The Telegraph is walking something of a fine line, trying to balance two causes it feels strongly about: supporting the 'No' campaign in the Scottish referendum and doing the BBC down at every opportunity.
The problem is, these two causes are hardly complementary, not least because the 'Yes' campaign is also intent on criticising the BBC for alleged bias in its campaign coverage. But The Telegraph was powerless to resist the suggestion the BBC had handpicked an episode of Dad's Army in an attempt to undermine the 'Yes' campaign. The paper quotes an unnamed 'Yes' campaigner:
“A total of 80 episodes of Dad’s Army were made by the corporation – and which one does it choose to show on the Saturday ahead of the vote?... The one in which Frazer tells Mainwaring that he can run the platoon better than him, is put in charge and then makes a total mess of things. Thank you very much, Auntie Beeb."
Fans of Dad's Army may point out Captain Mainwaring was hardly portrayed as a great leader either, prone as he was to blundering from calamity to calamity in every episode. They might also point out it was supposed to be a comedy, not a documentary.
The article then quotes one of the few surviving cast members of Dad's Army, adding his two-penneth in support of a 'No' vote:
"Frank Williams, who plays the Rev Timothy Farthing in the series, doesn’t believe that the BBC timed the episode to make a point, but he says that he is not himself in favour of Scottish independence."
For which Williams was thanked with a plug for his one-man-show.
According to the Telegraph, the Queen has "broken her silence" and made a "hugely significant intervention" in the Scottish independence debate.
So what did she do?
According to the Telegraph the "hugely significant" moment happened while the Queen was making small talk with some members of the public outside a church service in Balmoral:
"The Queen has broken her silence about the potential break-up of the United Kingdom by warning Scots to think "very carefully about the future" before casting their votes in the independence referendum... It is understood a well-wisher joked they were not going to mention the referendum, in response to which she remarked: "You have an important vote on Thursday... I hope people will think very carefully about the future."
So the Queen wasn't asked her thoughts on the referendum but seeing as it had been brought up she decided to play it safe with the kind of non-statement used by those trying to say nothing while apparently saying something. "I hope people will think very carefully about the future" is as safe and as reasonable as it is non-committal. But despite the Queen's caution, the Telegraph adds:
"Buckingham Palace insiders insisted her remarks were politically neutral but on Sunday night they were being viewed as the clearest sign yet she hopes for a No vote on Thursday."
It should be said, it is those who would like the Queen to come out in favour of a 'No' vote who have applied that interpretation. A case of hearing what they want to hear perhaps.
Taking things to even more tenuous lengths, the Telegraph thought it relevant to add that the Queen was leaving a church "service that had included a prayer asking God "to save us from false choices"".
The Telegraph has certainly been doing what it can to help support the 'No' campaign but some of its efforts have certainly looked increasingly desperate. Its Sunday edition carried a bizarre piece suggesting a 'Yes' vote would be an affront to dead soldiers.
A front page headline on the Sunday Express reports "Hollywood film to claim Diana was murdered" - a conspiracy theory the Express has happily promoted at every opportunity.
The truth is slightly different. The "Hollywood film" in question has no release date, no distributor, no cast, no director, no funding. In fact, there is no movie, just a distant dream for one Diana conspiracy theorist (but at least the Express got to put Diana on the front page):
The Express reports:
"British author Alan Power has been in contact with [84-year-old actress Tippi Hedren's] agent about his controversial book, The Princess Diana Conspiracy: The Evidence Of Murder, in which he alleges British special forces' soldiers killed Diana by staging a car crash in Paris."
Power told the Express: "I am confident of getting a film deal in the near future."
And that's about it, apart from some filler about Hedren's career and some old quotes from her about an entirely unrelated project.
Maybe don't start queuing for tickets just yet.
Rona Fairhead, the former chief executive of the Financial Times Group and a non-executive director at HSBC and Pepsi has been named the new head of the BBC Trust. So how did the Sunday Telegraph report the appointment of such an accomplished figure in the worlds of business and media on its front page...
I suspect you'd be hard pressed to find a reference to a male chief executive, chairman - or any male employee in fact - whose headline achievements are distilled down to how many children they have.
For example, in a story published on the Telegraph's website on Sunday, we were told 'Sir Mike Rake becomes RAC chairman'. Not only was there no mention of his marital status or the number of children he has in the headline, it wasn't even mentioned in the article. How on earth are we meant to judge his business credentials if we don't know how many kids he has? (For the record he has four, which the Telegraph could easily have found on the CBI website had they wanted to).
Daily Mail: 'Women, know your place'
Hold the front page (yes, seriously), some people on a programme about making cakes have fallen out over a baked Alaska sending the media into a silly season induced frenzy.
If you missed the incident, what appears to have happened is an evil old woman (who may or may not actually be evil) sabotaged another contestant's pudding on cake-based reality TV show The Great British Bake Off.
The woman in question has criticised the BBC for 'stitching her up' in the edit - giving the BBC its best read story on Thursday (beating even the revelation that Hello Kitty isn't really a cat - who knew?).
And now hundreds of people with way too much time on their hands have written to the BBC complaining about the fact their lives are an empty shell of echoing loneliness, or something or other.
Some of those complaining are even demanding the BBC invents a time machine in order to reinstate the wronged contestant in time for next week's episode which was filmed weeks ago.
And now The Sun has put the story on its front page while simultaneously pointing out it's a massive non-story (yes, seriously).
Meanwhile, over at The Guardian's offices it looks like all leave is cancelled in order to give this story the around-the-clock, in-depth coverage it deserves, as the below screengrab shows...
Another summer, another spate of media outrage about the Prime Minister taking his family on holiday.
The Daily Mail explains the anger:
"Opponents have accused the Prime Minister of complacency...and have publicly demanded that he return to Number 10 to get a grip on the developing crisis in Iraq."
With tongue firmly in cheek, Tony Gallagher, deputy editor of the Mail, described Cameron splashing around on a body board in the Cornish waves as a "PR triumph".
But we should probably assume Cameron did not wake up on Friday thinking "shall we sort out Iraq or should I go body boarding?" before picking up his wetsuit and heading for the beach. Because any UK response to a number of worsening crises in the Middle East and body boarding are not mutually exclusive. Operations of the state, from bin collections to military action overseas, can continue without the immediate minute-by-minute involvement of the Prime Minister.
Journalists know this of course so what they're really criticising Cameron for, as Gallagher makes clear, is not playing the PR game, for choosing not to pace up and down Downing Street looking worried for the sake of the cameras.
Never mind if his pacing does any good. They clearly just want politics to be even more superficial than it already is to make headlines easier to write, not least because the media are clearly keen to talk up the current terrorist risk to the UK posed by extremists and that kind of sensationalism isn't easy when the Prime Minister doesn't look very worried.
Gallagher's suggestion that good PR has to be the crassest, most obvious kind is also disingenuous at best.
To give the Prime Minister some rare credit, showing us he is confident he has the right people handling matters back home, while encouraging those who can to go about their everyday lives, is a far more honest kind of PR. And while honest PR may not pack the simplistic clout of more obvious kinds - such as the pacing in front of the camera - it would be a huge surprise if any voters, whatever their political allegiance, had genuinely changed their opinion of Cameron because he has taken his family on holiday and left the police and army in charge of police and army affairs.
Yesterday the world was coming to terms with the shock news that Robin Williams was dead. Today we must come to terms with the many unwelcome reminders that no matter how fondly people are regarded and no matter how much their family ask for privacy there are those in the media who will always trample memories and the feelings of friends, family and fans in pursuit of a headline.
Today’s papers have been fiercely criticised for publishing far too much information about the method by which Williams may have taken his own life and far too much speculation about why, ignoring advice issued to media on Tuesday by the The Samaritans.
If you’ve seen the headlines from the likes of the Metro, The Sun, the Daily Star and Daily Mail then you know this already. If you haven’t, don’t go looking because it is none of our business how Robin Williams died.
Of course, many of us are sad that Williams is dead but just because we loved his films and his brilliant performances that doesn’t give us or anybody acting on our behalf the right to invade the privacy and the grief of those who genuinely knew him.
Beyond the crass invasion of privacy, so perfectly illustrated by ABC News reporting the family’s wishes that they be left alone beneath a link to a live stream of aerial footage being filmed above the family home, there is the question of responsibility.
Make no mistake, many media outlets are ignoring every obligation put upon them to report suicide responsibly.
For what it's worth, The Press Complaints Commission makes clear:
“When reporting suicide, care should be taken to avoid excessive detail about the method used."
The Press Complaints Commission has always been embarrassingly inadequate and it’s no surprise that the papers ignore their own toothless regulator. But the media are also ignoring clear guidelines from The Samaritans about how to report suicide.
The Samaritans states "details of suicide methods have been shown to prompt vulnerable individuals to imitate suicidal behaviour". As such they recommend media outlets "avoid giving too much detail" and "avoid any mention of the method in headlines".
Suffice to say that advice was lost on many media outlets.
Likewise, the The Samaritans warning against "over-simplification of the causes or perceived 'triggers' for a suicide" could not stop the Daily Mail from speculating about what triggered Williams' suicide and seeking out a single, simple trigger.
The Samaritans plainly states:
"Vulnerable individuals may identify with a person who has died, or with the circumstances in which a person took their own life. For example, combining references to life circumstances, say a debt problem... and descriptions of an easy-to-copy suicide method in the same report, could put at greater risk people who are vulnerable as a result of financial stress."
The Daily Mail ignored every word of that advice.
None of this is new of course. The media are apparently unable to help themselves when it comes to such stories but their approach has clearly still shocked many readers and it has certainly drawn an angry reaction online.
.@MetroUK You should be ashamed of yourselves for tomorrow's cover. Unforgivable.— Bill Thompson (@billt) August 12, 2014
Samaritans circulated an email via PCC to all papers today. The papers were warned, and ran those front pages anyway. I don't have words.— James Ball (@jamesrbuk) August 12, 2014
Looks like neither @MetroUK nor Daily Mail have bothered paying attention to guidelines on reporting suicide. Shameful front pages tomorrow.— Cath Elliott (@CathElliott) August 12, 2014
The Daily Mail and Metro front covers are fucking wretched.— Nicole (@NickiDupre) August 12, 2014
Pretty much everyone on Twitter has read the Samaritans guidelines for reporting suicide. Only the press has somehow missed them.— Chris (@BertrandRustles) August 12, 2014
"Chancellor George Osborne's family cat, Freya, is being treated by vets after being "clipped" by a car near Downing Street. The tabby's injuries are not serious."
A report in the Guardian adds:
"Freya is recovering and expected to return home soon. Osborne was said to be "grateful" to those who helped his pet and will pay any bills himself."
Leaving ITV News to add the all-important detail:
"It is unclear where the incident happened or whose car was involved."
So 'cat is OK after trip to the vet, owner pays the bills, nobody really sure what happened'.
Hold the front page.
Now we are being urged to be terrified about ebola and The Mirror appears to be the scare-monger in chief.
Of course ebola is serious, especially in Sierra Leone and Liberia where more than 800 people have died from the illness.
But despite medical experts playing down the risk to the UK, the Mirror has been working overtime to sensationalise the threat, talk up the risk to the UK and use the word 'TERROR' in big capital letters whenever possible.
So in the past week we had the "Commonwealth Games Ebola Terror" in which an athlete was found not to have ebola - a detail which was known before the Mirror wrote its headline, accompanied by a photo from Liberia for addded shock factor.
And then there was the story of "Ebola terror as passenger dies at Gatwick" which involved a passenger who didn't die of ebola, tested negative for the illness and, according to the Department of Health, showed no symptoms of ebola.
Of course, the headline is deeply and deliberately misleading, written to feed the irrational fears and prejudices of Mail readers.
The Mail eventually admits the sperm bank will be used by "lesbians, single women... and... heterosexual couples" - meaning it's actually just a sperm bank.
The Mail's online headline takes its discriminatory hyperbole to higher levels still, telling its readers "NHS to fund sperm bank for lesbians: New generation of fatherless families... paid for by YOU".
At this point it's worth noting that even the 'NHS-funded' element of these headlines is more than a little misleading. Public funding for the sperm bank amounts to a single £77,000 grant.
"The ebola crisis hit the Commonwealth Games," reports Friday's Mirror beneath a headline declaring "Commonwealth Games Ebola Terror". Next to the headline is a picture of a body being carried on a stretcher.
"Evan brings a rare combination of curiosity, intelligence and mischief to his broadcasting - just the qualities I want Newsnight to be known for. I've admired him from afar as a listener and viewer for years and I'm thrilled that he's joining us to help reinvent the show where he made his name in the Nineties."
Davis said he was powerless to "turn down the offer of this role on Newsnight, treading in the footsteps of some of the best television presenters in the business."
In the early hours of Sunday morning Sky News reported on growing concerns about the degree to which the crash scene of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was being tampered with and compomised.
Hours later one of the broadcaster's own correspondents, Colin Brazier, was seen rummaging through the luggage of dead passengers. After pulling items out of the luggage and holding them up to the camera it belatedly dawned on Brazier that what he was doing was incredibly wrong.
"We shouldn't really be doing this," he was heard saying live on air, as he dropped some car keys back into the suitcase.
Sky News has now apologised for Brazier's actions. A statement said:
"Today whilst presenting from the site of the MH17 air crash Colin Brazier reflected on the human tragedy of the event and showed audiences the content of one of the victims' bags. Colin immediately recognised that this was inappropriate and said so on air. Both Colin and Sky News apologise profusely for any offence caused."
The Daily Mail did a good job on Tuesday of pretending it was angry about all the hard-done-by white, middle-aged men being "culled" in David Cameron's reshuffle. But really it was already building itself up to get on with the serious business of objectifying the women MPs taking up new roles in the Cabinet.
On the front of Wednesday's paper the Mail is doing the journalistic equivalent of winding down the van window and shouting "Oi! Oi! darlin'...show us your legs!" at a woman trying to go about her business. Inside, a photo story critiques each of the female MPs' outfits and physical appearance in a way no paper would ever consider doing for male MPs.
When male MPs walk down Downing Street it's referred to not unreasonably as Downing Street. But when female MPs appear on Downing Street it is suddenly transformed by the Mail into a "catwalk" which they "sashay" down, rather than simply walking. And if there's more than one female MP they become locked in a "catwalk battle" lest we forget they are only there to be judged on their appearance and compared to one another.
Update: One of the Daily Mail's own staff has broken ranks to criticise the paper's "unspeakably awful and demeaning" coverage of women. Outgoing business correspondent Becky Barrow took to Twitter to post the following message:
Daily Mail: 'Women, know your place'
As the World Cup Final went into extra time on Sunday night, newspaper editors were poised, waiting to put their papers to bed. Then Mario Götze scored, they all wrote the same headline and went to the pub.
At least nobody went with 'History Boys'.
One of the stranger stories this week saw the world's media obsessing on the watch worn by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of Isis. Never mind the brutality and the killing the media all wanted to discuss the comparatively irrelevant detail of his "bling".
The Telegraph reported "the watch bore an obvious resemblance to models designed by a number of famous watchmakers, including the £3,490 Omega seamaster". The Daily Mail hedged its bets claiming it was either a Rolex, a Sekonda or an Omega, while the Huffington Post reported it was indeed an Omega Seamaster, the same watch as the one worn by James Bond in recent films apparently.
However, according to CNN the watch may actually have been "a relatively more modest $560 "Islamic watch" from Al-Fajr... the preferred choice of "true Muslims"."
The Daily Mail is regularly criticised for inaccurate reporting, making up stories, lifting them without credit from other outlets or putting such a spin on a story that any facts there may once have been are no longer recognisable.
Less common are apologies for any of the above.
But it seems George Clooney has too much clout for the Mail to ignore. Within hours of the Hollywood star criticising the Mail this week for fabricating a story about his fiancee's family the Mail issued an apology.
"The story was not a fabrication but..." began the Mail's forlorn defence, the "but" and the rare apology both betraying the fact it clearly must have been. The Mail tried to blame the story on a "trusted freelance journalist" before apologising to Clooney and stating "we accept Mr Clooney's assurance that the story is inaccurate".
However, Clooney remains unimpressed. "I thank the Mail for its apology, " he wrote this week. "Not that I would ever accept it, but because in doing so they've exposed themselves as the worst kind of tabloid. One that makes up its facts to the detriment of its readers."
George Clooney has written a letter to USA Today criticising what he calls "a completely fabricated story" in the Daily Mail about his mother-in-law to be and her alleged opposition to him marrying her daughter.
"It says Amal's mother has been telling "half of Beirut" that she's against the wedding. It says they joke about traditions in the Druze religion that end up with the death of the bride. Let me repeat that: the death of the bride.
"The irresponsibility, in this day and age, to exploit religious differences where none exist, is at the very least negligent and more appropriately dangerous.
"The Daily Mail, more than any other organization that calls itself news, has proved time and time again that facts make no difference in the articles they make up. And when they put my family and my friends in harm's way, they cross far beyond just a laughable tabloid and into the arena of inciting violence."
You can read Clooney's full letter here.