SubScribe: September 2016 Google+

Friday 23 September 2016

Freedom of speech? Not for luvvies (part 2)

Update Saturday 24 September:

Rod Liddle's brief Twitter timeline

SubScribe is not the only commentator to have picked up on this column by Rod Liddle. And the response seems to have struck a chord with him. 
He appears to have set up a Twitter account specifically to apologise for this piece, which he says was "crass, crude and poorly judged".
With only a handful of followers and one retweet, this apology (assuming the account is genuine) does not seem to have reached as wide an audience as it should.
His piece was spectacularly ill-judged - for the reasons spelled out below - but SubScribe applauds him for holding up his hand.

Rod Liddle column

Have you got your notebooks out?
Yesterday, Christopher Hart of the Daily Mail produced a helpful list of "luvvies" who should not be allowed to express opinions.
SubScribe apologises for not noticing that Rod Liddle was simultaneously offering the same service in The Sun. So you may wish to add some names to your collection.
He, too, dismisses Amal Clooney (remember Hart called her a dubious poseuse celebrity lawyer), describing her as hugely irritating and smug.
Liddle's "posh luvvies and their tiresome wags" also include "moppety actress" Carey Mulligan, of whom he says "I'm ashamed you're British", but he saves the real bile for Emma Watson.
She gets a picture and section all to herself, which I reproduce in full:

Hermione Granger has been addressing the United Nations General Assembly. Nope, not kidding.
The actress Emma Watson, right, is a UN "Goodwill Ambassador". What's that, when it's at home? I haven't a clue.
Anyway, instead of telling them all the rules of quidditch or how to turn someone into a frog, she bored them all rigid with whining, leftie, PC crap.
Just like all actresses do if people are stupid enough to give them the chance.
Why do we indulge these luvvie slebs, most of whom know nowt? I don't object to them having views and expressing them. I just don't understand why we take them seriously.
I suppose they got Emma in because Angelina Jolie is a bit tied up with other stuff at the moment.

It may be old-fashioned, but it seems pretty basic journalism that if you don't know what you're writing about, you find out before you start typing.
SubScribe suspects that Mr Liddle knows exactly what a goodwill ambassador is - and that he is feigning ignorance for effect, rather as Donald Trump does when he says something preposterous, holds out his arms and adds: "I don't know."
But just in case, it may be worth explaining that goodwill ambassadors are appointed because they are famous. That's the point of them: to use their fame to get a message across that might otherwise be lost.
The first was Danny Kaye; perhaps the most famous (until Angelina Jolie) was Audrey Hepburn. She worked for years for UNICEF and oOthers who have followed in her footsteps include Tom Hiddleston, David Beckham, Lionel Messi, Simon Rattle and Queen Rania of Jordan. Pierre Cardin and Herbie Hancock spread the word for UNESCO; the singer Craig David flies the flag for the World Health Organisation in trying to  prevent the spread of TB.

As to "knowing nowt", Watson was talking about sexual assaults on campus and gender equality at university, subjects on which - as a fairly recent graduate - she is probably well-qualified to speak.

And "boring them all rigid"? Watson is regarded as one of the UN's most valuable goodwill ambassadors and other reports of the event described the audience as "rapt" as she described the HeForShe campaign that she leads on behalf of the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women. (Was Liddle aware of the title - if so, how did he resist poking fun at it?) The aim is to persuade men to fight for equality and supporters include heads of state and the Secretary-General of Nato. More than a million men have made "practical commitments".

Leo McKinstrey column

Meanwhile, across at the Express, Leo McKinstrey was also having a go. He lifted the phrase "tasteless stunt" from Monday's Mail to describe the Parliament Square lifejacket demonstration, then added his own twist, calling the organisers "immigration fanatics". His "luvvie" list was shorter:   Juliet Stevenson,  "privileged left-wing actor" Carey Mulligan (squawking here, rather than whining), and "left-wing privately-educated" Benedict Cumberbatch.

These columnists are entitled to their view that a tougher approach to the boat people might dissuade others from risking their lives at the hands of unscrupulous traffickers. They may feel justified in taking Angela Merkel's words this week as an acknowledgement that her "open doors" approach to, migration was flawed.
They are further entitled to say what they think, to put their views to a wider public.
But why do they think they have the right to tell anyone else to shut up?

Freedom of speech anyone?

A reminder of the Sun's view on free speech - for itself and for "luvvies"

Thursday 22 September 2016

Woman with brain speaks, Mail has apoplexy

Mail puff

If there's one thing the Daily Mail can't abide (ok, there are many), it's an intelligent woman who dares to speak out. Especially if she can be branded a "luvvie" - even if her only connection to the arts is by marriage.

Take Amal Clooney. A well-established human rights lawyer, Clooney addressed the UN about refugees on Friday and has this week announced that she intends to try to take legal action on behalf of a Yazidi woman used as a sex slave by ISIS jihadists.
She also suggested that the UK – and other countries - might do more to help refugees from warzones and pointed out that only one Yazidi family had been granted asylum here, against 70,000 in Germany.

The Daily Mail website likes Clooney: she is beautiful, glamorous and married to the biggest name in Hollywood. It loves to put her in the “sidebar of shame”.
The printed paper is less sure.
President Obama may think her views are worth listening to and be willing to share a platform with her, but the Mail has difficulty looking beyond her bunions, her thinness and her wedding ring.
There was also that little spot of bother with her husband when it claimed that there was a family rift over their marriage


So this is how the paper reported her contribution to last weekend's refugee summit: 

“Human rights lawyer Amal Clooney angered MPs last night by attacking Theresa May and Britain for not taking more refugees from Syria.
“The wife of George Clooney, who lives in a mansion near Mrs May’s home in Berkshire...”
Thus a rentaquote MP's response, her husband and her living arrangements are all given precedence over what she had to say. Under a snide headline that suggests that no one has heard of her and that her opinion is risible. She is, however, comely enough to warrant a full-length photograph.

Christopher Hart oped

If Clooney and her opinions are so insignificant, you'd imagine that the paper would leave it there. But no, Christopher Hart is on parade today to denounce the "dubious poseuse celebrity lawyer and wife of the famous George".

Actually there's nothing dubious about Mrs Clooney; Hart had only to read his own paper's cuttings to discover that she has credentials beyond being a wife. When the couple became engaged in April 2014, the Mail wrote:
"Her life could not be more removed from the celebrity world which Clooney inhibits.
"She comes from a prominent intellectual Lebanese family who fled war-torn Beirut when she was a child and settled in a large modern house in Buckinghamshire.
"Her father, Ramzi, is a retired professor of business studies at the American University of Beirut...
"After leaving Oxford, where she gained a 2:1 in law, Miss Alamuddin studied at the New York University School of Law.Now working out of London's Doughty Street Chambers, she specialises in international law, human rights, extradition and criminal law."
 When they were married that September, the paper described her as "Oxford-educated, with a high-profile client list":
"She has represented Wikileaks founder Julian Assange and is an adviser to former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan"
Amal by Amanda Platell

Even when the critical scrutiny intensified with a spread on Clooney's "scary skinniness", Amanda Platell noted of this "clever, thoughtful woman":
"A year ago, no one outside illustrious legal circles knew the name Amal Alamuddin. Fewer still had an opinion about her clothes, figure, hair, handbag or shoes.
"An internationally renowned human rights lawyer at the top of her career, her performance in court and her fine brain were all she was judged on."

Clooney's client list goes beyond Assange and Annan. She also represented Mohamed Fahmy, a journalist jailed in Egypt for "distorting the news"  in a case that prompted an international campaign to protect that cause so dear to the Mail's heart - Press freedom.

But none of that gives her the right to speak on a subject that is her specialty. That was apparently relinquished when she married an actor.

Just in case you can't get hold of a copy of the Mail, here's a list of other "bleeding heart luvvies" whose opinions are, according to today's Oped, to be discounted:

Leonardo diCaprio
Benedict Cumberbatch
Helena Bonham Carter
Stephen Fry
Emma Thompson
J.K. Rowling
Bob Geldof
Emma Thompson
Vanessa Redgrave
Cate Blanchett
Keira Knightley

In fact, the list is so long that Hart admits:
"Actually, it's probably just easier to say 'all of them'. The whole ghastly, smug, cosseted, self-adoring crew."
 Hart also has a dig at Juliet Stevenson and David Miliband's International Rescue charity for "hijacking Parliament Square" for a display of 2,500 lifejackets worn by refugees who died trying to cross from Turkey to Greece.

Mail 20 September

That exhibition - sorry, stunt -  really annoyed the Mail.
Most papers used a photograph and a brief caption to say that the demonstration was linked to the migrant summit in New York.
The Mail used the lifejackets (with the statue of Churchill circled in red) plus an inset picture of Stevenson alongside a story focused on those who thought the “protest” should not have been allowed.

Mail 21-09

Such was the paper’s distress about the whole affair that it wheeled out Max Hastings yesterday on a spread combining the event and Angela Merkel’s woes.
Migration posed the gravest threat to Europe since 1945, the headline said. “We need answers – not stunts”. 

Fair point. 

sue reid spread

Now let's wind the clock back to last Saturday, when the Mail ran a spread by Sue Reid, who hired a rubber dinghy to show how easy it was to sail to France and back without being stopped by any authorities. 
A smiley woman in sunglasses and a couple of male companions are perhaps not quite as suspicious as a boatload of young men, but Reid appears dismayed by the lack of interest they attracted.
She spots a Royal Navy warship on the horizon, assumes that its radar must have seen her dinghy and notes “yet they did nothing to stop us” – before conceding: 
“although, it must be said, the warship's responsibilities do not include checking boats such as ours”.
The lifejackets were laid out in Parliament Square to draw attention to the plight of  refugees. People took notice. 
But to the Mail, the display constituted a stunt.

Sue Reid hired her little boat to draw attention to a lack of border controls. No one took any notice. 
That was, of course, serious journalism.
Don't anyone dare suggest that it might have been a stunt.

These are the sorts of serious issues that Ms Clooney should be concentrating on

Saturday 10 September 2016

Remembering Aberfan

aberfan disaster

Were journalists covering Aberfan intruding into a village's grief or important allies in holding the culpable to account?
And what can we hope or expect of today's generation who make their way to Wales to mark the 50th anniversary of the disaster?

Guest blog: John Jewell

October 21 2016 marks the 50th anniversary of the Aberfan disaster. At 9.15 am on that day in 1966, just as Pantglas junior school was beginning its first lesson, a coal tip situated above this small village near the South Wales industrial town of Merthyr Tydfil slid down the mountain enveloping first a farm and then Pantglas school itself.  
Though some did manage to escape, it was a catastrophe that claimed the lives of a 144 people, 116 of whom were children.
While Wales is no stranger to mining disasters – between 1853 and 1974 24,470 colliery workers were killed at work in South Wales - the loss of so many young lives and the impact of the disaster on the community since, make Aberfan the single most shocking event in modern Welsh history.
This week Cardiff University’s School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies held a one-day conference  focusing on the themes of remembering, forgetting and moving on in the media and in the community. It brought together not only survivors of the tragedy, but also media practitioners and academics. They included photojournalist I. C. Rapoport , whose presentation was of a breathtaking poignancy that moved all to tears,  and the elder statesman of the Welsh media Vincent Kane, who reported from Aberfan in 1966.
Kane’s closing keynote speech was passionate, poetic, angry and robust. He was devastating in his condemnation of both the National Coal Board and the miners’ union, which both knew that the tip was built on a sloping hillside upon two underground springs that were clearly shown on ordinance survey maps. They were guilty of moral cowardice – failing to act on the knowledge that the tip could slide at any moment. But those who knew of the potential for tragedy failed to act to remove the tip because they knew that attempting to do so would put the existence of mining in Merthyr in peril. 
 With 50 years’ hindsight, how can we fail to conclude that the underlying cause was the intense pressure brought to bear on a frightened coal mining community by the policy of widespread and rapid pit closures implemented by the National Coal Board, supported by the National Union of Mineworkers and two governments, Conservative followed by Labour
Kane was critical of journalism, too. In the years that followed the tragedy the media had not been as forceful as it could have been in exposing the truth and defending the surviving community. In an atmosphere in which the residents of Aberfan were labelled greedy troublemakers,  the media had reneged on its responsibility to hold power to account. Kane said.
 The press, the media, the fourth estate, has an abiding responsibility to probe and to penetrate.  In the Aberfan period, perhaps Wales’s darkest hour in the 20th century, we should have been passionate in pursuit of the truth. Instead we were pedestrian.

Journalists who covered the original events have in the recent past spoken candidly about how they were affected. John Humphrys, then a young reporter at Television Wales and West and a man very familiar with the area, drove up to Aberfan on the morning of the disaster and witnessed first-hand the “great mass of muck and filth and utter chaos” as rescue attempts got underway. Unsurprisingly, Humphrys says the impact upon him has been profound. He said in 2006:
I have been a journalist for getting on for half a century now. I have reported wars and disasters all over the world, many of them involving many, many, many more deaths…. I have always said and I will always say that nothing – nothing – I will ever see will compare to the horrors of that day. 
Also in 2006, Malcolm Rees, who was the first reporter from the South Wales Evening Post on the scene, spoke about the worst event he had to cover coping by “just getting on with his job” amidst the eeriness of it all. Rees’s colleague, chief photographer Alan Trethewy, was more open about his distress. He said:
The camera acts like a barrier between yourself and the reality of what is going on around you. The tragedy is something I will never forget — I remember it like it was yesterday…..It is just burned into my memory. It was the most horrific thing I covered throughout my whole career.
At the time, though, the presence of the national and international media in the immediate aftermath of the catastrophe concerned some local people and politicians. In the course of researching her novel, Black River, Louise Walsh,  who also appeared at the conference, accessed the National Archives and found that in 1967 Selwyn Jones, the town clerk of Merthyr Tydfil, wrote to Cledwyn Hughes, the Secretary of State for Wales requesting that he take action to ensure that the “glare of publicity” be taken away from the residents of Aberfan.
Walsh also records a letter from S O Davies, MP for Merthyr , to the editor of the Sunday Express expressing his disgust over an article in June 1967 which described the people of Aberfan as the “most tragically divided in the world”. The article was rhetorical filth, wrote Davies:
In all the cruel travesties of fact that have appeared in some organisations of the press, from the day of this terrible disaster the Sunday Express has…. exceeded all of them in fabrication, distortion and irresponsible journalese.
But this is not the whole picture. As Pantti and Wahl – Jorgensen  have pointed out,  in many instances the national Press sided with the mining village and gave its people opportunities to express their feelings of rage and resentment toward the (still) unbelievably mendacious National Coal Board and government. They state that the early media narrative of the disaster was “around a working-class community energised with the passion of anger against the National Coal Board, which was reported as having ignored warnings of danger for many years”. 
In this sense, with the tragedy still bitingly raw, the national Press was demonstrating its ability to act on behalf of the disenfranchised and to hold power to account by mobilising a “community of moral outrage”.
One day after the tragedy a Guardian editorial stated:
“The Welsh, who are used to tragedy, have now suffered their worst. The pits themselves do not kill children….There must be a safe way for the Coal Board to get rid of its waste. There must be a way of ensuring that yesterday’s tragedy is not repeated.”
The Aberfan disaster was also the first national tragedy to be covered extensively on television and, in the opinion of Stuart Hood, who was controller of BBC television in the early 1960s,  there was no more accurate or poignant method of reporting the tragedy than to “let us see the faces of the men and women waiting as the rescuers dug into the black mud”. 
For Hood, writing in 1967, television was an enabler, facilitating involvement in events where Aberfan became part of a greater community. Royal weddings, the football World Cup and Churchill’s funeral had all been events where national community had been created by television, Hood argued, it was therefore right and proper that at a moment of national tragedy television cameras should be present.
Perhaps Hood was right – and to be fair to him he does acknowledge that there is a certain brutality about journalism in these situations – but his rather idealistic words would have provided little comfort to the bereaved families who saw their shattered environment overrun with the world’s television crews all eager to send images back home. 
This was something that occurred to Gwyn Llewelyn, the first television correspondent to arrive in Aberfan.  In 2013 he told Media Wales of the broadcasting circus and the angry local reaction. He came, he said, to feel a certain guilt very quickly:
“I did ask myself numerous times what was on earth I was doing standing there reporting when the rescuers were up to their waists in slurry clearing the debris. I knew I was there providing a service by reporting from the scene of the tragedy, but I did feel like something of a voyeur staring at the heroic efforts of these people.”
Llewelyn’s concerns mirror those of many reporters who have covered disasters and the like. As Al Tompkins of the Poynter Institute for Media Studies put it in 2001, a journalist’s symptoms of stress are similar to those of firefighters or police officers in the immediate aftermath of tragedies – but while public safety workers are routinely offered counselling after trauma, “journalists are merely assigned another story.”
In the aftermath of Aberfan very few people, journalists or otherwise, received adequate counselling or psychological treatment. During the course of the day at Cardiff University devoted to the discussion of events, what became increasingly clear was range of people represented. There were survivors of the actual landslide itself, ex-police officers, former Coal board officials and journalists – all in empathetic unity.
So whatever is written or broadcast about Aberfan now, as we approach the 50th anniversary of this tragedy, must be undertaken with greatest of care and respect for those still living with daily reminders of what happened to them.
Sitting in the comfort of a warm lecture theatre listening to the testimonies of those speaking, some for the very first time about their experiences, I was struck by the searing honesty and bravery of those who stood. Wounds have not fully healed, memories have not dimmed. 
Not for the first time, the privilege of my own existence, concerned as I am by the frustrations and trivialities of modern life, shamed me. Here were people whose entire lives had been shaped by the morning of  October 21, 1966 and, in the words of Professor Kevin Morgan, we should respect their knowledge.
Western Mail Aberfan front page

John Jewell is director of undergraduate studies at Cardiff University's School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies

Thursday 8 September 2016

Should've asked what would be on the front

If you have a brand strong enough to warrant trade-marking the first word of your catchphrase, you presumably care a lot about it and where it is seen. That involves choosing carefully where and when to advertise.
Yesterday Specsavers took a Page 1 slot in the Daily Express and a further full page inside to promote a hearing aid offer. It was the company's first front-page ad in the paper - certainly for the past couple of years - and the promotion did not appear in any other national paper, so it seems to have been targeted at the Express's ageing readership.

But by last night, it was Specsavers rather than Express readers who were the target. The appearance of the ad under a story headlined "New migrant rush to Britain" prompted a Twitter challenge from the Stop Funding Hate campaign:

The post was widely retweeted and as the day wore on, Specsavers came under pressure to respond. To its credit, its social media team decided to engage.

That provoked a mini avalanche of tweets about its "short-sighted" approach, the need for it to "focus" and how there were "none so blind that will not see". Several people said they would take their custom elsewhere - but probably too few to make a difference to the company's profits.

Stop Funding Hate is trying to counter what it sees as excessive anti-foreigner press coverage by urging advertisers to abandon the Sun, Mail and Express - which it sees as the biggest "offenders".
Boycotts are a traditional and sometimes effective way to persuade organisations, and even countries, to change their outlooks and behaviour.
But they are also fraught: if you choose not to buy clothes made in Bangladesh sweatshops, you may hope to improve conditions for the workers, but you may also risk denying those same workers their only source of income.
And information is precious. Should pressure groups or advertisers be seeking to influence which stories are covered and how they are treated?

Take the Daily Mail, for example. A couple of weeks ago it published a list of products containing microbeads. It urged readers not to buy them in an effort to persuade the manufacturers to stop using the beads. It would not, however, take kindly to anyone who suggested boycotting its own product to persuade it to stop writing about immigration.
For a start, there is strong evidence that the microbeads damage wildlife (and they are to be banned), while there is only circumstantial evidence that newspaper coverage of immigration is damaging community relations.

SubScribe would contend that the level of hostility towards foreigners, particularly in the Express, is dangerous and that the papers should desist. Immigration may be the issue most frequently mentioned as causing concern by voters questioned for opinion polls, but it is not the only issue. People also worry about the economy, law and order, the health service, defence, poverty, housing and education, yet these issues do not get anywhere near the same space.  A little more variety in the news diet would be desirable.
But how can this be achieved without bringing accusations of censorship? Answers on a postcard please.

For the time being, let's consider the relationship between advertising and editorial.
Last year Peter Oborne loudly resigned from the Daily Telegraph because of its failure to cover the HSBC tax avoidance story that dominated the news agenda for a week. The paper rejected the suggestion that its news judgment had been informed by the fear of losing a high-spending advertiser, but its denials were not universally believed. It was generally accepted that it would be a Bad Thing if any paper were so influenced.

Yet isn't that exactly what campaigns such as Stop Funding Hate are advocating? That advertisers threaten to withdraw their custom to secure the suppression of what one title regards as news?
Not quite.

As SubScribe wrote at the time of the Oborne resignation, advertisers cannot stipulate what editorial appears on the pages alongside their material. But they can make an educated guess about the sorts of stories that will feature in any given part of the paper - and decide accordingly whether to take the space. M&S is unlikely to buy an ad for its "dine with wine" packages that might land on a story about famine in Africa. Conversations will take place.

Yesterday's Daily Express was the 51st to lead on migration out of 214 papers so far this year - so Specsavers should have known that there was a one in four chance that its advertisement would appear under such a story.
If the company was uncomfortable with the Express's attitude to foreigners and thought that one-in-four risk too great, it could have bought its ad on the basis that it would not run if migration featured on the same page.

That would not be unusual - advertisers are free to pull their custom if they feel that the surrounding material would harm their image. Disasters have a habit of leading to a flurry of ads being dropped - businesses don't like to seem insensitive - while others, detailing rescue efforts, pour in.

It will be interesting to see where, if at all, that Specsavers ad appears next and whether the company continues to spend with the Express after last night's Twitter chorus. It will doubtless be weighing up the good publicity that would probably follow a decision to take its ball home against the possibility of attracting a million potential hearing aid customers through the Express.

Richard Wilson, who is leading the Stop Funding Hate campaign, obviously hopes it will have a change of heart:

Specsavers’ brand association with the Daily Express just doesn’t sit right. But there’s also a chance now to do something good - something that will send a strong signal that the demonisation and scaremongering have to stop. We hope that Specsavers will now listen to their customers, do the right thing, and suspend their advertising with the Daily Express.
Wilson accepts that there may be questions about the potential threat to editorial freedom from his campaign, but adds

Editorial is already being influenced and skewed -  massively -  by the fact that writing disproportionately negative stories about migrants and other demonised groups is currently a good way of selling papers.
Advertisers benefit from these headlines because they mean they get a wider circulation for their messages. The overriding aim of our campaign is to try to cancel out that perverse market incentive. We aren't asking Specsavers to lean on the Express and pressure them to change their content. We're asking them to stop making us complicit.
We're asking them (and others) to walk away, and let the market do the rest.

It's a fine distinction. 

SubScribe was on the fence on this one. But this afternoon the Express published a story on its website headlined "Sore losers in the Remain camp will hijack the PROMS with thousands of EU flags". The language of the text was the usual fare: 

“Sore losers” who cannot get over the fact Britain voted to leave the European Union are planning to hijack the Last Night of the Proms – arguably the most British night of the year.
Bitter Remain supporters are raising money to buy thousands of EU flags so they can hand them out to Prom-goers in a bid to stir-up support for the Brussels bloc.

The sneering attitude is one thing, but in the middle of the piece is an online poll in which readers are invited to vote on whether the flags should be banned. As it happens, that poll has been hijacked, too. So that instead of the usual 98% backing the desired answer, it is currently showing 78% against,

It's hard to have qualms about censorship when the publication whose freedom you're inclined to protect wants to ban a flag.

So just in case you felt like joining in, here's the link to the poll:

Saturday 3 September 2016

The Press and immigration: reporting the news or fanning the flames of hatred?

Independent 03-09-15

For a couple of days last year, the cacophony subsided. For five years the noise had been growing in intensity to the point where it was almost unbearable. Then a photograph of a small boy's body and a Turkish soldier almost silenced it.
Suddenly the snarling was replaced with compassion. Suddenly the "cockroach" was a child.
Aylan (or Alan as he is styled now) Kurdi drowned with his brother and mother on September 2 last year after his Syrian father paid people traffickers to ferry them from Turkey to Kos. Their boat capsized within five minutes of setting sail and Aylan's body was washed up on the beach.
The next day the Independent ran a photograph of the child's body on the shore. Others used the picture of the soldier carrying him up the beach. Newspapers not known for their sympathy for African refugees or their dangerous voyages across the Mediterranean demanded action.

The Sun September 3,4,5 2015
The Sun September 3, 4,5

The Sun launched an appeal and within two days was hailing its readers as heroes for raising £350,000 to help children like Aylan; families put up their hands to say they would offer foster homes to the young refugees. David Cameron, who two days earlier had said that Europe's migration crisis would not be solved "by taking more and more refugees", apparently promised to admit thousands, prompting headlines such as "Britain opens its arms to refugees". Fifteen, twenty thousand people would be admitted to Britain, foreign aid money would be diverted to help asylum seekers, "Refugees welcome" banners appeared across the country.

But then there was a new season of Strictly and X Factor and another twist in the VIP child abuse inquiry saga - and the tabloids lost interest. 

By the end of the following week, Cameron had ordered a drone to kill a pair of Britons fighting as jihadis in Syria, the Queen had become the country's longest reigning monarch and Paula Radcliffe had been accused (falsely) of being a drugs cheat. Who had time for the boat people now?
Autumn was here, the political machine was cranking up after the summer break and for the newspapers it was time to return to the usual news mix. And, as far as migrants/refugees/asylum seekers were concerned, to return to the usual mix of hand-wringing and hostility.

Mirror September 3, 4, 14
Daily Mirror September 3, 4 and 14

The Daily Mirror, the one paper that has shunned front-page stories about migration, broke step for three days to cover the Kurdi story and the deaths of four more refugee babies two weeks later.  It had not led on any aspect of migration in the previous eight months and has not returned to it since.

The Daily Express, the paper that has been most vociferous in its rejection of immigrants in any circumstances, did not break step. It did not publish the Aylan photograph either on its front or inside, but instead spent a couple of days berating the EU for the human catastrophe unfolding on its borders before resuming normal service with a diabetes breakthrough.

Daily Express
Daily Express, September 3,4 and 5 last year

As the rest of Fleet Street finally recognised that the "swarm" of refugees was actually a collection of individuals with individual stories, Leo McKinstry kept his eyes focused on the issues that mattered: the trains running on time.

As the immigration crisis deepens, a mood of anarchy is descending across Europe. Our once well-ordered civilisation is sliding towards chaos in the face of the unprecedented, colossal influx of foreign arrivals. The signs of dislocation are all around us.Only yesterday the Eurostar service from Paris to London suffered massive delays because of a major security alert sparked by migrants climbing on to tracks and trains.
Against the Mirror's three migration splashes last year and this, the Express has managed 90.

refugees welcome
Promises were easy to make the day after that photograph appeared

The fifteen or twenty thousand have not, of course, reached our shores. And by April this year Cameron was denying entry to three thousand unaccompanied children on the grounds that they were already "safe" in Europe. 
For this he was taken to task by the Daily Mail, which has the sophistication to differentiate between the vulnerable and those it deems to be unworthy, even if its readers haven't. It also has the chutzpah to take credit where it may not be due and so when Cameron did an about-turn, the paper that vilifies economic migrants and foreign nurses hailed its "victory for compassion". 
Ever watchful for hypocrisy in others, the Mail acknowledged that it was "robust" in its opposition to mass migration and took a quick dig at the "liberal elite" who enjoy the services of cheap plumbers, nannies and cleaners, as it tried to square the circle of its demand that children who may be uncomfortable but who were not in danger should be allowed into the country while those who might contribute to the economy should not.

The three thousand haven't got here either. And what hope is there for them doing so when 178 children with an absolute legal right to come to Britain - because they are alone in Europe and have family here - can't cross the red tape?
If it's business as usual for the Press, politicians are just as recalcitrant.

The Sun pages 1, 2 and 5 on August 31

It is not only the Mail that can differentiate between "good" and "undesirable" migrants. Last Saturday, Arkadiusz Jozwik was kicked to death by a gang of teenagers in a small shopping arcade in Harlow, Essex, apparently because he was speaking Polish. The crime was shocking and the Sun was one of only two national papers to recognise its newsworthiness. It splashed on the story - and then, without a hint of irony or self-awareness, published a set of statistics on page 2 about hundreds of thousands of "hidden" EU migrants.
So on page 1, the paper mourns a solid family man who came to Britain thanks to his homeland's membership of the EU, and on the very next page decries the fact that anyone should be able to enter the country on those terms.

Oh yes, and a little further back there was a spread that likened the Calais Jungle to a festival site, describing a "booming micro-economy" with shops, restaurants, churches, mosques, two musical halls, a nightclub and a boxing gym. An accompanying single says that one "illegal" is stopped every hour in the UK.

Sun spread August 31
The Sun pages 8-9 on the day it reported the murder of Arkadiusz Jozwik
The paper might rightly argue that once here, anyone should be safe from murderous gangs, but might it not also pause to consider whether the rhetoric coming from Fleet Street is inflaming the situation?

Only a few days earlier, the paper's first instinct on learning that five young men had been drowned on Camber Sands was to ask if they were illegal immigrants - on the basis that they were not white and had been wearing shorts. They turned out to be a group of friends on a day trip from London.

Camber Sands

The Leave campaign in the EU referendum and its newspaper supporters made great play of immigration and of how leaving the community would give Britain back control of its borders - and there has been strong evidence of a rise in racist or "hate" crimes since the vote in June.
A certain section of our society appears to have believed that the moment the votes had been counted, all foreigners would be put on the next boat and that any who remained were fair game. It is frightening.
Going through the Sun's coverage of the issue so far this year, SubScribe had collated 120 almost entirely negative news reports and opinion pieces when this one from June 28 turned up:

Sun June 28
This spread, from June 28, was The Sun's 121st "migrant" story of the year
The Mail and the Sun may be able to tell the difference between refugees from war zones and Romanian car-washers, but how often do they bother - and can their readers? And why be so nasty about anyone wherever they come from?
People are, sadly, mugged at cashpoints all over the country every day, but if the perpetrator is a Romanian,  it's national news. And if the crime is more serious - rape or murder - it's worth a page lead at least.

Mail and Express Romanians

For the Daily Express, all foreigners are a problem and everything is Europe's fault. Since the Cameron became Prime Minister in 2010, the paper has splashed on migration issues on 179 occasions - including today - with a marked acceleration since the run-up to January 2014, when Romanians and Bulgarians were given full access to the UK. And that's not taking into account all the puffs at the top of the page when advice on living longer or rising house prices take centre stage.

Why? The paper has yet to respond to SubScribe's inquiries, but it may be supposed that if one were forthcoming, the answer would be "because it is what most concerns readers". 

In that it would have corroboration from Ipsos-Mori's monthly "issues" polls. Since that 2010 election, immigration has regularly emerged as the subject most frequently mentioned by voters. Fair enough, but another such topic is the health service and yet - miracle cures apart - the state of the NHS has bothered the Express's splash headline writers on only a handful of occasions over the past six years.
[The Mail, which - with 122 - comes second to the Express on the number of migration splashes since May 2010, is constantly on the case of the NHS, GPs and junior doctors.]

But do these papers reflect or feed public fears about immigration?

Mail v Express migrant splashes

SubScribe has been monitoring front pages for some years and it's actually quite hard to determine what should be included in these "migration" charts and the composites @gameoldgirl routinely posts on Twitter.
There's a lot of complaining about the proportion of the national budget spent on foreign aid (0.3%), how it should be diverted and the dodgy places that it is sent to (with some justification). These sorts of stories have been excluded.
So, too, have been stories about benefits going abroad to expats, those about Muslims who may not have integrated into UK society quite as the Mail or Express might wish, and all terror-related splashes.
It should also be pointed out that the "heavies" - the Telegraph in particular - are perhaps under-represented, since they often have immigration stories on their fronts, but these are only included on the #chartofshame if they are the lead to the paper.
That still leaves rather a lot.

As mentioned before, the Mirror does not lead on migration. The Sun and Star see footballers and reality TV stars as better sellers, but are generally hostile. The Telegraph is not quite as fevered as the white-top tabloids, but shares their outlook. The Guardian, i and Independent are all generally sympathetic, while the Times tries to steer a middle course.

migration splashes chart 2015-16

The chart above relates to print editions, since the papers are collated on the basis that they are what people see in the supermarkets and on television, and so have a greater impact than their circulations alone might imply.
The Independent figure therefore runs only to the end of March, when it ceased publishing in print. Since then, it has continued to produce and share "front pages" of its digital edition and nine of these were devoted to immigration - most of them neutral or sympathetic.

The same cannot be said of the Express, Mail or Sun. And there is a groundswell of opinion that something needs to happen to stop this dangerous drip-feed of negative headlines.

How can that be achieved?
My tweets are widely shared and common responses are "don't buy that rag" or "it should be shut down". Well, it's not a good idea to shut down a newspaper just because you disagree with it - and 60 million people don't buy any of those three papers, so "not buying" doesn't seem to be having any effect at the moment. 

Now at least two groups are mobilising to try to affect change.

CitizensUK is an organisation that seeks to help to settle immigrants into the community and it is particularly concerned about Britain's slowness in helping refugees and about the recent rise in "hate" crime.

Yesterday it organised a "memorial" service for Aylan Kurdi outside the Home Office, urging politicians and officials to act speedily to admit those 178 children who have an absolute right to be here and a further 209 who could come under Alf Dubs's amendment to the immigration bill. That seeks to help the most vulnerable, who may not have relatives in the UK, but have "valid claims for protection".  Next week the group will host a "Refugees welcome" summit in Birmingham to assess progress since last year and consider further action. 

Aylan memorial
The Aylan memorial outside the Home Office. Photo: Ana Ferreira

In the meantime, some of its members are looking at ideas to try to persuade newspapers to tone down their language, including an approach to the Press regulator Ipso.

SubScribe asked Ipso if it was comfortable with coverage as it stood and whether there was any way it could tackle the cumulative effect of stories that might not individually contravene the editors' code. Its director of external affairs Niall Duffy confirmed that the regulator considered stories on a case-by-case basis, but pointed out that it did have the power to instigate an investigation of its own without any complaint if it considered the issue serious enough. It did, indeed, do exactly that with the Brooks Newmark sting a couple of years back. SubScribe is still awaiting a reply to the question of whether the immigration coverage might qualify.

The signs are not auspicious, however, given the ruling - in the face of an intervention from the UN high commissioner for human rights -  that Katie Hopkins's notorious "cockroach" column did not breach its guidelines on discrimination.

There are those who believe that Ipso cannot be an effective regulator because it is still in the pay of the big newspaper publishers. The putative rival regulator, Impress, recently started consultation on its own draft code of conduct. 
Policy and complaints officer Brigit Morris was hopeful that the end product would be strong enough to tackle such drip effects, describing them as a very important and challenging area for regulation. Morris said that the code committee had considered the issue and that Impress's discrimination provision set a high bar for publishers, including an obligation not to incite hatred against a group.

While the draft code does not specifically address cumulative discrimination as this is very difficult to enforce in a regulatory sense, Impress believes that the draft provision would generate a better culture at news publications when it comes to running stories that discriminate against individuals or groups on the basis of their protected characteristics

She added, however, that - like Ipso - complaints could not be advanced based on a collection of articles, but that the Impress board - again like Ipso - would have the power to start its own investigations in serious circumstances "where there is evidence of systematic wrongdoing".
In other words, it's pretty much the same - and no national publisher has yet signed up to be regulated by this organisation.
Not encouraging.

Another approach is to try to convince advertisers not to spend with newspapers that paint a relentlessly negative portrait of foreign nationals coming to our country or in need of our support. Step forward Richard Wilson.

Sixteen years ago, Wilson's elder sister was among the victims of a massacre in Burundi. What happened next coloured his view of life and the Press. A Daily Mail reporter approached his mother - who had taught English to refugees from a slew of conflicts - to tell her story. She gently showed him the door, explaining that she had lost count of the number of newspaper articles - many from the Mail - that she had seen portraying refugees as liars, cheats, frauds, “bogus” people.
My mother had seen the effect of these stories on government policy, and she’d seen the effect of those increasingly harsh policies on her students. She would feel she was betraying them now if she had anything to do with the Daily Mail... Just three days after suffering one of the worst blows of her life, faced with a representative of an organisation that she and most of her colleagues regarded as something close to “hate media”, she’d shown a calmness and dignity that I found quite extraordinary.

When Wilson saw Katie Hopkins's column in the Sun describing Mediterranean boat people as cockroaches, it struck a chord. It was the very simile used by "hate radio" stations to explain the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. A year later, the tide of anti-immigration coverage before the referendum spurred him to set up a Facebook page called Stop Funding Hate and a petition aimed at persuading Virgin to stop advertising in the Express, Mail and Sun. A big target, but a well-chosen one, since Branson himself had advocated the power of petitions in his own blog a few years back.
Virgin is still advertising with the target tabloids, but the Facebook page has had more than five million views, attracted 78,000 "likes" and the petition has more than 41,000 signatures.
Wilson says:

Our aim is to shift the balance of incentives so that running hate campaigns costs newspapers more money through lost advertising than it makes them in sales.
We hope that this will contribute to a long-term improvement in the quality and tone of Sun, Mail and Express coverage about the groups that they have previously demonised.
I hope that we can also contribute to a wider debate about the extent of demonisation and hate speech across the board. It clearly isn't just about the right-wing press. It also seems endemic in left wing discourse and everywhere in between. Somehow describing human beings as "vermin", "traitors", "cockroaches" and "monsters" seems to have become normalised. And these words have consequences.

So what's the strategy?
We are building a team of volunteers to carry out more in-depth research - to identify and track advertisers in the Sun, Express and Daily Mail more systematically - especially where there seems to be a strong clash with the company's brand values and/or with the values of the advertiser's target customer base. This research will then inform the development of the campaign as we start to widen it out.
We've already found some quite surprising cases - for example this week Waitrose, Iceland and M&S were all running adverts in the Daily Express. What's striking is that companies that might shy away from supporting other types of socially harmful activity don't yet seem to make the connection when it comes to media hate campaigns. We're hoping that strong consumer pressure might start to change this. Obviously the first company that does pull their advertising will be showing that they're ahead of the curve in responding to the deep public concern around this issue, so there are some positive incentives too.

It'll be a difficult trick to pull off. The whole essence of an independent Press is that it shouldn't be influenced by people with power or money in their pockets, so do we really want advertisers dictating or censoring editorial content? [SubScribe admits it supports Stop Funding Hate's ambition, but is hesitating about signing its petition for this very reason.] Wilson recognises the delicate balance he must achieve with his campaign, saying the objective is to modify behaviour, not to censor.
And is it not unreasonable for companies to decide that it's not good for their image to be associated with a particular brand or organisation? Look at what happened to Maria Sharapova's sponsorship deals after her failed drug test.
The extreme example of this is the closure of the News of the World when advertisers deserted after the Milly Dowler phone-hacking story. But if Rupert Murdoch hadn't actually wanted to close the NotW, he would have brazened it out.
The campaigners are taking on hugely powerful players who can be guaranteed to deploy their big guns if they feel their challengers are gaining traction. It's not surprising that both groups are turning their attention first to the Express rather than Dacre or Murdoch.

So, finally, what are these groups fighting?
Here are some of the composites, the stats, that SubScribe has collated over the past couple of years, the accumulation of venom and bile coming from an honourable trade that is supposed to hold authorities to account, to defend the oppressed and inform the people.  The language and mood are ugly.
The freedom of the Press is an essential element of democracy, but surely we need to find a mechanism that can both protect that and stop this:

migration splashes graphic

Sometimes a story is so beguiling that it can be regurgitated several times over a few years. See this old blog post and look at the pictures below illustrating Express stories from 2010 and March this year (a follow-up to a Sun spread the day before). Doesn't the house and its interior look familiar?

Romanian palaces

The drip-feed effect

Express 2011
Mail 2011

Express 2012
Mail 2012

Express 2013
Mail 2013

Express 2014
Mail 2014


Express 2015

Mail 2015

...and it's not just the splashes (of which more will follow next week). There are the puffs:

express puffs

...and the columnists:

Express and Mail columnists 2016
sun opinion

All of which send just one message:

Getty images Refugees not welcome
Photograph: Getty Images

Further reading

The whitetops and immigration: the inside story of 2016

By the end of the year, our paid-for national newspapers had led on migration a total of 277 times, with more than half coming from the Mail and Express. This follow-up post looks at what they put on the inside pages.