Roy Greenslade having a dig at NOTW for publishing Fake McCann's diary
Last week I revealed that the News of the World was in trouble for publishing Kate McCann's diaries without her permission. Yesterday the paper duly apologised for having done so, causing yet more grief to a grief-stricken woman.
But it was a mealy-mouthed apology, carried on page 2 (the original article having been on page 1 and two full inside pages). You can read the "apology" in full here, but note the weasel words:
"We published the extracts in the belief held in good faith that we had Kate's permission to do so. It is now clear that our belief was misplaced, and that in fact Kate neither approved of nor knew that the extracts were to be published."
This is a breathtaking excuse for having screwed up. I understand that the paper had not sought a written agreement, had not spoken to Mrs McCann and had no clear-cut verbal agreement. So let's call "good faith" blind faith. There is no way that the paper would have apologised (and donated money to the Find Madeleine campaign) unless it knew that it had done wrong.
Note also these unctuous sentences:
"Upon learning of our error we immediately removed the extracts from our website and we today offer Kate our immediate and sincere apologies...
"The News of the World remains wholly supportive of the McCanns and their continuing campaign to find their daughter."
It removed the website articles after lawyers intervened. As for being "wholly supportive", it was so supportive it was happy enough to run copyrighted material without permission. It was wholly supportive by intruding further into the privacy of a mother grieving the loss of her vanished four-year-old daughter. It was wholly supportive by feigning sympathy for the McCann family while trying to win sales through a tawdry "exclusive".
But why am I alone in condemning the journalism - the so-called journalism - of the News of the World? The BBC and Sky News did see fit to mention the apology on their bulletins, and carry the story of their websites, here and here. But the paper's scandalous behaviour was ignored by the press. Why should that be?
I think national paper editors tend to believe the News of the World inhabits some kind of parallel universe. It is so far below the salt that it doesn't matter. Better to ignore it altogether.
In fact, as Britain's largest-selling title, it should be monitored carefully and its continual breaches of journalistic ethics - not to mention breaches of the editors' code of practice - should be exposed. They contribute mightily to the widespread public distaste for the press.
And lest we forget, this is not some isolated error. The paper's editor, Colin "Calamity" Myler, was previously fired from an editorship (of the Sunday Mirror) for poor journalistic judgment. He was also responsible for the sleazy journalism that led to a privacy victory by Max Mosley over the News of the World. And this is the man who has broken a pledge made in November last year to change the NoW's agenda.
He told fellow editors at the time that his paper would run fewer sex and drugs celebrity stings. He told them: "I personally believe that stories about celebrities misbehaving - well, that's a surprise, isn't it?" Instead, he promised that the paper would look more often at "other issues... that affect the fabric of society."
This week's "other issues" affecting society's fabric were a collection of soft porn revelations about a footballer's alleged girlfriend being an alleged hooker (plus titillating video), an actress's alleged desire for a lesbian fling (plus slideshow and video) and an "online exclusive" about the alleged "sex secrets" of a Strictly Come Dancing contestant.
Sure, this may be what people want, and the NoW - employing the rationale of a pornographer - is merely satisfying their appetite. But the paper is considered to be part of the British press. If the rest of the nationals avert their gaze from its misdemeanours then it's no wonder that it goes on doing as it likes week after week, dragging us all through the mire.
And it is the reason that Kate McCann was crying with frustration a week ago at the wholly unwarranted use of her personal diaries.
And one of the comments:
Sep 23 08, 2:27pm (29 minutes ago)
What's your blind spot with the McCanns, or are you simply using them to have a go at Colin Myler?
Let's put aside this class-warfare nonsense, shall we? It doesn't matter what class the kids were. The McCann kids and those of the rest of their party were left alone in their apartments most nights of the week's holiday while their parents went out to dinner. Madeleine, at 3, was the eldest.
Do you, like Montaignac above, actually believe the McCanns' claims of an abduction? What piece of evidence makes you think this? The released police files show no evidence of an abduction. All that we have is a claim by Jane Tanner that she saw someone carrying a little girl, at a a time when both Gerry McCann and an independent witness say Tanner was not on the street. The waiting staff at the Tapas restaurant state she didn't leave the table. The police found no evidence of damage to the shutters or fingerprints other than those of Kate McCann and the handprint of a less than careful policeman. The only other sighting that supports the view that the child was carried away is that of Mr Smith, who says he is 60% certain the man he saw was Gerry.
(No opinions here, just evidence from the police files.)
On the other hand, we have sniffer dogs who indicate the odour of a dead body in the McCanns' apartment and hire car, on the car key, on Kate and Madeleine's clothing and on the child's soft toy. In no other cars or apartments searched did the dogs indicate odour or blood. Since being released from arguido/arguida status, the McCanns have failed to address any of the contradictions in their statements or the issues raised by the dogs, not least because the British press has not raised these questions with them.
Over the last eighteen months, we've witnessed how far the standards of British journalism have fallen. Sections of the UK press have merely cut and pasted the most outlandish claims not only of the Portugese press, but the McCann PR team. We've had endless sympathetic hand-wringing opinion columns from writers - I hesitate to call them journalists - who never leave their desks. We've had articles like this one by Roy - an article about an article about the retrospectively written teenage-ramblings of Kate McCann. We've had Lori Campbell in the Mirror pointing the finger at the wrong man, Robert Murat, and getting the Young Journalist of the Year Award for it. We've seen packs of journalists chasing sightings of little girls around the streets of Brussels.
Show me, please, one article in 2008 where the editor of a newspaper has given his reporter the freedom to investigate this case properly. Where are the interviews with the Tapas 7, whose stories simply contradict one another? Why have we seen no interview with Brian Kennedy, who bankrolled the McCanns and flew down to 'interview' Robert Murat? Why has no paper investigated how the Madeleine Fund, a limited company not a charity, has spent the hundreds of thousands of pounds sent to it from children, parents and grandparents from all over the world, details it refuses to make transparent?
Is investigative reporting just too hard for your colleagues today, Roy? Is it easier, not just cheaper, to regurgitate press releases or quote 'a friend of the family'?
Is that why, Roy, the press needs to highlight the sins of the News of the World? Is it because it's easier and cheaper than highlighting the sins of the McCanns?
Discussion at The 3 Arguidos here
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