The Daily Mail

Although I haven’t written anything on this blog for well over a year, people still seem to visit and I even get comments in the real world that colleagues, friends and foes have been reading it.

Since my last post I now find myself working for the Daily Mail as a City Reporter.

I was one of seven young journalists to be selected as part of the Mail’s trainee programme.

This has seen me sent to the Yorkshire Post to cut my teeth as a news reporter, followed by a stint as a news reporter for the Mail on Sunday and then the Daily Mail city pages under the watchful eye of Alex Brummer.

I have no plans on updating this blog any time soon, so don’t expect controversial musings about the Daily Mail newsroom – I’d like to keep my job – or anything else for that matter.

Thanks to all those who have supported me along the way and to all those who doubted me – I’m just glad I was able to prove you wrong.

Hopefully this is just the beginning of a long and exciting media career.

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The News of the World debate and This Week’s guests

This week

Selina Scott on This Week (click to watch)

Having watched last night’s This Week I was shocked and disgusted by the pisspoor attempt to engage in any form of meaningful debate over the recent phone tapping scandal.

The guest they had on, Selina Scott, was selected because she had been “stitched up” by the News of the World and was given several minutes to whimper on a out how much she had been hurt by it and how obtrusive the evil hacks from Wapping Fortress had been.
“It’s gut wrenching”, she bleated.
Who cares? I don’t. I wanted to listen to a serious debate over the position of Andy Coulson, why the police and CPS hid the evidence and payouts to phone tapped individuals and what of the position of News International (the presenter, Andrew Neil, former Sunday Times editor for 11 years under Murdoch might know a thing or two about this – did Scott bother asking his opinion? No.)
Why choose someone who is still clearly suffering from the story? What would be the chance of a proper debate with her? None.
She introduced her five minute segment holding aloft copies of Closer, Heat, OK! and Hello! explaining that this was where “most women” got their celebrity gossip from and that this was feeding the alleged behaviour by 27 NOTW journos to use private investigators, forgetting that virtually all celebrities featured in these magazines have sold their story to the highest bidder.

Selina Scott talking on This week (click to watch)

Selina Scott talking on This week (click to watch)

Then she called for Andy Coulson, former NOTW editor and David Cameron spin doctor, to be sacked.
She says if he was at the heart of Government after the next election he would be a “Society informer, just like Piers Morgan” (the NOTW editor who did the false story on Scott).
Piers Morgan a society informer?
If she genuinely believes that a man who has his “you were the best singer pound for pound” (what does that actually mean?) spiel into millions of peoples’ homes for six weeks a year is a society ‘informer’ then either she is being, at best, patronising, at worst, an idiot.
Continuing her ill-informed tirade, she said tabloid newspapers were at their most intrusive now.
This is simply not true. Back in the 1980s tabloid newspapers would regularly invade individuals privacy, expose individuals who had had affairs, or even those who had merely slept with someone. There were no privacy laws and no regulation of the press. As Roy Greenslade once told me: “That was the bad old days”.
Today there is the Human Rights Act 1998 which categorically protects individual’s right to privacy (when weighed up against freedom of the press), and there is the Press Complaints Commission (PCC).
Neither are by any means perfect but at least, in principle, they are attempting to create boundaries in which the press can function.
None of this was mentioned by the poor defenceless Selina Scott, and was left up to Diane Abbott to put some perspective on the debate.
Come on This Week researchers, next time you book a guest please make sure they know what their talking about. All she is is someone who had a horrid story written about her by a newspaper. Why does that mean she knows the issues? If a car hit me would I be an expert in mechanics? No.

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The BNP have no supporters and are illegally using stock images for their campaign material

As so it is that the BNP have no supporters.

Just when the absurdity of politics couldn’t get any worse the BNP, upset at not getting any publicity over the expenses scandal, have decided to use actors on their campaign literature.

In the BNP’s attempts to turn away from their image of skin-head, tattoo riddled racists to a sharing, caring party (dependent, obviously, on where your family are from and the colour of your skin) have released campaign material with a doctor, OAPs, a soldier and a mother all saying they will be voting for the BNP.

 

The campaign literature

The campaign literature

 

Yet on closer inspection, as pointed out elsewhere, the images are not real BNP voters (you think a doctor would vote BNP AND agree to have their picture on campaign literature?) but stock images!

Stock Image of an American doctor

Stock Image of an American doctor

I assume the scene went something like this – Nick Griffin says to one of his urchins: “Hey guys, I thought I had swine flu last week, so went to my GPs to get checked out. I knew I shouldn’t have gone out to that Mexican restaurant. Speaking to my GP, who I suggested should get back to his country because he was from India – I say India, actually he’s a third generation Indian, who’s father runs a local business that employs 2,000 local residents – I realised GPs are well respected and that we need to find some to support us.”
“Err… Sorry boss, we don’t have any GPs on our books. We’ve got a former radio DJ and a few policemen, but that’s it.”
“Damn. Well, let’s pretend we do.”
‘Ok, and we can pretend we’re moderate too!”

All amusing stuff, however, the BNP may find themselves in hot water with istockphoto.com, where the images came from.

According to their terms of use, Section 4 (Standard License Prohibitions) Point 7 says that images cannot be used for the:

use or display any Content that features a model or person in a manner that (i) would lead a reasonable person to think that such person uses or personally endorses any business, product, service, cause, association or other endeavour;

Let’s wait and see what action istockimages.com take, watch this space.

(Thanks to Michael Haddon for pointing this out)

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Prime Minister’s Questions: Gordon Brown and David Cameron clash over expenses

The entire House of Commons was on the naughty step today.

The leaders of the two main parties raised their heads timidly, trying not to make eye contact with anyone, while Labour front benchers had their eyes flailing around the gallery, no doubt searching for Quentin Letts, trying to guess what he may be writing using their x-ray vision (maybe they can claim it back?)

PMQs

The mood was subdued, as if both had just stepped out of the headmaster’s office after the bollocking of their life. (Oh, and the Telegraph have done a splendid job in taking on the role of headmaster).

Back to the politics though, and with both Brown and Cameron in trouble for the same reasons, this provided the opportunity for both men to rise to the occasion, get in the knockout blow and show leadership.

Unfortunately for the country, the loser was Brown who had no answers, sounded boring (for a change) and refused to take on or even address any of Cameron’s proposals. The “do nothing Tory” line couldn’t be used and could even be flipped to Labour.

Cameron, meanwhile, suggested publishing receipts online in real time, scrapping the £10,000 communications allowance and reducing the number of MPs. Regardless of political alliance these are reasonable suggestions.

Brown, by contrast, had no idea how to deal with this. His line that an independent committee needs to review all expenses is nothing new and, tellingly, he said we need to look at whether the rules have been broken. Over and over again.

But that’s not the point. The point is that the rules are archaic and need reform.

Ideas need to be put forward to address the greed and arrogance of politicians. Yet Brown continues to embody the arrogance that needs to change. He needs to listen and he needs to come up with ideas.

The hideous YouTube appearance had few ideas to address the issues, meanwhile Cameron came up with three ideas in the space of six questions.

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Lord Foulkes clashes over MP expenses on BBC – do politicans arrogance know no bounds?

Who the hell does Lord Foulkes think he is?

BBC

In this particularly nasty confrontation with BBC news presenter Carrie Gracie, Lord Foulkes desperately tries to defend the indefensible.

I speak, of course, of the ludicrous list of expenses MPs have claimed in their demented belief that in some how being a member of parliament entitles them to charge the taxpayer for their every waking moment (and some when they are asleep).

Ms Gracie is forced by Lord Foulkes, who comes across as an arrogant, self-serving individual, out of touch with the anger expressed by people over this latest scandal, to tell him how much money she earns.

Lord Foulkes: angry

Lord Foulkes: angry

The odious Foulkes then mocks her and claims she has no right to ask questions to him on behalf of the public because she earns more money than him.

He also uses the “why don’t you report the good stories MPs are doing” defence.

This is a pathetic argument.

It is an MPs job to help people. That’s what they are paid for, why should the media blow the MPs trumpets every time they turn up and do what they should do. Do you hear postmen shouting out “We posted all our letters this morning! Why aren’t you writing about us?!”

Carrie Gracie: earns £92,000

Carrie Gracie: earns £92,000

No, you don’t. MPs are publicly accountable and the media’s job – on behalf of the public – is to hold them to account, not to pander to their PR-driven drivel.

News is something out of the ordinary. It’s a sorry state of affairs when a story reads “hospital saves lives” because that would assume that hospitals generally don’t.

Lord Faulkes cannot possibly justify the serious and sustained abuse of expenses that MPs have made. He should apologise and make it clear that this kind of behaviour will not be tolerated and will not continue. Going on the defensive in the manner in which he did sums up everything that is wrong about politics and politicians – standing on high peering down on the minions scurrying around below barely managing to give them the time of day in acknowledgment.

No wonder the likes of Joanna Lumley have to take over the jobs of the politicians.

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Two weeks at the New York Daily News

For the past two weeks I have been interning for the New York Daily News.

This is my experience of the US media.

The first thing that strikes me is the attitude towards the intern is vastly different. My experience of playing intern in London resulted in days stuck in the office, left to my own devices, made to feel like an irritant (with some exceptions). Occasionally I would be let out, but usually under the strict supervision of a staff reporter.

In the US I found myself out “on the beat” every single day, on my own. And while some stories would seem pointless (Snapple were giving away free pizza) others really were the big story of the day, whether this was visiting Swine Flu-infected areas speaking to concerned businesses, residents and school children, to trying to grab a chat with Mayor Bloomberg, and interviewing the speaker of the state assembly on the subway fare increases about to be introduced, mixed in with some interviewing of relatives of the recently deceased.

I would get the quotes for the story and phone them into the staff writer who wrote the copy.

Everyday I was thrown in at the deep end and asked to stay afloat and beat the competition – the New York Post.

What this taught me was how to approach people you just HAVE to get the quote/story from, as well as the politics of the banter with your competition who you may be hanging around with for hours on end. We were all friends, until we weren’t. We would help each other out, without giving too much away. Joke with each other, but want to beat them, yet respecting them when you are beaten.

The differences in the US seem to be that although that they have a much larger workforce and pool of reporters than UK papers, they could put them to much better use than they do (especially as they’re not paying them – I was intern 11, which I assume means there were 10 before me somewhere!)

For example, their most recent “investigation” was seeing whether priority mail is actually delivered faster than standard 1st class – that was the splash last week.

If they got, say, 2 interns spending a good 2 weeks investigating something or someone they could pull off some major scoops.

Oh, and if you’ve got a press release they will generally always cover the event – especially if food is involved.

As one experienced journalist who has worked on both sides of the pond told me:
“you’ve had an interesting insight into the stuffiness of the US media, though
also perhaps their thoroughness.
I don’t envy the first, but I do the second”

I agree

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Anti-Smoking adverts just make me want to smoke

Am I the only person who sees anti smoking adverts and can’t wait to light up?

It’s like creating posters for sex addicts with a picture of a semi-naked model with the slogan “Too much sex is bad” because, yer know, all the addicts are going to read the words…

Today I found myself out and about round Manhattan trying to ask cab drivers whether they are looking forward to the fare hike of 50 cents announced today as well as asking commuters if they were happy with the subway fare increases.

Not easy, when generally cab drivers are, err, driving (and I don’t think the Daily News will pay for me to take 4 random cab journeys)

Surprisingly, in this pointless exercise of Speak Your Brains, people don’t want to spend more money. Who knew?

On my way back to the offices I came across a group of protestors outside the AGM of Philip Morris International (the big tobacco firm).

I’m trying to give up smoking and for the last two weeks there has been some reasonable success. I’ve smoked six cigarettes in the last two weeks and none in the last six days.

My philosophy is: out of sight out of mind.

That’s why every moment I was talking to the anti-smoking protestors all I could think of was having a smoke. This got worse when I went into the Times Square subway, where the walls were lined with ads saying “What’s eating you? Smoking is”. Not only am I reminded of one vice, I have my second to contend with – food!

Now I know how all those fast food junkies wanted a McDonalds after watching Super Size Me.

Mmm… I could murder a Big Mac about now…

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Jackie Ashley on Gordon Brown: A Critique

Jackie Ashley rides to Gordon Brown’s defence in today’s Guardian.

Yet Ashley, rather than riding a white horse through fields of clover to the defence of the Prime Minister, comes across more as riding a tired, old donkey wading through the effluent of despair.

She starts by suggesting Alan Johnson’s “well-made” point that when it came to the big issues Gordon Brown’s government hadn’t done so badly.

Her argument is:

1) The budget has gone down relatively well. Hitting the rich may or may not “work” in raising revenue, but it’s popular

2) The response to swine flu has been prompt and sensible

3) The banking system hasn’t collapsed

4) The G20 was a success

Let’s take these one at a time.

1) The budget:

The budget went down relatively well? With whom?

Who cares if it’s popular?

I’d like to hope the Government, elected to represent everyone, is looking for solutions to the current problems not pandering to populist gesturing.

The budget was politically motivated and failed to address any key issues and only served to wrong-foot the Tories over the 50% tax rate.

Yet the Tories only needed to sit back and wait for the next self-inflicted crisis from the Government

With the public finances at the most perilous it seems hardly the time for petty politics that, as Ashley herself admits, may or may not work.

2) Swine Flu:

Fair enough. The Government didn’t panic. They didn’t do a Biden. They managed to keep their mouths shut. Well done.

3) The banking system hasn’t collapsed:

What?

That’s a success?

It may not have collapsed, yet the government has had to prop up what used to be some of the biggest banking institutions in the world, denting its credit rating irreconcilably, presiding over the first run on a bank in over 150 years which, in turn, shattered sterling on the world’s market meaning anyone wanting to get away from the misery to the continent is forced to pay 30% more than previously.

Oh, and don’t be too sure that Brown won’t be calling up the IMF anytime soon for some money.

4)The G20:

Yes, Gordon Brown managed to stage a photocall of the world leaders, finally hold a press conference with Barack Obama, and created some positive headlines, and not much else.

Come Jackie, pull your head of the sand. This Government dead.
They are being attacked from all sides – not just their complete lack of coherent policy (superbly summed up by Martin Ivens), but their political skull-duggery following McBride is seeping out as more and more hacks spill the beans of Whelan, Balls, McBride at co. (Read this excellent article from Nick Cohen).

Don’t be dragged down by the inner circle. They’re not worth it. You will end up contaminated with the same brush and their complete lack of credibility will soon rub off.

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The partisan US media and some swine flu

This week I find myself across the pond living it large in New York doing some work experience for the Daily News.

As such, I have found myself indulging in the dark side of news: the US media.

And with swine flu rampant (a bit like SARS, Bird Flu and BSE before them – how many people died again?) in New York I find myself in the middle of a good-ol’ fashion “scare off”.

The US media has always been the best in the world at creating panic and fear and this story is no exception.

I’ve spent my days camped outside schools with suspected cases of swine flu, desperate to get that quote from “frightened parent” along with every other media outlet (I even bumped into a reporter from the (London) Times outside Ascension School).

But swine flu is not why I write this post.

In the four days I’ve been here I have developed a complete lack of respect, verging on fear, for the disgusting, offensive and shocking partisan politics  conducted through the US media.

It is summed up by this article I read in the Huffington Post which genuinely filled me with fright and left me gripping my seat (especially reading the comments).

The gist of the story is that the right-wing media is using the swine flu “pandemic” as a cause for blatant racism saying that illegal immigrants are to blame – and in some cases terrorists started it, possibly the most utterly ridiculous pile of steaming crap of an idea I’ve ever heard.

As Bonnie Fuller, the author, says:

“Michael Savage blares to his audience that he will protect himself by having “no contact anywhere with illegal aliens and that starts with the restaurants.” He calls people who dine out “morons who eat in restaurants with illegals all over the kitchen.” You could substitute the word “vermin” for “illegals” and he sounds frighteningly reminiscent of the Nazis talking about the Jews.”

I have no problem with media commentators having a rant, that’s their job and they are pretty good at it.

Charlie Brooker’s take on the US media

But there seems to have been a complete degreation in the level of debate in the US. Could you see, for example, Peter Hitchens – a usually vocal reactionary – ever say on Question Time or write in his Mail on Sunday column something like: “It’s clearly the illegal immigrants fault that swine flu is spreading”? He would be laughed at.

Yet somehow taking ultra extreme views in the media in the US is rewarded and encouraged. Glenn Beck of Fox News is currently raking in $18m a year, according to Business Insider.

The only problem is, the media is turning in on itself and the fight is between a minority of the extreme left and the extreme right, leaving the majority disenfranchised or, more worryingly, easily herded, making the actual issues of the day obsolete.

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McBride, Draper and the self-congratulations of Guido Fawkes

Yesterday was a great day for Sunday newspapers.

They all had a genuine political scandal that struck right at the heart of Government and Downing Street.

This tale of deceit, abuse of position and insulting language and behaviour from the greased up cogs deep within Number 10 from one of Gordon Brown’s most trusted advisors is truly riveting and for the man who broke it, Paul “Guido Fawkes” Staines, it maintains his impressive achievements.

He is the only British political blogger to bring down a man from within Number 10, to add to his previous scalp of Peter Hain after his disastrous deputy leadership campaign.

Martin Bright calls Gordon Brown’s lieutenants “thuggish company”, Iain Dale likened the whole scandal to the goings on in Richard Nixon’s regime, while broadsheets and tabloids, blogs to the left and blogs to the right, and MPs of all sides have roundly castigated Damian McBride and Derek Draper.

Indeed, a lobby journalist would tell me of the intimidating tactics played out by the spin doctors of Downing Street every time he published a story the machine didn’t like, showing me the emails filled with anger and bile.

Yet, if anything, this episode has reinforced my belief that newspapers still have a role to play.

A few weeks back I watched Draper and Guido battle it out on the Daily Politics. After watching I insisted on my colleague, Alex Ralph, to have a gander whereby we both agreed if this was the level of abuse bloggers will hurl at each other whilst basking in their own arrogance and self-importance then newspapers have nothing to fear.

Draper’s high pitch whining (at one point Andrew Neil tells him to “shut up”) and Paul Staines’ arrogant demeanour cannot surely be the face of journalism to come? (watch the whole thing – McBride is brought up at the end and Draper is physically squirming)

Today the traditional press had a great day: they got to (rightly) rip the Government apart, but next Sunday they will be writing about someone different. The political reporters whose bylines appeared on the story will move on and in time another scandal will break.

Editorials were written condemning McBride’s behaviour and various columnists gave their take on matters. None of whom were self-congratulatory on a job well done – because they will have to do it all again tomorrow and, after all, it’s their job.

Meanwhile, Guido Fawkes has written 11 posts in 2 days on the saga, many of which are self-congratulatory, condescending and egotistical.

This self-styled congratulatory style of journalism will not wash with the public outside the Westminster bubble, and will inevitably lead to the press bypassing what the bloggers are saying – claiming the scoop as their own.

McBride and Draper have dug their own graves over this, and more scalps may fall. Guido et al need to be careful not to fall into the same holes. Right now Guido can afford to be floating on a cloud, but he should not expect his new inflated ego to be the only device holding him upright.

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