Do Daily Mail journalists cry at night?


12:45 pm - April 22nd 2010

by Robert Sharp    


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The pathetic and desperate hatchet job on Nick Clegg, by our friends at the Daily Mail, was pretty much instantly rebutted last night, in just 140 characters.

@DougSaunders: British journalism in microcosm: 2002 op-ed by Nick Clegg: http://is.gd/bCESl Resulting Daily Mail front pager tomorrow: http://is.gd/bCETh

Merely linking to the article that was the basis for Tim Shipman’s front-page piece shows the real context, debunks the Mail‘s outrage, and exposes their highly partisan agenda. Iain Dale is right: this will backfire on the Conservatives (regardless of whether they actually had a hand in placing the smears), and further highlight The Slow Death of the British Newspaper As We Know It.

Alongside the online rebuttals and link-sharing, we see the rise of the satirical #hashtag, in this case #NickCleggsFault (seeded by Justin McKeating, I believe), and Chris Applegate has updated his seminal Daily Mail Headline Generator to capture the Zeitgeist:

WILL NICK CLEGG GIVE YOUR HOUSE SWINE FLU?

A few questions present themselves. The first is the obvious perennial: how deep does this sort of ridicule penetrate into the national conversation? Are these jokes just a distraction for a insular blogosphere, the “Twitterati”, or does the meme spread out enough to properly counter the spin being spread by the Mail?

Social marketers will spend all election trying to answer this question… but whatever the level of influence right now, I think it is safe to say that it grows on a daily basis. Meanwhile, the tabloids diminish in stature. This is now a given.

But what I really want to know, is this: What do the journalists at these outlets really think about the satirical attacks on their paper? I can well imagine a bunker mentality affecting the editorial team at the Mail, or the Express, or the Telegraph – these are intense and high-stakes positions, after all.

But does this attitude extend to, say, a young journalist working on the news desk? Or the sub-editors? Or the music reviewers? Or the poor chap (or chapess) who has to moderate all the angry comments!? What do they think when they see the Daily Mail Headline Generator and the #NickCleggsFault hastag cluttering up their screens? Just as the Mail’s readership is not a monolith, we know that their staff cannot be either.

I would love to know their reaction to these kinds of online surges – and not out of any sense of schadenfreude, fly-on-the-wall, Downfall-type snigger. I think it would be a genuinely useful insight into how major media operations operate in the second decade of the 21st Century.

Any pseudonomynous contributions in the comments would be gratefully received.

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About the author
Robert Sharp designed the Liberal Conspiracy site. He is Head of Campaigns at English PEN, a blogger, and a founder of digital design company Fifty Nine Productions. For more of this sort of thing, visit Rob's eponymous blog or follow him on Twitter @robertsharp59. All posts here are written in a personal capacity, obviously.
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Elections2010 ,Humour ,Media

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Reader comments


1. Sunder Katwala

‘Iain Dale is right’ … well, yes, he is.

But what’s going on? where’s Sunny gone!

The Daily Mail’s Nazi past:

Hitler’s letter to Lord Rothermere, proprietor of the Daily Mail, 7 Dec 1933: ‘I should like to express the appreciation of countless Germans…for the wise and beneficial public support which you have given’.

Editorial on 10 July 1933, ‘Youth Triumphant': ‘I urge all British young men and women to study closely the progress of the Nazi regime in Germany. They must not be misled by the misrepresentations of its opponents.’

Description of the British Union of Fascists, 15 January 1934: ‘[A] a well organised party of the right ready to take over responsibility for national affairs with the same directness of purpose and energy of method as Hitler and Mussolini have displayed.’

Editorial on 8 July 1934 ‘Hurrah for the Blackshirts': ‘If the Blackshirts movement had any need of justification, the Red Hooligans who savagely and systematically tried to wreck Sir Oswald Mosley’s huge and magnificently successful meeting at Olympia last night would have supplied it.’

Wouldn’t crying presuppose having a conscience and a sense of empathy…?

After reading my caustic satire, several Mail hacks topped themselves in a fever of dark self-loathing. One – a features editor, I believe – came to my door, and committed seppuku with a blood-splattered copy of the day’s paper…

Actually, some journos get wonderfully miffed. After bloggers complained about the Daily Express’s shameful intrusiveness – copying material from Bebo pages of Dunblane survivors – the Editor shed bitter tears over “personal attacks“.

@Ben Six – I’m less interested in editors with thin skins, so much as what others in the building think of what their top brass are putting out…

I suspect they do their level best not to think: introspection could be very dangerous for their sense of self. Then again, maybe they’re all nihilists: the bastard sons and daughters of the hacks from Thompson’s Rum Diary.

7. Bill Kristol-Balls

I’m starting an investigation of my own and would be grateful for any help. The crux of it is as follow –

PAUL DACRE IS LORD VOLDERMORT

What I have so far are 2 connections –

(1) Both have an unhealthy obsession with who is and who isn’t a ‘pure blood’.

(2) Both are rarely seen in public but their malign influence stretches far and wide.

Further updates as events warrant.

Hah! Even I’ll agree that a stopped clock gives the right time twice a day…

Churlish Sunny.

Credit where it’s due. Dale wrote an honest and principled article, putting probity above tribalism.

Not always an easy thing to do, as you are well aware.

10. DisgustedOfTunbridgeWells

Staff turnover at der sturmer is quite high, it’s fairly likely most of them just crack.

There are of course, the ‘special ones’ – the Mad Mels, the Littlejohns and the Slacks of the world who can knock out hate filled, fact free screeds on an almost daily basis, if they ever cry, I suspect its either blood or some sort of black ooze.

Liberal Conspiracist slagging off the Daily Mail.
Well, that’s a change isn’t it?

Could someone please write a serious article about what would happen to whatever respect there remains for British politics if the LibDems were to become kingmakers on the basis of this sudden outpouring of popularity?

For the past 5 years I have heard people whinge about how they were ‘duped’ by Tony Blair, or they misread his ‘lies’. This has grown into the accepted excuse for millions of people to discharge responsibility from their own actions. Imagine what it would be like in the middle of the forthcoming job cuts and struggle with the deficit were the electors to bray “Oh, Nick Clegg looked so nice and different – we didn’t expect it to be tough like this. Why can’t we get rid of him as quickly as we loved him?”.

PR or no PR trust in British politics really would be stuffed.

12. Greg Stone

There is a story in the journalism business about the Mail writer who was asked how he could stomach some of the awful stuff the Mail churns out. He dropped his voice to a whisper and looked carefully around before admitting that most of the staff don’t believe a word of what the Mail prints but they are under enormous pressure to comply with editorial instructions.

@11 Kojak

“Could someone please write a serious article about what would happen to whatever respect there remains for British politics if the LibDems were to become kingmakers on the basis of this sudden outpouring of popularity?”

Perhaps you could write one and submit it to Sunny for the site…?

Leaving aside the obvious rejoinder that nobody really knows what is going to happen (which I for one have no problem with), there is plenty of serious debate and commentary going on about the various possible “what if” scenarios post election.

From the tone of your post I assume you don’t like the idea of a hung parliament, but plenty of people are not just happy, but genuinely thrilled by the prospect. Let’s be honest, it’s not as if the existing system has been a huge success has it?

Galen 10,

Thanks for your reply.

I don’t think Sunny would accept an article from me because I suspect he thinks I’m a bit of a tosser. But, maybe I’ll give it a go.

Although I don’t have many grey hairs I can remember the last hung parliament (I even recall listening to Michael Foot’s fine speach in the 1979 HoC no confidence debate) and what a crap time it was. Struggling to get anything done the hung parliament paved the way for Margaret Thatcher to tough it out on behalf of the electorate (yes people really were fed up with it).

If we wan’t to create a similar scenario – let’s have another hung parliament during a financial crisis.

@ 14 Kojak

I remember that time as well. My recollection of it was that it was a crap time that got worse because people actually fell for the Francis of Assisi nonsense from that mad old trout Thatcher. Talk about the cure being worse than the disease!!

Many of the problems we have now are systemic, and can be blamed on decades of mis-government from both political extremes. A lot is also directly attributable to the disasterous Thatcherite period, and it’s pale imitation New Labour.

I don’t really buy your view that the current scenario is the same. I think this is a pretty fundamental change in the British politcal scene, one that has been put off for far too long. It’s up to the people, and their representatives to make sure it’s a positive change. There are risks, but I’d say they were preferable to more of the same under either the Tories or Labour.

“Oh, Nick Clegg looked so nice and different – we didn’t expect it to be tough like this. Why can’t we get rid of him as quickly as we loved him?”

I don’t suspect he’s that nice, or particularly different. However, I don’t think Cameron’s better – worse, in fact – so I’m free to take pleasure in the obvious discomfort of these sorry rags.

BenSix,

Watching the debate last week I was rather taken by how ‘tired’, or should I say old fashioned, David Cameron looked in contrast to Nick Clegg.

Then I thought: “Aaaaaagggghhhh, it’s become a f***ing beauty contest! and I’m watching it like a dork”. So I turned over to listen to it rather than watch their relative (dis)comfort.

It reminds me about tales of how British WWII troops compared unfavourably to the Hugo Boss designed the SS uniforms.

18. the a&e charge nurse

“Do Daily Mail journalists cry at night” – yes, tears of laughter, because so many people take their turgid articles so seriously seriously?

19. Golden Gordon

Oh dear
The real nasty party is showing it’s real talons.
Hence Tory trolls like Kojak ,,,, cjcjc and flowrpot brain.
They will probably win but they are running scared

@19 Golden Goron

Define “win”? Surely anything short of a majority for DC is a loss?

Could someone please write a serious article about what would happen to whatever respect there remains for British politics if the LibDems were to become kingmakers on the basis of this sudden outpouring of popularity?

I find your contempt of the British electorate quite amusing.

And I thought we lefties were meant to be out of touch?

22. the a&e charge nurse

[18] apologies for a McEnroe-like over reliance on ‘serious';
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ekQ_Ja02gTY

@ Sunny 21

“I find your contempt of the British electorate quite amusing.”

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think the electorate should be treated with contempt, and I’m enjoying the fact that they might deliver a hung parliament (at last)… but it behoves us all to remember that the great British electorate also saw fit to elect the Leaderene, Major and Blair.. so they do kinda have form!

24. the a&e charge nurse

[23] the public can only elect what is put before them.

By definition virtually any candidate that gets to the very top of the greasy political pole is likely to be significantly dysfunctional (in one way or another) since high political office is incompatible with ‘normal’ family life/relationships.

Golden Gordon,

“Hence Tory trolls like Kojak ,,,, cjcjc and flowrpot brain.”

I really do feel sorry for you. Your Pavlovian response to call me a troll would be funny if it wasn’t so predictable.

Would you like this board to be renamed LiberalConsensus? A place for people to come and agree wholeheartedly with each other rather than discuss and comment? You could put up a ‘No Trolls welcome here!’ sign then I could refer you the EHRC.

26. Golden Gordon

Kojak
I have no problem with you posting.
You are a little like a troll, come on admit it

27. Golden Gordon

Kojak
There is little consensus of the blog hence the spat between galen and ben.

28. Golden Gordon

Pavlov did most of his work on dogs.
You do sound a little like a rabid hound.
No wonder you defend the Mail
Maggie was great rant
I can’t stand blacks rant
Fucking scroungers rant
Fucking bleedin hearts rant
Fuckin EU and the black afriacns. apartheid wasn’t that bad.
I am leaving now to HP so I can get some old fashioned right wing consensus

In answer to the question of the blog post:

No because they aren’t human.

And GG you’re right about Kojak, he disappeared for while and then came right on back in.

w00t!

but it behoves us all to remember that the great British electorate also saw fit to elect the Leaderene, Major and Blair.. so they do kinda have form!

Given the choices they faced at the time, do you blame them? If it were Blair vs Major – who would you have voted for?

It reminds me about tales of how British WWII troops compared unfavourably to the Hugo Boss designed the SS uniforms.

Hah! While by “Cameron” I meant his likely government at large, that’s a tremendous line that I shall no doubt pinch.

“Given the choices they faced at the time, do you blame them? If it were Blair vs Major – who would you have voted for?”

Hmmnn….OK, maybe there’s a partial excuse for the first time, but the second begins to look like carelessness! After what had gone before, it probably wasn’t that surprising – altho’ I always had doubts about “New” Labour and the Blairite agenda. I could never understand why it never made people – especially those on the progressive left – feel queasy.

Hopefully people will remember the dangers of giving delusional control freaks with a Messiah complex like Thatcher and Blair such huge majorities. Think back to the Francis of Assisi speech on the steps of number 10 from Thatcher, or the refrain of “Things Can Only Get Better” at the New Labour victory party.

They both turned out well huh?

Golden Gordon,

Take a deep breath and repeat after me:
“I must read what a person says before I call him a troll”.
Repeat it so often that the meaning sinks in. After that you can have a good rant about what you consider are other people’s rants.

If you would look back at my initial post you would see I said:
“Liberal Conspiracist slagging off the Daily Mail.
Well, that’s a change isn’t it?”

In my book that’s not defending the Daily Mail it’s just pointing out the obvious. The Daily Mail is slagged off on LiberalConspiracy so often and so readily that were they to run a story saying Sunday follows Saturday I’m sure people such as yourself would disagree on principle.

If you would like to look at my message again you would see that I was saying slagging off the Daily Mail is easy and predictable as is slagging off Tony Blair and pretending we were ‘duped’ as a way to absolve us of our decisions. And there exists the potential for a oncoming round of excuses such as: “I didn’t think “Nick Clegg was like that because we were caught up in the speed of it all”.

Now, if you would like posters to add diagrams to their comments so that you can follow what is being said, I’m sure Sunny could look into it for you.

“I would love to know their reaction to these kinds of online surges – and not out of any sense of schadenfreude, fly-on-the-wall, Downfall-type snigger. I think it would be a genuinely useful insight into how major media operations operate in the second decade of the 21st Century.”

Well, I only really know a few of the lobby hacks. And the one Mail one I knew (well enough to go off for a beer with…and not as purely a business contact type beer…not exactly bosom buddies I’ll admit) gave up the job to go and be a Number 10 speech writer about a year ago.

So I wouldn’t say it was obvious that all Mail hacks are in fact “right wing” or anything.

Know one on the Sunday Mail better and he’s there because it’s a great job to have. One of the last papers which actually has a proper investigative budget and will actually spend it, for weeks, chasing a story.

You or I might not like the stories themselves but as he’s an investigative journalist it’s one of the few games left in town for him.

Having attacked the Mail in blog land for about a year and in the real world for as long as I’ve read papers it is an intriguing paper.

There really are some good stories in there from time to time. As Tim says, genuine investigative reporting and occasional honest reporting.

Its almost two papers. Usually it is mad and bad and inaccurate but it sometimes just does news as it should be.

Not enough to redeem it of course, but it does enough to set it slightly apart from the Daily Express (owned by the pornographer Richard Desmond).

Darce knows his customers. They are small minded, net twitching , nothings who hate anyone having fun.

His paper panders to them. They are the moaners and wingers. They hate the state paying out for anyone, but are the first in the Q when they want something like an operation. They are also very stupid. Woman buy the paper and always tell me what a great womans page the paper has, without it seems noticing the anti woman bias of Darce. He stacks his paper with career woman who spend all their time attacking other woman who have careers.

It is a little paper for little people.

No Sally, it’s not just a paper for small minded people. My very first post for Liberal Conspiracy was on the idea that the readers of the Daily Mail are persuadable and diverse – I linked to it above. I hope that also mitigates Kojak’s complaint, that a Liberal Conspiracy author slagging off the Daily Mail is nothing new. Guilty as charged, but the question I posed at the end was one of substance.

Thanks for all the RTs, and to Tim Worstall and Left Outside for some interesting insights.

Good luck changing their minds Robert.

Galen10 at various: even when I disagree with you I really like you style.

@39 John Q

Errmmm… thank you (I think) :)

I should be doing something more constructive, but I quite like this site; it’s a change from baiting Tories on ConservativeHome about their coming “epic fail”.

Sunny re comment 21:

“I find your contempt of the British electorate quite amusing….”

I’m not sure how you have read as contempt my suggestion that the electorate might suffer from ‘buyer’s remorse’ as a result of quickly deciding who to vote for based upon each candidate’s presentation appeal at these debates. But you have, and I suppose that is either from a general belief that the electorate is heading in the right direction, or an actual support for Nick Clegg, or just an attempt to deride someone who you think is of a different political persuasion.

As someone who has only ever voted Labour my observation is that the debates are really designed as a platform for two contrasting views, not three or more. With more than two views on show they become a matter of displaying presentation more than properly discussing issues and policy – with no way of reigning in exaggeration or holding the speaker to account. It is a race.

With the exception of Charles Kennedy I have little regard for the Liberals, being of the opinion that they are a bunch of chancers who primarily define their policy in reaction to what the other parties are not saying rather than what they believe, and I am disappointed in Nick Clegg as he has only reinforced that view.

Some other posters have grasped the fact, which your comment seems to suggests you haven’t, that the timing, format and proximity to the election of leader’s debates are helping people form opinions not based on policy or issues but more on presentation skills and novelty.

These debates remind me of the closing scenes from The Apprentice where ‘Sir Alan’ has to decide upon which of the 3 candidates is the weakest and should be fired based upon their ability to boast about their skills, exaggerate their performance, dump on the other candidate who they think is likeliest to fail and to manoeuvre themselves away from scrutiny. It is a format set up to identify the weakest not the strongest candidate (as are the leader’s debates). However, in addition to good intuition ‘Sir Alan’ has long experience of such interview techniques so he usually sees through it all. But I’m not so sure the British electorate should be expected to make a choice with this as their primary forum.

@ 41 Kojak

“…But I’m not so sure the British electorate should be expected to make a choice with this as their primary forum.”

Are they though? Each of the 3 parties probably has a core of support who aren’t going to vote any other way. It’s the floating voters and undecided ones who will decide the outcome. They will decide on the basis of a wide range of things: real issues, subjective feelings, media influence, personalities.

Complaining that the debates are somehow skewing the result, or “helping people form opinions not based on policy or issues but more on presentation skills and novelty” may be true to an extent. Taken in the round however, that shouldn’t blind us to the fact that people’s motives are complex, hard to pin down, and rarely hinge on single issues.

The LD surge had started BEFORE the first debate, which may well have amplified it, but it seems to me the seismic shift had both started sometime before, and represents an “anti-duopoloy” as much as a pro-LD stance.

Galen10,

Before the debates I think there was a drift rather than a surge towards the Liberals.

As a result of the debates nearly all of the focus has drifted from day to day electioneering and trying to get the buggers to actually say what their policies really are – towards consideration of the debates as an end in themselves and as the defining moments of the campaign. It’s becoming like watching edited highlights on Match Of The Day instead of going to the game.

As far as I can tell the Liberals are supplying the floaters with 3 easily digestible messages:
Debate 1 – “A plague on both your houses”.
Debate 2 – “I’m still standing, and it’s you I’m standing for”
Debate 3 – “Be there or be square”

And this isn’t politics; it’s the path of least effort to appeal to the disengaged or floaters.

Ho hum.

Robert re comment 37:

Thanks for that.
I didn’t see your article.

45. Stephen Rouse

I only have this at second or third hand, but apparently towards the end of the 1983 campaign, the Mail’s journalists asked management if they could go easy on Michael Foot. There was no way he was going to win, and they were just tired of kicking him every day. They were told “no, you stay on him to the end.”

I met a Daily Mail journalist once and basically asked him that very question.

He told me they all secretly wanted to go and work for the Guardian.

@46 Quentin

Perhaps their spelling was just too good?

I hold out a faint but pursuing hope that the journalists are going their length at the Tory papers because they all know what the bosses want. And they all know *exactly* how it will be taken by the general public. The worse the Tory papers behave, the shakier their grip on their readers, and the happier the journalists are to see Murdoch’s stranglehold finally choke itself.

I fear they aren’t *nearly* that subtle. But it’s a pleasant thought nonetheless.

49. Nick Cohen is a Tory

Lets get real, Tories newspapers will never change ?
Most journos in thi country are right, right of centre. Number of labour supporting journos you can count on the right hand of an medieval English archer caught by the French.
So I have never mind the bile from the Mail or the Sun.
But you know when the country is in a mess when so called liberal newspapers like the Observer are no different from the Mail


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  46. Dacre’s psyche «

    […] Jump to Comments Thanks to Robert Sharp at Liberal Conspiracy for asking the Question of the Day: Do Daily Mail journalists cry at […]

  47. Robert Sharp » Blog Archive » Rob’s #LeadersDebate Reax, Part II

    […] I wrote earlier today that the media is failing to cover this election properly. But in way, that’s alright – Greater exposure to the leaders, and better democratic tools at our disposal, mean that we will make an informed choice on 6th May. addthis_url = 'http%3A%2F%2Fwww.robertsharp.co.uk%2F2010%2F04%2F22%2Frobs-leadersdebate-reax-part-ii%2F'; addthis_title = 'Rob%26%238217%3Bs+%23LeadersDebate+Reax%2C+Part+II'; addthis_pub = ''; […]

  48. Christine Burns

    Do Daily Mail jourmalists cry at night? http://bit.ly/9u8vF3

  49. Gerrys Blog » Blog Archive » Daily Mail | Robert Sharp » Blog Archive » Do Daily Mail Journalists Cry at Night?

    […] Do Daily Mail journalists cry at night? […]

  50. andrew

    Liberal Conspiracy » Do Daily Mail journalists cry at night?: About the author: Robert Sharp designed the Liberal … http://bit.ly/dCQkE6

  51. Robert Sharp » Blog Archive » Do Daily Mail Journalists Cry at Night?

    […] posted this on Liberal Conspiracy yesterday. Happy to say it got a lot of […]

  52. Robert Sharp » Blog Archive » The Anatomy of #Bigotgate

    […] media have also lost control of the narrative.  They too are being subjected to this scrutiny.  I discussed last week how the spin placed upon stories by the media is equally as unreliable as the politicans at the […]





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