After just two days in the job, The Telegraph has parted company with its latest columnist - disgraced former Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie.
The Telegraph announced on Thursday morning that MacKenzie had been hired as a columnist for its website.
There then followed the kind of angry backlash which will follow MacKenzie to his grave and by Friday afternoon it was announced there would be no more columns from MacKenzie.
However, parting company with MacKenzie makes The Telegraph's original decision to hire him no less offensive.
Clearly The Telegraph knew MacKenzie's hiring would cause offence and upset for the families and friends of Hillsborough victims who MacKenzie so remorselessly insulted over many years.
Margaret Aspinall of the Hillsborough Family Support Group told The Liverpool Daily Post:
"It beggars belief they would even consider the man. National newspapers should know the history of Hillsborough and the people involved. I thought they would have more sense."
But clearly The Telegraph was willing to try to cash in on the publicity and controversy that would result from MacKenzie's hiring. Up to a point.
Hopefully other media outlets take note of this very public reminder that MacKenzie is and always will be toxic in the minds of a great many people.
Here's the latest episode of The Spike, tackling April Fools and serving up a wonderful montage of Leveson action from the archives...
The Daily Mail has been criticised for suggesting the welfare system is to blame for the killing of six children in a Derby housefire for which their father and two other people have now been convicted (see: The Daily Mail: "A vile product of welfare UK").
But while the Daily Mail wore its prejudice openly on today's front page, The Sun it seems was a bit less committed to the cause of using this tragedy to smear the benefits system.
Perhaps having seen the initial backlash against The Mail, The Sun quickly changed the wording of its leader article inside today's paper. Spot the difference between the first and second editions:
Today's Daily Mail front page has met with an angry reaction, no doubt to the delight of those who produced it (right).
To exploit the tragic death of six children in this way - in order to score points against the benefits system and those claiming benefits - is tasteless in the extreme. These horrific events were not a vile product of the welfare state.
But the newspaper making that accusation has certainly become one.
The Daily Mail may predate the "handouts" it likes to berate, but the newspaper we recognise today has undeniably been forged in the fires of social prejudice during the latter half of the twentieth century and the first part of this one.
Without the social divisions it has enforced and the hatred it has stirred between the haves and the have-nots the Daily Mail would be unrecognisable.
While the Mail's website looks set to survive on a diet of bikinis, breasts, bums and reality TV the newspaper relies heavily upon this grudge - and others - that can be worn raw through its knowing incitement.
And as the economic conditions worsen and those social divisions grow wider it seems likely the Mail's invective will only grow fiercer and more spiteful - fiercer and more spiteful even than laying the death of six children at the door of the benefits system and those who support it.
According to a report on the Mail Online we are living in a "raunch culture" where "the objectification of women's bodies is having a disastrous effect upon the self-image of girls and young women."
The Mail Online reports:
"Big business is promoting a 'raunch culture' that corrupts young girls, teachers warned yesterday... As a result, girls are becoming fixated with their figures, with many developing eating disorders...
"The bleak assessment was laid out at the National Union of Teachers' conference in Liverpool... An NUT motion stated: "The objectification of women's bodies is playing an ever more horrifying role in society and is having a disastrous effect upon the self-image of girls and young women. Growing up in a world where it is normal for women's bodies to be seen as sex objects affects the way that girls in our schools grow to view themselves and their place in society. Girls are coming under unprecedented pressure to conform with unrealistic physical and sexual ideals and modifying their behaviour because of contact with adult material."
Which makes you wonder, if the Mail Online understands why the objectification of women may be a problem, why does it work so tirelessly to perpetuate it? After all, the Mail Online has shown a fairly single-minded dedication to making itself the go-to website for photo stories passing comment on the weight, shape, size and curves of women's bodies.
At this point it is probably worth looking at a selection of the stories which the Mail Online is running alongside this piece today - though they are pretty tame by the Mail's normal standards:
Although the Mail Online's article makes no mention of the way women are represented in the tabloid media, it does include criticism of the Playboy brand and the way it has crossed over into mainstream media and marketing. Of course, the Mail didn't let that criticism put them off running this breaking news story over the weekend:
The Express's wild weather predictions have come in for some criticism on this blog, so it seems only fair to mention when they actually get one right.
The Met Office has confirmed temperatures on Easter Sunday hit a low of -12.5C in Braemar, in the Scottish Highlands making this the coldest Easter on record.
Of course, -12.5C isn't quite -15C as stated in the headline, and nor was it necessarily the coldest Easter "EVER" but let's assume "EVER" was shorthand for "ever recorded".
It's also unclear how much "Arctic misery" there really was, or even what "Arctic misery" really is. Presumably they take cold weather in their stride up in the Arctic.
But credit where it's due. By The Express's standards this was not bad.
So was this unseasonable outbreak of accuracy just a question of probability catching up with The Express or is there something different about the way The Express has approached this story that sets it apart from its weather predictions in the past?
Firstly, this was a relatively short-range forecast related to conditions within a seven-day period, unlike many of the Express's claims. For example, the paper was promising us a white Christmas as early as 21 November last year, a week after predicting the coldest winter in 100 years. Neither materialised.
Secondly, the source for this story was The Met Office, which is certainly not always the case. Often The Express favours independent weather forecasters such as "Exacta Weather" or "Vantage Weather Services" (whose chief spokesman appears to be formerly of "Positive Weather Solutions"). Little is known of the raft of small organisations who feed The Express's insatiable appetite for weather news and comment, though George Monbiot over at The Guardian has done some digging previously.
BBC weather presenter Paul Hudson also offers some valuable insight here.
But there may also be an element of probability about this. After all, in the past few years The Express has published a great many predictions of this kind (such as the "coldest winter in 100 years" and the "coldest May in 100 years"). One of them was eventually going to be right.
The Telegraph and The Daily Mail have expressed shock today that the BBC marked the closure of Television Centre with a party for staff.
Readers of a gentle disposition might want to sit down for this next bit.
Apparently there was drinking. And dancing. Somebody may or may not have smoked indoors and there may even have been some sex - either in a studio or an office, The Telegraph isn't quite sure because it's pretty much cobbled together its entire report based on a couple of tweets and an article on the Daily Mail's website:
"The farewell gathering, held in three recording studios, was a raucous affair at which BBC employees drank and danced until the early hours."
Helen Williamson, a producer, wrote: "At the BBC's 'goodbye TVC party'...did a nostalgic walk of the donut & heard someone s------- in one of the offices. Sackable offence?
Now, I REALLY hope the word The Telegraph has timidly censored there is "shagging".
If it is "shitting" I don't even want to know.
But if two consenting adults had sex at a staff party is this really news?
There's part of me that hopes that they were also dressed as Pudsey the bear and a Cyberman, doing it against the TARDIS. But it still wouldn't be news.
The Telegraph continues:
"Just days earlier, the BBC was accused of "over indulgence" after broadcasting extensive coverage of its lat [sic] days at Television Centre... Viewers branded the coverage "self congratulatory claptrap" and pointed out that it was not a story for anyone who did not work for the BBC."
Among the many things The Telegraph doesn't quite find room to mention in its article - such as the fact BBC staff had to buy tickets for their party which had a cash bar - is the fact that a great many viewers enjoyed the coverage. A survey of Media Blog readers found the majority supported the amount of coverage dedicated to Television Centre by the BBC.
Funnily enough, The Mail also overlooked the detail of the party being self-funded by BBC staff and the similarities between the two articles don't end there or with the use of exactly the same tweets...
The Mail: However, presenter Vernon Kay – married to Strictly Come Dancing host Tess Daly – was reportedly stopped by security as he left the building with a dressing room sign.
The Telegraph: Presenter
Vernon Kay, who is married to Strictly Come Dancing host Tess Daly, was
reportedly stopped by security as he left the building with a dressing room
The Mail: In a second evening of celebrations on Friday, Madness performed live outside the building. Journalist Julia Raeside said: 'Drunk watching Madness. Might smoke indoors. It's that kind of night.'
The Telegraph: The following evening, last Friday, Madness performed live outside the building. Journalist Julia Raeside wrote on Twitter: "Drunk watching Madness. Might smoke indoors. It's that kind of night."
The Mail: Presenter Dave Berry added: 'Off to ghost town BBC television centre to work a stunning TV show project and also to pinch some stuff.' The day after the farewell party, photographer Ray Burmiston said: 'Feels like a ghostown [sic]...
The Telegraph: Presenter Dave Berry wrote online: "Off to ghost town BBC television centre to work a stunning TV show project and also to pinch some stuff." The day after the farewell party, photographer Ray Burmiston said: "Feels like a ghostown (sic)...
The Mail: Although most of the interior had been stripped of furniture and equipment...
The Telegraph: Although much of the building, in White City, west London, had been stripped of furniture and equipment...
Perhaps when it comes to giving the BBC a kicking the two newspapers are happy to share the workload.
London Mayor Boris Johnson has had a mixed week. On Sunday he was subjected to a pretty brutal interview by Eddie Mair on BBC1 in which it was put to him he is "a nasty piece of work", based on selected highlights from a BBC2 documentary the following evening.
But by the time the BBC2 show came around it became clear it was actually little more than a shameless puff piece for Johnson.
Sure, it contained a review of past scandals: Johnson's lies and affairs. But these weren't presented in order to skewer Boris. It was done in order to get it all out in the open once and for all. This was Boris - on his terms - getting some tricky questions out of the way in order to clear a path to the Tory party leadership.
But just as Boris and his PR team must have been patting themselves on the back for a job well done, his old friend Darius Guppy, a convicted fraudster has leapt to Johnson's defence writing for The Spectator - the magazine Johnson once edited.
Guppy began by addressing Mair's criticism of Johnson for being sacked from an early journalism job at The Times for making up a quote:
"Eddie Mair has more front than Harrods. Consider this: a member of the British Media, Mr Mair, berates another former such member, Boris Johnson, for making up quotes! What planet are you living on, Mr Mair? Making things up is what people in your profession do for a living!"
File this next one under 'With friends like this...'
"Next, Mr Johnson, a politician, is criticised for lying to another politician... That's what politicians do ...And they fiddle their expenses and they pervert the course of justice and they commit perjury..."
"Tell me, Mr Mair, which do you think will cause Mr Johnson the greater difficulty on the Day of Judgement: making up some quotes as a journalist or the ritual humiliation of his wife and children?"
"But should being 'a nasty piece of work', as Mr Mair put it, preclude Mr Johnson from high office?"
It's a good question, but possibly one Boris would prefer his friends weren't asking.
The Daily Mail has covered a planning dispute in Grimsby. Hardly the most interesting of news stories you might think - and you'd be right - but the Mail has certainly tried its best to make the story a little more eye-catching:
The story involves a couple's complaint that their old house was torn down by developers a fortnight after they had sold it along with some adjoining land which reportedly had planning permission for two houses.
The demolition of their house was described as being like a scene from Apocalypse Now by an anonymous eye-witness who as luck would have it spoke in headline-friendly soundbites.
Powerless neighbours watched in shock as the machines tore the house down, in a scene they compared to the helicopter attack in cult film 'Apocalypse Now'.
If you haven't seen Apocalypse Now - the scene in question looks like this:
The couple whose house was razed to the ground by the massed firepower of the US army, explained that they didn't really want to sell, but the developers made them "an offer they could not refuse" - making it a bit like a scene from The Godfather as well.
"Mr and Mrs Watts said: 'It's horrifying. We are shell shocked. We just can't believe it has happened. It was a beautiful family home filled with memories."
It is indeed odd to think that the new owners decided against maintaining the house as a museum to the happy memories of Mr and Mrs Watts, but this tale of suburban Apocalypse gets even worse.
Because it turns out the developers didn't apply in advance for the proper planning permission to demolish the house ...making it all just like the scene in Star Wars where the Rebel Alliance demolish the Death Star without planning permission from North East Lincolnshire Council.
If you've not yet had your fill of nostalgia for BBC Television Centre, then you really must watch this wonderful video, created by television producer Ed Stradling, paying tribute to a rich history of classic television:
Over the weekend The Media Blog ran a survey which showed readers believed the BBC was right to treat the closure of the historic Television Centre as a news story, despite some public criticism of the coverage.
The BBC has come in for some criticism online for its extensive coverage of the closure of Television Centre. Some suggested the BBC elevating its own "office move" to the main evening news was a bit self-important. However, the majority of Media Blog readers (of 1,309 surveyed) said the BBC was right to consider the closure of such a historic building a news story - although more than a third did say there had been too much coverage.
Here are the results of a quick poll run by The Media Blog showing a clear interest in - and affection for - BBC Television Centre:
1. Do you think it's right that the BBC has covered the closure of BBC Television Centre as a news story?
2. Do you think there has been too much coverage, not enough or a reasonable amount?
In December last year The Daily Mail was unequivocal in blaming two Australian radio DJs for the tragic suicide of nurse Jacintha Saldanha.
The Mail accused the pair outright of making "a fatal hoax phone call".
The Mail called Saldanha "A victim of today's culture of casual cruelty". The paper said Saldanha's suicide was a result of "casual, tacky, thoughtless cruelty that has infected popular culture like a plague".
Last December also saw Richard Littlejohn write an article for the Daily Mail attacking a transgender teacher called Lucy Meadows.
Tragically it has transpired that Lucy Meadows has now been found dead. Early reports suggest she took her own life though this has not been confirmed.
If the circumstances were different, the Mail would no doubt be the first to link the media mauling Meadows received to her death. Yet on this occasion the Daily Mail's trademark willingness to point the finger seems to have deserted it.
Meadows had done nothing wrong yet she witnessed first hand a willingness to ruin lives for entertainment. Littlejohn attacked Meadows not because she deserved it, but because he could, having taken issue with the fact Meadows used to be a man, called Nathan Upton.
"Nathan Upton is now in the early stages of gender reassignment treatment. He issued a statement which read: "This has been a long and difficult journey for me and it was certainly not an easy decision to make."
But despite acknowledging this "difficult journey" Littlejohn still thought it fair game to go on and put the boot in to an innocent member of the public.
Make no mistake, the Daily Mail will have known that Littlejohn's own distinctive brand of casual, tacky, thoughtless cruelty was going to make Meadows' "difficult journey" unimaginably more difficult.
Whatever the reasons behind Meadows' death - which remain unknown - there is no excuse for the abuse and the ridicule she was subjected to in the final months of her life.
The first rule of budget club is you don't talk about budget club until the Chancellor has given his speech. Of course there have been a few leaks over the past few days, regarding what we might expect, but no confirmation as to the exact content of the Chancellor's speech.
Or at least that was the case right up until the Evening Standard jumped the gun and tweeted its front page which contained a raft of spoilers they will have been given under a strict embargo.
As London's evening paper, The Standard clearly cannot risk being left out of embargoed Westminster news, so there then followed a grovelling - some might say over the top - apology from editor Sarah Sands:
"An investigation is immediately underway into how this front page was made public and the individual who Tweeted the page has been suspended while this takes place. We have immediately reviewed our procedures. We are devastated that an embargo was breached and offer our heartfelt apologies."
"Devastated" no less.
The Standard's political editor Joe Murphy also waded in on the apologising and even the apologosing:
The BBC has a list of past budget leaks and the people who have lost their jobs over them, including Chancellor Hugh Dalton who was forced to resign in 1947 after details appeared in print before he had finished delivering his budget.
Stop what you're doing, The Express has a story on its front page today that may just save your life:
1. Stay physically active
Now, I've actually heard rumours about this one before, so they might be onto something here....
2. Stick to a healthy weight
That one rings a bell too...
3. Eat a healthy diet
Oh OK, I think I saw that on a TV ad once...
4. Maintain good cholesterol levels
...now I definitely remember reading something about that on a tub of margarine...
5. Keep blood pressure down
I think there was an episode of medical drama House where they mentioned this.
6. Control blood sugar levels
Perhaps I'll give the deep-fried Mars bars a miss today.
7. Stop smoking
OK, I didn't know about that one [puts out Cuban cigar].
So there you go, we've all learned something today.
Monday's Sun enlisted Winston Churchill for its final push against press regulation. But if The Sun really wanted to invoke Churchill it should have paused to consider what the actions of the "few" have meant for the "many".
For all the finger-pointing, there is no doubt we are where we are today - discussing the introduction of press regulation via Royal Charter - because a few chose to abuse the freedom of the press that so many held dear.
The Daily Mail has reminded us that people died defending the right to freedom of expression. But that merely serves to highlight how shamefully that right has been abused by some since.
After all, people didn't lay down their lives so newspapers could get better candid shots of pre-teen girls, or so papers could accuse innocent people of murder or stalk grieving families and invade the private lives of people whose only crime is doing something the public might be interested in, rather than something which is in the public interest.
Something clearly had to change. The newspaper industry had proven itself incapable of self regulation.
One of the most compelling arguments for more effective press regulation came during the Leveson Inquiry from an unlikely source.
Hugh Whittow, editor of the Daily Express told the Inquiry that his paper had withdrawn from the PCC because the watchdog had failed to protect The Express from its own worst excesses.
"I don't think [press regulator the PCC] was serving our best interests at the time because of the McCanns – that was a big story for us and I felt that they should have intervened. Everyone had too much leeway, there was nobody intervening at all as a result."
Whittow was effectively admitting that his newspaper simply could not master its unhealthy obsession with the McCanns. His admission was backed up by the words of Gerry McCann who said in February this year:
"The slurs went on for months despite our best efforts... And they continued for the simple reason that there was no-one and nothing with the power to stop them."
Whether you like it or not, that is why today we are discussing the institution of press regulation via Royal Charter. It is not because politicians longed to control the press, whatever the press may argue, but because the public was so appalled by what was revealed at the Leveson Inquiry that the government could no longer be seen not to act.
Now we have to wait and see how the newspapers will respond, beyond the obligatory scare stories about the death of free speech or articles comparing the UK to the Soviet Union, which would have us believe that effective press regulation may as well be a one way ticket to the gulag.
Such hyperbole - including the predictable mentions of George Orwell (see today's front page of The Sun, right) and comparisons to Zimbabwe and Iran - has merely cheapened the arguments against effective press regulation. Ultimately nobody put forward a credible argument which was as compelling as the arguments for trying to prevent a repeat of the way the McCanns and the likes of Christopher Jeffries were treated.
However, this doesn't mean anything is fixed or resolved.
We must now wait to see whether the new regulatory framework can actually be implemented and run effectively. We wait to see fully who is included and who opts to include themselves. A number of newspapers remain guarded about the likelihood of signing up - then what? These are all questions we need proper answers to.
In the meantime though we have to see past the obvious complaints from the press and remember why this became necessary. If this move helps restore some trust in the reputation of the press - and we should all hope it does - then they have more to gain than anybody.
The Times has decided the arrest of Tina Weaver, former Sunday Mirror editor, as part of the ongoing Operation Weeting investigation into phone hacking is front page news today:
What a difference a year makes. Exactly 12 months ago, when Rebekah Brooks, former News Of The World and Sun editor and CEO of News International, was arrested The Times just didn't see such arrests as being worthy of the front page:
So we'll keep this quick.
Was this past winter the coldest in 100 years? Did The Express prove the critics, the doubters, the bookmakers, the Met Office and everybody else wrong?
Of course not.
The Met Office has published its full winter figures - classed for reporting purposes as December, January and February and a spokeswoman for the Met Office told the Media Blog:
"It hasn't been the coldest winter in 100 years. Far from it."
She's not wrong. It wasn't even the coldest winter in 50 years.
Or 25 years.
Or 10 years.
Or 5 years.
BUT... it was colder than last winter.
For the record, this past winter, with a mean temperature of 3.3°C, was the 43rd coldest in the last 100 years which in the grand scheme of things is really pretty average - a description which could also be applied to the UK's weather in general, despite The Express's best efforts to convince us we're only ever just days away from being baked or frozen to death.
The papers may be more accustomed to criticising members of the public for not working, but today The Telegraph seems intent on going after a man for doing the job he's paid to do:
"The Princess Royal's daughter was left unimpressed by the actions of overzealous security who appeared not to recognise her on the opening day of the [Cheltenham Festival]."
Of course, there is every chance the security guard did recognise her, but that wouldn't change the fact his job is to stop people walking across the Parade Ring as the horses are coming in.
"The 31 year-old... was prevented from crossing the parade ring after one race...and was seen in animated discussion with the guard, who refused to budge."
And the kids in Africa think they've got it tough.
Fortunately this non-story had a happy ending for all concerned:
"She was eventually let through..."
...presumably once the horses had passed.
However, that didn't stop The Telegraph contacting the security guard's employers:
"Organisers tonight backed the unnamed guard who was "doing his job" by keeping the safety of guests paramount."
By the way, it seems very unlikely the man is actually "unnamed". He is probably not a latter day version of Clint Eastwood's Man With No Name, wandering the Wolds of Gloucestershire looking for horseracing meetings to steward. Rather, it seems more likely The Telegraph wanted a name and the event's organisers quite rightly declined to provide it.
"A Cheltenham Festival spokesman said: "After each race we have a line of security guards in the middle of the parade ring, whose job it is to stop people walking from one side to the other in front of the horses... That is what happened in this case. We would support the actions of the stewards 100 per cent."
"He was doing his job and looking after the safety of the public, which at that point she is a member of."
Nobody likes over-officious security guards or stewards who make you walk the long way around because "rules is rules" but stopping people walking out in front of horses seems a reasonable rule to enforce, as these things go.