SubScribe: Is it true? Is it new? Does it matter? Do we care? Google+

Saturday 25 January 2014

Is it true? Is it new? Does it matter? Do we care?

Today's mishmash has inspired the SubScribe four-point readworthiness test for our printed friends. 

Saturday papers are tricky. Friday tends to be a slow news day as Westminster evacuates to leave a vast empty shelf in the news supermarket.  So, like the Sundays, special projects have to be commissioned. But, unlike the Sundays, daily reporters tend not have the luxury of a whole week to work on their stories. Fridays can therefore be fraught and the next day's offerings variable, to say the least.

Only two papers splash on a story that had to be used today or spiked  - the Daily Star and the Independent.   The Telegraph uses the staple of creating a news story from an interview, while the Guardian and Times engage in a little number crunching that could be done at almost any time. The Mirror joins the police on a raid in Suffolk, but there have been and will be others.

The i's follow-up to David Cameron's 'everyone's better off' claim and the Mail's story about disciplining teachers were born out of developments yesterday, but both could easily have been used inside if a real splash had appeared.

And so to the test:
The Guardian has gone to the Prevasi Nepali Co-ordination Committee for an update on how many have died working on the infrastructure for the 2022 Qatar World Cup.

The figures are shocking: 185 Nepalese victims of accidents and heart attacks in 2013 and at least 382 in the past two years. We have no idea how many others from India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and elsewhere have died. 
Since the PNCC dossier provides the only statistics available, it is impossible to assess accurately the full scale of the scandal.   But we can hazard a guess: Nepalis account for around 350,000 of the two million migrant workers in Qatar. 

FIFA has been put under pressure to act and has promised to confront the issue, but there is little sign of that yet. The Qatari Government has commissioned the law firm DLA Piper to investigate and promised to take the findings seriously when it reports soon.  The state has promised that the tournament will not be built 'on the blood of innocents'. 
The foundations already have been.

Is it true?  Yes

Is it new?  Yes, in that it's the first time anyone has asked. 
Does it matter?  Yes. 
Do we care?  Not enough.

The Telegraph has interviewed the head of the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence, which sanctions drugs and treatments for use on the NHS. Professor David Haslam tells the paper that patients should research their conditions and hassle their doctors to give them the right drugs. Seems odd advice, given the number of stories criticising GPs for handing out pills like sweeties and the general antipathy of doctors to patients who self-diagnose. 

It's one thing to be reasonably informed and to have a discussion; it's quite another to start pestering for something that might not be appropriate. The story is timely, though, coming after reports this week that many cancer and MND sufferers are not getting life-extending drugs to which they are entitled, and that doctors are routinely failing to treat elderly cancer patients properly.

Is it true?  Yes. 

Is it new?  Yes. 
Does it matter?  Yes. 
Do we care?  Yes.

At first glance the Independent's splash should be everyone's lead. An elderly British man who is mentally ill is sentenced to death for blasphemy in a foreign country. 

Muhammad Asghar, who comes from Edinburgh, was convicted and sentenced in Pakistan on Thursday. His crime was to compare himself to a prophet in a letter that was never posted. The document, described by the defence as the private ramblings of a madman, had been taken to the authorities by a disgruntled tenant.
The verdict was pronounced after the court refused to accept evidence of Mr Asghar's insanity. His lawyer had earlier been dismissed from the courtroom and replaced by a state defender.

Mr Asghar - whose age is given in various papers as everything from 68 to 72 - has been in prison since his arrest in 2010 and is unlikely to be executed because Pakistan has had a moratorium on the death penalty for the past five years. These may be the reasons that other papers made so little of the case - it could surely not be because his name is Muhammad?
It made a short page lead in the Telegraph and i, but only a small single, nib or even less everywhere else.

The fact remains that the sentence has been passed and the moratorium could be lifted at any time.
And we should be concerned that such a man is in jail at all. 

Is it true? Yes
Is it new?  Yes.
Does it matter?  Yes. 
Do we care?  We should.

The i has been looking into the figures used by Number 10 to claim that almost everyone's income has increased by more than the rate of inflation. Instinct tells us that couldn't be true and the i has confirmed that view by uncovering some interesting accounting.

Economists found that the claim was based on wages and income tax and did not take into account such elements as personal allowances, tax credits and child benefit.
Good work from Nigel Morris, deputy political editor of the Independent and the i (the story appears in both papers). The Mirror conducted a similar exercise to produce a good page lead.

Is it true? Yes
Is it new?  Yes. 
Does it matter?  Yes. 
Do we care?  Yes.

The Mirror splashes on internet sales of abortion pills made in India. The story is full of dire warnings about what might happen if a desperate teenager took these pills, especially in the wrong dose. There have been no such cases recorded, but there is no harm in sounding an alert. 

This was a story that could have been picked up by anyone with a bit of thought - we've all had email spam offering us Viagra and other drugs - so good on Ben Rossington and Martin Bagot for getting on the case. They have clearly been in contact with police forces around the country and built up the contacts that enabled them to witness a raid on a house in Suffolk yesterday. The report is a mite melodramatic, but generally sound.

Is it true?  Yes. 

Is it new?  Up to a point, Lord Copper. 
Does it matter?  Yes. 
Do we care?  Maybe.

The Daily Star is still concerned about the fate of TOWIE Sam in Celebrity Big Brother. Liz Jones, who was evicted from the house this week, told the paper yesterday that Sam had been ill. 

Today the paper says that she was rushed to hospital and that 'fears grow for seriously ill babe'. Not so ill that the Star allows her to keep her clothes on - the paper again carries two photographs of her in swimwear and a little inset of her looking unwell on set. 

The inside heading is 'New fear for 999 Sam'. But if you stick with the story to the end you discover that she was taken to hospital yesterday morning, was seen by a doctor and came out at lunchtime. By last night she was back in the house. Either somebody is being irresponsible in returning this woman to that environment or perhaps she simply has a nasty virus. Let's hope it's the latter.

Is it true?  Half of it is. 

Is it new?  Yes. 
Does it matter?  No. 
Do we care?  No.

Sean O'Neill at the Times has also been number crunching. He finds that 16 people have been stopped on their way to or from Syria in the past three weeks because they were suspected of being involved in the fighting or terrorist activity. That compares with 24 in the whole of last year. 

It's certainly a startling increase, but does it mean that there is a soaring terror fear as the headline suggests (can a fear soar?)Or is Theresa May being more assiduous? 
Security authorities are apparently worried that young people are being radicalised in Syria and trained to carry out attacks in Britain. 
The prisoners' rights group CAGE takes a different view. Its research director Asim Qureshi says: 
'The recent spate of arrests seems misplaced and disproportional. It rests on the erroneous assumption that travelling to Syria transforms one into an enemy of Britain. If opposing the Assad regime is a central part of current foreign policy, why would pursuing that policy be an arrestable offence.'

Is it true?  Yes. 

Is it new?  Yes. 
Does it matter?  Yes.
Do we care?  Not really.

The Express gives its front page to a weather forecast and a Kylie Minogue story that everyone else had yesterday. Need we say more?

Is it true?  Who knows?

Is it new?  Not really. 
Does it matter?  Well we can't do anything about it. 
Do we care?  Yes, if we're planning to go out or do some gardening.

The thought of children being taught by potheads or petty thieves may shock parents, so thanks to the Mail for warning us that convicted teachers could be allowed to stay in the classroom.

The thing is, though, that this has been the case for a while. 

The story is based on guidance from the Education Department's National College for Teaching and Leadership. The document, updated yesterday, spells out factors to be considered by a professional conduct panel when a teacher is referred for possible prohibition - which means a lifetime ban from the profession.
The revised guidelines include tighter rules on class A drugs and all sexual contact with students or pupils.

They also say that the panel should become involved in only the most serious cases and that it is unlikely that a teacher would be referred after a conviction or caution for shoplifting or possession of class B or C drugs for their own use.

This is what the Mail finds shocking.  But these provisions haven't changed.  There is no suggestion that teachers should get off scot-free if they smoke pot or take amphetamines; the DfE explains that to the Mail, saying its primary concern is the safety of children and that heads and local authorities have powers of suspension or dismissal.

The professional conduct panel is all about deciding whether people should be allowed to continue with what most see as a vocation. The Mail is being alarmist, reactionary and unthinking.
Do we really want to toss trained teachers out of work for life over offences generally regarded as misdemeanours?

Is it true?  Yes, within certain parameters. 

Is it new?  No. 
Does it matter?  Yes
Do we care?  Yes.

And so to the Sun and a splash that fails to tell us three of the six Ws, including the all-important 'who'. It obviously can't. So it teases us with the 'sports tycoon' and 'one of Britain's biggest pop stars'.

They apparently had a fling some time last year. We don't know how long it lasted before the tycoon's partner 'hit the roof' and then forgave him.

This is an 'exclusive'.

It is also a con. It tells the reader absolutely nothing and has the juvenile mentality of the kid who taunts friends 
in the playground shouting 'I know something you don't know'.

Was the paper injuncted? Was it scared that one of the Sundays was on the case? If not why publish? 
To stir up internet speculation?

If so, it failed in that as well.

A few sports forums put up some theories but almost all degenerated into arguments, abuse and general contempt for the paper - the word scum featured frequently. The threads are short as contributors quickly tired of the game.

Twitter was similarly uninterested.

Not a triumph then.

Is it true?  Who knows? 

Is it new?  Presumably.
Does it matter?  No. 
Do we care?  Clearly not.

Some thoughts on pictures. Today's were pretty uninspiring: a couple of silhouettes, a file shot of Cameron, a file shot of Nigella (for a story everyone covered yesterday), a file shot of Kylie, a file shot of Sam Faiers, a file shot of Rebekah and Charlie Brooks (at least from this week), a couple of tubs of pills.

There were only two live pictures in the whole bunch: Francois Hollande with the Pope and Grayson Perry flanked by two Beefeaters.

The notion of an (alleged) adulterer and a celibate discussing family life is intriguing and amusing. The Pope's headmasterly look at naughty boy Francois Hollande is caption competition gold. But a picture of two men of a certain age two columns apart is not going to set the news stands on fire.

Grayson Perry in his 'mother of the bride' hat was undoubtedly the picture of the day. There were several to choose from and they were all equally charming. But a transvestite? On the front page? Too scary for most. A pity.

Everyone used a picture somewhere, mostly with only a caption. But the Express ran a story as well. It was worth it, if only for this wonderful quote from the Palace: 

"His attire was entirely appropriate."

Finally, have you noticed that many of the women on our front pages are dressed in red? SubScribe is starting a count, with today's tally 3.

A mini review of the papers will be a feature of the new Sub-Scribe website, which should be alive and possibly kicking within the next couple of weeks. 
A few pages are available for a sneak preview, if you are interested, at 

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