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Exciting quiz question

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Tagged: / Posted: 14 November 2008

To which book could the editor of the Daily Mail, Paul Dacre, possibly have been referring in the following paragraph from his recent speech to the Society of Editors? The paragraph comes from a passage in which he explains that the low standing of the media in the eyes of politicians, regulators, judges and the public is, in truth, caused by the endless carping of 'leftish and liberal' critics:

"There was, of course, that recent book that savaged the behaviour of virtually every national newspaper.  The book, which began with a presumption of guilt, was itself a pretty sloppy piece of journalism, full of half-truths, anonymous sources, gossip and urban myths presented as facts, and the very selective reporting that it accused papers of employing.  And heaven forbid that its author should have observed the basic journalistic nicety of checking those facts with the parties concerned."

 There is no cash prize for answering this question, only the warm glow which comes from knowing that if you are out of step with Paul Dacre, you're marching with the moral majority. (And for much, much more about the interesting world of Paul Dacre see Mail Aggression, the final chapter of Flat Earth News.)






Tales of a Daily Mail sub-editor

Added: 6 December 2008

The Press Gazette of December 2008 carries an interesting letter from a former features sub at the Daily Mail. The object of the letter is to speak up for the Guardian's Bad Science correspondent, Ben Goldacre, whose highly revealing criticism of Fleet Street's science coverage provoked a weak response from the Daily Mail's science corr, Michael Hanlon.

The anonymous former sub writes: "As a sub-editor in the Mail features department several years ago, I witnessed how features editors dictated the angle a story should take. I was on several occasions told to remove vital scientific explanatory paragraphs that weakened the story or contradicted the main angle, because it was said to be 'too scientific' or 'too complicated'. And these were big stories that could have a massive impact on people's lives, such as miracle cures for dyslexia and dangerously unbalanced diets.

 "To blame it on non-specialists working a Sunday night shift is ridiculous. Anyone who has worked at the Mail will tell you that the entire copy, headline and design of the page is controlled by very senior people. And, even if mistakes did creep in from shifters, what does that say about the standard of subbing and editing on Hanlon's own paper?

 "Of course, this was only part of the bigger picture at the Daily Mail, where facts were routinely made to fit the story already planned in conference.

 "I witnessed executives invent items on a shopping list to prove that it was cheaper to live in France (when in fact their experiment had proved the opposite) and saw instructions on a proof to air-brush fat on a certain TV presenter's legs when the Mail serialised her diet book.

 "But what the Daily Mail did with regard to MMR was extremely dangerous and threatened the lives of thousands of children. Those responsible at the Mail were not just campaigning against the MMR becauase they were reporting facts fed to them wrongly by The Lancet. Thy wrote it because they wanted to believe it and because it fed into their fears of a world filled with greedy doctors and pharmaceutical multinationals in league with a left-wing nanny-state government."

You may think that there is some link between the contents of this letter and the very striking paragraph in Paul Dacre's speech to the Society of Editors in which he says: "Dull doesn't sell newspapers. Boring doesn't pay the mortgage. Sensation sells papers."



"Dull doesn't sell Newspapers"

Added: 23 January 2009

"Dull doesn't sell newspapers" says Paul Dacre in his speech to the Society of Editors. A reason for the steady decline in circulation of his own newspaper perhaps?
Add in the word "predictable", and that just about seems to sum up the Mail these days.

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