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The Daily Mail is a lousy rag

My US news sources — Fox and Drudge especially — are linking to the Daily Mail more and more, as their default UK news source. At a glance, they have a similar right-of-center populist editorial viewpoint.

At second glance, though, the Mail turns out to be a really shitty newspaper.

Leave aside the way they report upcoming plot-points on popular TV programs as if it were real news. Overlooking the endless celebrity trout-pouts, baby bumps and unflattering shots of famous people caught with no makeup and their eyes half closed. All this is down in the shallow, stupid end of journalism, but it’s not wrong.

Then there are the endless, breathless, ZOMG one-armed drunken lesbian benefit scroungers with knives headlines — which often aren’t supported by the story inside. This gets tiresome. It’s bad journalism, but it’s not really wrong.

But — via my chicken-keepers forum, of all places — comes a link to a story about the Mail engaging in first-degree just making shit up.

It’s a long blog post. Worth a read, if you’re interested. If not, here’s the Cliff’s Notes version:

In 2003, this woman moves to the country with her two kids, is contacted by a Mail freelancer doing a story on people who leave the city looking for the good life. Woman is starting a PR company in a new town, thinks this would be a bit of harmless publicity.

Story comes out, it’s titled Sex & the Country — a reaction to Sex in the City coming back on TV — and it’s a bunch of made-up shit about her dating life, including totally made-up direct quotes. She’s horrified and humiliated. She contacts the other people in the article — same deal for them, but the Mail laughs them off and nobody can afford to sue.

So the original lady, she spends two years in court trying to get an apology out of them. In the end, the judge rules in her favor (meaning she wins the right to carry it forward to a jury trial) and the Mail offers to settle. Which she does.

I realize there’s a lot of this kind of thing goes around in journalism — especially with this fluffy Lifestyle junk that seems to be taking over newspapers — but I’d like to think there’s a leeetle less poison in my information well.

Anyhow. Be careful who you link to. You might get some on you.


Comment from Uncle Badger
Time: February 1, 2011, 10:51 pm

I used to… um… ‘hang out’ is I believe the young person’s vernacular… with a few hacks who worked for some of more notorious British Sunday papers and this story doesn’t surprise me at all.

Those bastards routinely used every trick in the dirty book to, not get, but create stories. And they didn’t give a damn who got ruined in the process.

That said, while the Mail is a loathsome rag whose editor I wouldn’t even wipe my arse on, the sanctimonious Left is no better, witness the recent BBC hatchet jobs on AGW sceptics James Delingpole and Lord Monckton.

They’re a different sort of scum, but scum they are and just as much a disgrace to journalism.

Comment from Can’t hark my cry
Time: February 1, 2011, 10:56 pm

Wow! We have publications like that in the US (as Stoaty knows) but they are weekly, and only the really dumb and painfully credulous actually BELIEVE their stories. For example, National Enquirer “Enquiring minds want to know.” I’m not going to say that none of our mainstream newspapers is untainted by occasional bad journalism–we’ve had some truly embarrassing scandals (Stephen Glass went to my alma mater, very embarrassing!) but the point is. . .they are actually scandals over here. I can’t imagine the New York Post, shrill as it is, condoning outright falsehood. So, just, wow!

Comment from Uncle Badger
Time: February 1, 2011, 11:08 pm

The odd thing, Can’t Hark. is that our libel laws are legendarily more punitive and restrictive than yours and about the most boring evening you can have is being stuck in a corner at a party with a journalist banging on about them.

Comment from Can’t hark my cry
Time: February 1, 2011, 11:16 pm

Mm. But I expect there’s theory and then there’s practice. From Ms. Shaw’s story, it appears you have to have pretty deep pockets yourself to pursue the claim. In America, on the other hand, that would be a tort claim–and the plaintiff’s injury bar works on contingency fees. There is a LOT wrong with that whole system, but it does somewhat level the economic playing field for plaintiffs.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: February 1, 2011, 11:28 pm

Ohhhh…I forgot you were a law-talking person, Can’t hark. If the comments to that story are true, the current head of the press complaints body is…the editor of the Daily Mail. Nice.

On a happier note, I did a Google images search of “spill table” to find the water for this p’shop, and I discovered this totally cool table.


Comment from Christopher Taylor
Time: February 1, 2011, 11:29 pm

Meh, the thing is, the New York Times, the LA Times, and many other prestigious papers have been caught doing similar things. The Daily Mail is basically a gossip rag, but they do carry a lot of good content too. I try to confirm what I read there (like I do with other too-good-to-be-true sources like CNS news). They are sometimes trash, sometimes great. Like any newspaper, really.

Comment from Uncle Badger
Time: February 1, 2011, 11:33 pm

Yes, the contingency fees principle is comparatively new here and has become hugely controversial.

Even so. it remains more or less true that to bring a libel claim against a major broadcaster or publisher you need huge pockets and an iron nerve.

OTOH, Dr Richard North and the journalist Christopher Booker were chased by the most vile law firm in Britain (so sue me!) for libel against the head of the IPCC and even though the paper they were writing for was owned by two of the richest men in the UK, the paper caved-in, rather than face the enormous costs of a case.

In the famously litigious US it wouldn’t have been a case at all, I understand.

The shorthand version is that our libel laws in the UK are a complete mess.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: February 1, 2011, 11:34 pm

You know why people say, “no comment” even though they sound really lame? Because anything else is dangerous.

My dad (who worked in government when I was little) was once cornered by a reporter who asked him a question. He said, “I’m afraid I have nothing to say.”

The article next day? “Mr Weasel – afraid to talk!”

That paper also used to typo his name in unflattering ways.

Comment from Mono The Elder
Time: February 1, 2011, 11:38 pm

Ugh. Well, i guess there be moonbats in all professions. Some more than others.

Comment from Uncle Badger
Time: February 1, 2011, 11:52 pm

Good Lord!

You mean they… they.. referred to him as Mr Selwea?!?

How dare they!!!

Comment from Rich Rostrom
Time: February 1, 2011, 11:55 pm

Hark: The “tabloid” press in Britain is very different from the U.S. “tabloids”.

The Mail, Sun, and News of the World are “full-service” daily papers – though remarkably thin and skimpy by U.S. standards. (I was shocked to see a British paper that sold for about the same price as a U.S. daily, yet was only about 24 or 32 pages.)

They have conventional news and a lot of sports coverage – larded up with vast amounts of celebrity gossip and other fluff (like the Sun‘s “Page 3” pictures of bare-breasted girls).

That’s why this story is important. The U.S. tabloids are purely entertainment. The British tabloids claim to be real newspapers, and real newspapers aren’t supposed to make stuff up.

(FYI: the U.S. Sun, Globe, and Star do make stuff up, but not the Enquirer. They fact-check pretty rigorously. Which is why the other tabs have sensational stories every week, while the Enquirer generally makes do with sensationalized headlines on much less dramatic stories. The Enquirer also works really hard at having the latest celebrity “news” and the neatest weird/cute/funny stuff. And twice in recent years, it broke a major piece of real news. It dug up Jesse Jackson’s love child, and it was all over Silky Pony while the “real press” was looking the other way. No, I don’t read it, but credit where credit is due.)

Comment from Can’t hark my cry
Time: February 1, 2011, 11:58 pm

Sweas–as one who has occasionally been in a position of being quoted in the newspapers because of unavoidable speech at client (necessarily public) meetings, I can say that it is rarely pretty, and they don’t necessarily get your exact words. Being, in general, a person who values exactitude, I find that frustrating. I have learned, however, that it is better to return the reporter’s call and say “My ethical obligation to preserve the confidences of a client prevents me from making any comment” than to ignore it because if you don’t call back you “couldn’t be reached” which, to the public, means you were ducking calls. A lawyer’s ethical obligations, however, are apparently regarded by the news media as so boring that they NEVER mention them to the paying public. Making them a safe bastion behind which to retreat.

And, Uncle B, I’m about to venture out on thin ice–always dangerous to comment on a culture one doesn’t share. I haven’t read the body of English case law on libel, but I’d be willing to bet (a SMALL sum!) that the successful early plaintiffs were peers, at a time when the newspaper publishers were not. That is, people with deep pockets suing people of a different social class. Class distinctions created some fascinating rules in common law. Well, OK, they still do that in America, but in sortof different ways.

Rick Rostrom–just saw yours. I have to admit I haven’t read ANY of the American tabloids in almost 40 years–and when I did it was for a College English course. But I will sometimes stand in grocery checkout lines and try to decode the headline screamers on the front cover. . .

Comment from mojo
Time: February 2, 2011, 12:01 am

UK paper?


Comment from Uncle Badger
Time: February 2, 2011, 12:14 am

Hmm…. you might very well be right, Can’t Hark. It’s not my field so I wouldn’t know.

However, times change.

For example, in the 1950s, Liberace sued a British newspaper columnist for daring to suggest that he was homosexual.

And won.

Some years later a multi-millionaire thief and thug called Robert Maxwell terrified the entire British media into silence by brandishing his millions at libel lawyers.

And Count Nikolai Tolstoy (of that ilk) was famously ruined, in 1989, by a libel case.

It’s a dirty business here.

And it’s why I never dare speak of the runny babbit atrocities that regularly take place in the field next door….

Clearly, they are perpetrated by, um, the fairies.

Comment from Cobrakai99
Time: February 2, 2011, 12:47 am

One of my favorite BBC shows that was available here in the Colonies, Hustle, did a whole episode on the British press.

Comment from Skandi Recluse
Time: February 2, 2011, 12:49 am

I’ve been scanning the international papers for several years and occasionally finding news that didn’t appear in US papers. Now you tell me I can’t trust *everything* one might read in the paper? Well, yes, I knew that, but what happens is after awhile, one begins to not trust *anything* in the news media. Which leads to the thought that you are believing a story because you want it to be true as it supports your point of view. So I take the easy way out, just hate everybody and be done with it.

Comment from McClane
Time: February 2, 2011, 12:50 am

My sex/country life simply isn’t that interesting. So, journalists, sex it up for me, make it look like the Iraq war. The Mail has seen what works on tv.

Comment from Oldcat
Time: February 2, 2011, 1:00 am

I used to get an occasional Weekly World News because I figured it was all made up, but then in the story about a space probe recording the voice of God, there was a quote from a Vatican spokesman saying “We don’t need a probe to tell us about God”.

I am convinced they actually called the Vatican for that quote.

Comment from Deborah
Time: February 2, 2011, 3:41 am

What British paper can Badger House recommend?

Comment from The Daily Mail
Time: February 2, 2011, 5:13 am

My sex/country life simply isn’t that interesting. So, journalists, sex it up for me, make it look like the Iraq war.

McClane seen leaving sheep barn at dawn – told reporter he “won’t speak to ewe again”

Something like that, sir?

Sigh – I coulda been a contender at the NYT, I tell ya.

Comment from Richard
Time: February 2, 2011, 5:19 am

I encountered an undercover reporter from this particular rag one fine day. Her article simply soiled paper that could otherwise be used to hold fish and chips, or to wipe ones backside, far more useful purposes.

She failed to mention in the entire article that due to a small technical problem (OK, my one and only airborne engine failure in 3000 hours flying) my company was forced to sub-charter her flight. Therefore the fact that no-one checked her passport (she had given false details) was nothing to do with us, but down to Special Branch, Immigration and the sub-contractor none of whom got a mention, despite her booking a second flight through a broker (named in the article, again innocent) which happened to be chartered to the same company.

In the piece she tried to claim that a terrorist could cheaply charter a light aircraft to enter the country illegally without being noticed.

Not only did any inside knowledge show up deep flaws in her reasoning in the article, but at no stage did she mention that both she and her photographer were middle-aged whites with upper-class English accents. Now I have not been trained in profiling, but could have pretty much ruled them out as illegal immigrants, and being British citizens there is nothing anyone can be expected to do to keep them out of the country! She did not ask us for comment either, or we would have pointed out that she was the only person we had ever agreed to fly into the country who we had not flown before. We had refused such jobs in the past for non-EU passport holders, and knew to contact Special Branch for anything really suspect.

I have known the inside track on other stories in the press. They are all wrong. In significant ways. Often enough to make the story pointless.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: February 2, 2011, 9:26 am

The Telegraph used to be a fine paper, but since the Barclay brothers bought it, it’s gone downhill. Loves green issues, hates Sarah Palin and has been more and more consumed by vapid Lifestyles copy.

It’s like they’re chasing the urban youth readership – not the smartest demographic in the drawer.

Comment from Dick Bacon
Time: February 2, 2011, 2:29 pm

The New York Post is just like this. And Fox News TV is becoming more and more like it too. Call it the Rupertization of moderate-to-conservative media outlets.

Try theblaze
Try michaelsavage.wnd
Especially try ace.mu.nu

Comment from jic
Time: February 3, 2011, 4:38 pm

The Telegraph was heading in that direction long before the Barclays briefly emerged fron their Bond villian private island fortress to buy it, they just completed the process. The worst are their arts & entertainment writers, who seem like they could get fired from the Guardian for being left-wing hacks.

And yet, it’s still a tie between the Telegraph and The Times for the title of most consistently readable British daily newspaper.

Comment from Oh Hell
Time: February 4, 2011, 4:17 am

If the National Enquirer “fact-check pretty rigorously” – there are two headlines I want to find out about –
“Two headed Women pregnant, One head wants the baby, the other one doesn’t…”
Did they have the baby, or not????
“Egyptian mummy pregnant, Janitor claims he’s the Father…”
So, did Mummy, er, have the baby and was it the janitors????

Comment from jic
Time: February 4, 2011, 3:37 pm

Are you sure that those are actual Enquirer headlines? They look more like something from The Weekly World News.

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