Five Star apology

You will have to excuse my light posting. As I mentioned last week, it’s a busy time. But I do want to follow up on my post about bad journalism. The Daily Star have had to apologise for their non-story about “GTA Rothbury”, which was a pack of made-up nonsense. I found this apology curtesy of Tabloid Watch. It’s absolutely brilliant. It feels like the humiliation of the school bully. Making me read it now makes me cackle with sadistic laughter. Especially this bit:

We made no attempt to check the accuracy of the story before publication and did not contact Rockstar Games prior to publishing the story.

There’s other good stuff as well. But this is gold. Sadly – and sorry to spoil everyone’s good mood – not checking stories is hardly the preserve of the Daily Star. It’s also become a worrying trend in political journalism, especially at the BBC.

Daniel Kawczynski MP, chairman of the all-party FPTP group, was interviewed on Today a few weeks ago. You can read his arguments for keeping FPTP here. John Humphrys, after asking whether the chair of the FPTP group was totally against electoral reform, spent most of the interview asking whether Mr Kawczynski would vote against a referendum bill put to Parliament. After briefly addressing how AV works, Humphrys concluded by asking whether Kawczynski thought David Cameron would campaign for or against AV. Rather than challenging Mr Kawcynski on the policy and debating the merits of AV versus FPTP, three out of Humphry’s five questions (by my reckoning) were not about the merits of AV versus FPTP, but about the politics of the policy. You had an odd situation where the politician wanted to talk politics and the journalist wanted to discuss behind the scenes bickering.

Even the BBC’s political editor seems to think he is above checking facts. He blogged a few months back on the coalition government possibly replacing the Human Rights Act with a British Bill of Rights. After filing his copy, he was actually told the details on European Law rather than finding out himself with this wonderful reverse-ferret:

The issue of human rights and terror suspects is even more complex than I thought.

If Nick Robinson was writing for the Daily Star, he may well have said this:

I made no attempt to check the accuracy of the story before publication

Or as the wonderful Flying Rodent wonderfully put it:

The BBC’s premier political correspondent Nick Robinson finally bothers his arse to find out what the Human Rights Act is and what it does… when somebody explains it to him.

All those boring “first-split-in-the-coalition” posts seem to not be factchecked either. This is one of the first of those stories, by Michael Crick:

I understand that the Liberal Democrats will have representation in every government department.

On the question of how ministers can be sacked, I am told they can only be dismissed by the leader of their own party. So Vince Cable, for example can’t be sacked by David Cameron, only by Nick Clegg.

We then had this, a few hours later:

Oh dear, my previous blog on the procedure for sacking ministers in the new two-party government has caused a spot of bother.

Indeed, if I was being mischievous I might claim it as the first small split in the new coalition.

My report that only the respective leaders could sack a minister from their own party (and Cameron couldn’t therefore sack Cable, for example) was based on a briefing this afternoon with two of Nick Clegg’s senior aides.

“That’s not true,” one of his spokeswomen has just rung to say.

“The ultimate responsibility for the hiring and firing of ministers, regardless of which party, lies with the Prime Minister.”

Oh, please. If I was being rude (which I suppose I am) I’d say this is a prime example of lazy, bad, fetid journalism. YOU DIDN’T CHECK THE STORY! Speaking to only one interested party at an unattributable briefing doesn’t count as doing research. Surely you’d check with the Cameroon’s before you filed such a story?

This is classic churnalism, as highlighted by Nick Davies in Flat Earth News. What’s the point of journalism if you can’t be bothered to check facts? Just lazily report bullshit and innuendo, and pretend you’re doing a job if you want to. But then, as in Animal Farm, the pigs shall look at the journalist and the blogger, and back again, and realise they’re both the same. When they shouldn’t be.

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