My favourite journalism bloopers

'Tis the season for giving so, after a serious year in which journalism has taken a heavy battering from all sides, I though it time for a more lighthearted post.

So here we have it: My Top 10 Bloopers.

Before I start I would like to say that I have made some right corkers in my time. For example, on my first intro at the Derby Evening Telegraph I wrote:
Choir Leader Anne Smith is desperate for more male members to add a little cheer to her Christmas celebrations
Fortunately I had a very amused sub to save me from the embarrassment of that going in the paper.

So. Here goes:

1) It's a classic. I thought that by now all subs would be very wary of putting the words 'Blow' and 'Job' in close proximity but that's what happened on the Oxford Mail.

I know, I know. The kicker's in bold and there's a colon in between but still.....

2) The Juxtaposition is a funny beast and tricky to manage when advertising and editorial departments don't talk as much as they should.

But putting the words 'Don't bury your head' next to the picture of a mother describing the horror of hearing that her only son had been decapitated caused the Derby Evening Telegraph red-faces all round. I was on the early shift that day and had 35 complaints in the first 15 minutes!

3) What are Ant and Dec up to?

One from the Express this time. Difficult to see what happened here but a bit of rooting around on Google finds the claim that they changed 'Can Dec finally match Ant?' to 'Can Dec at last match Ant?' but forgot to update the right-hand page before sending to print!

4) I knew she was odd but WTF? Here, in the sadly departed London Lite, we see Amy Winehouse heading out on the town. But what's that she's holding? A severed hand. Eeek. Odd - even for her.

Note to sub - step away from the Photoshop.

5) Mary, Mary quite contrary. If this man is homeless, how was he attacked in his own home? Someone was half-asleep on this one.

6) Quite possibly the best smutty headline of all time. I mean, I know what the Gloucestershire Echo sub is trying to say. But extra services offered by girls at Cheltenham Ladies College caused quite a stir on Twitter last year.

7) This one from the Ludlow Journal only makes sense when you look at the keyboard and realise that I is next to O, and K is next to L but I doubt Tony Fuller was best pleased when he read this caption and saw he had been renamed Tiny Fukker.

8) What year is it again? This piece in the i was a very insightful column about the improvement in the Tour de France this year. Unfortunately the sub appears to be looking to the future.

9) My word that Kendra is dirty. The model and reality TV star released a candid autobiography but the Daily Mail seems to have got confused between its wrestling metaphor (no holds barred) and its pornography metaphor (no holes barred). Still, maybe this wasn't a mistake...

10) Back to Leveson again and if the good Lord (Leveson that is, not the big imaginary fella up in the clouds) isn't careful, this kicker will represent how every feels about the media for all eternity.

I am fairly certain that the Daily Mail was referring to the media scrum at the Amanda Knox trial or perhaps labeling their colleagues media scum was another dig at Desmond?

Hope you've enjoyed - feel free to use the comments to direct us to your own favourites.

I can't claim credit for all the above. Some I have spotted, some were spotted by HoldTheFrontPage and some came to me via Twitter.

Am I poisoning the minds of the young?

I had an interesting Twitter exchange with former senior journalist at the News of the World, Jules Stenson, at the weekend.

To be fair, I started it when I tweeted the following:

If you were starting to feel sorry for tabloid journos, listen to ex NOTW hack Jules Stenson on Media Show Pod. What a turd #journalism

Stenson took great exception to this and replied. I have to say I am impressed by his dedication to Twitter – he does not follow me, my tweet was not retweeted and I didn’t tag him directly. One can only assume he regularly searches Twitter – and perhaps the internet at large – to see what people are writing and saying about him.

His reply:

@MBradbrook Your students must be proud to have such an articulate man as a lecturer.

First off I have to say. It’s a fair cop. I was not at my most eloquent when I described Stenson as a ‘turd’ – but then, in my defence, neither was I at my most inaccurate.

I should add that I don’t personally know him so perhaps I should amend my description to ‘professional turd’, because for all I know he might be lovely to kittens and a perfect delight in his home life.

What was it about his interview that irked me so? Well, it was his lack of honesty. By that I don’t mean that he outright lied but, like many tabloid journalists, he failed to tell the whole truth.

Two examples:

1) Hugh Grant was a legitimate target for press intrusion because he supported greater regulation of the press.

2) Steve Coogan was a legitimate target for press intrusion as he gave Piers Morgan a ‘laddish interview’ in which he talked about his private life.

What is the dishonesty here? Well how about:

1) Hugh Grant has had his private life ‘investigated’ by the tabloids for far longer than he has supported press regulation. It’s not a chicken and egg situation here people – he has been a topic of fascination for 15 years plus.

2) Likewise, Coogan has also been on the receiving end so often before the interview with Piers Morgan that it renders Stenson’s argument disingenuous in the extreme.

To be honest I was a little embarrassed at being caught descending to the level of name-calling but replied to Stenson as follows:

@julesstenson sometimes it's just best to tell it as it is. There are worse crimes in #journalism than a lack of articulation

He was on no mood to debate journalistic crimes however and went on the offensive:

@MBradbrook Staggered they let you teach journalism.

Presuming ‘they’ to be the University of Gloucestershire (my employer) it seems an incredible statement to make on the basis of a 140 character tweet. But then again, doesn’t that just sum up the issues with tabloid journalism? No research, no analysis just a snap judgement.

But no problem , I thought. I’m better than this so I invited Stenson to debate the issue at the University of Gloucestershire – I’m sure that while he was here he could probably even find a couple of students willing to describe me ‘a turd’ just to add balance.

But no. Debate was not high on Stenson’s agenda:

@MBradbrook You just carry on filling young minds at the University of Gloucs with poison and feel very proud of yourself.

Poison! Many of my students will be willing to testify that I fill their minds with boredom but poison seems a bit strong. Perhaps he thinks that Grant, Coogan and myself are to form a lunatic fringe of the Leveson Inquiry and start firebombing the temples of St Rupert?

Not a bad idea. Perhaps then we’ll get the journalism we deserve rather than the patronising, celebrity-filled, dishonest tat that gets served up right now.

What’s Stenson up to now? Well he’s tweeting about Christopher Jefferies of course. He’s tweeting about the most undeserving victim of press intrusion and monstering in history.

What a nice man.

Mind you. I am smiling because I have written the name Stenson so often now that all I can think of is Fenton, the deer-herding labrador.

Is it a good thing to give a platform to racists?

Interesting article about Twitter on the BBC website today by pundit and former striker Mark Bright providing a platform for racists.

The article has been inspired by high profile investigations into allegations of racism made against England captain John Terry and Liverpool striker Lois Suarez and offensive yet completely unsurprising comments by Sepp Blatter who suggested that racism should be dealt with by a handshake and then forgotten about.

It's a strong article written from a position of knowledge and experience and makes a compelling read.

Mark Bright is 100 per cent correct that social media in being used as a platform for racists. It's not just Twitter, the worst by a long way is YouTube - I have stopped looking at the comments section of the video sharing site because of the vile racist nature of many of them.

Liberal society in general has for a long time held on to a 'no platform' policy in relation to racism. The basic theory is don't let racists have a voice as that voice is oxygen which will fuel the fire of their hatred and perhaps ignite it in others.

But now, as Bright has identified, that fire is far from extinguished. In this country many have believed it has been and we have been full of criticism of other countries which we perceive to have lower standards than us.

Incidents of racism in UK football grounds have been identified as a one-off. But that is as true as the News International's claim that phone hacking was perpetrated by a 'rogue reporter'.

Social media is open source. There are legal constraints of course but the judiciary has not yet come to terms with how to implement the law to a platform with millions of characters of information being uploads every day.

So 'no platform' is not working in social media - it promotes freedom of speech and those opposed to 'no platform' have long said that breaching the principle of freedom of speech is a price not worth paying.

Racists were ignored for so long that many thought they had gone away or at least that their number has diminished to an insignificant level. Yet social media is showing the pure folly of that thinking - just read some of the abuse that Bright has received during his time on Twitter.
"When James Vaughan joined Norwich from Everton, I tweeted to say, 'Good luck to James Vaughan with his move to Norwich'. Someone replied to say, 'I don't want any more blacks at Norwich. We've got enough, if you want to watch blacks and foreigners, go to see Arsenal'."
That's a horrible thing for him to have to read yet as a result of a simple retweet, the perpetrator was banned for life from Norwich City Football Club.

The issue is back out in the open and can be dealt with rather than denied.

Perhaps we have to accept that 'no platform' is unworkable now that social media is coming to the fore and embrace that element as an opportunity to more accurately assess society.

Five things sports journos should stop saying

Sports reporting is a funny old thing.

Loads of pages to fill / dead air to talk over / blog posts to write and a fairly limited number of new things happening at any one time.

But it must also be the form of journalism which most churns out the same old tired cliches and phrases. Here are my top five:

1. 110 per cent
It's impossible unless your figure is comparative so leave it alone. I will accept "Newcastle United have increased their number of wins by 110 per cent". I will not accept "David Silva has given 110 per cent today". Go to the back of the class.

2. Unsung hero
Occasionally this is used correctly. For example, you might say that Attilio Lombardo is the unsung hero of Manchester City. Very few people know what he does, or that he is even at Eastlands, but as the team is currently very successful, he seems to be doing it well.

However, I will not be happy if I again see Scott Parker described as an unsung hero at Spurs. He is currently Football Writers' Player of the Year, Tottenham's fans sing his name louder than all others and the Match of the Day team go all misty-eyed at the mere mention of his name. Leave it out. Right out.

3. Referee
OK so this is not a cliche but, for the love of Le Tissier, please stop talking about the whistlers all the time. Yes. They make mistakes. Yes. We can see the errors after we have watched an incident 12 times from four different angles and at super slo-mo but come now do we need to pull every decision apart every game?

4. Good touch for a big fella
Footballing folklore goes that if you're tall you have limited skill because you always have a cold head up there in the clouds. So every time Crouch attempts a back heel or Carroll beats his man we have to hear about how unusual it is. Get over it. We rarely hear the phrase 'terrible touch for a tiddler' despite its obvious application in connection with Theo Walcott or Sean Wright-Phillips.

5. Literally
Do you know what literally means? It literally means that something is exactly like something else. So, catching myself in my fly when I zipped up after a loo break is literally the most painfully embarrassing experience I have ever had. Robin Van Persie is not literally a thoroughbred racehorse. Messi did not literally leave the defender for dead. And yes Jamie Redknapp I'm talking to you.

Mind you when you see what happens if people in football try out some new terminology, perhaps it's better they do stick to cliches.

Death Porn and Gadaffi

Death Porn as defined by Urban Dictionary:
Death porn is a slang term for the material found on the internet that is intended to gross out its viewers. All pictures/videos of dead bodies, horrible accidents, or blood and guts can all be classified as death porn
It is a phenomenon surfacing on the internet - as most modern phenomenon are. I read Jack of Kent's posting on this subject and had to ask: why are we seeing Death Porn in the mass media?

Take this for example. The front of the Sun's homepage:

Perhaps not a surprise when you consider The Sun's previous form with such classics as 'Gotcha' during the Falklands War. But have I missed something here?

When did it become OK to show death so graphically - and in such a celebratory fashion on the front page of a newspaper?

The Sun was by no means only outlet to use Death Porn on its front page.

This is The Mirror:

Pretty awful. Not quite as crowing as The Sun but clearly a celebration of the death.

Then there's this in the Mail:

Let us not forget that the Mail is classically one of those papers quick to point the finger at violent TV or video games for escalating violence in society's young.

It seems to me that the mass media is simply unable to resist. They can see material being published on the net and want 'some of the action'. It is a rationale used to defend the monstering in the coverage of Christopher Jefferies in the Joanne Yeates murder investigation.

But news media is read in a different way to social media such as Twitter, Youtube and Faceboook - there is an impression of authority from a conventional media outlet and that authority gives the words and images power.

Just as Peter Parker was told by his Uncle Ben 'With great power comes great responsibility' - the gratuitous use of these images is not serving any purpose other than to celebrate death. And is that a purpose the mass media in this country should be pursuing?

If we desensitise ourselves to death and violent in such an accepting and mainstream way, where does it lead? I'll leave you with this story that has brought tears to the eyes of this hardened hack.

Tweeting from court

Court is one of the places where journalists are most restricted in what they can write, photograph, record or film.

That is why I am so staggered that Twitter seems to have been welcomed with open arms by some parts of the judiciary. It's less than a year since journalists were given permission to Tweet live from court.

The live Tweeting from ITV's Rupert Evelyn during the trial of Vincent Tabak is a superb example of why Twitter can be such a compelling tool in the hands of a court reporter.

Rupert kept up an incredible flow of Tweets from the trial and during the moments of Tabak's evidence it was a staggeringly compelling read.

I even almost forgave the lack of capital letters throughout. I still think journalists must maintain high standards of SPAG (spelling, punctuation and grammar) even if it's 'just social media'.

Longer term, I have concerns about the ‘thirst to be first’ and the prospect that promoting immediacy in news reporting may damage the traditional role of contextualising and analysing. But what is clear is that, used well, Twitter can be of huge benefit to a journalist and their readers.

And immediacy can only supplant contextual and analytical news if we let it.

So. All power to Twitter and the journalists taking advantage of a superb platform.

Perhaps it’s time to open the doors more completely – what about recording devices and cameras in court? These times are a changing and courts should be keeping up.

Rugby World Cup coverage: the thin end of the wedge

OK so rugby is a passion of mine but bear with me - this post is still about the media.

I have become increasingly frustrated by the coverage of the England team in the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand. Not the match coverage - that seems accurate and fair: England are poor, limited, shapeless and seemingly clueless about how to change.

What has frustrated me is the pious finger-pointing within the press that seems determined to label the team as alcoholic, arrogant thugs who've let their country and the sport down.

There are key incidents that have been cited as evidence:
  1. The squad's attendance at a Queenstown bar holding a 'dwarf racing' evening
  2. Mike Tindall with his arm around a 'mystery woman' shortly after marrying the Queen's granddaughter.
  3. Chris Ashton, James Haskell and Dylan Hartley being offensive to a hotel worker
  4. Manu Tuilagi jumping from a ferry into the sea at Auckland
You can make up your own mind about how you feel about those incidents when you read about them. Some will find them deeply offensive, some will find them not worth mentioning and some will see somewhere in between.

My point is more to do with the lack of honesty in how the media has covered these incidents.

Take the Guardian's rugby correspondent, Robert Kitson. He wrote a very derogatory piece about the players following the night out in the bar.

Fair enough - he's entitled to his opinion. But then we get to the paragraph about this not happening with New Zealand or Australia - and he specifically cites The All Blacks coach Graham Henry as the kind of manager who would not tolerate this behaviour.

But then what was a this story tucked away a couple of weeks later? New Zealand stars caught drinking heavily and smoking in public.

Right. So the 'Henry The Disciplinarian' that Kitson described will take action for sure? No. Cory Jane played a couple of days later in his usual starting berth.

Then we get repeated articles about Warren Gatland and how his success is down to the tight ship he is running and the fact there are alcohol bans in place.

This is the same Warren Gatland desperate to recall Gavin Henson and willing to recall Andy Powell after their numerous previous incidents?

I highlight these not to demand action against these players but rather to highlight the media hypocrisy. They know what they are printing is not true. Gatland has been so embarrassed he has been forced to make a statement denying the drinking ban and admitting that his players have been socialising in bars until 1.30am.

Even David Campese - the self-confessed king of all England haters - has come out to defend England against the media in a podcast for The Times (no link - that's a paywall for you). So you know you're doing something wrong even Campo won't stick the boot in.

I have friends in New Zealand who have reported to me that they had a great night in Queenstown drinking with the players of another Six Nations teams. The boys from that team got a bit squiffy and decided to go diving off the pier into the lake. I don't remember seeing that one reported although there were journalists on that night out as well.

So in light of what has been happening within the media this year, it seems relatively unimportant. But for me this kind of stuff is the thin end of the wedge.

The danger with inaccurate reporting is that it becomes cultural knowledge - assumed behaviour because as we all know, 'there is no smoke without fire'. And as we have seen with Theresa May's cat, even politicans fall for that sometimes. And lo and behold here's Fran Cotton slating Mike Tindall for being 'absolutely hammered' - when there appears to be little evidence that was the case.

I met Richard Peppiat recently and he believes that journalists draw a clear distinction between lying and not telling the truth. So not giving the complete picture about rugby players' behaviour isn't lying but we haven't been told the truth and that annoys me.

If the media really is offended by this behaviour then fair enough report it. But report it evenly or not at all.

Ethical Journalism

I have spent a large part of the last four weeks welcoming trainee journalists to both the profession (or should that be trade? One for a another day perhaps) and to the University of Gloucestershire.

In one on my first lectures I always point to the Ethics Handbook for Journalists produced by the Thomson Reuter Foundation and the list of 10 Ethical Absolutes that handbook contains.

1. Always hold accuracy sacrosanct

2. Always correct an error openly

3. Always strive for balance and freedom from bias

4. Always reveal a conflict of interest to a manager/senior editor

5. Always respect privileged information

6. Always protect their sources from the authorities

7. Always guard against putting their opinion in a story or editorialising

8. Never fabricate or plagiarise

9. Never alter a still of moving image beyond the requirements of normal image enhancement

10. Never pay a source for a story and never accept a bribe

Of course, with the Leveson inquiry under way, this is highly topical. So lets throw the question out there: Of these 10 absolutes, how many are adhered to on a daily basis by the mass media in the UK?

* Update: You have to read this view of Dacre's evidence by News Thump.

Hari's hairy moment

Well Twitter is quite a-flutter at the moment with the news that Johann Hari is evil - the epitome of a charlatan journalist destroying a noble profession with his corner-cutting ways.

What was his crime? Well he admitted to swapping quotes from interviews he had carried out for quotes from his interviewee's own writings if they covered the same topic but were 'more coherent'.

Cue huge wailing and gnashing of teeth followed by thousands (possibly even millions now) of tweets under the tag #interviewsbyhari. For a more detailed look at the issue, the whole thing has been Storified by the consistently excellent @newsmary.

From my somewhat sarcastic tone thus, far you might think that I am about to spring to his defense.

But no. Alas Johann cannot come to me for support for I am disappointed by this. I am, as ever, frustrated by the way Twitter leaps from moral outrage to moral outrage. And I know that a huge per centage of journos jumping on the Johann-bashing wagon have committed far worse sins, but I am nevertheless disappointed.

You see, Hari has risen to the top of his profession in my eyes. He has carte blanche to interview policy makers, entertainment goliaths, literary legends et al and to do so at his leisure.

I use his articles as examples of exemplary practice when teaching my students. I marvel at his incisive interview technique and the skillful way he weaves the narrative into his work.

But now I know that the narrative and the quoted word are not woven. They are cut out and stuck together.

It reminds me of when I was a teenager and I desperately wanted that Nike sweatshirt but couldn't afford it. So I bought a pair of sweatbands, unpicked the logo and glued it on a sweatshirt from the market. It fooled everyone for a day, maybe even a week but then the glue started to fail and looked a bit naff. Once everyone knew what I had done of course I wasn't the cool kid with the Nike gear or even this kid with the plain sweatshirt. No, I was the sad case deserving of pity.

Hari has fooled us into believing he is an interviewer extraordinaire. But now we know that he has not coaxed those opinions, that explanation or those illustrations. He has just glued them on and now it's starting to peel.

Jon Ronson - he of superb journalism - has come in to defend Hari, saying:

I've no idea what Johann Hari has been accused of. Just that he's been
accused of something. In general, he's stunningly brilliant.

And I agree but now the Nike logo has lifted and the glue is flaking down his chest he is in danger of becoming a figure of fun. I'll leave the last word to @alexwalters who wrote the most incisive Tweet about the whole thing:

Hari stared at me, a tired look in his eye. "None of my interviewees have ever said they had been misquoted," he sighed.

What's wrong at the Daily Mail?

The Daily Mail is one of the most successful newspaper in the United Kingdom - that much is beyond doubt.

The ABC figures released this month show that, in terms of circulation alone, it is second only to the The Sun with 2,030,968 copies sold daily in December compared to the Sun's 2,717,013.

The future looks bright too as the Mail's rate of year-on-year sales decline seems less than most other nationals at -3.89% compared to The Sun's -5.10%, The Guardian's 11.89% and The Times's -14.01%.

Online the Mail is leading the way (despite its shockingly late entry into the fray in 2004) and now gathers about 35% of the online UK newspaper traffic - an incredible stat when you think of the plurality within the field.

Of course, the Daily Mail has long had its detractors. It is frequently reactionary, displays homophobic and xenophobic tendencies both in the written word and news values and frequently scare-mongers to an extent that would make Freddie Krueger proud.

Websites are set up to oppose the views taken by the Mail, it is constantly mocked on Twitter and one of the best songs of 2010 was written 'in its honour' by Dan and Dan and has had almost 1,000,000 views in 9 months (below).

But let's put that to one side. It's in a box marked 'Reasons why I don't buy the Daily Mail'.

In the interests of transparency at this juncture, I must point out that I worked at the Daily Mail in the 90s. I was going to add 'for my sins' or 'to my shame' to that sentence but that would be the easy option and an unfair reflection on the professional relationship I had with the paper.

So lets open a new box called 'Why did I choose the Mail?'

First out of the box: It was the first national to have me. Other work followed but at that time the Mail was taking all the hard-working and enthusiastic reporters from the regions it could get its hands on.

My first choice would have been the Guardian but I didn't have a public school or Oxbridge education so didn't even get a courtesy letter in response (there's still time to atone for this error Mr Rusbridger).

That sounds bitter but it isn't really - or at least it's not meant to. It was just a fact at the time that the left-leaning papers seemed to recruit in this way (and pay peanuts). At the Daily Mail, I worked with mainly left-leaning journos eager to both make a splash in the industry and pay the electricity bill.

Anyway, I was pleased to be going to the Mail and the main reason was that it was respected within the industry. Its reporters were hard working and versatile - that middle-ground target audience meant you could be doorstepping celebs one day and uncovering the NHS postcode lottery the next.

Stories were stood up, copper-bottomed, topped and tailed and all the other euphemisms for thoroughly researched you can think of. I remember once being given a photograph of a restaurant in the Caribbean which had a poster outside proclaiming that critic Michael Winner was banned for lewd behaviour.

I did everything I could to stand up the story but couldn't get confirmation from the man himself. So the news editor (Tony Gallagher - now editor of the Daily Telegraph) told me to spike it.

A fortnight later one of the Mail's restaurant critics discovered that it had been a hoax and the restaurant was just seeking a bit of publicity. Great call from Tony and I have no doubt that it will be a surprise to many to hear that we didn't just 'publish and be damned'.

So, while I have shame that I worked for a paper with such a record of right wing views (I later volunteered for Asylum Welcome in Oxford in a futile attempt to shed my guilt), professionally it was the right decision.

That is why I am so surprised by what I see as falling standards at the Mail.

Take three recent examples:

1. Merry Christmas? Along with millions of other middle class mothers, I can't afford one.

Charlotte Metcalf penned this piece and it covered what she called the 'Nouveau Pauvre'. Initially I thought it was something to do with pepper, but discovered that it was a first-person feature explaining that the author was poverty stricken.

She explained that she was lucky if she earned £500 per week and was no longer able to shop for Christmas presents at Harrods. One of her friends, sob, was struggling to find the £400 to buy an iPad for her 15-year-old daughter.

She seemed completely unaware that a minimum of £500 per week (that's £26,000 per year) actually represents a salary that many people would be pleased with. Yes it is a climb down from the £1,200 per week (62,400 per year) she previously earned but still not a salary one can use to claim destitution.

The feature alienated a lot of people. Working class people were angry that such a self-centred article could be published, while middle class guilt meant that she won few sympathisers from her own section of society.

One of, if not the, main strength of the Mail in increasing its market share in the past 25 years, has been successfully targetting its core demographic: middle class, middle-aged, aspirational and intelligent women.

Yet in one foul swoop this article undermined that - it is a rare mistake for the Mail to make. Even worse when we realise it is a follow-up to a previous Nouveau Pauvre article by Ms Metcalf which elicited a hugely negative response.

The second article then has a feel of a wind up - the kind of feature written purely to get a response using the principle that no publicity is bad publicity. That is true if you publish an article your core readership can attack without guilt but hold up a mirror to them and you alienate them.

2. Is lovely Jo becoming just another thumbnail on the police website?

This was published yesterday and was written by Liz Jones - a controversial journalist who has annoyed people a lot in the past for what they see as a patronising and superficial style in article such as 'how to live on benefits'.

If you look at the comments at the bottom of the story you can see that the word patronising prominently. But that is not my issue with this work - it is just that it is such poor journalism.

Poorly researched, badly written and full of cliches from intro to contrived and all-too-probably made up pay-off.

I am not the best writer - my journalistic strengths lay more in news gathering and news sense - so criticising other writers does not come naturally to me. But if one of my level one students wrote that feature they would scrape a pass with a very low third and a kick up the backside.

In fact, I would put money on any one of my level one students coming with something considerably better than that rambling load of vomit-inducing, eyeball-piercing piffle.

That's not intended to prove just how bad this is. Quite the contrary, my level one students are proving themselves to be a very strong bunch of journalists.

But the Mail has long been known for employing good writers. We might hate what Jan Moir writes (remember her homophobic rant following the death of Stephen Gately?) but her columns are well structured and she is capable of creating images in your mind and encouraging you to read on.

A large proportion of Daily Mail readers buy the paper simply because of its columnists - but how long will that continue if they are forced to read third-rate material?

3. Pregnant schoolgirl, 15, and unborn baby die after 'she suffered heart attack'

A tragic but strong news story. Quite lazily put together using few facts but plenty of Facebook tributes but ultimately I am not criticising them for this as when working under deadlines we have to make the best of poor material at times.

Not it was a last par that grabbed my attention last night. It has now been removed and I didn't get a screenshot but from memory it said:

"A friend of Leah's sister said that Leah had recently had a flu jab."

And that was it. Nothing else just that - draw your own conclusions: 'Did the flu jab cause the heart attack? It must have done otherwise why would the reporter bring it up? Oh my God - my nan had a flu jab' etc etc and so it goes.

As I mentioned before, the Mail is well known for its scare-mongering - a point well picked up but Dan and Dan towards the end of their song.

But usually there will be something. Some grain of 'truth' among the fear: a piece of peer-reviewed scientific research or out-of-date Government figures - not 'just a friend of a sister said'.
This third blatant example of poor journalism made a little blog come out and that little blog grew like the Blob that chased Steve McQueen to almost unmanageable size and now I have rambled enough.

I will end now but only after after saying that it is hard to see the Mail's success continuing if they don't return to stronger journalistic standards.

* UPDATE 31.01.11: I would suggest you read this superb account from the other side of a Daily Mail story written by Juliet Shaw on the nosleeptilbrooklands blog

* UPDATE: 17.01.12: The most shocking yet. Today the Daily Mail has posted a story about an alleged rape on Big Brother in Brazil. For your pleasure you can also view a seven minute video of the alleged rape taking place. Words cannot describe how immoral and unethical this is - truly a new low for the Daily Mail.