Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Paul Dacre vs Real Journalism

Paul Dacre, Editor of The Daily Mail, addressed the Society of Editors in Bristol this week, and his speech was printed in Monday's MediaGuardian. Throughout the week, various commentators have responded to Dacre's uncharacteristically public outburst, including Max Mosely and Polly Toynbee.

His main gripe was that the "British press is having a privacy law imposed on it" by one man, Justice David Eady who has used the privacy clause of the Human Rights Act to stop various sordid details of famous private lives making it into the public domain. Dacre uses the case of Max Mosely who famously sued News of the World for printing details of his S&M fun and games.

So what is the impact on journalism of this impinging privacy? According to Dacre:

[It] is undermining the ability of mass-circulation newspapers to sell newspapers in an ever more increasing market.
I hardly need write any more about what a nonsensical argument this is.

Dacre refers to the Human Rights Act as 'wretched' and maintains that Mosely was guilty of 'unimaginable depravity', which given that it appeared to be people engaging in consensual sexual practices, makes me wonder what hyperbole he would use to describe the recent stories of, say, alleged genocide in DR Congo, or the tragic death of Baby P.

Regular readers of this site will be aware of many shortcomings of the Mail, by uncritically touting PR releases multiple times, playing with statistics to give amazing headlines, or even repeatedly writing conflicting health information.

These are only limited examples that I've come across - I tend to agree with Polly Toynbee in that Dacre
probably does more damage to the nation's happiness and wellbeing than any other single person, stirring up hatred, anger, fear, paranoia and cynicism with his daily images of a nation going to hell in a downward spiral of crime and depravity.

So will the newspapers circulation keep falling if we can't find out about the legitimate sex lives of various glitterati? Perhaps Dacre would do well to start looking for some real stories. Stories that are bubbling in the background; stories that bloggers write about, unable to believe that bigger media outlets aren't already all over the story. Already this week we've had, amongst others:

- more news on the British Chiropractic Association suing Simon Singh for making comments in the Guardian regarding the efficacy of Chiropractic - should tick a 'free speech' box or two.

- information on the unholy alliance between Matthias Rath, Alliance of Natural Health & MEP Kathy Sinnott. (Matthias Rath was the vitamin pill salesman who dropped his courtcase with Ben Goldacre/The Guardian after Goldacre alleged that he was telling AIDS sufferers that AZTs were killing them and they should buy his vitamin pills instead). Again, another 'freedom of speech' box ticked.

- news that the World Health Organisation are investigating how much governments have been implementing their directive to integrate 'traditional' medicine concepts into their healthcare systems, lobbied heavily by vested interests with seemingly no importance placed on scientific method - the very misinformation that allows Matthias Rath and his ilk to carry out their pill selling under the guise of medicine.

These are huge stories that will no doubt remain untouched in the media, yet they are important stories that newspapers should be hounding down and publicising. These blogs are only in the pseudoscience genre, no doubt similar blogs exist in the arenas of economics and politics etc.

The real investigative journalism is being done for free by unpaid bloggers with no vested interests but a good story. If Mr Dacre wants to increase newspaper sales, he should do some real investigative journalism rather than whining like spoilt child.



  1. Dacre [...] maintains that Mosely was guilty of 'unimaginable depravity'

    I think that what he means is that now that the video of Mosely's behaviour has been hosted on the websites of newspapers you don't ahve to imagine the depravity, you can watch it for yourself while maintaining the moral high ground.

    You have a point about the lack of MSM interest in issues we feel are important, but this is partly a problem with public perception. Newspapers by and large tell their readership what they want to hear, whether it be the Mail arguing that asylum seekers are the root of all evil or The Guardian arguing that we should all don hair shirts to see us through the recession. I see the role of bloggers as firing up public opinion against the things we consider wrong so the MSM take an interest, whether it be politics, liberties or science.

  2. Toynbee reckons Paul Dacre "probably does more damage to the nation's happiness and wellbeing than any other single person, stirring up hatred, anger..."
    Polly is right. Reading Dacre's line on the impact of the privacy clause of the HR act made me feel a great deal of anger. What a piss-poor argument. By that logic we should allow statements that are untrue, defamatory and damaging to be published in the press. Actually, that would probably suit Dacre...

    The "unimaginable depravity" line simply made me laugh. If anyone finds Paul Dacre's sense of perspective can they please hand it in at reception?

    One thing that has always annoyed me is that when celeb x gets caught with their pants down, the papers claim it is "in the public interest". Bollocks it is. "In the public interest" does not mean "whatever the public happens to be interested in". At least it shouldn't!

    Anyways, nice post T - but my doctor may want a word with you about my blood pressure.

  3. Gimpy - would it be too 'soft-focus' to suggest that, although newspapers tell readers what they want to hear, there must a demographic of newspaper readers who want to hear about the high-level conning, conniving, money-spinning, vested interest lobbying and how they can help to stop it? Surely this should be bread and butter for any newspaper worth its salt? (Excuse the food-related mixed metaphor:)

    You are correct in that bloggers should be firing up interest so the MSM take note, but in years gone by this was done by the MSM! I think they have tied their own hands, unable to critically appraise much and only print only what is given to them, usually by PR companies, vested interests etc.

    JDC - Polly Toynbee made an interesting point about Dacre's 'morals' which he likes to pretend are those of any right-thinking (in both senses of the word) UK citizen; when Rebekah Wade (Editor of The Sun) spent a night in the cells for alledgedly assaulting her husband, he didn't see fit to point out to anyone that the The Sun was running a Domestic Violence awareness campaign.

    I have no doubt that there are dubious deals going on all over the place, but the fixation with minor (IMHO) stories like Ross/Brand provide an excellent smokescreen.