As Nick Davies noted in his excellent book Flat Earth News, “dog doesn’t eat dog”: newspapers are reluctant to kick one another, and more than ready to turn a blind eye when their print rivals are caught misbehaving. But no such rule applies to broadcasters, so the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre and his obedient hacks at the Daily Mail never waste any chance of kicking the BBC.
Today has brought another example of this: under the by-line of “Daily Mail Reporter”, which is code for “written to order to satisfy the Dacre agenda by whoever was next on the cab-rank”, is a piece laying into the BBC Trust’s outgoing chairman for apparently delaying an apology over what has become known as Sachsgate.
The Mail is singularly unimpressed: “What took him so long?” thunders the headline, suggesting that when a media organisation fouls up, and is demonstrated to have done so, the apology should be made quickly and sincerely. And up to that point I would concur, but then there enters a smell well known to all who observe the goings on in Dacre world: the rank stench of hypocrisy.
Because the record of the Mail in not merely failing to apologise when they get it wrong, but of digging themselves in deeper, is singularly bad. It was, after all, the Mail that maintained its campaign against Colin Stagg, suggesting he was guilty of the brutal murder of Rachel Nickell on Wimbledon Common, even after Stagg had been acquitted.
And the Mail has a long and shameful track record of unapologetic behaviour even towards those with the financial means to take their complaints to law: Nick Davies’ book devotes an entire chapter, Mail Aggression, to the paper. He shows how Dacre and his hacks cut journalistic corners in order to make facts fit the agenda, how the Mail goes after ordinary people who have no means of redress, and details a litany of cases where well known people have successfully - and often eventually - extracted damages.Being able to say you’re sorry may be easy for Paul Dacre and his obedient hacks to demand, but it is much more difficult for them to do.