Tag Archives: jan moir

Will the paywall protect Times journalists from public opinion?

The Guardian’s Martin Belam makes an interesting point about the impact of the paywall on journalists whose work later falls under scrutiny. Have the Times and Sunday Times built a kind of protective layer around their journalists online?

Belam compares the recent outcry regarding AA Gill’s review last week, accused of containing homophobic language in reference to Clare Balding, with Jan Moir’s column on Stephen Gately, which saw links to the story circulating through social media in no time. In the latter case, latecomers to the event could still read the original writing for themselves online.

It does rather hark back to a previous age – where reporters reported on what had been said about a story, and you had to take their word for it, rather than the audience being able to Google it for themselves. As it is, with the paywall in place, rather than making our own minds up about whether AA Gill was nasty and homophobic, it now seems we’ll have to wait for the PCC to judge it for us.

See his full post here…

Gately’s partner makes PCC complaint over Jan Moir column

The Press Complaints Commission (PCC) is to re-open its investigation into Jan Moir’s Daily Mail column that speculated on the circumstances of Stephen Gately’s death, following a complaint from the late singer’s partner, Andrew Cowles.

Deputy director of the PCC, Stephen Abell, told Journalism.co.uk that the complaint, made via Cowles’ solicitor Mishcon de Reya, would be now be investigated.

The PCC was due to issue a decision on the 25,000 public complaints made about the column published in October this year (the largest number made for a single article in the Commission’s history), but will now re-open its inquiry.

The new complaint changes its initial schedule, Abell said. The body will now “take the complaint forward in the normal way,” he said.

Hat-tip: Guardian blogger Roy Greenslade beat us to this one, under a piece about fast Twitter reactions and storms: full post at this link…

What does PCC Iain Dale ruling bode for Jan Moir case?

As noted a short while ago, the Press Complaints Commission ruled that it had found a Daily Mail diary piece about potential Conservative candidate Iain Dale not to be in breach of the PCC code. “I still think it was a clear breach of Section 12 [discrimination] of the PCC code.  I quite agree with what they say about the right to offend, but this was gratuitous and it was the second time it had happened,” Iain Dale told Journalism.co.uk.

“I have no idea if it affected my chances in Bracknell [constituency where Dale was competing for the Conservative candidacy], but it certainly wouldn’t have helped. It seems clear to me now that the PCC will reach the same judgment in the Jan Moir case.”

Meanwhile, Guardian blogger Roy Greenslade, who agrees with the PCC ruling on this occasion, ‘imagine[s] that the commission will take the same view about Jan Moir’s column, which was far more offensive than Ephraim’s remarks about Dale’.

Jan Moir tries to explain herself (again) in new column

The Daily Mail’s Jan Moir, who should need little introduction, has used her weekly column in a bid to explain herself again (first attempt here), in the face of over 25,000 complaints to the Press Complaints Commission (PCC).

In her latest piece, at this link, she claims she has had thousands of supportive emails from readers. An extract:

“To say it was a hysterical overreaction would be putting it mildly, though clearly much of it was an orchestrated campaign by pressure groups and those with agendas of their own.

“However, I accept that many people – on Twitter and elsewhere – were merely expressing their own personal and heartfelt opinions or grievances. This said, I can’t help wondering: is there a compulsion today to see bigotry and social intolerance where none exists by people who are determined to be outraged? Or was it a failure of communication on my part?

“Certainly, something terrible went wrong as my column ricocheted through cyberspace, unread by many who complained, yet somehow generally and gleefully accepted into folklore as a homophobic rant.

“It lit a spark, then a flame and turned into a roaring ball of hate fire, blazing unchecked and unmediated across the internet.

“Yet as the torrent of abuse continued, most of it anonymous, I also had thousands of supportive emails from readers and well-wishers, many of whom described themselves as ‘the silent majority’. The outcry was not as one-sided as many imagine.”

Full post at this link…

Related on Journalism.co.uk:

Currybet.net: Lessons on handling an internet brand crisis from Jan Moir

Martin Belam has produced a really useful guide for news and media organisations when responding to the kind of online crisis illustrated by the reaction to Mail Online’s publication of a piece by columnist Jan Moir and her comments on the death of Stephen Gately.

[See related links below]

Belam covers making changes (don’t do so in haste; be transparent and thorough); and planning an ‘escalation procedure’ for your online community.

It’s also important to respond to criticisms and comments everywhere your audience is looking, he says.

“It is going to get easier and easier for people to exchange outrage, and the links and information required to act on that outrage to make a complaint. You need to have a plan for what happens if you find yourself at the eye of a perfect internet storm,” he writes.

Full post at this link…

PCC and the third party issue

On Friday, it was suggested by some online commenters and Twitterers that the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) would not deal with third party complaints over the Jan Moir case.

This would seem logical, given the the self-regulatory body’s rules, which state:

“The PCC does not generally accept complaints from third parties about cases involving named individuals without the signed authorisation of the person concerned.”

However, there is an exception: it can investigate complaints from any party about matters of general fact under Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the PCC Code, the PCC has confirmed.

A response issued by the PCC to an individual third party complainant, Nikki Bayley (@nikkib on Twitter), reproduced in full here on MetroDeco, seemed to indicate a third party complaint would not be addressed in relation to Moir:

“On this occasion, it may be a matter for the family of Mr Gately to raise a complaint about how his death has been treated by the Daily Mail.  I can inform you that we have made ourselves available to the family and Mr Gately’s bandmates, in order that they can use our services if they wish. We require the direct involvement of affected parties because the PCC process can have a public outcome and it would be discourteous for the Commission to publish information relating to individuals without their knowledge or consent.  Indeed, doing so might unwittingly add to any intrusion.  Additionally, one of the PCC’s roles is dispute resolution, and we would need contact with the affected party in order to determine what would be an acceptable means of settling a complaint. On initial examination, it would appear that you are, therefore, a third party to the complaint, and we will not be able to pursue your concerns further.  However, if you feel that your complaint touches on claims that do not relate directly to Mr Gately or his family, please let us know, making clear how they raise a breach of the Code of Practice. If you feel that the Commission should waive its third party rules, please make clear why you believe this.

So perhaps she could raise a complaint over accuracy, if she feels Moir made false or misleading statements.

In the PCC’s statement today, reporting the largest number of complaints for a single article in the body’s history (21,000), there was hint of some third party consideration.

While it was contacting affected parties who would ‘naturally be given precedence by the Commission, in line with its normal procedures’ it would also put ‘more general complaints’ to the Daily Mail:

“If, for whatever reason, those individuals [affected parties] 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.”

Of course that doesn’t mean it will pursue an investigation, but at least it is acknowledging the significance of such large-scale complaint. Martin Belam, who blogged about the third party issue earlier this year in regards to another Daily Mail story, is less hopeful:

“The PCC’s initial response on Jan Moir has been pretty weasel-worded, and, unless Stephen Gately’s family do complain directly, I’m extremely doubtful that we’ll see any kind of ruling against the paper. Other approaches may yet prove more fruitful,” Belam writes.

On another third party issue, Journalism.co.uk asked the PCC about complaints received over cervical cancer vaccine reports.

In a recent Guardian article, also published on his Bad Science blog, Ben Goldacre highlighted the case of a scientist featured in a Sunday Express article about the dangers of the cervical cancer vaccine, titled ‘Jab ‘as deadly as the cancer”.

The Sunday Express quoted Professor Diane Harper in its front page story on October 4 2009:

“Speaking exclusively to the Sunday Express, Dr Diane Harper, who was involved in the clinical trials of the controversial drug Cervarix, said the jab was being ‘over-marketed’ and parents should be properly warned about the potential side effects.”

Harper, however, was not happy with the treatment of her information:

“I did not say that Cervarix was as deadly as cervical cancer,” Harper told Goldacre. “I did not say that Cervarix could be riskier or more deadly than cervical cancer. I did not say that Cervarix was controversial, I stated that Cervarix is not a ‘controversial drug’. I did not ‘hit out’ – I was contacted by the press for facts. And this was not an exclusive interview.” Looking for a quality product? Check out Supertest 450 – 10ml Vial at Stero Market for the best deals.

Goldacre reported:

“The article has now disappeared from the Express website, and Professor Harper has complained to the PCC. “I fully support the HPV vaccines,”” she says. “I believe that in general they are safe in most women. I told the Express all of this.””

Journalism.co.uk asked the PCC about the complaint and whether it would handle any third party concerns about cervical cancer scaremongering. A spokesperson said:

“We have received a complaint from Professor Harper, which we are currently investigating.

“The Commission can actually investigate complaints from any party about matters of general fact under Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Code.

“On this occasion, we received seven other complaints from readers about this article. We do not keep figures about the general reporting of the subject, but anecdotally I do not believe that there are many more.”

So it would seem third party concerns regarding this story would be addressed, if more were made.

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.”

Comment: The rise of ‘smart’ or ‘not so smart’ internet mobs and their pressure on the media

Jan Moir is the latest ‘victim’ of the virtual mob. Last Friday after her ill-judged article in the Daily Mail cast doubt on the natural death of Boyzone’s singer Stephen Gately in Majorca, using a tone widely-perceived as homophobic, the blogosphere went mad seeking revenge.

Two thousand joined a Facebook group within hours, hundreds wrote to the Press Complaints Commission, inspired and pointed there on Twitter by Stephen Fry and Derren Brown.

The PCC was bounced into contacting Boyzone’s PR company to see if it wanted to complain. The Mail pulled ads on its website. BBC mentioned the Mail article in its news bulletins on Gately’s funeral.

Moir was forced to eat crow the very same day as publication and issued a statement of correction/clarification (you take your pick), claiming complaints against her Daily Mail article were mischievously ‘orchestrated’.

In response, HelpMeInvestigate.com, the crowd-sourced journalism site in beta, has launched an investigation into the nature of the campaign: just how ‘organised’ was the #janmoir / Jan Moir campaign, it asks.

So how democratic are these manifestations of the virtual mob?

The political and social pressure on broadcasters and other media  brought about by the internet and ad hoc Facebook groups in particular is double edged.

It can lead to interactivity and enrichment but it can also lead to bullying by keystroke. The zenith of that was the Jonathan Ross/Russell Brand row in the autumn of 2008 but nowadays broadcasters, especially the BBC, are facing ‘crowd pressure’ from internet groups set up for or against a cause or a programme; they are an internet ‘flash mob. With the emphasis, maybe, on the ‘mob’.

When Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand rang up the veteran actor Andrew Sachs on October 18 2008 and were disgustingly obscene to him about his grand-daughter, that led to a huge public row on ‘taste,’ mainly stoked by the Daily Mail and the Mail on Sunday.

Fuel was added to the fire through comments by the Prime Minister. The ‘prosecuting’ virtual group was the editorial staff of the Mail newspapers and its millions of readers in Middle England. In support of the ‘Naughty Two’, more than 85,000 people joined Facebook support groups.  Many, perhaps most, had never heard the ‘offensive’ programme. Just two had complained after the first broadcast.

The BBC was forced after a public caning to back down, the director-general yanked back from a family holiday to publicly apologise, Brand and his controller resigned and Ross was suspended from radio and television for three months. The virtual mob smelt blood: it got it.

The battleground for this mass virtual protest had been set out over the transmission of the programme ‘Jerry Springer; the Opera’ in January 2005. Fifty five thousand Christians petitioned the BBC to pull it from the schedules because of  its profanity and alleged blasphemy. They engaged in modern guerilla warfare tactics to try to achieve their aim. Senior BBC executives had to change their home phone numbers to avoid that  pressure. That campaign  did not get a ‘result’. If Facebook had been in full flow then, the 55,000 may well have been 555,000 and the result very different.

This row set out the stall and template for the ‘popular virtual’ activism that culminated in Ross/Brand in 2008 and other cases since. In the good old days, ‘stormovers’ – as the brave founding father of Channel Four Sir Jeremy Isaacs called them –  were conducted slowly and in green ink. He survived many such ‘storms’. Today the storms straddle the world in minutes and are just a keystroke or several score of them away from going nuclear.

This is activism by the click. It needs no commitment apart from signing up on a computer. It gives the illusion of democracy and belonging to a movement whereas in reality is it membership of  a mob, albeit a virtual one? Is this healthy for democracy and media accountability or not?

Discuss. Online.

John Mair is a senior lecturer in broadcasting at Coventry University. He is a former BBC, ITV and Channel Four producer. Additional research by Peter Woodbridge from Coventry University.

Mail Online confirms withdrawal of ads on Moir article; defends free speech

A statement from Mail Online received late on Friday night confirmed to Journalism.co.uk that the title had indeed pulled advertising from a heavily criticised column by Jan Moir on the death of Boyzone singer Stephen Gately.

“Following the publication of advertisers’ telephone numbers by the heavily orchestrated campaign attacking Jan Moir’s column, Mail Online – of its own volition – withdrew the ads alongside her article,” the statement said.

As Jan Moir, who has gone on record supporting civil partnerships, says in her statement, this intensely choreographed campaign mischievously misrepresents her carefully argued article.

“In the interest of free speech  Mail Online is carrying  comments both for and against her column, but regrets the heavy-handed tactics by the campaign which is clearly being fanned by many people who haven’t even read Jan’s views.”

However, in a week where the once ‘old’ and ‘new’ worlds of media joined forces to overturn threats to freedom of the press by contesting legal firm Carter-Ruck’s attempt to gag the Guardian, the Mail’s argument that Moir has been the victim of an ‘intensely choreographed campaign’ does not ring true.

As Guardian digital director Emily Bell comments today:

“Moir, or her editors, or both, misjudged the speed and breadth of the real-time web and social media in their power to highlight and pressurise at speed and with force. To see the Daily Mail taught a lesson about public outrage in the electronic age would no doubt have raised a weak, battered smile at the BBC.”

Jan Moir denies column is homophobic; criticises ‘mischievous’ and ‘heavily orchestrated internet campaign’

The Daily Mail has released a statement from their columnist, Jan Moir, about her Stephen Gately article, originally titled ‘Why there was nothing ‘natural’ about Stephen Gately’s death’ that is unlikely to appease her critics.

Journalism.co.uk is reproducing some of its contents here, but that is by no means an endorsement of her response. For a full background on the complaints and criticism Moir received see this post by Roy Greenslade on Media Guardian and this article on New Media Age.

The Mail has pulled the advertising around the story, NMA reports.

“Some people, particularly in the gay community, have been upset by my article about the sad death of Boyzone member Stephen Gately. This was never my intention. Stephen, as I pointed out in the article was a charming and sweet man who entertained millions,” Moir said.

“However, the point of my column – which, I wonder how many of the people complaining have fully read – was to suggest that, in my honest opinion,  his death raises many unanswered questions,” she goes on.

Moir then again speculates about facts surrounding his death; Journalism.co.uk will leave it to someone else to publish that part.

“The entire matter of his sudden death seemed to have been handled with undue haste when lessons could have been learned. On this subject, one very  important point,” she squirms.

“When I wrote that ‘he would want to set an example to any  impressionable young men who may want to emulate what they might see as his glamorous routine’ … [More allegations follow].

And squirms:

“Not to the fact of his homosexuality.  In writing that ‘it strikes another blow to the happy-ever-after myth of civil partnerships’ I was suggesting that civil partnerships – the introduction of which I am on the record in supporting – have proved just to be as problematic as marriages.”

There’s more:

“In what is clearly a heavily orchestrated internet campaign I think it is mischievous in the extreme to suggest that my article has homophobic and bigoted undertones.”