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Friday, 12 August 2016

The Mail and the medallist's mother

Daily Mail Daley

A headline in Wednesday's Daily Mail stopped me in my tracks - and not because the question mark was in the wrong place.
Could the paper be showing contrition for running a solo picture of Tom Daley on its front page the previous day?
No chance. The intro immediately disabused me of that notion - and took my breath away:

Her son may just have won an Olympic bronze medal, but that didn't stop Dan Goodfellow's mother from finding something to complain about

Telegraph Daley frontSharon Goodfellow had tweeted surprise when the Daily Telegraph's front page, featuring a photograph of Tom Daley without his diving partner, popped up on the #tomorrowspaperstoday Twitter feed on Monday evening.
The Mail hadn't arrived at that point.

Mrs Goodfellow's reaction stirred a bit of a Twitter breeze, inspiring 84 retweets and 170 "likes" and 20 or 30 comments that were universally supportive. One Twitter user contacted SubScribe to note that three papers had cropped Goodfellow out of a medals photograph. They hadn't. The Express went for Adam Peaty, while the Telegraph and Mail opted for  the Daley beefcake shot.

All of which made an interesting diversion and provided some material for breakfast TV and radio teams seeking something fresh for Tuesday morning.

By Wednesday, Team GB had won more and shinier medals, the world had moved on.
But not the Daily Mail.
To borrow a phrase, our athletes may just have won a clutch of Olympic medals, but that didn't stop the Mail finding someone to complain about. And in the process puncture a family's celebration.

A woman had dared to criticise the Press and question the editorial judgment of another newspaper that had made the same call as the Mail itself. This allowed it to attack both Mrs Goodfellow and another rival paper - The Times - which it didn't name. Here's a bit more of the story:

Sharon Goodfellow, 53, was incensed by media coverage of her son's success after he came third alongside Tom Daley in the synchronised diving.
Mrs Goodfellow bemoaned the fact that despite the divers being equal partners in the event, the British Press had just printed pictures of Mr Daley, 22, on their front pages.
One newspaper even left out and her 19-year-old son Mr Goodfellow's name [sic] altogether, writing as a sub-heading: "Daley and synchronised partner stunned as they claim dramatic diving bronze".
It later adds that Mrs Goodfellow had thanked Gabby Logan for "getting in touch with one broadsheet asking them to amend the sub-heading".

The Times back page

That paper was The Times, which had  not only fixed the omission, but also had a Matthew Syed comment piece about under-recognised "junior" sporting partners up on its website before Logan's Twitter reprimand.

It was a sorry error, and sports editor Alex Kay-Jelski was contrite.
Unlike the Mail.
The Times's ill-considered sub-head was on the back page, under two photographs of Goodfellow and Daley and a caption which named both (the paper had bizarrely preferred to make a "cultural" point about beach volleyball attire on its front).
Take another look at that cutting from the Daily Mail's front page at the top of this post. It focuses solely on Daley. It doesn't even say that he had a partner in a "doubles" event, let alone name him. Goodfellow did make it to the intro of the page 6 story - but Daley alone is headline material.

Daily Mail page 6

So perhaps we shouldn't be surprised that the story about the mother who "found something to complain about", the woman who was "bemoaning", "incensed" and "irritated", didn't mention the fact that the Mail was also guilty of airbrushing Goodfellow out of the limelight.

The Mail has some pet terms for people who refuse to acknowledge what it sees as the error of their ways.
"Shameless", for example. And "arrogant".
It is also known to demand "Now say sorry!"
I think the cap fits, Mr Dacre.

PS: that cultural divide

Times volleyball

It's easy to bash the Mail, but if you're looking for a volleyball picture to demonstrate the "cultural contrast" (as the Times calls it), isn't this one from the same spread as the Daley-Goodfellow story better?

mail volleyball

Thursday, 4 August 2016

Express does its utmost to keep readers alive

After the angst of the referendum and the relentless assault on migrants and refugees, it was something of a relief this morning to see an old favourite dominating the Daily Express front page.
An Oxford University study has concluded that people who take statins to lower their cholesterol may be at a "slightly increased risk" of developing diabetes.
This risk was, however, "greatly outweighed" by the benefits of statins in preventing heart attacks and stroke, according to lead researcher Dr Michael Holmes.
The hypochondriac Express has five big health concerns: dementia, diabetes, arthritis, heart disease and cancer. Statins straddle two of the them - helping to prevent one, while possibly causing another - so the paper is always interested in medical experts' (often contradictory) pronouncements on the drugs.
Today's is the 22nd statins splash from the Express and its Sunday sister since the start of 2014 - and third to say that the drugs cause diabetes. The Sunday is distinctly sceptical about the drugs and has produced ten of those front pages, not only linking them to diabetes, but also to Parkinson's, hundreds of deaths and even saying they can cause the very conditions they are designed to prevent. 
The Express is far more positive, hailing their capacity not only to help heart conditions, but also to combat dementia and cancer and prolong life. 

Confused? Who wouldn't be? No wonder GP surgeries are struggling to cope, their waiting rooms must be full of Express readers fretting about whether they should continue taking the drugs or give them up.
Or asking for any one of the new miracle cures the Express promises with such regularity. 
This morning's lead story, and the paper's return to its health-obsessed status quo after the battle of Europe, inspired a little audit of its medical coverage over the past two and a half years. SubScribe has looked only at causes, prevention and treatment, not at costs, policy or the impact on the health service. 

By far the biggest concern for the daily is dementia. Since January 2014, it has splashed on Alzheimer's, memory loss and related conditions 49 times. There have been lifestyle changes to prevent it, new tests to spot it, and new drugs on the way to fight it.
That, indeed, is the pattern for all the paper's pet conditions. Here are the 33 stories about diabetes over the same period (this time with a contribution from the Sunday - but only because of statins):


In third place, we have arthritis - with the Sunday offering one of the 26 pages.


And in joint fourth place, we have heart disease/stroke/high blood pressure (excluding statins stories) and cancer on 21 apiece:

heart disease

The Sunday, as we have seen, is concerned about heart attacks, but apparently not about cancer:


So what does Dr Express advise readers who wish to avoid these dread diseases?

Well here's a quick rundown of "good" foods:
Chocolate, fatty foods, spicy foods, yoghurt, eggs, rhubarb, bananas, carrots, broccoli, tomatos, mushrooms, grapes, walnuts.
And those to avoid:
Junk food, red meat, bacon, chicken (sometimes).
Drinking wine, tea and coffee is good; drinking fruit juice and fizzy drinks is dangerous.

Whatever you eat, it's best if you don't have too much of it.


Almost anything can be made better by a walk in the sunshine or  some gardening - the vitamin D will help to lower your blood pressure and prevent diabetes, and the exercise will beat arthritis, help to ease back pain, counter diabetes and add years to your life. 

It's a good idea to keep your brain active, too. By going to work or doing puzzles, for example. 
And try to get a good night's sleep - but don't overdo it, because naps are bad for you and too much sleep might kill you. Be especially careful if you need sleeping pills.


Does any of this surprise you? Well it should - because the idea of eating healthy food in moderation and taking exercise is apparently sufficiently unusual for it to make the splash on 99 occasions in just over two and a half years. 

Here's the collection of wonder diets:


And here are the dangers:


Of course, the nirvana is to live forever - or at least long enough to enjoy your pension (which is constantly being threatened, but that's another story). There is apparently a pill on the way that will allow us to reach 120, though heaven knows who'd want to. 
Anyway, advice on achieving an extended lifespan, including various "easy steps" and "golden rules", has made the lead for the daily 36 times since January 2014 (the Sunday doesn't seem particularly concerned about longevity):

live longer
The Express has, as we know, an ageing readership, so its diseases of choice are unsurprising. But it is not averse to mentioning others when there are no breakthroughs in its preferred fields: it has reported on two cures for blindness (yes, only a certain form - but never let that spoil the heading), acknowledged the agony of back pain and migraine (twice each), promised a cure for the common cold and advised that bananas and a honeysuckle drink can fight flu. 

other diseases

And, er, that's it, taking the grand total of medical splashes over the period to 216 - almost double the number on immigrants.
Some duplication was inevitable. First, a reminder of where we started:

statins and diabetes

Sometimes you can say exactly the same thing using completely different language (sunshine is also good for fighting diabetes):


And here's another example of expressing essentially the same message using different examples:


If you want to convey what is practically the same advice on consecutive days, try offering two sides of the same coin thus:

junk food

Sometimes deploying a different combative verb works (chocolate also helps you to live longer):

... or playing with nouns and adjectives:

fizzy drinks

All hail the multi-taskers:


But sometimes, there's no avoiding that absolute sense of deja vu:

deja vu

In the course of these 200-plus stories,the Express papers reported on 10 breakthroughs, 20 cures, and 33 "new" treatments (including 15 pills, 8 drugs and 6 jabs),  six of which were "on the way". 
There were 37 ways to "beat" disease and 29 ways to "fight" it. They dealt with 17 risks and 5 dangers and sought to alleviate 4 agonies and  15 pains.

word cloud

All in all, the papers - most especially the daily - are showing commendable dedication to keeping their declining readership alive.

So what else can one do but raise a glass of red wine and wish readers the very best of health. 

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Gareth Davies and Trinity Mirror: a postscript

Davies's award-winning efforts for the Advertiser
Some of Davies's award-winning efforts for the Advertiser

Last week former Croydon Advertiser reporter Gareth Davies caused a Twitterstorm with a series of tweets about his old paper. Yesterday SubScribe published his long-form account of what he believes is happening to local papers all over the country.

In the course of preparing the piece, Davies submitted a series of questions to Trinity Mirror in the hope of securing an answer to his concerns. The company's spokeswoman declined to respond unless he told her where the article was to be published.
Davies questioned the relevance of the platform and was told that it was pertinent because the company would need to know whether he was writing for the layman or an industry audience that would understand the jargon etc.
Once furnished with the information, the spokeswoman declined to comment. SubScribe approached her separately, offering the opportunity to be quoted or to write a new piece setting out the company's view. Again she declined. A separate approach was made to Croydon editor Ceri Gould, who did not respond.

The following quote from a TM "spokeswoman" - who knows if it was the same one? - did, however, appear at the foot of a report of his article on the website Hold the Front Page yesterday afternoon:

“None of the claims made by Gareth Davies stacks up. Every one of his points is either a misinterpretation of basic standard practice or completely untrue.
“It is clear he is intent on misrepresenting the Croydon Advertiser and Trinity Mirror, the people who work here and the journalism we produce as part of a personal crusade. We, meanwhile, will continue with our strategy of evolving to ensure a future for our titles.”

Gareth Davies is not everyone's cup of tea. He describes himself as a pain in the arse. He does not enjoy the approval of everyone in his home town - as can be seen from the comments at the foot of another report of his article on the Inside Croydon website.
He is, however, brave enough to speak out when nearly everyone else with first-hand experience of what is going on remains silent for fear of losing their jobs or of burning bridges if they've already lost them.

SubScribe shares the concerns of hundreds (perhaps thousands) of local newspaper journalists about the state of their industry and has written to that effect ... more than once. I was therefore happy to offer a home for Davies's article, but do not necessarily agree with everything that he has written.

It may be that Trinity Mirror is unaware of SubScribe or sees it as insignificant. It is, after all, a small blog run by a one-woman band. Even so, it seems extraordinary for the company to decline to respond to the article on the site where it was published, and then to use another platform to impugn the integrity of a reporter it was happy to claim as its own when he was collecting prizes.

The comment was the only official response to the SubScribe article, but Trinity Mirror had been firing its big guns before it was even written.
Chief executive Simon Fox, regional editorial director Neil Benson and digital publishing director David Higgerson had all piped up after the tweetfest.
Apart from Higgerson's blog - which focused on the 1,000-click argument - the attacks were personal. For Fox, Davies was talking nonsense, while Benson said pointedly that the culture at the Advertiser "particularly since Gareth left" had been one of positivity. In a separate comment to Press Gazette, Benson had what appeared to be another dig: “The days when reporters could choose, arrogantly, to write about what interests them, rather than what interests the audience, are over.”

Davies is not the man in front of the tank in Tiananmen Square, but he is a lone figure standing up to a big organisation and it isn't good PR for that organisation to be seen to be trying to silence or squash him.

Sometimes the message is so strong that it doesn't matter how small or insignificant the outlet.  So, in case anyone is wondering whether Davies should have had a "conversation" about potential reader interest before writing, it is probably worth mentioning that his piece has had thousands of clicks in less than 24 hours.
It has also been debated on Twitter, Facebook and Reddit, and followed up by HtFP, Inside Croydon and Press Gazette, to name but three.
Isn't that the sort of audience engagement TM craves for its output?

A further approach has been made to the company for comment or a rebuttal article. We await the response with interest.