Tag Archives: misleading headlines

Thomas the Tank Engine Bans Christmas!

Kind of, according to the Mail on Sunday Reporter: ‘Thomas the Tank Engine forced to carry ‘decorated tree’ for ‘winter holidays’ as Christmas is banned on Sodor‘. The article claims:

Thomas the Tank Engine has been accused of joining the politically correct bandwagon after Christmas was written out of one of his adventures.

The team behind the much-loved children’s TV series has angered campaigners by setting a story during the ‘winter holidays’.

The article suggests that the story is clearly set during Christmas but with ‘no mention of the word Christmas’, yet the article does not give us the date when the DVD was actually released or into what markets. The article does include a response from the makers:

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, perhaps it wasn’t a cynical attempt at ‘political script changes’ but merely a cynical way of selling Christmas-related stories throughout the year. The Mail on Sunday picture-caption-writer has drawn some conclusions that seem a bit out of place as well:

Lights out: Thomas (left) motors past a ‘decorated tree’ as it will now be regarded in future seasonal episodes

Sorry, is this a fact? Is the writer certain that all future episodes – including the Christmas specific titles – will never again refer to a Christmas tree as a Christmas tree?

For what it’s worth here is last year’s Thomas the Tank engine Christmas DVD:

Thomas the tank engine

I look forward to seeing the Mail on Sunday Reporter sitting down with the next Thomas the Tank Engine Christmas special to see if they really will never mention Christmas or Christmas trees again.

PS. This story has already been copied and pasted onto the Stormfront forums. The Mail on Sunday must be so proud.

Human Rights wrongly blamed, again

Another day, another chance to blame Human Rights for something: ‘Prison van driven 96 miles to take defendant 60 YARDS to court as “walking will infringe his human rights”‘. The Mail claims:

A prison van travelled 96 miles to transfer a defendant just 60 yards from a police station to a court because walking would ‘infringe his human rights’.

Despite it being just a 30-second walk from Banbury Police Station to the dock, custody chiefs ordered a prison van for defendant Oliver Thomas, 27, which was sent from 96 miles away…

Judge Tom Corrie was told that to have taken the prisoner on foot from police cells to the dock would have ‘infringed his human rights’.

The transport was provided by GEOAmey which is contracted to ‘take defendants between custody and courts’. According to the Daily Mail the contract is worth £90m and they quote a GEOAmey spokesman to defend the decision to send a van:

He said: ‘Police wouldn’t expect us to turn up at Banbury and handcuff a prisoner and take him down the street and to the court. Generally speaking we don’t see that in this country.

‘It strays into the area of human rights. They have a right to have their identity protected. We normally cover Banbury from our Buckinghamshire vehicle base.

‘However, in this particular instance, the request to move this prisoner came late, by which time all our available Buckinghamshire-based vehicles and crews had been allocated to other routes and schedules.

‘As a contingency measure, in order to deliver the standard of service we are committed to provide, a vehicle and officers were deployed from our Eastleigh base.

‘This was not a ‘one-off’ run just to deliver this prisoner.

‘Our staff collected Mr Thomas from Banbury in the morning and assisted with duties at the court until mid-afternoon then delivered prisoners to HMP Bullingdon, Bicester, and on to other prisons.

He added: ‘The decision has nothing to do with Thames Valley Police officers based in the station.’

So, the spokesman mentioned it could ‘stray’ into human rights territory but it seems to me that he spoke as a contractor who is being paid to drive people between ‘custody and courts’, how would it look if the contractor made the accused walk? Would the Mail then complain that the contractor was on a government gravy train and providing a bad service? Is the contract charged individually, or as a whole? Was this a specific ‘waste’ of taxpayers money or did it inconvenience the contractor who is getting paid for the service provided as a whole, rather than individually invoicing for each journey?

We don’t know, the Daily Mail probably doesn’t know and definitely doesn’t care as long as they get a cheap headline, a good photo op and some easy copy attacking a favourite target.

Put it another way: if we bother going through the expense of hiring vans with blacked-out windows to transport the accused from custody to court anonymously, how can it ever be right to strip the accused of public anonymity by walking them under guard and in handcuffs to court just because it means moving a van around at short notice? As the spokesman said: ‘Generally speaking we don’t see that in this country… They have a right to have their identity protected’. It is, after all, innocent until proven guilty and everyone is equal regardless of whether they might rack up a larger van bill on the day.

Which is the final point, the Mail makes a big fuss trying to work out just how much this trip cost, completely ignoring the fact that the contractor worked the journey into the schedule of the van so that it was well used by more than just this one person. Funnily enough the Mail ignores this rather less catchy headline: ‘contractor paid for by YOUR MONEY rearranges court van at short notice as efficiently as possible’.

I wonder if Richard Littlejohn will find room for this in his column tomorrow…

Bad local journalism becomes terrible national journalism

Sometimes a story is covered accurately by the regional press, only for the national media to step in and distort it to suit a particular media narrative. However, on other occasions the local press are just of guilty of terrible journalism as their national rivals. Today’s example is this story in the Daily Mail: ‘Royal Mail bans deliveries to an entire street over ‘menace’ Jack Russell‘ [istyosty.com link]. The Daily Mail article is quite short, but it makes the ‘facts’ clear:

Don’t let his doleful eyes and soggy whiskers fool you.

For this is the face of a cold-blooded terror, hellbent on tearing chunks from any stranger who dares tread his precious driveway… or so Royal Mail would have you believe.

Meet Rusty the Jack Russell, whose squeaky yap strikes fear into the heart of postal workers throughout Plymouth, in Devon.

He is so fearsome that post chiefs have now banned all door-to-door deliveries to his entire street – after tried to nip one terrified postie.

Barely the size of a cat, Rusty has been branded ‘an unacceptable hazard’ to staff.

They don’t give the Royal Mail a chance to respond – other than quoting a short passage from the letter sent to the dog-owner – and the story seems to be a classic case of churnalism (churnalism.com shows that other newspapers have also picked up the story).

So, a quick Google search finds the original story: ‘Royal Mail stops deliveries to Plymouth street after attack bid by Jack Russell‘, published by This is Plymouth. So, it appears that the Daily Mail article – ‘written’ by Matt Blake – is accurate inasmuch as it faithfully copies the angle put forward by This is Plymouth. However, here we have to accuse Matt Blake of being guilty of one of two things:

  1. He read the This is Plymouth article in full, and left out all of the facts that made this story completely wrong.
  2. He didn’t read the whole story and instead just copied and pasted a few bits before adding lots of fluff about how crazy it is for postmen to be afraid of a tiddly-widdly little dog.

So, Matt Blake is either at best a merely incompetent journalist or at worst a deeply dishonest one. Anyone reading the original story will see that it is a terrible piece of journalism in which the headline is completely misleading. Firstly, yes it does appear that Rusty the Jack Russell had bitten a postwoman:

Police said they have received one report of a Jack Russell attempting to bite a postwoman on Newman Road in Saltash on March 24 – and the street’s mail being suspended.

However, the owner of Rusty admits something else (not covered by the Mail):

Karen said the action comes after problems with Mia. She had ripped a postman’s trousers several months ago, but has since been chained up in their back garden, said Karen.

She added that police and a dog warden visited the house on Thursday and warned them to restrain Rusty as well, or face the animals being taken away. [Emphasis is mine]

‘Mia’ is a Rottweiler – and the family also own a German Shepherd as well. So, although the Royal Mail admit that ‘The dog attacked the postman on the 24th of March and we have now suspended deliveries to the whole of Newman Road’, they also make it clear that ‘The suspension of mail deliveries is a last resort’ and that this ‘This exceptional step has been taken in order to safeguard Royal Mail employees’. The idea that it is a last resort is that they have tried to speak to family to get them to control their dogs, the family has failed and that this last bite from the Jack Russell was the point at which the Royal Mail has had to take this action. It is interesting to see that the owner blames the action on the Rottweiler’s bite, rather than the Jack Russell. It is made clear that this is the case by the owner:

[Karen] added that police and a dog warden visited the house on Thursday and warned them to restrain Rusty as well, or face the animals being taken away. [Emphasis is mine]

Interestingly on the original article are lots of comments from residents of the area siding with the action taken by Royal Mail – as well as lots of criticism of the article – Newman Road is in Saltash, Cornwall, not Plymouth, Devon for one. This one comment sums it up:

dog

So, a family that the Daily Mail would normally describe as ‘feral’ and bad, suddenly becomes OK because they fit into the narrative that the Royal Mail will stop deliveries given the slightest excuse because they’re part of the evil public sector. Not that the Royal Mail are responding to irresponsible dog-owners, much as any Mail reader would ordinarily support.

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.

Anti-journalism

Facebook puts vulnerable children at risk of depression, warn doctors‘ [istyosty link]. From the article:

‘A lot of what’s happening is actually very healthy, but it can go too far,’ [Dr Megan Moreno] said…

Parents shouldn’t get the idea that using Facebook ‘is going to somehow infect their kids with depression,’ she said.

Too late, if people actually believe what they read on the Mail Online website.

In other news: ‘Isn’t it a bit early for that? Britney Spears films free concert for Good Morning America (and what a raunchy wake-up call it will be)‘ [istyosty link, has to be seen to be believed]. The article sees fit to demonstrate just how raunchy the routine is by accompanying it with 21 photos and 2 Youtube videos. This really is anti-journalism in action.

Shocking ‘journalism’ from the Mail on Sunday

A lot of people on Twitter yesterday predicted that the Mail on Sunday would cover the March 26th protests only in terms of violence or vandalism and they were not wrong:

According to the Guardian more than a quarter of a million people marched – the vast majority peacefully – on London yesterday, so the Mail on Sunday decides to ignore that and instead publish a photo that appears to show just 3 people smashing a window. It’s the worst kind of ideological journalism and it paints a completely distorted picture of what actually took place yesterday.

It gets worse for the Mail on Sunday when you see their ‘exclusive’ on Gordon Brown, which is also online [istyosty.com link]: ‘The seven months pregnant woman told to give up her British Airways seat… just so Gordon Brown could fly Club Class’. The headline seems to be a complete lie, given that BA issued a clear statement to the Mail:

A spokeswoman for the airline said Mr Brown’s arrival on the flight was a coincidence, and he had been unfairly blamed by the mutinous passengers.

‘The situation had absolutely nothing to do with Gordon Brown,’ she said. ‘We have apologised to [the complainant] and we have offered to pay compensation.

‘It is very rare for a customer not to be able to travel in the cabin that they have booked and we are extremely sorry that this happened on this flight. Gordon Brown and his party were booked in advance and were not involved in any way.’

Indeed, the denial was so clear that when the Mail on Sunday contacted Gordon Brown’s office they received the following response:

‘I assume you have read the BA statement and are now not ­running the story…

‘As BA has made clear, the arrangements were nothing to do with Mr Brown, who had booked his flight and seats well in advance and made no requests for – nor received – any special treatment.

‘As BA will confirm, all questions about bookings, overbookings and allocations of seats are not – and could not be – a matter for Mr Brown but for British Airways.’

But run the story they did, on the front page, as if it were based on something more substantial than the opinion of an anonymous passenger. I wonder if Brown’s office will register a complaint with the PCC, or whether they might just get the lawyers in? It seems to me that the Mail on Sunday thought they were onto a winner, had it totally destroyed by the BA statement but decided to run with it anyway under a completely dishonest headline.

BBC bashing, again

Today’s BBC bashing story: ‘BBC gives globe-trotting staff a lesson… on getting to work by BUS’

The reality:

The BBC is moving about 1,500 staff from London to Salforsd [sic] as it transfers its children’s and sports departments as well as Radio 5 Live and BBC Breakfast.

As part of its preparations bosses set up six sessions covering different aspects of getting to work, under the heading Transport to MediaCityUK Briefing Day.

The day includes talks on parking and cycle provision, the city’s Metrolink light rail service, help in how to buy tickets, information on bus services and individual journey planning sessions…

A BBC spokesman said it wanted staff to have ‘the most relevant and up-to-date information’ to plan their travel. He added that the guest speakers were not paid.

Paul Revoir must be so proud to put his name by this drivel (not to mention the obvious typos littering the article).

Cheese-Rolling back and the Mail still isn’t happy

It was only a matter of time before this year’s annual cheese-rolling festival made it into the tabloid newspapers as a prime example of how ‘elf ‘n’ safety’ had gone truly mad. As has been covered before by numerous blogs on a number of occasions, this event was cancelled last year because the event had grown to big for the location. Traffic congestion and parking were particularly problematic and forced the organisers to postpone the event whilst they looked at making suitable arrangements in order to hold the event again. At no point did health and safety play any part in the cancellation of the event.

Well, the event is now returning with the relevant changes having been made, but the media narrative remains the same: ‘That stinks! Uproar as ancient cheese-rolling festival organisers charge £20 entry (and blame elf ‘n’ safety)’. The headline is a long way from being accurate. For starters, the nature of the event has changed and the £20 charge is being levied for entrance to a day’s worth of entertainment – described as ‘rustic games and competitions’.

The Daily Mail is quick to identify the motivations behind these changes:

there’s no surprise that the twin evils of elf ‘n safety [sic] and commercial gain are to blame.

Ignoring the Daily Mail’s laughable complaint about commercial gain – coming from a paper that will write almost anything for the same reason – it is not surprising that nowhere in the article is the claim about health and safety backed-up. All that is mentioned is that the local authorities demanded that the organisers have in place a ‘comprehensive traffic and crowd control plan, limiting the amount of people on the hill'; something that fits in with the reason that the past event was cancelled: the event had outgrown the location and the informal way in which it was run.

This restriction of spectators amounts to 5,000 tickets being available per day to people wanting to watch or participate in the cheese-rolling on the hill – whilst an enclosed area at the bottom of the hill will remain free to the general public with the races being shown on large screens. The organisers justify the charge by pointing out the cost of staging an obviously popular event:

‘Once you try and restrict the spectators, you have to introduce perimeter fencing and security arrangements which are unfortunately all very expensive and we have to find a way to pay for it.’

Nothing here is striking me as unreasonable. This isn’t about health and safety, or even people trying to make a bit of money, it just seems to be about an event that has grown over the years until there was no choice but to organise it more formally.

As for the ‘uproar’ mentioned in the headline the Daily Mail found a veteran cheese-chaser who said:

I don’t think the hardcore fans will pay £20 per day.

All in all this is just another story rammed into a creaking media narrative that struggles so much for real evidence that ‘elf ‘n’ safety’ has gone mad that it has to resort to silly headlines and unsubstantiated claims. All written from behind the safety of the ‘Daily Mail Reporter’ byline. Whoever wrote this should really question just what it has come to when they write articles that they simply do not want to attach their name to.

Dear journalists: it is not a ‘tidal wave’

I’m sure you’ve all seen the videos shot from helicopters of the massive tsunami that struck Japan. You’ve probably seen enough that you’ve wondered at the fate of countless individuals – the motorists driving as normal, oblivious to the wall of cars, boats and destroyed houses pushed towards them as if foam on the crest of a wave. It’s a sombre scene that requires careful, thoughtful but above all accurate reporting. So I’d like to politely request that journalists please refer to the wave as a ‘tsunami’ because that is what it is. It is not a ‘tidal wave’ because this event had nothing whatsoever to do with tides.

In particular can the Daily Mail please correct this:

There is just no excuse for such shoddy journalism.

The Daily Mail invents a miracle

The Daily Mail’s current top article is relying on its readers being pretty stupid and gullible: ‘Miracle mum brings premature baby son back to life with two hours of loving cuddles after doctors pronounce him dead‘.

Firstly, just because someone is pronounced dead, it does not follow that they are actually dead. People make mistakes and premature babies presumably have slightly underdeveloped lungs / heart so it may be harder to detect signs of life. So, what has probably occurred is a diagnostic mistake rather than a ‘miracle’.

Secondly, the ‘two hours’ detail is really misleading and is only included to imply that the child miraculously came back from the dead after two hours. The article repeats this utter rubbish:

[After being pronounced dead the baby] was then handed to his mother Kate so she and her partner David could grieve and say their goodbyes.

But after two hours of being spoken to, touched cuddled and held by his mother he miraculously began showing signs of life.

So, the article clearly states that the baby only ‘miraculously showing signs of life’ after two hours of cuddling. In truth, as the mother quoted in the article makes clear, it was just five minutes:

‘He wasn’t moving at all and we just started talking to him. We told him what his name was and that he had a sister.

‘We told him the things we wanted to do with him throughout his life.’

Jamie occasionally gasped for air, which doctors said was a reflex action.

She added: ‘After just five minutes I felt him move as if he were startled, then he started gasping more and more regularly.

‘I thought, “Oh my God, what’s going on?” A short time later he opened his eyes. It was a miracle.

‘I told my mum, who was there, that he was still alive. Then he held out his hand and grabbed my finger.

At no point does the mother, father, hospital or any other person claim that he was lifeless for two hours. The only mention of time is in the above quotation, and clearly states that after five minutes he was moving and gasping more frequently for air (he was gasping occasionally before this. The two hours is an invention to add some drama to a story that really doesn’t need it.

It all comes back to bad journalism; either the Mail invented the 2 hours to add drama, or they repeated it without question – not even realising that the article content clearly contradicts this bogus claim.