Daily Mail Concoction

The huge, sensational headline blared out its half-dozen words. They took up about two thirds of the available news area on the front page, leaving room for less than a hundred words of copy underneath. The rest of the ‘story’ was consigned to page 7.

There, Ben Taylor, Crime Correspondent, concocted a poisonous brew of plagiarism, innuendo and plain untruth, with a liberal sprinkling of spiteful comment based on ‘claims’, ‘allegations’ and comment from a fictional ‘friend’.

It is a matter of conjecture whether he asked permission from Matthew Townsend, The Observer crime correspondent, to lift chunks of an article first published in The Observer on 12 February 2006. He uses them as his own, without any acknowledgement.

Padded out by shamelessly regurgitated snippets from old articles, the piece is a case study in shabby journalism, designed to inflict maximum damage with minimal fact.

The dogged Mr Taylor even dredges up last year’s quotation from Siôn Jenkins’ solicitor Neil O’ May to add an illusion of substance, before rounding off the article with a false statement.

This was not British journalism’s finest hour.

However, on a day when there were major national and international stories worthy of front page coverage, the really interesting questions raised by this episode are:

  • Who would commission a piece like this?
  • What was its purpose?
  • Why was it published that day?