Posts Tagged ‘tabloid watch’

A slight follow-up to my post from yesterday, where I rationalised how much I whine about people being wrong on the internet in a newspaper.

The Heresiarch is one of the most insightful and thought-provoking bloggers on my RSS feed, but something else he said about the Daily Mail business is still sticking in my craw.

RT @Heresy_Corner:

For so-called skeptics, the mere fact a story appears in DM is proof it must be untrue.

RT @Heresy_Corner:

I’ve had conversations with people here who’ve said, in effect, it’s in the Mail, so it’s rot. Many times.

If people are really taking the approach described here, then it sounds like their rationality is being blinded by their rage, and they’re getting carried away. Obviously the Daily Mail is not a tissue of utter lies from start to finish, and it’s not a fair assumption that absolutely everything printed in it is unquestionably false.

I’ve seen them be right about some things. Verifiable events they report as occurring often have genuinely occurred. Their main page currently has a bunch of links to stories the veracity of which I neither know nor care. Is this kid a millionaire at 16? Probably. Are there lots of sunflowers? Pictorial evidence would suggest so. Does LeAnn Rimes have legs? I have no reason to doubt it.

And I imagine they cover sport, too. They’d better get the results right on those pages, or there really would be hell to pay.

The thing is, while this extremist anti-Mail position is definitely unjust and irrational, it’s also not fair to characterise tabloid critics in general in this way, which is what it kinda seemed like the Heresiarch was doing. I’m not at all convinced that the extremist position he describes is a majority one, or even a significant one, and so declaring that this is how “skeptics” think is a disingenuous dismissal of any real points the skeptics might have. (Even with his later clarification of “some” skeptics, this isn’t much of a concession.)

And anyway, I have to wonder how likely it is that the people from whom he’s drawn this conclusion actually take the stance that bothers him.

Perhaps they were a little sweeping in the way they stated their position, as I have a tendency to be sometimes. Consider the measured care and reasonableness of “There seems to exist insufficient evidence supporting the hypothesis of any kind of creator being, and ample counter-examples such that any such hypothesis is untenable,” against the provocative, approximate, and far more succinct “There is no God”.

So, these people the Heresiarch finds so irrational. Did they really say – and would they stand by the claim – “It’s in the Daily Mail, therefore that proves it’s untrue”? Or did they say something more along the lines of: “I don’t trust anything I read in the Daily Mail”?

Because that latter point, allowing for the nuance lost to brevity, is an entirely reasonable position. I’m not sure I trust the Mail to get a single damn thing right without bringing some kind of bias or distortion into their reporting of it, and I’d want to check their facts with at least one other source before I took anything they say seriously.

Arguably, yes, this should be the approach with all news sources, but it’s not trivial to suggest that some media have been more egregious than others in promoting untruth and prejudice, and deserve to be granted even less credibility as a reliable voice.

I’ve seen tabloids grossly distort facts, so I often distrust them. It’s not impossible that they could accurately report a factual story, but the Express has lost all credibility when it comes to reporting on, say, immigration issues with compassion or respect for the truth.

Is this ideological of me? It seems just sensible to take many tabloid stories with several large handfuls of salt, given their track record. And I’ve not seen anyone suggest anything further.

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First, a quick reminder: I’m hosting the next Carnival of the Godless blog carnival on 1st August. If you’ve got a blog post you’d like featured, submit it here before the end of the month – or tweet at me, comment here, or email cubiksrube @t hotmail d0t co d0t uk. Any efforts to spread the word and round up a few more good godless posts will be much appreciated.

And now onto our main feature: another example of people on the internet doing actual journalism, people who write for newspapers just spewing whatever bullshit suits them and fits their already-decided-upon view of the world, and entirely the wrong one of these two getting paid handsomely for their work.

For instance, Punch and Judy shows are not currently under fire from some imaginary “PC brigade” of moral do-gooders trampling on every last traditional remnant of this once great nation of ours. Despite inspecific outcries from the Mail and the Telegraph about what “officials” have “warned”, there’s no evidence at all that the imagined horde of rampaging bureaucrats have done any kind of clamping down on people performing the standard wife-beating puppet show.

The PR firm behind the announcement admit to a complete lack of concern about the accuracy of the stories they’re responsible for, and are openly thrilled by the coverage their clients are getting. And the papers get a great Broken Britain story to flog to their customers, who can enjoy getting all blustery and outraged over this latest affront to British values, which is probably all about appeasing foreigners and Muslims, somehow.

Everybody wins.

Occasionally there are significant consequences when the papers claim things that are completely untrue, but this seems to be a rarity. So the schadenfreude I got from reading this story was mildly therapeutic.

After the recent Raoul Moat killings, someone somewhere mocked up a cover for a fictitious game called Grand Theft Auto: Rothbury, designed to look like an installment in the GTA series and including a picture of Moat on the front. To anyone who’s spent more than a few minutes on the internet recently, this should obviously stand out as the kind of distasteful joke that certain message boards are very good at providing within minutes of some horrible tragedy.

But somebody at the Daily Star apparently has no concept of the fact that people on the internet often like to make things up about topical news events to be funny. The “game” was reported by the Daily Star as a real thing which everyone ought to hurry up and be outraged by.

I really can’t imagine how they can have got something so fundamentally wrong, except by noticing the mocked-up cover graphic and simply making the rest of the story up from there. If they’d done any research – even just typing the name of the thing they’re writing about into Google, to see whether they could find any evidence for its existence – then even someone with the cognitive capacity of a Daily Star reporter might have started to suspect that something was amiss. But no, they just went ahead and accused a video game company of insensitively exploiting a series of very recent murders.

In the apology it looks like they were obliged to provide, they essentially acknowledge as much:

We made no attempt to check the accuracy of the story before publication and did not contact Rockstar Games prior to publishing the story. We also did not question why a best selling and critically acclaimed fictional games series would choose to base one of their most popular games on this horrifying real crime event.

I wonder if this means they’ve decided that checking the accuracy of their stories before misleading millions of people would make good practice in future, and that they’d rather not carry on being dishonest hacks.

I’m sure Tabloid Watch will continue to let us know.

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