Thursday, 6 January 2011

Daily Mail 1, Vole 0

You may remember that I complained to the Press Complaints Commission about the Daily Mail's coverage of the student demonstrations. In particular, I objected to the claim that police 'fled' the van which got trashed, because this didn't happen: the police left the van prior to the demonstration, and no policemen had to 'flee' at all. I also objected to the repeated claims that many of the students (especially the young females who were the focus of the articles) were dilettanted, there simply to pose for Facebook photos.

The PCC (board member: Peter Wright, Mail on Sunday) has responded.

it noted that the article included the account given by the police that the van had been following protesters to gather intelligence about where they were heading, but the vehicle was “quickly overwhelmed”. It subsequently stated that the van had been “left” to be stripped by masked protesters and quoted a member of the Metropolitan Police saying that it would have been disproportionate to “use force to recover the van”. The Commission considered that readers would understand from the article as a whole that the van had been left by the police and that subsequently protesters had vandalised it.  It did not consider that the claim that police had “fled” it would significantly mislead readers as to the situation and, as such, the Commission could not establish a breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice.

To me, that's total bollocks. My point was that the police weren't in the van when it was attacked, and therefore, no police 'fled'. The PCC seems to be saying that the police have been misleading at best. The claim that 'fled' isn't misleading is just laughable.

On to my second objection: that the report degraded and distorted the coverage:

The complainant had raised further concerns over the article “Young, bright and pretty: The day girl students went to war over tuition fees… and the pupils who just wanted a photo for Facebook”. The Commission noted that this was a first person account of the protest, and was presented as the reporter’s own experience and interpretation of the event. With this in mind, the Commission considered the claim that individuals wanted to have their photographs taken for social networking sites reflected his own experience of the protesters. Indeed, the article included a quote from a girl who proclaimed “that one’s going straight on YouTube”. Similarly, the Commission considered that the terms “carnage”, “chaos”, “war” and “herd” were terms used by the journalist to describe his own views of the protest and those taking part in it. With these points in mind, the Commission was satisfied that readers would be aware that the article was an account of this particular journalist’s experience of the protest and the views he had formed on it, rather than necessarily statements of fact. As such, the Commission could not establish a breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Code of Practice.

Apparently, a journalist can say whatever he or she wants if they believe it to be true (or claim they believe it to be true). Let's leave aside the PCC's inability to distinguish Youtube from Facebook. My point is that the Mail produced the article it wanted: one dripping with misogyny and reactionary politics. That a supposedly serious newspaper is happy to write off a generation (many of the children of Mail readers) as a 'herd' is horrifying. The claim that the piece - complete with photos tagged with misleading and unsubstantiated claims - is merely an 'opinion' piece is pathetic.

But that's what you get from an industry-run puppet body. You know me: I don't give up, and I'll be sticking my oar in with renewed vigour.

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