Tag Archives: Daily Express

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.

Daily Mail polls readers on nonexistent EU car ban

Minority Thought has already covered the Daily Express story that claimed the EU was trying to ban all cars from cities – a story that turned out – unsurprisingly – to be absolute rubbish. As stated quite clearly by the European Commission in the UK:

Contrary to comments made by a government Minister today, the European Commission is not considering an EU level ban on cars in city centres by 2050. Cities are of course best placed to decide their own transport mix.

Today’s Transport White Paper acknowledges that many European cities are struggling with the challenges of congestion, noise pollution, traffic jams and so on. Something needs to be done and phasing out conventional combustion engines is a realistic objective. The role of the European level is to help the shift to alternative forms of transport take place, and make them more attractive to users.

No one city or even country can act alone to bring on stream the technologies needed to tackle the challenges of transport in Europe’s cities. That is where action at European level can help. But a blanket ban on conventional cars is not on the table.

Furthermore, Minority Thought discovered via Twitter that the Commission had actually sent a statement to a number of news desks to clarify that no such ban was being considered – without much hope that it would stop the predictable tabloid lies.

Naturally the Daily Mail has now waded in with their own story – the byline goes to the ‘Daily Mail Reporter’ as presumably the hack who wrote it was too embarrassed to claim it: ‘EU plans to ban all petrol and diesel cars from cities to force drivers to go “green” [istyosty.com link]’. The article starts:

The vast majority of British motorists will be outlaws in their own land under controversial new EU plans to ban petrol and diesel powered cars from cities.

The Daily Mail found no space to mention the truth, but did find time to get some quotes from the usual rent-a-quote loons:

Christopher Monckton, transport spokesman for the UK Independence Party’ said: “The proposals suggested by Commission take us into the realms of fantasy. They want to ban cars from cities, they want to force everybody onto rail and canals, it is if they have been taken over by the shade of the Victorian engineers.

‘They may as well call for an end to wars and large subsidised chocolate cakes for pre-school infants as to make these impossible self aggrandising statements”…

The eurosceptic think-tank Open Europe criticised the plan: ‘This goes to show the extent of the EU’s ambitions to interfere in the UK’s national affairs. Banning all petrol-fuelled cars in city centres is an absolutely crazy idea and one that could only have come from unaccountable bureaucrats in the European Commission.’

They also found time to poll their readers:

Mail invents a question for a poll

Just appalling journalism.

To churn, or not to churn

Earlier in the week Ginsters – famous for pasties and pies – decided to get some cheap advertising by conducting a poll using Onepoll.com that they knew would appeal to the Churnalists out there. Naturally the poll is referred to in sombre tomes as a ‘study’ and it just happens to confirm the sort of misogynistic drivel that makes your average tabloid editor very happy:

Three quarters of all important household decisions are made by women, a study found yesterday.

I won’t bother you with any further details – it’s just a typical poll ‘finding’ that ‘confirms’ a few lazy stereotypes about women being the ones with the real power etc – but I’ll just focus on the fact that it worked. The Daily Mail managed a spectacular 83% cut, 98% pasted with 2499 characters overlapping; whilst the Daily Express worked really hard, cutting just 61% and pasting just 60%.

Another successful result for Onepoll.com (who I appear to be essentially but unintentionally plugging here – but do visit them as a one-stop-shop for all your churnalism needs) and another happy client, getting press coverage for a fraction of the cost. However, Onepoll are not always successful. If they take the round side of a gender issue, then the papers won’t go near their CTRL-V keys. Austin Reed followed up the Ginster poll with another ‘revealing’ gender poll:

It’s official – men are better at shopping than women, it emerged yesterday (Weds).

Research has revealed that even though they shop more frequently, women are more likely to come home empty-handed having failed to find what they were looking for…

And when it comes to updating their wardrobe men like to spend MORE on clothes than women.

Note how this poll is also referred to as ‘research’ and a ‘study’ which seems a bit of a glorification. Regardless, the result doesn’t suit the media narrative about women and shopping and it has yet to be churned by any newspaper. I guess there are some filters applied to churnalism after all.

In the media spotlight

Last month the Daily Mail wrote a worried piece titled: ‘How will children ever grow up if schools won’t let them take risks?‘ which was followed by the following in bold: ‘A passionate attack on politically correct nannying by the inspirational teacher sacked for allowing pupils to go’. Not only does this highlight Stewart Lee’s point that a lot of people confuse ‘political correctness’ with health and safety legislation. The teacher in question – Richard Tremelling who was Head of Technology at Cefn Hengoed School in Swansea – has received coverage from all major media outlets for allegedly being sacked for taking some students sledging without carrying out any form of risk assessment.

Obviously the school in question has now been on the receiving end of a large amount of angry correspondence from people who were encouraged by certain newspapers to contact the school about such an outrageous decision. The deputy head – Geoff Brookes – has now responded to this correspondence he has received in a humorous manner and confirms that ‘the reality of the case was much more complicated than that and I can’t go into it now for legal reasons’. What he finds ‘fascinating’ is the response he has received from those encouraged to contact the school:

It could have been quite hurtful if it wasn’t so bizarre. Clearly, there are people out there who have far too much time on their hands, along with access to old typewriters – still the instrument of choice in some of the remoter areas – while the skill of corresponding in capital letters using a blunt pencil clearly continues to thrive in Essex.

It is disturbing that there are those who accept everything they read at face value. If it appears in their newspaper of choice, then it must be true. So the letters are based on half truths, incomplete understanding and assumptions. A tabloid headline seems to confirm the fears of the confused elderly about the state of the world and draws out their prejudices along with lined paper and a grubby brown envelope.

One writer seems to regard ‘Allo ‘Allo! as a wartime documentary. Apparently, if we had been in charge “between 1939 and 1945 we’d all be speaking German now, doing the double-time goose step and calling each other Fritz and Heidi”. Another letter tells me it is my fault that “the country is full of queers, tramps, no-goods, dossers and what have you”. No wonder my performance management document is published in chapters.

“You should bow your head in shame,” another letter tells me and I could hardly disagree, given the fact that I am responsible for raising “wimps in a litigious society”. It is something I can tell my grandchildren, I suppose. “No wonder the country is in such a mess.” In fact our purpose is to “grind the planet to a standstill”. This explains why I am so tired at night.

The attitudes that underpin some of the letters are very disturbing and primitive. Our leadership team is described as half-wits “who speak a language no one outside of Wales can understand or would want to”. How do they know? A writer from Bristol addresses the headteacher helpfully, saying that “one characteristic of the female mind which I have recognised from observation during my lifetime is that women placed in positions of authority lack the ability to use the judgment that men could make”. Sadly, the rest of the letter isn’t quite as reasoned or well balanced.

I urge you to go and read the rest and consider, once again, just what impact newspapers do have on people. As easy as it is to think that no-one really believes what they read in the papers, there is a lot of evidence that they do. And when they do, it is those at the center of the story have to face the consequences.

Always someone stupid enough…

Towards the end of my Winterval essay I point out that the reason the myth was still around after 12 years was because there would always be a public figure stupid enough to repeat it. It is disappointing to be proven right as yet another public figure – the newly appointed Lord Michael Dobbs – repeats the myth in a tabloid newspaper [the Express]. He follows the traditional pattern: talk about maintaining ‘British heritage’, vow to fight the PC brigade and talk about how silly Winterval was:

Away with all the ­levellers and their ludicrous festivals like Winterval, let’s embrace Christmas in the way we’ve done for more than a thousand years, celebrating family and showing friendship to strangers. If the flat-earthers find themselves insulted by the fact that we take pride in being British, that’s their problem.

This person is now a Lord. And we think the people we elect are stupid.

If you have not yet read or shared the Winterval essay, please do. I have yet to receive any kind of response from the newspapers I contacted regarding it, but I might forward it again should any of them repeat it again.

The Media Agenda

I listened to the segment on Radio 4 this morning that featured London Mayor Boris Johnson and Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson discussing the attack on Charles and Camilla. Part of the discussion focused on why, when it is standard practice in the protection of ‘principles’ to have many alternative routes planned before the vehicle sets out, the vehicle was driven past the scene of protests anyway.

Now, it seems to me that there was a strong political motivation for doing so. The Royals could never have been considered at real risk from what were ostensibly peaceful protests by students, but the car was bound to have something minor done to it – after all, the protests are about fairness and democracy, the sight of inherited wealth and divine birth being driven past in an expensive limousine would probably be too much for most people to resist.

This would then be the front page of newspapers, not the vote, not the peaceful majority of protests, not the numerous incidents of police brutality that were passed around Twitter throughout the day or the fact that ‘kettling’ is an extremely dubious tactic that almost seems designed to turn peaceful protests violent.

The most worrying part of the R4 program was the repetition by Sir Paul Stephenson that the armed police protecting Charles and Camilla acted with great restraint throughout – i.e. they were really good not to shoot anyone. I just find that a bit worrying. Surely the whole point of employing protection in the first place is that this situation is avoided. They should have taken an alternative route – or less obvious transport.

Instead, they just happened to be caught in a media storm with protesters and photographers on hand to ensure that today only one thing is being discussed – and it has nothing to do with fairness, democracy or the right to peaceful protest:


Judging by the reaction I have heard this morning to the Daily Mail frontpage, this PR has been very successful and students are being demonised. People have been distracted, once again, from the real issues in politics.

‘Revenge’

From Football 365’s MediaWatch section today (a must read for fans of this blog):

Those newspapers who do not have Harry Redknapp on their payroll had to scratch around for an angle on Tottenham’s Champions League draw. And scratch around they did…

Opening paragraph in the Daily Star: ‘Peter Crouch’s wish was granted last night when he was handed the chance to take revenge on Rafa Benitez.’

Opening paragraph in the Daily Express: ‘Peter Crouch received his wish last night – and the chance to take revenge on Rafa Benitez.’

Headline in the Daily Mail: ‘I’ll make you pay, Rafa! Tottenham striker Peter Crouch on revenge mission to knock out old boss Benitez in Champions League.’

So will that be the same revenge-filled Peter Crouch who said on leaving Liverpool two years ago: “I have no grudge against the manager [Rafa Benitez]. When he started playing one up front he was always going to play Torres and it was not something that I had any qualms about. But when he played two up front I felt myself and Torres were a good combination. He didn’t seem to want to do that but I bear no grudges – it was his decision. And obviously my memories of my time at Liverpool are fantastic. What a great club to have played for. I have got only fond memories of my time there.”

My word, he’ll be fired up…

Good to see that the Daily Mail seems to be the worst out of a line-up including the Daily Star and Express and the only one to go with an utterly invented headline.

An ethnic roundup

As promised here are the blogs that covered today’s tabloid capital letter racism:

If you have any other articles on this you want to add to the list then please add them in the comments and I’ll update this post. I believe such racism is well worth documenting as fully as possible.

The Shameful Daily Express

Utterly, utterly appalling.

Cannot quite bring myself to really go into this right now. Words just somehow don’t feel like enough in cases like this.

Update:

The Enemies of reason has two posts on this, both of them well worth reading, so go here and here for those.

Left Outside has a brilliant post on this frontpage and an issue that you will be reading about on this blog shortly.

The incomparable Tabloidwatch has now posted on this.

And the infrequent but always eloquent and thoughtful No Sleep ‘Til Brooklands has also covered it.

All of which means I do not need to add any further to this terrible day for tabloid journalism because they have all said it much better than I could have managed anyway.


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‘Live’ Grenades

A classic piece of tabloid rubbish has been floating around today: ‘Don’t panic! Props for Dad’s Army play were live grenades‘ (Daily Mail); ‘Dad’s Army props were live grenades‘ (Daily Mirror) and ‘DON’T PANIC! OUR DAD’S ARMY PROPS ARE LIVE GRENADES‘ (Daily Express).

As soon as I saw this story I thought what a huge amount of free publicity this production has received, and I had a nagging feeling that it was a set up. The original story does make it clear that the actors did suspect that the grenades were live and did call the army. However, as the original article makes clear, although a controlled detination was carried out the grenades turned out to not be live and actually survived the explosion intact. Nonetheless the original article still uses a misleading headline: ‘‘Corporal Jones’ actor doesn’t panic after finding live grenades’.

The Express, Mirror and Daily Mail do not mention at any point that the grenades were found to not be live and the Express and Daily Mail both contain the exact sentence:

The devices – both dating from 1918 – were detonated in a controlled explosion which was heard for miles around.

One wonders whether this group of actors planned this story or just got extremely lucky. Either way, they got a huge amount of free publicity from journalists who just don’t care about factual accuracy – because as far as they are concerned: if the grenades were not live, then there wouldn’t be any story.