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Wednesday 14 December 2011

When You Get It Wrong

[Update at end of post]

Much has been made in the past couple of days of the Police revising their view over how the voicemails of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler were deleted, and how this impacted on the Guardian’s exclusive – which was followed by the decision of the Murdochs to close the Screws. The current view is that it the messages may have auto-deleted, but that someone would have to have listened to them first.

But rather than just let the Guardian get away with correcting their original story – and showing that they had not just one or two, but four separate sources for it – Rupe’s troops have decided to lay into editor Alan Rusbridger, accusing him of “sexing up” the facts and laying at his door the decision by someone else to send 200 people down the road.

As Nick Davies put it, the only change was thatthe Police could no longer be sure who had caused the particular deletions that led to that ‘false hope’ moment”. So when the Super Soaraway Currant Bun’s managing editor Richard Caseby said “police had now revealed there was no evidence the NoW deleted the messages”, he is being dishonest. Perhaps it goes with the territory.

The Guardian corrected its story as soon as it had new information, and also ran Davies’ piece to give background. As the Sun wants to talk transparency and honesty, perhaps they could consider that, as Tabloid Watch has noted, it took two months just to correct their “£32 loaf of bread” story. And it took more than a month and a half to correct the “Man U ace begged me for sex at 5am” story.

It needed the civil servants at DEFRA to correct the wholly untrue “£45k to tell gypsies ‘don’t eat horses’” item. Three months elapsed before the Sun admitted its Elliot Morley “Rolex” story was untrue. But at least the paper managed to concede its figures on knife crime were wrong in just three weeks. And the Sun is no stranger to invention, from Page 3 to Coleen Rooney (not pregnant) to Mo Farah.

No Osborne story? Just make it up, then

All of which puts Richard Caseby in an awfully draughty glasshouse, but his brass neck is as nothing compared to that displayed by the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his tame gofer Henry Cole, the Laurel and Hardy of the blogosphere, at the Guido Fawkes blog, who firstly made the fictional claim that the Guardian’s David Leigh was involved in the Dowler story (because he once tapped a phone).

They then produced a hot and steaming “exclusive” claiming that the Rt Hon Gideon George Oliver Osborne, heir to the Seventeenth Baronet, was eyeing the Kensington and Chelsea seat after boundary changes take apart his current berth of Tatton. This is total fiction: as any fule kno, the adjacent Northwich seat will be a relatively safe Tory one, and Osborne, liked by local members and activists, will head there.

Where’s that moral high ground again? Geography fail, and another fine mess.

[UPDATE 15 December 1600 hours: Rupe's troops at the Sun clearly do not want to drop this one, so today Alex Peake has been ordered into battle alleging that Nick Davies would not appear alongside managing editor Richard Caseby on Newsnight. I'm sure Davies has his reasons for declining the experience, but for the Murdoch hacks the only thought that is allowed to enter is the spin they apply.

So the Guardian is condemned "for falsely claiming the News Of The World had deleted voicemails on murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler's phone" when, as I've already observed, it is not known at present who deleted those voicemails.

Peake goes on "The Leveson Inquiry heard the most probable explanation was that they were automatically wiped by the phone service" which does not address the question of who listened to them in the first place, as the messages would only auto-delete if read.

Then comes a real steamer: "It is thought Davies refused to appear on TV with Caseby fearing he had new accusations about the accuracy of another Guardian front-page story". If anyone at the Sun had information suggesting that a Guardian front-page story was inaccurate, they would not wait on the off-chance of being able to air that information on Newsnight. It would be in the next edition of the paper.

Sun readers may lap this up, but once again Rupe's troops show that they are not in any position to call out the Guardian for shoddy journalism]


Anonymous said...

Presumably it would also depend on who of the two sitting MPs (either Malcolm Rifkind or Greg Hands) wanted to stand for Kensington & Chelesea. Rifkind might be standing down, but Greg Hands might want to take it.

Liz Church said...

If the phone company automatically deletes phone messages that have been listened to after 72 hours, then it is a matter of fact that by listening to them, you authorise their deletion at that later time. Ergo, if the NotW listened to any one of those messages then they must necessarily have initiated their deletion.