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Tuesday 3 January 2012

Guardian Bashing – 1: Heresy Corner

Nothing has exercised the right leaning part of the press and blogosphere more than their woefully wrong calls over Phonehackgate. Worse, all the right calls came from the detested and deeply subversive Guardian. So the merest slip from that paper has since been the cue for an orgy of ranting and ridicule, which has on occasion slipped effortlessly into forthright dishonesty.

One particular favourite for Guardian bashers is to pick on a mistake or contentious remark in an opinion piece, or by someone who contributes to Comment Is Free (CiF) very occasionally, and use this to call out the paper for inaccuracy, or assert that the opinion expressed matches that of the paper’s editorship. One example well known to Zelo Street regulars is the Tweeting of Kia Abdullah.

So it was when Laurie Penney posted an item to CiF on Sunday, and mentioned the pursuit by the cheaper end of the tabloid press of singer Charlotte Church. Ms Penny’s mistake was to mention the infamous “countdown clock” to Ms Church’s sixteenth birthday and attribute it to Rupe’s downmarket troops at the Super Soaraway Currant Bun. As ever, the right leaning gallery was waiting.

Enter Nelson Jones of Heresy Corner, who gives the impression of detachment and impartiality while in reality bringing nothing of the sort. Jones tells that there is “no evidence” of the Sun running this clock on its website (true) and therefore that it “almost certainly” didn’t happen (note the qualification, with its attendant wriggle room – the Sun website from 2002 is now long gone).

Jones goes on: “There was such a clock, but it was not (so far as anyone could tell [my emphasis]) associated with any newspaper or media organisation”. So he doesn’t know, and all that he can offer as a clinching argument is “The Sun’s own coverage of the incident is no longer online, but it is unlikely to have differed significantly from that in the Mirror” (he quotes from the Mirror).

And that’s his best shot, other than to suggest that Ms Church has a less than totally reliable memory and that the BBC is worse than the Sun. What Jones does not tell – because it might be less than convenient – is that the Guardian did not make any assertion about the “countdown clock” in its own coverage, other than to mention Ms Church’s statement. But one paper did make such an assertion.

The Daily Mail did not name the Sun, but it did sayAt 15, a tabloid newspaper ran a ‘predatory’ clock on its website, she said, counting down the days to her 16th birthday when she would reach the legal age for sex”. No mention from Jones on this assertion, which came from the news, rather than comment, part of the paper. And no mention of the Mail has come from those who piled in behind Heresy Corner.

Can you smell hypocrisy?


Jake said...

Can you really call it hypocrisy when this post is just as guilty as what you accuse Heresy Corner of doing?

For a start, you admit yourself there is no firm evidence the Sun ran a countdown clock on its website. Penny was using conjecture as fact to support her (totally valid) piece about sexism in the media. Even when they're on "our side", you can't let a journalist off for doing so. Jones concedes he doesn't know about the existence of the countdown clock on The Sun's website but neither do you. Yet in spite of lack of evidence, you seem all too willing to follow the Guardian line here. The only supporting evidence for such a clock on the sun's website in your post is a quote from the Daily Mail alluding to a tabloid. And when you're relying on the Daily Mail to back up your view, you're on a hiding to nothing.

So really, I have to wonder who's not showing impartiality on this issue here. Particularly when The Guardian has admitted to getting a few details wrong, most notably who deleted the voicemails.

I admire the Guardian greatly for its reportage on the unethical practices of News International. But this blind defense tactic serves no one.

Jake said...

Should follow my last post with some corrections and additions.

What you seem to be saying is that Jones is wrong to attack the Guardian when the Daily Mail have made similar allegations about The countdown clock. I'm all for putting the boot into Dacre's rag but doesn't that just infantalise the whole issue? "They did it as well sir!"

If we're going to hold the right wing media up to intense scrutiny then we should just as firm with the left wing media, if not more so. If it wasn't for the tabloid hacking scandal, we'd still be suffering for Hari's mistakes.

Tim Fenton said...

No, I'm noting that Jones is going after a CiF piece - not part of the Guardian's news or editorial content - while ignoring that the Mail has made a similar (admittedly less upfront) statement on the "news" part of its coverage.

As for Hari, the Eye was after him years ago, but only very recently has the blogosphere woken up to it. As for the rest of the press, it's another case of "Dog doesn't eat Dog", which takes us back to hacking.