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New Statesman: Hugh Grant turns the tables on the phone hackers

Hugh Grant secretly recorded a conversation with former News of the World deputy features editor Paul McMullen, during which the reporter claimed that former NotW editor Rebekah Brooks “absolutely” knew about illegal phone hacking.

The revelation appears in an article Grant has written for the New Statesman, which is guest-edited this week by the actor’s former partner Jemima Khan.

Grant, who believes he was himself a victim of phone hacking, ended up talking to McMullan when his “midlife crisis car” broke down in a Kent village just before Christmas and he was forced to accept a lift from the reporter, who was following him.

He was Paul McMullan, one of two ex-NoW hacks who had blown the whistle (in the Guardian and on Channel 4’s Dispatches) on the full extent of phone-hacking at the paper, particularly under its former editor Andy Coulson. This was interesting, as I had been a victim – a fact he confirmed as we drove along. He also had an unusual defence of the practice: that phone hacking was a price you had to pay for living in a free society. I asked how that worked exactly, but we ran out of time, and next thing we had arrived and he was asking me if I would pose for a photo with him, “not for publication, just for the wall of the pub”.

I agreed and the picture duly appeared in the Mail on Sunday that weekend with his creative version of the encounter. He had asked me to drop into his pub some time. So when, some months later, Jemima asked me to write a piece for this paper, it occurred to me it might be interesting to take him up on his invitation.

So Grant returned to the the Castle Inn Pub in Dover wearing a hidden microphone, and the fruits of his chat with McMullan will be published in this week’s New Statesman. An edited version is at this link.

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Sky News: Express and Mail owners discuss merger

April 4th, 2011 | No Comments | Posted by in Business, Editors' pick, Newspapers

Sky News is reporting that Richard Desmond has discussed selling the Express to the Daily Mail and General Trust.

Writing on the Sky’s blog, City editor Mark Kleinman claims talks have taken place between the chairman of Northern and Shell and Lord Rothermere, chairman of DMGT.

The two men are now said to get on reasonably well, and I understand both believe that a deal could be in their interests. A merger of the titles would create a newspaper powerhouse commanding weekday sales of more than 3m copies, according to the ABCs (which measure newspaper circulation) for February.

It’s not clear what DMGT would plan to do with the Express if it did buy it. I’m told that it has considered launching a red-top tabloid to compete with the Sun at various points during the last decade, a consideration that would be fulfilled if it acquired the Daily Star and its Sunday sister title, which Desmond also owns.

Kleinman’s blog is not the first to report on the potential sale of the Express. Last month the Evening Standard mentioned a possible offloading of the title when reporting Desmond’s readiness to sell three magazines, including OK!

Roy Greenslade ponders what form a DGMT Express could take.

To reduce national press ownership would be a mighty step at a time when there are increasing concerns about pluralism and diversity of voice.

Of course, the nature of the merger need not result in the disappearance of the Express title. I guess it would be possible for DMGT to publish both papers.

Given their current similarity, there would be no point in producing the Express in its current form. Perhaps it could be transformed into a cheap Mail (on the lines of The Independent‘s kid sister, i).

Then again, maybe Desmond and Rothermere are just having a laugh. I say again: are they really being serious?

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paidContent UK: Mail Online on iPad next week

paidContent UK is reporting that the Mail Online is due to launch on the iPad next week. According to the article, Mail Online publisher A&N Media aims to grow digital to represent a quarter of its revenue by 2016 “by adding a range of new subscription options and tilting away from advertising alone”.

A&N won’t get there by wedding itself to paid content, however. “We’ve not adopted any ideological beliefs in terms of paid versus free and remain open,” [A&N CEO Kevin] Beatty said. “Mail Online newspapers’ iPad edition is released next week … with our iPad edition, we’ll be trialling both paid and free models.”

The publisher has previously said the Mail Online website will remain free whilst it pitches its growing audience scale to advertisers.

According to the latest figures from the Audit Bureau of Circulations, Mail Online has almost 51 million monthly unique visitors, (February 2011). The latest results represented the site’s first month-on-month fall in traffic for more than a year, after reaching just over 56 million in the slightly longer month of January.

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Daily Mail apologises to Matt Lucas over invasion of privacy claim

December 17th, 2010 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Legal

It was reported yesterday that comedian and actor Matt Lucas received “substantial undisclosed” damages and an apology from Associated Newspapers following an article in the Daily Mail earlier this year.

Lucas sued for invasion of privacy over the article headlined “How Matt Lucas learnt to laugh again” following his ex-partner’s death. His law firm Schillings claimed that the article “constituted an unlawful intrusion into his grief and suffering and an invasion of his privacy”.

In the apology on MailOnline, the paper said the article had “caused great upset to Mr Lucas which we did not intend and regret”.

The article on Mr Lucas’ return to public life following the tragic death of Kevin McGee suggested he had ignored Kevin’s calls, became a virtual recluse, and hosted a birthday party to ‘move on’. We accept this was not the case and apologise to Mr Lucas.

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Daily Mail hides SEO job ad in search crawler file

August 24th, 2010 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Jobs, Search

It’s possible that SEO types have a sense of humour. Evidence comes courtesy of the Daily Mail, which has hidden a job advert for an SEO manager inside a file that should only really be read by search engine crawlers.

The job ad was discovered by eagle-eyed SEO man Malcolm Coles in a robot.txt file, which blocks the crawlers from indexing certain parts of the site.

Disallow: /home/ireland/
Disallow: /home/scotland/

# August 12th, MailOnline are looking for a talented SEO Manager so if you found this then you’re the kind of techie we need!
# Send your CV to holly dot ward at mailonline dot co dot uk

# Begin standard rules
# Apply rules to all user agents updated 08/06/08
ACAP-crawler: *

Very clever. People who don’t read these kind of things need not apply, obviously.

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The Poke discovers the Daily Mail’s secret editorial formula

July 16th, 2010 | No Comments | Posted by in Journalism

All just a bit of fun of course, but satirical news website The Poke has created its own London Underground map of what it considers to be the Daily Mail’s editorial strategy.

It seems Journalism.co.uk gets off at “sun beds” on its trips to the big smoke:

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The Media Blog: Mail falls for fake Steve Jobs tweet

Daily Mail managers might need to invest in some social media lessons for their journalists. If  you haven’t already noted the paper’s impressive Twitter fail, in its research for a misguided article about the iPhone 4, read this.

Mashable also has an account; read it here.

The Daily Mail reported this morning than an iPhone 4 recall is underway, but don’t believe it; the UK publication’s source was a tweet from a fake Steve Jobs Twitter account. Apple hasn’t announced any plans to recall its new phone.

The original story (headline captured by Journalisted here) seems to have disappeared from the Mail’s site.

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MediaGuardian: DMGT records second highest ever profit

December 9th, 2009 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Newspapers

Interesting to note amidst a backdrop of job cuts and industry crisis talks that the newspaper industry is still a business – and sometimes still a big money one.

In its annual report released yesterday, publishing group Daily Mail & General Trust announced an operating profit for 2009 of £278 million.

The group’s businesses now make up 73 per cent (£203 million) of this operating profit, with newspaper publishing only accounting for 27 per cent (£75 million). Compare this to 1996 when DMGT’s newspapers made up 86 per cent of this figure.

“My father made a decision some 15 years ago to diversify the group away from the UK newspaper market into other media less dependent on newspapers, advertising and the UK. Given what has happened in the last year, that decision has proved to have been inspired. From next to nothing then, our B2B businesses have this year contributed nearly three quarters of the group’s profit, with over 60 per cent of our profits coming from outside the UK. While some of the diversification has been more successful than others, in total it has been a well executed expansion, largely into the United States, graveyard of so many UK company expansion plans,” said group chairman Viscount Rothermere in a statement.

Full story at this link…

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PCC rules Daily Mail not in breach of code over Iain Dale diary piece

November 6th, 2009 | 2 Comments | Posted by in Journalism, Newspapers

The Press Complaints Commission has ruled that the Daily Mail was not in breach of clause 12 (discrimination) with a diary piece that described blogger and aspiring Conservative candidate Iain Dale ‘overtly gay’.  Commenting on Dale’s bid for the parliamentary constituency of Bracknell, the piece said it was ‘charming how homosexuals rally like-minded chaps to their cause’.  Dale lodged a complaint, claiming that the references were pejorative and the article homophobic, the PCC noted.

Today the PCC reported:

“The Commission could understand why the complainant found the comments to be snide and objectionable.  However, it did not rule that there had been a breach of Clause 12 (Discrimination) of the Code.  It noted that the item had used no pejorative term for the complainant, nor had it ‘outed’ him.  In the Commission’s view, the piece was uncharitable, but – in the context of a diary column, known to poke fun at public figures – was not an arbitrary attack on him on the basis of his sexuality.

“The Commission said that: ‘where it is debatable – as in this case – about whether remarks can be regarded solely as pejorative and gratuitous, the Commission should be slow to restrict the right to express an opinion, however snippy it might be.  While people may occasionally be insulted or upset by what is said about them in newspapers, the right to freedom of expression that journalists enjoy also includes the right – within the law – to give offence.'”

In the wake of the Jan Moir episode at the end of last month, a petition to Gordon Brown was launched, questioning the impartiality of the PCC and calling for its replacement by a public body. The PCC’s deputy director (and soon-to-be director) Stephen Abell subsequently defended the position of Daily Mail editor, Paul Dacre, as head of its code committee.

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21,000 complaints made to PCC over Jan Moir article; highest number in Commission’s history

The Press Complaints Commission is to consider complaints made about Jan Moir’s column about Stephen Gately’s death in the Daily Mail on Friday.

Over the weekend, the PCC received more than 21,000 complaints about the column by Jan Moir published in the Daily Mail on Friday October 16, the industry’s self-regulation body has reported.

“These complaints follow widespread discussion of the subject on social networking sites – especially Twitter – and represent by far the highest number of complaints ever received about a single article in the history of the Commission,” the statement said.

Third-party complaints recognised, but priority given to ‘affected parties’

“The PCC generally requires the involvement of directly-affected parties  in its investigations, and it has pro-actively been in touch with representatives of Boyzone  – who are in contact with Stephen Gately’s family – since shortly after his death.  Any complaint from the affected parties will naturally be given precedence by the Commission, in line with its normal procedures,” it said, on the issue of whether third-party complaints would be investigated.

“If, for whatever reason, those individuals do not wish to make a complaint, the PCC will in any case write to the Daily Mail for its response to the more general complaints from the public before considering whether there are any issues under the Code to pursue.

“As the PCC will not be in a position to engage in direct correspondence with every complainant, it is issuing this statement to make clear what action it will be taking.  It will make a further public statement when it has considered the matter.”

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