Tag Archives: daily mail

Plagiarists should at least be *competent* plagiarists – Media Ooops 002

This is a shorter version of an article appearing on the Wardman Wire.

Plagiarism is an interesting game.

You can either rewrite the piece, find a bit more information, leave other bits out, and – if you’re the Daily Mail – reduce the reading age by a year or three.

Or you can acknowledge that the story came from somewhere else, and give a hat-tip for a nugget, or a small fee for an article.

Or you can try and ride both horses and end up sitting on your backside in the middle.

So, we have Exhibit A, from Dizzy Thinks:

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport has a dedicated civil servant working on the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations in 2012? Not particular shocking really, but there is an oddity.

According to an FoI release, one of the roles of this civil servant is the development of equalities impact assessment for the Queen’s celebratory bash. Why does a celebration for one person need an equalities impact assessment?

Mind you, as an eagle-eyed reader put to to me. Perhaps it’s because she’s (a) a woman, (b) a pensioner, (c) dependent on state benefits, and (d) married to an immigrant?

and Exhibit B, from the Daily Mail:

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport has a dedicated civil servant working on the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations in 2012. One of the roles of the civil servant is the development of an ‘equalities impact assessment’. Why does a ­celebration for one person need an equalities impact assessment? Is it because she’s a woman, a pensioner, relies on the state for handouts — and is married to a foreigner?

The two are nearly the same, and it’s only an item in a Diary column, for heaven’s sake. A tip would cost about twenty pounds or a gift voucher, and an acknowledgement would cost nothing.

(Hat-tip: Dizzy).
[Update: re-edited]

CCTV spending by councils/how many police officers would that pay? – statistics in context

News organisations across the country will today be running stories based on a report by Big Brother Watch into the amount spent on CCTV surveillance by local authorities (PDF). The treatment of this report is a lesson in how journalists approach figures, and why context is more important than raw figures.

BBC Radio WM, for example, led this morning on the fact that Birmingham topped the table of spending on CCTV. But Birmingham is the biggest local authority in the UK by some distance, so this fact alone is not particularly newsworthy – unless, of course, you omit this fact or allow anyone from the council to point it out (ahem).

Much more interesting was the fact that the second biggest spender was Sandwell – also in the Radio WM region. Sandwell spent half as much as Birmingham – but its population is less than a third the size of its neighbour. Put another way, Sandwell spent 80% more per head of population than Birmingham on CCTV (£18 compared to Birmingham’s £10 per head).

Being on a deadline wasn’t an issue here: that information took me only a few minutes to find and work out.

The Press Association’s release on the story focused on the Birmingham angle too – taking the Big Brother Watch statements and fleshing them out with old quotes from those involved in the last big Birmingham surveillance story – the Project Champion scheme – before ending with a top ten list of CCTV spenders.

The Daily Mail, which followed a similar line, at least managed to mention that some smaller authorities (Woking and Breckland) had spent rather a lot of money considering their small populations.

There’s a spreadsheet of populations by local authority here.

How many police officers would that pay for?

A few outlets also repeated the assertions on how many nurses or police officers the money spent on surveillance would have paid for.

The Daily Mail quoted the report as saying that “The price of providing street CCTV since 2007 would have paid for more than 13,500 police constables on starting salaries of just over £23,000”. The Birmingham Mail, among others, noted that it would have paid the salaries of more than 15,000 nurses.

And here we hit a second problem.

The £314m spent on CCTV since 2007 would indeed pay for 13,500 police officers on £23,000 – but only for one year. On an ongoing basis, it would have paid the wages of 4,500 police officers (it should also be pointed out that the £314m figure only covered 336 local authorities – the CCTV spend of those who failed to respond would increase this number).

Secondly, wages are not the only cost of employment, just as installation is not the only cost of CCTV. The FOI request submitted by Big Brother Watch is a good example of this: not only do they ask for installation costs, but operation and maintenance costs, and staffing costs – including pension liabilities and benefits.

There’s a great ‘Employee True Cost Calculator‘ on the IT Centa website which illustrates this neatly: you have to factor in national insurance, pension contributions, overheads and other costs to get a truer picture.

Don’t blame Big Brother Watch

Big Brother Watch’s report is a much more illuminating, and statistically aware, read than the media coverage. Indeed, there’s a lot more information about Sandwell Council’s history in this area which would have made for a better lead story on Radio WM, juiced up the Birmingham Mail report, or just made for a decent story in the Express and Star (which instead simply ran the PA release UPDATE: they led the print edition with a more in-depth story, which was then published online later – see comments).

There’s also more about spending per head, comparisons between councils of different sizes, and between spending on other things*, and spending on maintenance, staffing (where Sandwell comes top) and new cameras – but it seems most reporters didn’t look beyond the first page, and the first name on the leaderboard.

It’s frustrating to see news organisations pass over important stories such as that in Sandwell for the sake of filling column inches and broadcast time with the easiest possible story to write. The result is a homogenous and superficial product: a perfect example of commodified news.

I bet the people at Big Brother Watch are banging their heads on their desks to see their digging reported with so little depth. And I think they could learn something from Wikileaks on why that might be: they gave it to all the media at the same time.

Wikileaks learned a year ago that this free-to-all approach reduced the value of the story, and consequently the depth with which it was reported. But by partnering with one news organisation in each country Wikileaks not only had stories treated more seriously, but other news organisations chasing new angles jealously.

*While we’re at it, the report also points out that the UK spends more on CCTV per head than 38 countries do on defence, and 5 times more in total than Uganda spends on health. “UK spends more on CCTV than Bangladesh does on defence” has a nice ring to me. That said, those defence spending figures turn out to be from 2004 and earlier, and so are not exactly ideal (Wolfram Alpha is a good place to get quick stats like this – and suggests a much higher per capita spend)

What does John Terry’s case mean for superinjuntions?

The superinjunction obtained by England Captain John Terry was overturned on Friday – and the case raises some interesting issues (cross posted from John Terry: another nail in the superinjunction coffin):

  • Ecen when the superinjunction was in force, you could find out about the story on Twitter and Google – both even promoted the fact of Terry’s affair – via the Twitter trends list and the real-time Google search box.
  • No one got the difference between an injunction and a superinjunction – the former banned reporting of Terry’s alleged affair, the latter banned revealing there was an injunction. They weren’t necessarily both overturned, but there was a widespread assumption you could say what you liked about Terry once the superinjunction was overturned. This wasn’t necessarily the case …
  • The Mail and Telegraph seemed to flout the superinjunction – as did the Press Gazette which decided if wasn’t bound as it hadn’t seen a copy. This seemed risky behaviour legally – which makes me wonder if the papers were looking for a weak case to try to discredit superinjunctions.
  • This superinjunction should never have been granted. What was the original judge thinking?

Google and Twitter ignored the superinjunction

Tweets from while the superinjunction was in force

Tweets from while the superinjunction was in force

The superinjunction was overturned at about 1pm or 2pm on Friday. Needless to say, the papers had a field day over the weekend. Continue reading

Sun misjudges readers’ mood over Gordon Brown letter

The Sun is running a despicable campaign against Gordon Brown. But I’ve analysed the comments on its website – and readers disagree with its stance by a ratio of more than 3 to 2 (on top of which, there are now accusations that the Sun is censoring pro-Brown comments).

The paper has exploited the grief of Jacqui Janes over her son Jamie’s death in Afghanistan to attack the PM – because his handwritten letter of condolence was supposedly disrespectful due to sloppy writing and (disputed) spelling errors.

It’s loathsome journalism that ignores the effect of his disability (the PM is blind in one eye).

And it seems Sun readers are mostly on the Prime Minister’s side.

Of the 100+ comments on the story (don’t worry, I’ve nofollowed those links) when I checked, 111 expressed a view for or against Jacqui Janes or Gordon Brown (the rest commented on other issues or corrected people’s spelling errors). Of these:

  • 42 were anti Gordon or pro the Sun’s stance.
  • 69 were pro Gordon or anti the Sun’s stance.

So that’s more than 60% who don’t agree with the Sun, and less than 40% who do.

Sample comments from those who agree with the Sun’s stanceanti-gordon-brown

Some comments from those opposing itpro-gordon-brown

Conclusion

The Sun is channeling this woman’s grief into a personal attack on the Prime Minister.

It’s refusing to make allowances for his disability (maybe we could next attack the war wounded for being workshy benefit scroungers?).

And it’s facilitating her breaking data protection laws by releasing a recording of a private phone call.

The whole thing is sickening – let’s hope that observing its readers’ reactions will lead to an end to this (not that this happened in the Jan Moir case) – and preferably prosecution of the Sun over the data protection offence. What’s more, Daily Mail readers are pro Brown, too. The Sun has got this badly wrong.

How “organised” was the Jan Moir campaign?

Was the campaign against Jan Moir that crashed the PCC website “heavily orchestrated”? Jan Moir herself thinks so. Was it “organised”? The deputy editor of the Telegraph said it was.

If this was the case, who was organising this? “The big gay who runs the internet“? Stephen Fry?

And what do they mean by organised?

Let’s start with 3 definitions:

  1. Functioning within a formal structure, as in the coordination and direction of activities.
  2. Affiliated in an organization, especially a union.
  3. Efficient and methodical.

Of the 3 descriptions, the only one that might apply in this case is the third, and here’s the rub. Imagine the Jan Moir fuss in a world without Twitter: here’s how it unfolded:

  1. Some people read the Jan Moir article and are offended; they forward it to their friends to express disgust.
  2. People complain to the PCC. They also complain to advertisers.
  3. After a while the expressions of disgust reach a celebrity, and a columnist.
  4. The celebrity mentions the article during a public appearance; the columnist writes a column about it. The columnist mentions the parts of the Press Complaints Commission code that the article breaks. Politicians pick it up too.
  5. More people complain. They also complain to advertisers.
  6. The ‘offence’ over the article now becomes a story in itself; the celebrity angle is key to selling the story.
  7. More people complain. They also complain to advertisers.

In a world without Twitter the above might unfold over a series of days. The difference in a world with Twitter is that the above process is accelerated beyond the ability of many people to see, and they think Step 4 is where it begins.

But why does it matter if it’s organised?

But of course this isn’t about definitions, but about the discourse of what ‘organised’ means in this context. It means ‘not spontaneous’; it means ‘not genuine’; it means ‘not valid’.

Although different people may have different (oppositional, negotiated) readings I would argue this is the dominant one, where the discourse of ‘organised’ is being used to marginalise the protests. I will make a bet here that the PCC use that discourse in how they deal with the record numbers of complaints.

Stef Lewandowski hit the nail on the head when he said that it sounded “like the argument from design applied to social media”.

Help me investigate this

But what would be really interesting here is to test the hypotheses against some evidence: I want to see just how organised the ‘campaign’ was. How important were the celebrities and the formal organisations?

I’m using Help Me Investigate to see if we can work out what level of organisation there was in the campaign. So far, thanks to Kevin Sablan we have a key part of the evidence: all the #janmoir tweets since October 14. And some suggestions on how to analyse that from Ethan Zuckerman (who’s been here before): “grab all #janmoir tweets, do word freq. analysis esp on RTs, look to see if it’s grassroots or one instigator, amplified…”

If you need an invite, let me know.

And if you have any ideas how you can measure the organisation of a campaign like this, I’d welcome them.

How to spot a hoax Twitter account – a case study

Fake Jan Moir tweets on Twitter

The fake Jan Moir lays some too-good-to-be-true bait on Twitter

If you were following the Jan Moir-Stephen Gateley story that was all over Twitter today you may have come across a Twitter account claiming to be Jan Moir herself – @janmoir_uk. It wasn’t her – but it was a convincing attempt, and I thought it might be worth picking out how I and other Twitter users tried to work out the account’s legitimacy.

The too-good-to-be-true test

The first test in these cases is the too-good-to-be-true test, and this works on a number of levels. Jan Moir tweeting in itself was a great story – but not completely unbelievable. Her second tweet said “I have been advised by my editor to create a twitter account and offer my sincere apologies for any upset and distress i have caus” [sic] – a superficially plausible story. Would you buy it?

But there were some other too-good-to-be-true claims in her tweets. One said “My son is gay. I am not homophobic. Please read my article properly.” Does Jan Moir have a son? Is he gay? Would she announce it on Twitter? Continue reading

Jan Moir is a heterosexist

Now anyone whose reads me knows I like video .. So watch this …

N’kay. All done?

Jan Moir is a Daily Mail columnist whose printed words have today caused her to reach for her boss’ PR agency (because of an Internet revolt that Twitter was at the heart of that blew up the Press Complaints Commission’s website) in order to say she’s not what you think she is.

That is significant. Today was significant. Social media made this happen – apparently the Mail doesn’t usually respond within hours to outrage at its contents.

But listen to what Richard Yates, from black experience, is telling you – focus on what they said, not who you think they are.

And this is very relevant to this situation. The Mail, and others, publish Moir’s sort of rant all the time. In the official ‘process’ it will be judged on what she said, not who she is accused of being.

If what we want is what she (and others) write banished from the mainstream, not to silence but to place them firmly on the fringes, then how is that achieved?

How do we define her words? I ask, is what she wrote heterosexist or is it homophobic?

Cue Wikipedia:

Heterosexism is a term that applies to negative attitudes, bias, and discrimination in favor of opposite-sex sexuality and relationships. It can include the presumption that everyone is heterosexual or that opposite-sex attractions and relationships are the norm and therefore superior.

Homophobia (from Greek homós: one and the same; phóbos: fear, phobia) is defined as an “irrational fear of, aversion to, or discrimination against homosexuality or homosexuals”, or individuals perceived to be homosexual; it is also defined as “unreasoning fear of or antipathy toward homosexuals and homosexuality”, “fear of or contempt for lesbians and gay men”, as well as “behavior based on such a feeling”.

I don’t think Jan Moir is about fear, she’s about superiority. I think this because that’s what she wrote.

Yates is laying out for us how, exactly, we undermine the sort of power which a Moir (there’s a type) wields, especially including their power in claims of ‘victim’ or ‘silencing’. Here’s a template, from other minorities, which should be grasped in order to define her as ‘fringe’, ‘extreme’, someone who says she’s superior.

Drop ‘Moir is homophobic’ for ‘Moir is heterosexist’.

That’s my contribution to the aftermath of today: Learn from others and be precise in attacking power.

Make them go look ‘heterosexist’ up and in the process completely change the coming debate over ‘silencing free speech’, the ‘power of the mob’ and the ubiquitous raising of that cop-out phrase ‘PC’.

@Guardiantech accounts for 78% of the growth in national newspaper Twitter accounts

National UK newspapers had 1,665,202 followers of their Twitter accounts at the start of October – an increase of 193,266 on September 1st (when they had 1,471,936).

The rate of growth has slowed, however. This is a monthly increase of 13.1%, compared with 17% from August 1 to September 1, and also from July 1 to August 1.

What’s more, 151,555 of the increase (or 78% of the total) is down to just one account – that of @guardiantech (which owes its popularity to its place on the Twitter Suggested User List). Indeed, of the 131 accounts I’m tracking, 51 have fewer followers than me (@malcolmcoles)!

You can see the full table here, or below (although the iframe isn’t behaving properly, so you’re better off clicking here).
Continue reading

Cervical cancer jab: how the newspapers have learned nothing from MMR

The UK media have learned nothing from the debacle over the MMR vaccine – where they relentlessly covered stories doubting the safety of MMR, putting the lives of children at risk (this is cross-posted from my blog).

They are continuing their habit of undermining public-health initiatives with their latest scare story about the safety of the cervical cancer jab, after the tragic death of a schoolgirl who had the vaccine the same day.

I’ve given each of the mainstream media an irresponsibility rating below – the Mail and Express are the worst scaremongers, followed by the Mirror and Times.

It’s calculated as follows:

  • A headline suggesting a causal link between the vaccine and the girl’s death – there is no evidence of this so far, the two events just occurred on the same day: 20 points
  • The use of a photo or words in the headline casting doubt on the safety of the vaccine itself (as opposed to, say, this being a one-off allergic reaction): 20 points
  • Calls for the vaccine to be banned: 20 points
  • No mention of how many lives the vaccine will save: 20 points.
  • Separate comment piece doubting the safety of the vaccine, or emphasis of other stories about vaccine problems: 10 points
  • Ill-informed user comments adding to the suggestion of unsafety. 10 points

Daily Mail: 90% irresponsible

Headline: First picture of girl, 14, who died after being injected with cervical cancer jab from ‘rogue batch’

  • The headline suggests a causal link. It makes claims of a ‘rogue batch’ in quotes where the only use of those words in the story are the journalist’s own.
  • It’s running a poll: “Should the cervical cancer vaccination be suspended”.
  • There are a lot of figures about side effects – no mention of actual lives saved.
  • The best rated comment is currently “Chemical experiments on our children.” The worst rated is “Many more deaths may occur without the vaccine to guard against HPV.” The comments section is appalling, frankly – full of ill-informed anti-vaccine scaremongering.

Express: 80% irresponsible

Headline: Girl, 14, dies after taking cervical cancer vaccine Continue reading

Daily Mail has joined the American lunatic fringe

It’s Wednesday and the Daily Mail is still carrying a factually inaccurate story published the previous Sunday morning.

And it’s not like they haven’t been told it’s inaccurate, comment after comment in the 279 thus far point out exactly why they are wrong.

What’s interesting is exactly how come they are wrong. Continue reading