Late last week the NHS hit out at a story run by several newspapers which suggested girls as young as nine-years-old were asking to go under the surgeon's knive in pursuit of "designer vaginas". What's more some papers suggested the nation's under 10s were being inspired to seek surgery by a trnd for 'pornstar chic'.
The Metro claimed ''Pornstar chic' sees nine-year-old girls ask for 'designer vaginas' on the NHS'.
Meanwhile, the Daily Mail went with 'Hundreds of girls aged 14 or under are having 'designer vagina' surgery on the NHS'.
The NHS hit back at what it branded "lurid headlines" and a wilful misrepresentation of the facts.
The NHS wrote:
"The lurid headlines are purportedly based on a study examining the quality of information provided in online advertisements by 10 private clinics.
"While the study does accurately quote NHS statistics showing more than 300 labiaplasties were performed by the NHS on girls aged 14 or younger in the last six years, there is no evidence that these operations were performed for cosmetic reasons... There are a number of clinical reasons why a labiaplasty may be performed, such as an excess of labia tissue causing pain and making a child vulnerable to repeat infection or causing them problems with urination..."
The prevention of pain and infections in children clearly didn't make for a strong enough headline though - not when 300 clinical procedures on the NHS (just 50 per year, over a six year period) could be turned into a story that shoe-horned 'designer vaginas' and 'pornstar chic' into a headline about young kids.
Jolly fat people... or not
Earlier in the week the NHS responded to another Daily Mail article, this time claiming the notion that fat people are naturally jollier has finally been proven by science:
Again, this story caused the NHS to step in, branding it an "over-simplistic take on a complex piece of research" - not least because the research quoted actually suggesed the opposite may be true (if a little inconvenient for headline writers):
"The headline 'fat people really are more jolly' bears little resemblance to the research it is based on and is actually the opposite of the study's findings... The researchers actually found that for most people, an increase in BMI led to a modest increase in the risk of depression of 2% for each BMI point."
You can read the NHS's full rebuttal here.
Today, an article on the BBC began:
"Former Apprentice contestant Katie Hopkins argues that people who eat, drink and smoke more than is good for them should pay more towards the NHS..."
Hopkins is perfectly entitled to her opinions of course but why has the BBC felt it necessary to give her this platform? If there was really nobody more credible to champion this viewpoint then perhaps it didn't need saying. And if somebody has to be introduced as a 'former Apprentice contestant' then unless they are discussing The Apprentice they are probably not the right person for the debate.
This isn't really about Hopkins, the wider issue here is that we seem to have reached a point where fleeting infamy on the back of a reality TV show acts as an access-all-areas pass to the rent-a-quote ranks of 'expert without portfolio' in the UK media.
Perhaps the BBC would like to share with us Maureen from Driving School's thoughts on the Middle East. Or maybe we should be told Rhydian from The X Factor's views on global warming.
Personally I'm eager to know what Bubble from series two of Big Brother thinks about women bishops and I won't sleep until I've heard Pudsey the dog's one woof for 'yes', two woofs for 'no' opinion on whether Chelsea were right to sack their manager.
ITV News today ran a story about French footballer Thierry Henry joining Twitter (click here for a screengrab). They also tweeted about it to more than 100,000 followers:
The only problem was, it wasn't actually Thierry Henry. It seems ITV was tricked by a number of people vouching for the authenticity of the account, which had helped it take off so quickly and so convincingly. Former footballer Fabrice Muamba really got things rolling with a claim that Henry had phoned him to tell him the account was genuine.
Former Mirror editor Piers Morgan, no stranger to hoaxes, had also tweeted about the account and expressed his desire for the fake Henry to follow him back. He also shared Muamba's claims of authenticity with his followers and there then followed tweets from a host of well-followed media and sports personalities, including Match Of The Day presenter Gary Lineker mentioning the account.
This curious tale got curiouser still when Muamba subsequently claimed the real Thierry Henry had been in touch - this time by BlackBerry Messenger - to say it wasn't genuine, leading Muama to claim he had been hoaxed by a Thierry Henry impersonator with an impressive contacts book and a similarly impressive impression of the French star.
Of course this isn't the first time people in the media have fallen for spoof Twitter accounts. A recent example included the BBC running a story last month based on a tweet from a fake account in the name of horse racing pundit John McCririck:
And at this point a confession: the Twitter account of this very blog retweeted the McCririck tweet, having followed the link from the BBC's story.
Other examples of the media being tricked by fake Twitter profiles included the Daily Mail falling for a fake Steve Jobs in 2010.
Meanwhile, the fake Thierry Henry packed his bags and ran for the hills the second he was rumbled, leaving the rest of us to wonder why people bother setting up fake Twitter accounts (not to be confused with some excellent parodies, which generally admit very clearly their intent).
Some of you may have noticed that November is starting to prove noticeably colder in the UK than months such as July and August.
Meteorologist are attributing this change to the fact that winter is pretty much upon us.
And not only does winter signal the onset of fewer hours of sunlight and falling temperatures, it also signals the arrival of the Daily Express's annual predictions of 'snowpocalypse'.
Today The Express warned us of a record breaking cold spell, adding that the worst of this 'big freeze' may occur during "the December to January period".
Or "winter", to give it its proper name.
Each year these headlines limp into view around the same time the supermarkets are dusting off their CD of Christmas music and with a similar degree of tired inevitability. However, at least when Noddy Holder screams 'It's Christmas!' it definitely will be, at least for one day.
Because at this point it's worth remembering some outstanding work done by Scott Bryan earlier this year which revealed the extent to which The Express's scare stories about the weather are so consistently wide of the mark.
For example, last year The Express ran its annual "BIG FREEZE WILL KILL THOUSANDS" headline as early as 20 October and ushered in the second warmest November in over 100 years according to the Met Office. Its guarantee of a snowbound Christmas became, in reality, "generally cloudy, breezy and one of the mildest on record, with 14°c and no snow reported anywhere."
And its 27 January prediction of "BIG FREEZE TO LAST A MONTH" was a precursor to The Met Office declaring "a significant number of stations recorded their highest February temperature on record".
So maybe take the Express's predictions with a pinch of salt. But save some for gritting your front path, because it is winter.
Trust among the British public in the media and politicians has tumbled over the past decade. Statistics released by YouGov suggest ITV, the BBC, the Liberal Democrats and midmarket newspapers such as the Daily Mail are the biggest fallers in terms of overall public trust. ITV leads the way in losing the faith of the public but the BBC is not far behind in terms of lost trust. However, the BBC is also the most trusted today, with ITV second, ahead of broadsheet newspapers. The research, which was commissioned by The Sun, found red top tabloids were least trusted in 2003 and remain so today:
To the surprise of nobody, George Entwistle left the BBC over the weekend via the pointy end of his own sword after just 54 days as Director General. His greatest failing was an inability to convince anybody that he was on top of a spiralling crisis which threatens the BBC.
It was a series of catastrophic interviews by Entwistle on radio and television on Saturday morning which really did for him. He spoke with all the confidence, optimism and reassurance of a man building his own gallows. With a bad back. In the rain. Entwistle could barely defend himself let alone a Corporation which will always be under fire from rival media. That is the minimum requirement for any replacement. The next Director General must be able to fight for all that is still worth fighting for at the BBC.
Entwistle's 'fairwell tour' was painful to listen to and clearly a very lonely experience. He seemed so poorly prepared for the task that many were questioning whether he had been hung out to dry.
One former BBC journalist told the Media Blog that Entwistle was the public face of "a staggeringly inept display of crisis handling" at the BBC. Newsnight presenter Jeremy Paxman went further, saying Entwistle was brought low by "cowards and incompetents".
But ultimately Entwistle alone fulfilled the role that senior executives are paid so handsomely to do. He announced his resignation in the midst of a scandal.
Such sacrifices are rarely enough however and the disarray and divisions within the BBC clearly stretch far beyond the Director General's desk. The Corporation has lost control of its own crisis and handed the initiative to its critics.
The Daily Mail broke the story of Newsnight editor Peter Rippon's departure, leaving BBC staff making denials. ITV broke the story of Entwistle's resignation while BBC newsreaders sat waiting for their own Director General's statement to be delivered.
Massed ranks of detractors
During Friday evening's Newsnight, presenter Eddie Mair commenting on a technical issue, stated "the sound isn't working... the journalism isn't working..." before tailing off into head-shaking disbelief. His look of incredulity when announcing that nobody from the BBC was available for interview was a face that launched a thousand tweets.
Such moments have made it very easy for the BBC's massed ranks of detractors.
But some of the most outspoken detractors perform an important role in all of this. They remind us the BBC is still far and away the best we have. Whatever has happened in recent weeks we must not lose sight of that, lest we lose sight of the BBC and the irreplaceable service it provides.
Disgraced tabloid editors have had their knives out. Piers Morgan has waded into a debate about journalistic ethics and honourable resignations. Rupert Murdoch has taken issue with an editor-in-chief pleading ignorance. All done seemingly without irony.
Meanwhile, ITV News bemoaned the fact the BBC Director General only did interviews with the BBC. But ITV is yet to carry an interview with its own chief executive or programme bosses at This Morning over a widely criticised stunt involving a list of alleged paedophiles Phillip Schofield had harvested from the internet.
We need the BBC. Not least because it has not pulled a single punch in holding itself accountable.
At this point it is worth reminding ourselves what happens when one of Rupert Murdoch's media outlets tries to ask about his organisation's wrongdoing:
It could hardly be more different to the grilling Entwistle received at the hands of John Humphrys.
We must judge organisations not only by the brilliant work they do – and the BBC certainly leads the media world in that regard – but by the way they recover from crisis. The BBC must now do that, decisively.
The new Director General must be a fearsome defender of the BBC and a respected authority within the media who can get the divided factions pulling together.
And while we must be told what's happening as investors in the Corporation, the BBC must also tone down the public self-flagellation now. It needs to show it is moving on, not wallowing.
Regarding the stories which have knocked it so badly off track they must now become about investigations into serious child abuse, as they should always have been, not stories of media hand-wringing and point-scoring.
Angry tweets from Match Of The Day viewers tuning in for the programme on Saturday night only to find a special bulletin about Entwistle's departure, served as a timely reminder that many people just want the BBC to get back to doing what it does well. Barring two recent terrible editorial decisions, that includes producing exceptional current affairs programming and investigative journalism.
Like most people working in and around the media the Independent on Sunday editorial team will have been glued to BBC Radio 4, 5Live and BBC Breakfast this morning as George Enwistle the BBC's Director General went from studio to studio on what soon became clear was likely to be his farewell tour.
Perhaps anticipating Entwistle may not even last the weekend the Independent on Sunday gave itself the best possible chance of updating its front page with the minimum of fuss as its first and second editions clearly show:
The question mark in the headline didn't last long. But then, nor did Entwistle.
First up was a tweet which included a link to a lavish trailer for Radio 1's Zane Lowe show. The suggestion seemed to be the BBC could have made savings elsewhere before it touched its Danny Baker budget:
Next came a tweet wondering if the BBC had lost sight of who he is:
Then a little rule breaking:
And then he got his trophies out...
I like Danny Baker. He's a brilliant broadcaster and BBC London has left itself with a huge hole to fill.
But nobody emerges from this kind of Twitter tantrum with much credit. Baker's anger is easy to understand and his tweets may have been a little tongue-in-cheek but the unmistakable air of 'don't you know who I am' is a cliché anybody would do well to avoid.
Along with his celebrity friends he's done a good job of kicking off a minor Twitter storm but such influential Tweeters might be better off directing their energies towards the root cause of overarching BBC cuts, rather than cherry-picking those cuts and causes which affect their friends.
After these tweets, Baker called his bosses "weasels" and then took to the airwaves for a momentous last show (a series of clips can be found here). BBC London claims it was still hoping to discuss alternative shows with Baker, which might explain the trust showed in allowing him back on air and the request to refrain from public outcry. But it's hard to see a way back now. However, Baker is still expected to continue with his Saturday morning show on BBC Radio 5 Live.
With all that's going on at the BBC it's unlikely the BBC press office will lose much sleep over Baker's tweets, not least because he described them earlier this week as being only marginally less ludicrous than a Mandrill's bum: