Tag Archives: Daily Telegraph

That’s just not cricket

Another year, another immigrant being allowed to stay in the UK for the flimsiest of reasons. Last year we had the person allowed to stay because he went to the gym and before that the famous Bolivian-student-allowed-to-stay-because-they-owned-a-cat. Of course, the important thing about both of those cases is that those were not the reasons at all. The media – bless them – had just taken what they thought to be the most absurd reason for remaining (even, if in the case of the cat, whether it wasn’t even used as an argument) from each case and reported it as if that was the sole reason for the judge’s verdict.

Which brings us to today’s Mail Online headline: ‘Judge gives Bangladeshi student permission to stay in the UK… because he loves cricket’. Which actually means:

In what is being seen by lawyers as a test case, a trainee accountant from Bangladesh who came to Britain to study has been granted permission to remain in the country after successfully claiming that he had made friends and played cricket on Sundays.

While the Home Office turned down Abdullah Munawar’s initial bid to stay on in the UK after graduating, the courts overturned the decision on appeal and ruled that he could continue to enjoy a “private life” in this country under Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights.

You can argue all you like about the ‘right to a private life’ enshrined under Article 8 of the ECHR, but let’s have those arguments like adults, rather than just screaming that X has been allowed to stay for one reason alone when they clearly have not. The right to a private life does kind of imply that every student on a 3-year VISA will be able to argue their case to a judge to be allowed to remain – after all, you would hope that most people would have established a private life over the course of living in the UK for 3 years. What this perhaps does is highlight how the UK currently expects to be paid handsomely by foreign students whilst they attend its universities, only to then remove them as soon as their education is over without question.

Again, newspapers are free to have this debate but it would be refreshing if for once they could just report the truth accurately and avoid dishonest headlines. The Daily Mail was recently bemoaning the apathy of young non-voters, yet at the same time this is the level of political debate that the newspaper engages in. There is clear scope for a proper debate over the right to a private life and what this ruling means for future cases. However, all people will be taking away from this article is the false impression that playing cricket is a surefire way that ‘they’ can stay in the country – just as if ‘they’ owned a cat.

Speaking of which, at least the Mail Online article didn’t dare mention the cat, unlike the Telegraph:

The case of the cricketing student now takes its place in the annals of unusual immigration decisions – alongside the “Bolivian cat man”, first exposed in these pages two years ago, who sparked a Cabinet rift at the 2011 Conservative conference.

Indeed, the cricketing student myth will now be regularly quoted alongside ‘Bolivian cat man’ by people unaware that they’ve just been lied to by their newspaper, again. Considering the absolute falsity of the ‘Bolivian cat man’ story it staggers me that the Telegraph – the article was written by David Barrett – has again proudly stood by it.

The new press regulator needs the statutory power to fine or flog any journalist who repeats a myth that has been publicly and convincingly shown to be false. Otherwise we just end up with millions of individual Wintervals damaging public understanding of how the world works.

Dishonest journalism has serious consequences

Yesterday I covered the Daily Telegraph rehashing a story that the Daily Mail had invented – and I had covered – last week. Basically, both the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph were claiming that Thomas the Tank Engine had abandoned Christmas in order to be ‘politically correct’. The current writers behind Thomas the Tank Engine, HIT Entertainment, were quoted by each newspaper and clearly informed them both that their claims were false, but to no avail. For the record, they have now felt the need to publish this statement on their website:

Media Statement (UK) – Representation of Christmas in Thomas & Friends

Any reports that HIT Entertainment, rights owner of ‘Thomas & Friends’, has been “writing Christmas out of a new series” are completely inaccurate. Nothing could be further from the truth. The episode recently referenced in some press articles is six years old and was contained in a four episode DVD that was not sold as either a “Christmas” or a “Holiday” themed release.

Thomas has a great deal of Christmas themed content and does not shy away from celebrating the occasion, as last year’s DVD ‘Thomas & Friends: Christmas Express’ makes clear. Currently we are working on another DVD ‘Merry Christmas, Thomas’.

We take the legacy of The Rev. Awdry’s work very seriously in the creation of all of our new content and work closely with his family to best manage Thomas for future generations of children. Christmas was, and continues to be, celebrated on the island of Sodor, the home of ‘Thomas & Friends’.

However, the truth is fairly irrelevant to both our broadsheet and tabloid media – indeed the Daily Telegraph article was worse than the original Daily Mail rubbish – and the Daily Telegraph article was picked up by the English Defence League and used as evidence that foreigners (read: Muslims) were forcing more British culture to be abandoned. I know that neither the Daily Mail nor the Daily Telegraph implied any religious motivations behind the untrue allegations they made about the series, but they must realise that any invented stories about the ‘banning’ or eliminating of Christmas will be used by the far-right to bolster their anti-foreigner (read: Muslim) agenda.

Perhaps what is more worrying is that at several points during the discussion thread people point out that the story isn’t true – indeed, some EDL members heave a sigh of relief that they don’t have to boycott Thomas the Tank Engine – but look at how many new comments simply ignore this and just fume with hatred and rage anyway.

This is why journalists should not be able to publish such blatant lies. There are elements of our society that are fearful, vulnerable and simply not intelligent enough to know when they are being lied to. Such people rely on dishonest journalism to hide their own inadequacy with a culture of hatred and blame aimed at ‘others’. Such a culture leads inevitably to the creation of organisations like the EDL.

Just read this thread and once again it becomes essential the we pursue with every energy genuine press regulation:

EDL
Click to enlarge

Daily Telegraph reheats Daily Mail rubbish

Last week the Daily Mail claimed that Thomas the Tank Engine had got rid of Christmas in an attempt to be politically correct. The article did seem to contradict this claim by including the following two paragraphs near the end:

Hit Entertainment, the company behind the DVD, said: ‘It was put out some time ago. It was not a seasonal release specifically aimed at a Christmas audience, but we do put out seasonal releases that have Christmas in the title.

‘Last year we had Christmas Express and next year we are planning another Christmas title.’

So, the Daily Mail article made it clear that the DVD they were referring to was an older release, and as such was not exactly ‘news’ nor was the DVD intended as a seasonal release.

The Daily Telegraph today ran the following headline: ‘Christmas removed from Thomas the Tank Engine to be politically correct’. They followed up this headline with this sub-heading:

The daughter of the clergyman author who created Thomas the Tank Engine has criticised television producers for writing Christmas out of a new series. [emphasis is mine]

The article continues:

In the offending TV episode called “Keeping up with James”, the trains compete to carry presents to children against a background with a fir tree decorated with baubles and a choir.

But instead of using the word Christmas, the programme talks of the “winter holidays” and a “holiday tree.”

Just a couple of problems:

  1. The episode referred to in the Telegraph article – presumably what the Telegraph means by ‘writing Christmas out of a new series‘ – first aired in 2005.
  2. This year a Thomas the Tank Engine Christmas special is being released on the 31st October – complete with ‘Wishes come true in this Christmas special!’ slapped on the front cover.

The Telegraph does seem to make the vaguest reference to what the Mail article made clear: the removal of overtly Christmas language was a cynical attempt to flog the DVD all year round and all-world-round. However, it doesn’t offer the same level of transparency that the Daily Mail article does and simply states in the closing paragraph that:

Hit Entertainment has said references to Christmas were removed because the DVD on which it featured was designed to be sold all the year round.

And, as is very clear by the expected 31st October release of the Thomas the Tank Engine Christmas special, we can clearly see that new episodes will indeed be cynically exploiting the Christmas theme for profit. Just as Jesus would have wanted, no doubt.


With thanks to @notjarvis for tweeting this story to me.

Latest PCC resolutions and adjudications

The Press Complaints Commission upheld a complaint against the Scottish Daily Mail under clause 4 (Harassment) of the Editor’s Code of Practice. The newspaper persisted in ‘approaching a man who had repeatedly made clear to the newspaper that he did not wish to comment on a story about his son':

The complainant’s son was a Scottish university student who had attended the demonstrations about tuition fees in London. The newspaper published two articles about his son’s involvement in the protests, including a photograph of him allegedly attempting to take a police officer’s hat. Reporters and photographers representing the newspaper had attended the family home in Scotland four times within 24 hours seeking a comment. On each occasion, the family made clear they did not wish to speak to journalists, and asked them to leave the property. There was one additional approach to the complainant near his home, which led to him contacting the police.

The newspaper’s sole punishment was having to publish the adjudication on page 6 of the Scottish Daily Mail, but:

Following the complaint, the newspaper was willing to write a private letter of regret to the complainant and circulated an internal note making clear that the family would have no comment on future stories.

A complaint was ‘resolved’ by the Scottish Sun:

Councillor Paul Rooney complained to the Press Complaints Commission through Glasgow City Council that an article was misleading when it implied that he was responsible for a Christmas tree being put up by the Council near his home.

Resolution:

The complaint was resolved when the PCC negotiated the publication of the following clarification:
In an article, dated November 26, we reported that Glasgow City Council had erected a Christmas tree near the home of Councillor Paul Rooney. Although we reported at the time that Cllr Rooney had no involvement, it was not stated by us that the decision to plant the tree there pre-dated his election to the council in May 2007 and that he had explicitly asked for it to be moved away from his home. We are happy to make this clear.

So, the resolution is an appalling piece of journalism is corrected four months after the original article was published, by which point none of the original readers would probably care about the correction. Isn’t the PCC fantastic?

Another councillor (Peter Langdon) complained about the Daily Telegraph which had reported that:

Gosport Borough Council sent ninety-three delegates to Madrid on a waste collection contract visit at a cost of £17,350. In fact, four people went on the visit, which cost £988. The newspaper had subsequently published an inaccurate correction to the article.

The Daily Telegraph published the following correction:

Our reports (25 Jan and 4 Feb) gave the wrong details of Gosport Council’s trips to research future waste management services. In fact, the total cost of 23 visits across the UK and in Spain was £7,350. This included £988 for sending four people to Madrid.

Quite a substantial difference from the original claims.

The Scotsman reported that someone’s partner was a sex offender – they weren’t – and had to issue the following clarification:

This article was amended on February 11. Our original report stated the partner of Child D’s mother was a convicted sex offender. This is not the case and his conviction was for common assault only. The Scotsman apologises for the error.

Will churnalism.com change the way press releases are issued?

I’m sure if you follow me on Twitter you will have already heard lots about the new website churnalism.com and how fantastic it is. Basically, if you can get hold of a Press Release you can copy and paste into the churnalism.com engine and it will trawl news article from 2007 to see if it can identify which news articles have copied and pasted chunks of the press release into their copy. Having played with the website yesterday I can see that this is an incredibly powerful tool to highlight just how much ‘news’ is actually PR guff thoughtlessly injected straight into copy as if it were journalism. In one example yesterday I found a PR that had been copied virtually word-for-word by the Daily Telegraph, as well as another example from the Daily Mail.

What also became apparent from browsing the site was that one website is currently dominating proceedings when it comes to feeding lazy hacks PR drivel: onepoll.com. This company provides an online survey service which seems to work as follows:

  1. Company signs up for an account
  2. Company creates a questionnaire / poll
  3. People fill it in (they are paid a small amount to do so)
  4. Onepoll.com publishes a press release on their website regarding findings
  5. Lazy journalists copy and paste PR and pass it off as news

It’s good business, terrible journalism. However, thanks to onepoll offering open access to the press releases it is extremely easy to see just how many newspapers are happy to copy-and-paste (sometimes word-for-word like the Telegraph above) the results of polls commissioned by companies to get free publicity.

However, I do not see this lasting. I think churnalism.com will result in such material being pulled from the public domain and instead issued only to subscribers – i.e. newspapers – making it harder for the public to identify what is and isn’t PR – or how much has been taken word-for-word. Right now it is still fairly easy to find press releases and identify churnalism, in the future I can see it becoming much harder as companies contact their favourite newspapers directly – as I’m sure already happens – and refrain from publishing such releases on their websites. In may become necessary for newspapers – so reliant is their business model on copy-and-paste PR guff being passed off as news – to insist upon it.

For more examples of churnalism see Five Chinese Crackers.

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.

Winterval myth still alive and kicking

The Daily Telegraph was one of the worst culprits for repeating the Winterval myth and it has repeated it yet again. This time it was the turn of Peter Oborne – the Daily Telegraph’s chief commentator – who writes a very formulaic piece on how wonderful it is that a government is finally standing up for religion. It is something that has been written many times before over the last 12 years whenever a political figure talks about the perceived marginalisation of Christmas.

It is part of the ripple created by Eric Pickles who has mentioned Winterval twice this year as he attacked councils for being afraid of celebrating Christmas. It was a lazy, ignorant thing for Pickles to say, and an even lazier and more ignorant thing for Oborne to repeat. Here is the mention in full:

Meanwhile, Eric Pickles has used his growing authority as Local Government Secretary to declare war on councils who refuse to celebrate the Christmas message. Back in November, he sent out a powerful instruction that they should stop worrying about causing offence, abandon politically correct formulations like “Winterval” and “multi-faith holiday”, and return to the British Christian tradition with carols, mince pies, and all the rest of it. This common sense, it needs to be said, has not only delighted Christians, but has been greeted with relief by those of other faiths, who are fed up with being unreasonably blamed for “banning Christmas”.

When I was finishing my Winterval essay I wondered if it was a relevant topic considering that it seemed to be dying out. However, since the essay was published it has been repeated and is still being used as evidence for a non-existent war on Christmas.

Ink bomb defused ’17 minutes before it was due to go off’

According to reports in the Daily Mail, Mirror, The Sun and the Daily Telegraph one of the ink bombs was defused just ’17 minutes before it was due to go off’. The information was disseminated by the French interior Brice Hortefeux via French TV. The Mail, Mirror and Sun all fail to make any mention of how credible this information is. The Daily Telegraph does point out that the Metropolitan Police are unable to confirm this detail, having only announced that they had found a ‘viable explosive device’.

Interestingly, both Forbes and the Washington Post have run an Associated Press follow up that reports:

The White House says it has no information that would confirm a French government report that one of two bombs mailed to the United States last week was defused just minutes before exploding…

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Thursday the question of when the bombs were to go off is still under investigation and there’s no information confirming such a close call.

U.S. investigators have also said they were unable to confirm the French report.

A quick Google search for ‘ink bomb’ brings up reports from the Sun and Daily Mail that the bomb was just 17 minutes away from exploding. This information has perhaps already become accepted in the minds of many, whether it is confirmed or not. The tabloid press don’t care whether it is true or not. They do not seem to be updating their articles to include the lack of confirmation that the White House was able to provide nor whether any other source has confirmed it.

It is just another terror story that goes global before any real information is known. It might be true, it might not be; but the whole point of good journalism is to hold back from printing such claims as absolute truth until the relevant sources have been checked and the truth established. Still, good journalism is bad business and vice-versa.

The Unacceptable state of medical reporting

A recent study found that when compression-only CPR was conducted by bystanders with the assistance of a dispatcher the survival rate of victims suffering from cardiac arrest improved. The NHS Behind the headlines team point out that the researchers ‘do not advocate from their findings that people should make a deliberate decision to avoid mouth-to-mouth resuscitation without guidance from the emergency services’. Furthermore:

Importantly, all the incidents included in this study were of out-of-hospital cardiac arrest due to heart-related problems; the researchers say that other studies have found that standard CPR is better for cardiac arrest with non-cardiac causes (e.g. drowning, trauma and asphyxia, which would be the case in most arrests in babies and children). [emphasis is mine]

The NHS try to make clear that this is important, ‘well-conducted research’ but that the ‘findings only apply to this population in these specific circumstances, and do not apply to the general public in all circumstances’. They even point out that ‘many emergency medical dispatchers in the UK make recommendations to bystanders of an adult cardiac arrest that are broadly consistent with these findings anyway’.

So, how did our responsible media report these findings?

First up the BBC goes with: ‘Study backs chest compressions in resuscitation‘. They start with:

Concentrating on chest compressions rather than mouth-to-mouth when giving emergency resuscitation can produce better results, says research published in The Lancet.

Although they give plenty of information they fail to really gets to grips with the specificity of what the researchers found and the reader is probably left with the impression that avoiding mouth-to-mouth when performing CPR is always likely to produce ‘better results’. Therefore the article is, to a certain extent, misleading.

Next up the Telegraph chooses to go with: ‘Skip the ‘kiss’ when giving the kiss of life doctors recommend‘. The article starts with:

Skip the ‘kiss’ when giving the kiss of life, doctors advise, as study reveals performing only chest compressions is more effective at saving lives.

Again, the article fails to mention the specificity of the results and is accompanied by a photo of two female lifeguards, one performing CPR on the other on a wet beach. Clearly the photo is illustrating the resuscitation of someone who has drowned, a situation in which traditional CPR (with the ‘kiss’) is better according to the NHS (see above). The article is broadly the same as the BBC in that it is misleading because it generalises very specific findings – in particular the Telegraph’s assertion that ‘doctors advise’ people ‘skip the “kiss” when giving the kiss of life’ is a complete invention given the very limited set of recommendations given in respect to a very specific set of circumstances.

Finally, the Daily Mail went with: ‘Kiss of death: Does mouth to mouth put lives at risk?‘. As usual the Daily Mail feels the need to sensationalise the headline to a frankly ludicrous degree and the start of the article continues the trend:

It may be called the kiss of life, but mouth-to-mouth resuscitation could actually be anything but.

According to experts, the treatment can in fact hinder heart attack patients’ chances of survival.

As with the other two articles the Mail fails to gets to grips with the specificity of the researcher’s findings, preferring to concentrate on implying that this ‘kiss of death’ technique is being taught to a legion of potential killers:

Doctors are so concerned they are calling for the technique to be left out of CPR guidelines for the condition.

This technique is widely taught in schools, offices and to those who help at big sporting events.

Clearly the Daily Mail is attempting to make people panic, implying that if they have a cardiac arrest in school, at work or at a sporting event someone may attempt to kiss them to death. Not surprisingly the Daily Mail coverage of this story has by far the most panic-inducing tone and imagery, a tone which as usual is contradicted later in the article by some details that make the headline look distinctly wrong. These two sentences towards the end of the article for example:

However, mouth-to-mouth shouldn’t be removed from the first-aid repertoire altogether, as it can still be effective if a patient stops breathing, but their heart is still beating.

This could include those who are choking, are near to drowning, victims of carbon-monoxide poisoning or those who have taken a drug overdose.

These two lines seem to contradict the initial claims the article makes that it is the ‘kiss of death’ and acknowledge that mouth-to-mouth can still be ‘effective’ – although they fail to mention that traditional CPR with mouth-to-mouth is actually more effective in these cases. I think the primary reason for this is that mentioning this fact would catch them in a nightmarish loop – they would have to write a second headline declaring ‘can CPR without the kiss of life kill?’ simply because CPR with mouth-to-mouth is more effective in certain circumstances.

This quandary just demonstrates the utterly irresponsible, simplistic and fear-inducing headline that the Mail has gone with. The truth is never simple, but the Daily Mail insists that its articles must be, hence the huge discord between the original findings of the researchers and the black-and-white reporting of the Daily Mail. The result – headline declaring that mouth-to-mouth is a potential killer, end of the article declaring that it is still effective and important in some cases – can only lead to confusion. People walk away from the article unsure about whether mouth-to-mouth is or is not safe to use – and cynical about the researchers involved (just read some of the comments posted) because they blame then for the contradictions rather than the reporter.

There is no excuse for this kind of journalism, given that the NHS Behind the headlines team can explain it so effectively and rationally.

Duncan Bannatyne now wrong about the Equality Act in the Telegraph

Duncan Bannatyne wrote a piece of ill-informed outrage over the new Equality Act for the Daily Mail which was taken apart superbly by Darren Newman, an employment expert. Whenever you are knowledgeable about a certain subject you suffer the misfortune of knowing how terribly poor the media coverage is of that subject – and I’m sure it must be frustrating for Darren that newspapers would rather turn to celebrity businessmen than a real expert just because that businessman happens to parrot the media narrative. Duncan Bannatyne has now been offered some space in the Telegraph in which to demonstrate his knack for tabloid-friendly soundbites backed-up with very little substance.

Thankfully Darren has taken the time to blog about some of the problems – bit-by-bit - over on his blog and it makes enlightening reading. I heartily recommend you go and read it, not just because it corrects Bannatyne, but because it is about much more than one person’s ignorance. His post covers media coverage in general because, after all, it is the media that seeks out ‘experts’ that fit their agenda and it is this process that essentially censors the truth from the reader. The conclusion of the blog post is extremely timely and important:

I feel slightly guilty to be focussing so much ire on Duncan Bannatyne. Really he’s a symptom, not the disease. The standard of debate around equality law in the mainstream media is dreadful. Almost nothing I read is a fair summary of the law and what employers need to know. Too often the news is hijacked by those with an agenda, who want to use the introduction of the Equality Act as a hook to hang their particular issue on. HR professionals and lawyers know better than to get their information from the Daily Mail or the Daily Telegraph – but line managers, business owners and employees are vulnerable to misleading information of his sort.

Ultimately we are all victims of tabloid disinformation and Bannatyne accidentally touches on this in his article when he complains that the Equality Act:

encourages staff to cast themselves in the role of victim, no matter how trivial their complaint, and that leaves employers badly exposed.

As Darren points out:

What encourages people to regard themselves as victims is ill informed press reporting of employment rights, raising entirely false expectations of their chances of success and the riches they will gain as a result. If individuals think that they can raise trivial and ludicrous points and that the employer will be guilty until proven innocent, then the question is why do they think that? Is it perhaps because people like Duncan Bannatyne and the papers giving him a platform have told them so?

The sad truth is that Bannatyne has been given two huge platforms for his poorly-informed and woefully researched views on the Equality Act whilst a real expert has been left to correct these common misconceptions (or deceptions) in their spare time to a vastly smaller audience. Until this changes people will continue to see the Equality Act as a bad thing.

People actually view an act designed to ensure fairness and equality to all, irrespective of disability, race, gender, sexuality or religion as a bad thing. What kind of warped world are we living in?