Daily Express apologises to former MP

This was originally posted on Minority Thought

It’s worth reproducing this recent apology from the Daily Express in its entirety:

IN Court yesterday, we apologised to Stephen Hesford former MP for West Wirrall.On 17 October 2009, we published an article entitled “MP who took moral stance “was a sex pest”.  The article reported on proceedings before the Employment Tribunal in Liverpool the day before brought against Mr Hesford by a former employee for sexual discrimination.The article also stated that a claim for sexual harassment had been made but wrongly implied that Mr Hesford was being accused of personally having sexually harassed his former employee and as such was a hypocrite having resigned a month earlier as a matter of principle as a parliamentary aide to the Attorney General.

We accepted that there has been no suggestion of any sexual misbehaviour by Mr Hesford and that the proceedings against him were in his capacity as employer.

We apologised to Mr Hesford and have paid him damages and costs.

Quite a climb down there from the Express.

But what’s more interesting about this apology was the fact that, at the time of writing, it was displayed relatively prominently on the Express’ website.

You might think this is a good sign but it’s almost certainly only a consequence of the fact that this apology was coaxed out of the Express via a court case. This is not usual practice.

If only apologies or expressions of “regret” obtained through the Press Complaints Commission were displayed quite so prominently.

Until newspapers are compelled to print or display apologies with “due prominence”, as the Editors’ Code of Practice supposedly demands, there is no effective deterrent against newspapers making such factual errors in the future.

Unless they get sued, that is…

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How to Respond to Media Myths

This is a cross-post on The Sun – Tabloid Lies, Express Watch and Mail Watch.

When you read the Sun, Daily Mail and the Express over a long-enough period of time, you start to notice a few things.

One thing that crops up regularly are hysterical ranting posts over a few small topics, including the following:

We’ve noticed that a lot of these scare stories could be stopped by a little research, which we accept that pressed-for-time tabloid journalists, for whatever reason, are unable to do.

Therefore, in the spirit of co-operation, we’ve decided to help them out by listing great sources of information, thereby saving them valuable time:

There are also a variety of websites which can be used for any “Bloody Foreigners! Coming over ‘ere! Takin’ our jobs! Takin’ our wimmin!” stories*:

There are also more general fact-checking sites**:

Of course, any and all of these lists could also be used by anyone else who wants to know more about the articles which the Sun, Daily Mail and/or the Express publish.

If anyone has any other suggestions as what other sources our tabloid journalists could use, just leave them in the comments.

* Thanks to Tabloid Watch for these particular links
** Thanks to Bloggerheads for these suggestions

What they trying to say?

I was researching the Express’s coverage of various health issues and stumbled upon this post.

The post itself isn’t of that much interest, but check out the URL.

Before anyone asks, no, I’ve not amended the address in any way.

How migrants snatched our homes

This story in the Express could’ve been a proper piece of journalism. Instead it’s just an excuse for demonising some immigrants, that from the sounds of it, are just as much the victims of a scam as some home owners.

Some home owners have left their properties, one to renovate it and another to walk his dog (and became ill and didn’t return for two days) only to find immigrants, Lithuanians no less, have moved in.

Both home owners are quoted as saying when they confronted their new tenants, the new occupiers have been paying rent and local residents “fear a ring of bogus estate agents may be watching their houses, waiting for them to leave before moving illegal tenants in.”

So as a responsible journalist what would you have done? This is just ripe for a good bit of investigative journalism. You have some shady chaps renting out other peoples houses they have no right to rent out. You have some innocent families being duped into thinking they’re legitimately renting a home and some shocked and horrified home owners. Bad guys and not one, but two different sets of victims.

Surely a quick knock on the door, ask who they’re paying rent to and then go and visit the shady estate agents. Job done. You got a story and possible helped towards sorting out the mess to boot.

But no. The tack the Express tacks is oh, so predictable…

A GANG of Lithuanian squatters is behind a terrifying scam in which people’s homes are seized and locks changed while they are out, it has emerged.

The illegal tenants have been holed up in one property for at least five months and the authorities are powerless to evict them without a court order.

In another case, an elderly man took his dogs for a walk and returned home to find the Lithuanian gang had moved in and were throwing all his possessions out of the window and into his front garden.

The gang is in fact a family and the Lithuanians are not the ones behind the scam, ‘snatching our homes’, the dodgy estate agents are. The phrase ‘holed up’ implies that the new occupiers are barracaded in.

The Lithuanians are also labelled violent when, by the proper home owners accounts, there was only shouting, which can be intimidating but is hardly violent.

It’s all there already in the story, but framed in such a way that the immigrants are the ones at fault.

The houses were probably chosen by the dodgy estate agents because of ease of entry to the properties and the immigrants were chosen as easy targets because of being unfamiliar with the laws and ways of the land and may not have a good grasp of English.

The people the Express should be railing against isn’t the Lithuanians being taken for a ride but the didgy estate agents. But that would mean taking to dirty foreigners and the estate agents are more than likely British, so we won’t mention them too much, shall we?

Even accurate stories are made to be misleading

The Express has a rather scary story for people with diabetes today with this: ‘HEART ATTACK FEARS OVER DIABETES PILL TAKEN BY MILLIONS‘. The Express claims in the first line of the article that:

A DIABETES pill taken by millions of people is still being prescribed despite experts knowing that it triggers potentially fatal heart attacks.

A safety body recommended that the top-selling drug Avandia be withdrawn two months ago as it “no longer has a place on the UK market”.

Firstly, it must be said that this is a genuine story about a drug that the British Medical Journal and the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) have suggested causes an increased risk of heart attacks and that the risks outweigh the benefits.

However, the case is more complex than the Express is suggesting, given that less than two months ago the American Food and Drug Administration panel voted to keep the drug on the market and that the European Medicines Agency (EMA) has yet to make a decision on the drug and is only at the stage of considering the evidence put forward by the MHRA. The Express does not mention either of these things, which sensationalises things in two ways: firstly, by ignoring the FDA verdict they can imply that experts are unanimous in ‘knowing’ that the drugs cause heart attacks – which makes it more shocking that it is still on the market; and, secondly, they ignore the fact the MHRA have made a case to the EMA because in doing so it suggests that nothing is being done to take this drug off the market – perfect for creating outraged readers.

Whilst the tone of the Express article is not subtle – including the clearly misleading claim that the drug is ‘TAKEN BY MILLIONS’ when they clearly state in the article only around 100,000 people in the UK take the drug – the details that are left out are subtle, and designed to create unnecessary panic. In truth this drug is under intense pressure and as the Guardian points out the company’s stock fell as shareholders worried that the drug would be taken off the market in the near future. It is also what seems like a rarity in tabloid reporting: a genuine health-scare story about a drug that warrants public attention and scrutiny. Yet the Express still feel the need to ‘sex it up’ by inflating 100,000 to ‘millions’ whilst giving the impression that nothing is being is or can be done to remove the drug from the market; which is far from the truth and unnecessarily misleading.

Clubhouse rules

Greetings! The post you are reading at this moment is appearing simultaneously on four websites:

Bloggerheads (post permalink) – my personal site
The Sun: Tabloid Lies (post permalink) – a media watch site targeting The Sun
Daily Mail Watch (post permalink) – a media watch site targeting the Daily Mail
Express Watch (post permalink) – a brand new media watch site targeting Express newspapers

I’m not the gaffer for all of these sites, but I have had a word with the relevant writers and webmasters about what I’m about to share with you, the reader, so you know what to expect from these media watch sites targeting The Sun, Daily Mail and Daily Express:

All three sites will now operate as open clubhouses for the following writers and bloggers, all of whom have a solid track record* and ongoing interest in blogging and media watchery:

5cc :: @
bigdaddymerk :: @
Adam Bienkov :: @
Chris Coltrane :: @
D-Notice :: @
Daily Quail :: @
Dave Cross :: @
Kate Griffin :: @
Daniel Hoffmann-Gill :: @
Tim Ireland :: @
MacGuffin :: @
Hannah Mudge :: @
Carl P :: @
Nadia Saint :: @
septicisle ::
Sim-O :: @
Uponnothing :: @
Anton Vowl :: @

(*I could be more effusive if I weren’t in the list myself. Damn my modesty.)

From today, these writers will be free to submit original content and/or reference or mirror articles from their own sites about The Sun, Daily Mail and Daily Express newspapers.

Don’t expect everyone to come rushing in at once; the whole idea is that we can all drop in as and when we please; i.e. whenever we have time to report/share clear examples/evidence of these newspapers deceiving their readers.

(I’ve started by popping a couple of backdated mirrors about the Dunblane incident and a recent dash of homophobia and hypocrisy in Express Watch, BTW, and you will probably see more like these appearing over the coming days/weeks as we go about the process of populating the newer site with a little historical data on a writer-by-writer basis.)

There are bound to be varying degrees of tolerance between writers and over time, but we will continue to avoid ‘hating’ on tabloid readers generally (this being existing policy on the two older media watch sites), as we recognise that even the worst elements are victims to a degree if they base their fears/prejudices on misleading information fed to them by these newspapers – and we are ultimately out to bring some of them on board with the whole ‘honesty in media’ policy (at least to the extent that they cease reading, funding and otherwise enabling these media outlets that play so wilfully on the fears of others).

To put it bluntly, we as a group (a) seek to remind the readers of these tabloids that they are being lied to on a regular basis, (b) will attempt to call their owners and editors to account where possible/appropriate, and (c) aim to chip away at their circulation in the process by the devilish means of repeatedly exposing their fraud… when we each have a few minutes.

This ‘clubhouse’ approach should be enough, one hopes, to keep all three media watch interests ticking over a steady rate, and keep the documentation of the worst of these tabloids’ deceits relatively central and readily accessible.

With that newly-centralised relevance in mind, from an SEO (search engine optimisation) perspective, I also have designs on all three sites eventually earning very high placement for the name of each newspaper title; Daily Mail Watch is at present 7th for ‘daily mail’ in Google UK and prone to go higher, and The Sun: Tabloid Lies has just recently entered the top ten for ‘the sun’ (i.e. it is now 9th in Google UK).

Keep an eye out for our clubhouse members as they begin to appear over the coming week. Oh, and do add the following to your sidebars, readers and bookmarks, because these sites are about to become your first stop for any news involving any of the following tabloid newspapers:

The Sun: Tabloid Lies
Daily Mail Watch
Express Watch

Cheers all.

GayTV: Richard Desmond loves cock (for cash)

Front pages reach an audience beyond a newspaper’s readership, and every editor knows this.

Therefore, the impact of this stunning bigotry and ignorance should not be underestimated and certainly shouldn’t be ignored:

bigotry

Daily Express – NOW ASYLUM IF YOU’RE GAY: Asylum claims could soar after judges upheld appeals by two gay men who were to be deported. The men, from Iran and Cameroon, had been refused asylum by the Appeal Court under Labour on the grounds that they could avoid ill-treatment by hiding their sexuality or behaving discreetly. But the Supreme Court overturned their deportation yesterday. The cases will now be reconsidered. Campaigners last night warned it could mean millions might try to claim they are gay to qualify for asylum in Britain. Supreme Court judge Lord Rodger said gay people’s right to live freely must be protected. He said: “Just as male heterosexuals are free to enjoy themselves playing rugby, drinking beer and talking about girls with their mates, so male homosexuals are to be free to enjoy themselves going to Kylie concerts, drinking exotically-coloured cocktails and talking about boys with their straight female mates.”

Acknowledging that the ‘Kylie and cocktails’ text paraphrases a judge who appears to have educated himself by watching witless sitcoms, questions should be asked about the suitability of this front page, and how it portrays both homosexuals and asylum seekers.

There’s also a wealth of what-the-fuckery to be had in exploring the comments of Conservative MP Philip Davies and MigrationFearUK chairman Sir Andrew Green, but for now let’s stick to this front page and see what it tells us about Richard Desmond, the hands-on owner of this newspaper, who also happens to be a pornographer.

While repeatedly using male homosexuals to stir up feelings of fear and outrage that sell the Daily Expresstabloid rag to an audience of bigots, Richard Desmond also sells pornography aimed specifically at… male homosexuals.

Richard Desmond owns a number of pornographic TV channels. In fact, in what many suspect was a back-room deal aided by Tony Blair, Desmond was the first pornographer to cash in on the ‘Freeview’ market.

Among those pornographic channels owned by Desmond is GayTV, a channel dedicated (one assumes) to watching Kylie’s music videos and catching up on the latest COCKtail* recipes:

hypocrisy

(*Did you see what I did there? Who’s a clever boy?)

And just so the ladies don’t feel left out… I’d like to point out that lesbians are well-represented on Desmond’s series of TelevisionX (and RedHot) channels:

pornography

Just kidding. The red hot lesbian action you’re likely to see on a Desmond porn channel is probably faked for a male audience… which brings us back to the comments of Conservative MP Philip Davies:

Daily Express – NOW ASYLUM IF YOU’RE GAY :Conservative MP Philip Davies said: “It’s a dangerous game to play to go down this line because it’s quite feasible that this could offer an ideal line of defence for someone who wants to try to avoid being kicked out of the country, whether it is true or not that they are gay. By its very nature, it’s very difficult to prove one way or another. My concern would be that this may well be exploited by some people as a way of avoiding deportation.”

What does Philip Davies think about the dangers of people who fake being a lesbian for the benefit of a cash-paying audience? Isn’t he outraged or maybe even just a little bit concerned about this obvious fraud?

(Here Philip Davies may point out that faking lesbianism on a hardcore sex channel isn’t quite as easy/straightforward as cutting your hair short and wearing comfortable shoes, and I look forward to that debate.)

Finally, bringing us back to the central point, what does Philip Davies think about the way Desmond exploits two distinct audiences in pursuit of profit, lying to at least one of them about his core beliefs re: homosexuality in the process? Admittedly (ahem) by its very nature, it’s very difficult to prove one way or another… but Desmond can’t have it both ways**.

(**Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)

[Psst! It is widely reported by many unhappy consumers that RHF Productions Ltd, house of porn and part of Desmond’s Northern and Shell empire, dances right on the edges of consumer protection laws, if not all over and back and forth across them. So even if you’re stupid enough to buy gay porn from a man like Desmond, you may want to think twice about what it could cost you in cash terms.]

Will Martin Townsend sack Derek Lambie?

NOTE – This post is a (back-dated) mirror of the original article from this author’s site.

Earlier this year, the Scottish edition of the Sunday Express newspaper published a front page article, “Anniversary Shame of Dunblane Survivors” (detail). It was penned by Paul Murray working under Scottish title editor, Derek Lambie. Lambie himself works under Sunday Express editor Martin Townsend (detail).

At one stage Townsend asked me to get in touch if I was in any way dissatisfied with Lambie’s attempts to resolve the matter. I have cause to doubt Martin Townsend’s sincerity, as I did just as he suggested after Lambie initially resisted widespread demands for an apology before publishing this self-serving tosh… and Townsend ignored my email!

Now, the PCC has ruled on this matter and stated quite plainly that; “the breach of the Code was so serious that no apology could remedy it” (source).

Express owner Richard Desmond (also in the news today) already has a reputation as a rogue publisher with scant regard for the PCC, so will Martin Townsend be shrugging this off as well… or will he be sacking Derek Lambie with immediate effect?

Derek Lambie: The Gates

NOTE – This post is a (back-dated) mirror of the original article from this author’s site.

– | –

Derek Lambie

Click here to sign the petition
(4,481 signatures and counting)

Click here to join the Facebook group
(3,302 members and counting)

IF YOU ARE NEW TO THIS ISSUE, PLEASE *READ* THE PETITION

Scottish Sunday Express article at the centre of this can be read here.

FYI: High demand is causing comment glitches and temporary outages.
Comments are still welcome, but some may be lost or duplicated. Be warned.

– | –

I’m hearing noise about pending/current legal action from the corner of Derek Lambie, editor of the Scottish Sunday Express.

For example, this claim appeared on the Popbitch board day before yesterday:

Lambie: legal noises on Facebook

I wasn’t sure if this was entirely true at first. It could have been part of a joke by ‘celtiagirl’, or even a little joke by Derek Lambie. Or, it could’ve been a genuine/empty threat from a man who would rather not have his Facebook account cherry-picked for compromising data.

Point is I wasn’t sure, so I asked him via email, and received a ‘read’ receipt, but no reply…. and not for the first time.

You may recall this vague threat from last week:

“I hope the personal attacks on paula murray will cease or further action will be taken.” – Derek Lambie (source)

Despite relevant questions being raised twice, Lambie never did get back to me about what personal abuse he was talking about and what action had been taken, if any.

Maybe he’s not at liberty to say for legal reasons. Maybe he just wants me to think that he’s taking/considering legal action (see: Dean Godson). Or perhaps he has me confused with another blogger.

Actually, judging by this comment, he does appear to regard us as some sort of organised gang:

“As you are no doubt aware – thanks to mass bloggers on the Internet – we have been inundated with letters and comments. Many of them have been extremely personal. ” – Derek Lambie (source)

Because it’s our fault, this. Without us “mass bloggers”, no-one would be outraged. We all ganged up on the poor, defenceless staff of Express Newspapers and invented this anger and outrage. It’s not real or genuine or spontaneous at all; it’s engineered outrage. It’s Russell Brand and Jonathon Ross all over again (and again). So whatever it is that you think you’re feeling right now, you may as well put it away and forget about it, because Lambie thinks you’re having him on, and you’re wasting your breath. Oh and your criticisms are buried under a neatly arranged scattering of personal abuse, so you should be happy with the two letters he printed and shut the hell up.

Anyway, as I was saying, the vague legal threat is still hanging in the air, there is talk of it being repeated (which Lambie is doing little to discourage, at least), and I want to take the precaution of reminding Derek Lambie and anyone else who might be reading just why we’re here…

Dunblane Memorial Window by Shona McInnes

The Dunblane Memorial Window, Holy Family Church, Dunblane (original)
“The theme is the triumph of light over darkness, of good over evil…” – Shona McInnes

I don’t entirely trust my own memories of the Dunblane massacre. As you may or may not be aware, it was the sensational media coverage of Dunblane, particularly the portrayal of the killer, that was the trigger for a young man who turned away from thoughts of simple suicide and instead decided to take a whole bunch of us lesser humans with him, on 28 April 1996 in the Port Arthur massacre. In short, for this little black swan, the two shockwaves overlap with the bonus of some justified anger at the media that I’d really rather not going into right now. So, instead, here’s a student editorial from 1996 to bring us back into focus:

AT 9am on Wednesday 13 March 1996, Mrs. Mayor’s class arrived at the gates of Dunblane Primary School, many of them never to return home.

The senseless slaughter of the infants in Dunblane is one of those events too horrifying to comprehend. A nation still mourns the lives of sixteen young children and their teacher, it is doubtful they will ever stop grieving.

It is hard to comprehend that this has happened. It’s numbing, and still the shock has no worn off. Standing outside of one of the school gates was one of the most harrowing experiences I have ever encountered.

Our thoughts are with the families of the victims, and with the town of Dunblane. They will never forget. Never forgive. Their hurt will never ease, their loss never brought back. Words cannot express our thoughts, our emotions, our sympathies. We cannot begin to comprehend. We could never understand the great sense of loss.

Nothing can bring the children back, and for the families this grief will never go away. Forevermore, they will be hammered by the callous, cold and calculated killings at Dunblane Primary School. The hurt is too raw, the grief is too deep, the shock is too mind-numbing.

That’s from the lead editorial of the March/April 1996 edition of BRIG, the official student newspaper of Stirling University.

Derek Lambie went to Stirling University, and I know you shouldn’t believe everything you read on Wikipedia, but it says so on the page about Derek Lambie that was created by Derek Lambie (and is, so far, Derek Lambie’s sole contribution to Wikipedia).

Anyway, I’m getting off the track, and my point is that Derek Lambie was at Stirling University in 1996, but he’s not acting like a man who read that editorial.

Which is a crying shame, because he’s actually the man who wrote it.

Oof

That was written by Derek Lambie, then-editor of BRIG, as part of a 7-page spread on the Dunblane massacre. It’s in the Stirling University newspaper archives (go see for yourself), and this discovery comes to us courtesy of one of those idealistic student-types that hangs around campus scanners and photocopiers and imagines that they are angry about petty opportunistic attacks on blameless victims of horrific violence. Turns out there’s a few people like that.

Again, getting back on track…

Right now, keeping in mind the gravity of this issue and the emotions Derek Lambie experienced when he stood outside those school gates, what I really want to know is when exactly Derek Lambie plans of getting on with it, and suing us bloggers in the name of the victims of the Dunblane massacre.

Because surely he gave that article by Paula Murray the main front page headline because he was trying to protect these people from themselves. Surely he’d only be intending legal action that would help those victims to move on and forget the pain. Let’s not forget that “forevermore, they will be hammered by the callous, cold and calculated killings at Dunblane Primary School” (and maybe a tabloid hack or two, because that’s clearly their right).

There’s no way he’s be suing anybody for selfish reasons at all. You know; because he has to cover his arse and/or Paula Murray’s after he gave that reporter free rein and a front page to have a go at vulnerable young adults, allowing them to be singled out and attacked (again!) just because they happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time 13 years ago. Such a thing would be unthinkable…. and quite unconscionable.

So obviously there’s some key element I’m missing that makes me wrong and him right.

Therefore, in the name of the dearly departed and the remaining victims (families, loved ones, survivors and even those shocked bystanders standing outside the gates), I beg you to please take me, and take me now, Derek Lambie.

I surrender willingly to your superior force. Come and sue me. Smite me if it pleases you.

Or go see the wizard*, face your critics, take your lumps, and rejoin the human race.

Here, let me turn the artificial emotions up to eleventy while you think about your decision.There’s no need for you to think about it too much, mind. After all, you’re an important editor of a major regional newspaper; you couldn’t possibly be wrong about this:

[*see: brains, heart and courage]