly Dowler is no more illegal than hacking the phone of any given celebrity. Isn’t it odd that it took moral outrage to force the police and the government to finally acknowledge that an illegal act should be properly and fully investigated irrespective of whom it is used against (although I would of course make clear that the public interest defence should always remain strong to protect genuine journalism).

One final point that must be made – and driven home – at this juncture is about censorship. Many people – including the hopelessly simple Jon Gaunt on BBC Question Time last night – equate regulation with censorship. When Hugh Grant argued that the Press Complaints Commission and along with it the notion of self-regulation for the media should be scrapped and replaced with a properly enforced regulator, Gaunt screamed that this simply meant Grant wanted to censor the press.

This is an moronic argument. There is a vast difference between ensuring that the press does not lie to its readers, libel or defame the innocent or break the law by hacking, blagging or otherwise pursuing individuals when there is no justifiable cause and censorship. There is a vast difference between breaking the law to pursue a corrupt politician or a corporate scandal when such actions are clearly in the public interest and hacking the phone of a missing girl.

Calling for proper regulation should never be confused with censorship, and the freedom enjoyed by the press should never be allowed to be abused by that press. With great freedom and power comes great responsibility and it is now proven – beyond all reasonable doubt – that self-regulation cannot enforce responsible journalism.

It is time for change. It is time for every newspaper lie – be it about immigration, the reporting of science, the European Union, gypsies, gays, single mums, those on benefits, the disabled or any other target group – to be properly challenged and for the press to finally have to take accuracy seriously.

Waking-up to the real state of our tabloid press

It is a huge story. The allegations that the News of the World hacked into Milly Dowler’s phone and not only listened to the messages but also deleted some of them to free-up space for new messages which, according to the Guardian, led to:

friends and relatives of Milly concluded wrongly that she might still be alive…

The Dowler family then granted an exclusive interview to the News of the World in which they talked about their hope, quite unaware that it had been falsely kindled by the newspaper’s own intervention.

For many people these allegations are genuinely shocking and many people across the UK and beyond are asking the question: ‘how could they do this?’

However, the real question should be: ‘how are so many people unaware that this isn’t an isolated incident of morally bankrupt journalism, but the norm?’

I’m pleased that people are sitting up and taking notice. I’m pleased that Ford are boycotting advertising with the News of the World and that other big companies are considering doing the same. But I also wonder as to why it has taken so long for public perception and big corporations to draw a line between what is merely accepted as bad journalism and what causes public outrage as being completely unacceptable journalism.

For instance, in September last year YouGov published a poll titled ‘Who do you trust?’ which was covered by Tabloid Watch at the time but failed to gain any significant mainstream coverage. The poll revealed that journalists on ‘mid-market’ newspapers (Mail, Express) only had the total trust of just 21% of the people surveyed (down from 36% in 2003); whilst 71% claimed to have not much/no trust in them. It was even worse for the journalists on ‘red-top tabloid’ newspapers who only had the total trust of just 10% of the people surveyed (down from 14% in 2003); whilst 83% claimed to have not much/no trust in them.

We appear to be in a situation in which the majority of newspaper consumers accept without protest that what they read each day is not or cannot to be trusted. Trust or truth in journalism does not appear to be significant in raising public levels of outrage against newspapers, nor in itself is the invasion of privacy. The general public don’t seem to be concerned with the phone hacking of celebrities or prominent politicians, but they are outraged at the alleged hacking of Milly Dowler’s phone (and the fresh allegations that the families of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman may have been targeted as well).

This, I think, is part of the problem. As consumers we can’t afford to be selectively outraged by an illegal technique depending on who it targets. We can’t keep buying newspapers or logging onto newspaper websites to lap up highly invasive articles / images of celebrities that were obtained through phone-hacking or aggressive journalism that borders on stalking, but then turn around and act shocked that they use the same techniques when dealing with bereaved families or missing 13-year-old girls. If any lesson can be taken away from studying the press it is that they cannot be trusted to regulate their own behaviour and the tools that once may have been used for legitimate investigative journalism are now just as likely to be turned on any unlucky individual who finds his or herself in their spotlight.

I can’t help but feel that the general public should have been outraged an awful long time ago – and not just about individual cases of press abuse, but the general expectations we all have when we pick up any paper. For example, how is it that we live in a society where we feel it is acceptable to routinely not trust what we read in newspapers? Why do even seasoned, loyal newspaper readers always feel the need to inform you – with a knowing nod – if you question their choice of newspaper that you shouldn’t worry about them because they take it all with a pinch of salt?

The Milly Dowler story – and the fresh allegations that will be breaking from now on – should be the catalyst that finally awakens the realisation that our press is no longer fit for purpose – and hasn’t been for an awful long time. This isn’t just the concern of media bloggers or the Guardian, it is the concern of all of us who care about the society we live in and the huge impact that media narratives have on influencing our daily interactions with those around us. Any one of us could be the next Christopher Jefferies, who has had to resort to the courts to pursue some form of redress for the smears he suffered for a crime of which he was found entirely innocent. As BBC Legal correspondent Clive Coleman points out:

It’s an indication of the significance of these contempt proceedings that the Attorney General Dominic Grieve QC has appeared in person to outline the case in front of the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge.

Mr Grieve described the material published about Christopher Jefferies as being so exceptional and memorable in its impact as to risk prejudicing and impeding a fair trial.

He pointed in particular to suggestions that Mr Jefferies was a sexually perverted voyeur, that he had possibly been involved in a previous murder and that he was a close friend of a known paedophile.

For what it’s worth, the ‘Sun and Daily Mirror dispute Mr Grieve’s claims, and deny contempt’.

What should not be forgotten in all of this is that it is easy to humanise and sympathise with the victims of this latest alleged hacking. Whilst the majority might – and seemingly do – generally accept the hacking of politicians and celebrities for whatever dubious justification of misunderstood public interest, almost everyone seems to draw the line when the victim is a 13-year-old girl and her family. However, we must also face up to our responsibility to stand up and be counted not just when the victims are easily identifiable and real to us, but also when the victims are a much larger group who – although we cannot instantly identify with in the same way that we can do when we have names, ages, photos and context – are no less deserving of our collective outrage, action and support.

For example any Muslim or perceived Muslim who has suffered racial abuse or other actions as a result of a systematic smear campaign conducted by a range of newspapers. I don’t recall politicians calling for press reform when Radio 4’s excellent Face the Facts program so searingly covered Islamophobia in the media and the consequences for its victims. According to Roy Greenslade, Lord Rothermere – chairman of the Daily Mail & General Trust – was ‘appalled’ at the Milly Dowler hacking allegations and he felt compelled to make sure the Daily Mail doesn’t use hacking in its journalism. Apparently Paul Dacre – Daily Mail editor-in-chief – answered that (according to Greenslade) ‘the Mail has never done anything so disgusting’.

Although it is noticeable that the lawyers of Associated Newspapers haven’t contacted the New Statesman over the allegations made in a Hugh Grant article in which he bugs former News of the World executive Paul McMullan. Grant recorded McMullan claim that the Mail did use stories based on hacking:

For about four or five years they’ve absolutely been cleaner than clean. And before that they weren’t. They were as dirty as anyone . . . They had the most money.

Paul Dacre became editor in 1992. Who knows, perhaps all editors just do not know what their journalists get up to.

The important point is that Lord Rothermere sat idly by whilst Littlejohn attacked dead women and the rest of the Mail’s journalists go after just about every form of minority using a variety of lies to stir up racial and religious hatred in much the same way as the general public has.

Do we really value 13-year-old girls more than any other human beings? If we don’t then it’s about time we got a lot angrier about an awful lot more and we finally make it absolutely clear that the behaviour of our press is completely unacceptable. This means we boycott them, en masse, whilst pursuing the dissolution of the Press Complaints Comission and the formation of a proper regulator in the mould of Ofcom.

Twitter outrage guidelines

Yesterday the Mail website decided to run a story that even by its own very low standards was a shockingly insensitive and crude political attack. The Daily Mail is not afraid to use any excuse to attack public sector strikes and yesterday decided that the awful accidental death of a 13-year-old girl was the perfect chance to continue this attack. As reported by The Media Blog:

Daily Mail sinks to a new low

As The Media Blog comments:

[this] is surely a leap too far even for the Daily Mail, given it not only insults any notion of logic but also, more worryingly trivialises the death of a young girl for cheap political point scoring

What is becoming increasingly apparent each time a new Twitter storm arises from something the Daily Mail publishes online: nothing is a leap to far for the Daily Mail. The continued rise of the Daily Mail as becoming one of the largest ‘news’ websites in the world in terms of traffic does receive significant help from outraged individuals sharing such stories via social networking sites. This can be avoided quite easily if the following guidelines are followed:

  1. Never link to the Daily Mail website – instead use istyosty.com, copy the URL of the offending Daily Mail article into istyosty.com and it will store a cached version of the webpage for people to visit which means that the Daily Mail gets no additional visitors.
  2. Before clicking or sharing / retweeting a link, hover your mouse over it. If it is going to take you to the Mail website do not click it (unless to create an istyosty.com link). Tell the person sharing the link to stop linking to the Mail, tell them about istyosty.com or refer them to this page.
  3. Check to see if any bloggers have already covered the story. It is far better to link to link to a good blog on the subject because if the link is shared enough then that page can challenge the Mail article when it comes to Google searches for the given subject. Furthermore, this rewards the blogger for writing about the Mail and gives them some extra traffic which might help spread the message that the Mail is awful most of the time, not just on the isolated occasions when Twitter takes up a particular case.
  4. Don’t be afraid to share other links during the periods when Mail outrage is trending on Twitter. Use this as an opportunity to spread the word about good media bloggin sites who do deal with the really nasty narratives that are so often ignored on Twitter because they perhaps don’t fit into the narrow ‘outrage space’ that seems to be present in the minds of some Twitter users.
  5. Do share a link to the PCC if you feel that the article can be complained about legitimately. The more occasions the PCC in inundated with genuine, serious complaints the harder it will be for the media to continually justify self-regulation.

The Daily Mail article that was doing the rounds yesterday [istyosty.com link] no doubt generated a lot of traffic for the Mail website (it attracted 432 comments – a lot of them highly critical of the Mail’s angle) and eventually the Mail updated the headline of the article to remove the ‘because’ which directly attempted to blame striking teachers for the girl’s death and they remove a supposed Tweet that someone made blaming teachers for the death (people searching for it on Twitter couldn’t find this Tweet). However, the article still contains image captions which make the link between the death and the teacher’s strike even though the grieving family have been forced to issue a statement making it clear to the press that:

Our beloved daughter’s death was a tragic incident, which occurred only 24 hours ago, and we do not want it to be connected to any other events.

‘We politely ask that our privacy be respected at this time and we will not be issuing anything further.

This family have just lost their 13-year-old daughter as she innocently sat under the shade of a tree. As they attempt to deal with such a horrible sudden shock they learn that their daughter’s death had already been used by a national newspaper as a way to attack the teacher’s strike. How must they have felt? How could they even begin to understand how the Mail could print this?

As usual the absolute cowards working at the Mail gifted the byline to the ‘Daily Mail Reporter’ and the utterly supine Press Complaints Commission watch on, powerless to do a single thing about it.