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We're All For Writing Your Own News Round Here . . . . But This Just Takes the Biscuit

category dublin | crime and justice | feature author Friday January 14, 2005 00:40author by Robert Doleauthor email dolecm261 at hotmail dot com Report this post to the editors

'Ardagh, Gardai, Journos - all attention seeking Muppets' sez Wag

This is an opinion piece recently published on the Indymedia Newswire based on a recently published bogus news item relating to a fictional tale of drug trafficking on the Luas.

The basic rules of journalism seem straightforward; verify your story from at least two independent sources and always get the important 5 ‘W’s’ and a ‘H’, who, what, when, where, why & how? For a clearer example of my belief that media crime coverage sometimes purposely tries to create a moral outcry, I decided to set up an experiment. Being an avid writer of fiction, I set up a false Hotmail account under a pseudonym. I wrote the mail in the guise of a disgruntled semi-retired member of a fictional unnamed residents association. I claimed to be acting on behalf of some concerned neighbours. I posted my mail to newspaper The Star. on the 5th of January, (2005). I requested that they look into a new Luas related drugs problem, figuring that drug stories are a solid popular crime issue and the inclusion of the new Luas system, (which had not yet been linked to any crime) would prove too tempting. I did not name any names and mentioned two districts in an effort to be more vague. I also stated that I wanted to remain anonymous, as I was well known in the area concerned.

On Sunday the 9th of January 2005, The Star Sunday printed a story, which read, ‘Claims Luas is Drugs Ferry’, (Hynes, F. P.12). This was my story. When not directly quoting me, I was paraphrased. Almost the entire content of my false Hotmail was there in print. I checked the account and found a reply from the Star’s News Editor requesting I contact Ms. Hynes. This was not an over eager journalist, but an entire chain of command prematurely printing a story relating to a fictional criminal matter. . . .

The piece followed with, ‘A group of residents, who asked not to be named for fear of their safety…’ Yet again we are fed a tale of bogus foreboding as fearful residents are visualised by the paper’s readers. The crux of my mail and the printed story was that as the Luas travels through many different areas the Gardaí are powerless to do anything, as specific Gardaí stations only cover specific areas. Amazingly, to counteract this problem the story reads,

‘On the foot of these concerns, Sean Ardagh, the Chairman of the Governments justice Committee confirmed to Star Sunday that he will be speaking to relevant members of the Gardaí about this issue.’ Even more worryingly, a sub-heading reads, ‘A powerful government watchdog has said it plans to investigate claims…’

Above we see a photo of Ardagh with the words ‘Action: Ardagh’ underneath. Does this show the possible appearance of a political bias on the papers behalf? As I helped in the creation of this tale of moral panic, I know it to be false. Does the media coverage of crime try to sensationalise crime reporting? Sometimes, sometimes it also creates the story. As I write this I am neither proud nor elated, but somewhat surprised. We are left with some rather troubling questions. Whatever happened to source verification, facts? If my character was so well known, why didn’t The Star try to contact resident associations in the areas mentioned. Why were the claims that I had contacted the Gardaí in two stations, (both named in the mail), not verified?
I am tempted to write a tale of a new inner-city crime gang to match 'The Westies', I'm thinking, 'The Sugar Hill Gang.'

author by ho chi mamapublication date Thu Jan 13, 2005 18:17author address author phone Report this post to the editors

whoa! how do i know you are telling the truth? is this a double bluf? am i really writing this? (please post scan of article for amusement and to illustrate your point)

author by jsrpublication date Thu Jan 13, 2005 19:05author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Oh this is just too good to be true but then again the rags never let facts or their lack get in the way of a story.......this has made my day! Has this been shown to the rag? Id love to know their reaction!

author by an imcerpublication date Thu Jan 13, 2005 20:39author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The story does exist at the very least.

author by Bottle Blondepublication date Thu Jan 13, 2005 21:17author email bb at peroxide dot ieauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

CBS didn't check their facts in the story about President Bush's military record.

author by Chekovpublication date Fri Jan 14, 2005 00:57author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The sun, April 26th 2004, also based on an anonymous email. At least the sun did include the detail that it was based on an anonymous email - but still printed it on the front page as fact.

the_sun_page_6.jpg

author by Bord Gaispublication date Fri Jan 14, 2005 01:03author address author phone Report this post to the editors

You still owe us for all that gas.

If you have paid your bill since this notice was issued then please disregard.

author by Phil Stoner - Anti-Rag Frontpublication date Fri Jan 14, 2005 02:10author email clan_man12000 at yahoo dot ieauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

We shouldn't get worked up about the lack of journalistic integrity at the Star newspaper. Its a moronic newpaper run by moronic people. The state of Irish jornalism is lamentable and the Star is not the only paper at the forefront of crass,insensitive, inaccurate and sensationalist reporting.

Just refrain from buying the Star and all the other pathetic papers (Evening Herald) and question the ethos of journalistic courses that produce such inept people. There was a time when newspapers mattered, they unfailingly brought to the people, social and political stories that were of core importance to the reader. That time has passed and we should now question our own morality by allowing a market for these papers to exist.

author by Paddy Whackpublication date Fri Jan 14, 2005 09:26author address author phone Report this post to the editors

It clearly says you must not:

"Create a false identity for the purpose of misleading others."

I've flagged this to the Daily Star and Microsoft. Expect a solicitor's letter when they track you down....

author by IF Stonepublication date Fri Jan 14, 2005 10:25author address author phone Report this post to the editors

It's a funny one alright.
For what it's worth though, it might be worth remembering the type of dyanamic at work between tabloid newspaper editors and staff.
It's true to say that some pretty lazy, incompetent reporters have come out of the myriad of journalism courses on offer.
But it's also true that some pretty decent hacks have also emerged from the very same courses.
In the case of the bogus LUAS-drugs story, I would go so far as to say that it was always going to appear once the idea captured the imagination of senior editorial staff - with or without fact-checking.
It's a fact of journalistic life that reporters at tabloids are frequently brow-beaten into putting particular spins on stories which they themselves know will never stand up - the unofficial mantra being: "Here's the headline, write the story to fit it." Freelance employees are particularly vulnerable to this type of pressure. The consquences of not doing the bidding of an unscrupulous editor is the sack.
Of course, you might ask why staff reporters ( as opposed to freelancers ) also tolerate this.
The answer they would give you is probably that it's just a job to them, not a vocation, and the cash they earn is used to feed the kids/pay mortgages/ etc. Pretty sad I know, but that' s the reality.

author by misepublication date Fri Jan 14, 2005 13:53author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Im sure he wouldnt mind doin a bit of chokey for exposing them. And sure wasnt that what all the fuss about with the blogger in dundalk? Im surprised that any of yis would even consider reading that rag in the first place. Dont feckin buy it.

author by historianpublication date Fri Jan 14, 2005 14:02author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Very interesting, and not a little disturbing. It confirms what many people already suspect about "journalism" in the gutter rags owned by that fcuker. Which of the sleaze bags put their name to it - was it Hynes? I know myself of several completely spurious stories "written" by some of the leading lights of the Star, Sindo, and Herald including one or two that made the front page!!

John Mooney is one of the worst offenders with his alleged inside information on the IRA. He either makes the stuff up or takes whatever shite the cops want to put out an any particular time. While the above example is laughable, people ought not to underestimate the effect which the constant barrage of lies and slander from Sir Anthony "who stole my godson's doping samples" O'Reilly's yellow press has on those who buy the muck.

author by Brendan Shiner - Ceili for the peoplepublication date Fri Jan 14, 2005 20:23author email getuptheyard at cork dot ieauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

'The Star all the facts that matter'
Methinks they shall need a newer more factual slogan.

author by Michael Gallagher - R.A.R.publication date Sat Jan 15, 2005 11:41author address author phone Report this post to the editors

While the editor of the Star (and he is supposed to have the final say on what's printed),cannot be excused for the lack of ethics and the running of this story without verification, we shouldn't tar all the Star's reporters with the same brush.
There are some very good reporters there including Shane Doran, who has given a lot of coverage to racism issues etc.
The Star's sports coverage -especially amateur sport- is second to none, the reason I buy it only 2/3 times a week.

author by shoegirlpublication date Thu Jan 20, 2005 04:57author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Paddy Whack - how spiteful. He was only proving a point.

This is rather interesting. I think its clear that the Star is obviously willing to print stories that have no definite factual basis and are in fact complete invention.

Now the next step would be to prove that the Star has an agenda to use fake news to push its own agenda. Its only a matter of time before pure Fox News practices make their way here in other forms of media.

author by Spinning Quicklypublication date Wed Mar 23, 2005 18:18author address author phone Report this post to the editors

They have their own stable of fiction writers - so it's impossible to know if it was an anonymous email that really started the story.

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