The Daily Mail was in righteous overdrive in November 2012: “False allegations of paedophilia against an elderly Tory Party grandee have led to the resignation of the Director-General, the possible demise of the flagship Newsnight programme, the paying out of substantial libel damages and, worst of all, perhaps a shattering blow to BBC News's reputation for integrity”, it told.
Who are you f***ing calling a hypocrite, c***?!? Er, with the greatest of respect, Mr Jay
Well, for some value of “demise of the flagship Newsnight programme” and “a shattering blow to BBC News’s reputation for integrity”, that is. But their central point stood: the story, which resulted in the late Alistair McAlpine taking legal action, and not just against the BBC, had not been properly checked beforehand. Crucially, its target had not been given notice of what was coming.
The Mail was aghast. “How could this happen? Why did no one carry out 'basic journalistic checking' of facts? Why weren't those 'facts' put to the other side – the first rule of journalism?” it demanded. So that is quite clear: the “first rule of journalism” dictates that, before publishing, the material supporting the article you intend to run must be put to the subject of that article.
And, given the attack piece targeting Leveson Inquiry assessor David Bell, from which that assertion was taken, was written on the direct orders of the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre, we must assume that this “first rule of journalism” is followed throughout the editorial process at the Daily Mail. So let us now look at how the exercise of the “first rule of journalism” applies in practice.
How about the case of Juliet Shaw, who was asked to appear in a Daily Mail article about women who had moved from the city to the country? She was blatantly misrepresented in the article, and had to fight the paper through the court system before they eventually paid up. She was not given a sight of the article before publication. So that’s one “first rule of journalism” fail.
What about Jo Rowling, who recently won a famous libel victory against the Mail? The paper made untrue allegations about her life before the Harry Potter books brought her fame – and made her well enough off to take Dacre and his doggies to the cleaners. She, too, was not given a sight of the offending article beforehand. So that’s two “first rule of journalism” fails.
And today the Mail has been forced to apologise to George Clooney for publishing a totally false article about his partner’s mother-in-law. Once more, Clooney was not given sight of what the Mail intended to publish beforehand. And so that makes three straight “first rule of journalism” fails.
The Daily Mail demands the highest standards of others, while not giving a flying foxtrot about them itself. What an utter and complete shower Paul Dacre is.