5 March 2011

Richard Peppiatt's Resignation from the Daily Star

Late yesterday afternoon, the Guardian reported a remarkable resignation here. A journalist working at the Star newspaper wrote an angry and scathing letter, here , to Richard Desmond, owner of the Daily Star, giving the reasons for his leaving what must have appeared secure employment with the paper.

The journalist, Richard Peppiatt,admitted in his letter that he had been guilty of submitting stories about celebrities which were untrue and concocting others which had no basis in fact whatsoever. 

Kelly Brook, often the subject of articles in the Daily Star, once asked where the stories came from. Peppiatt in his missive to Desmond says:

"Maybe I should answer that one. I made it up. Not that it was my choice; I was told to. At 6pm and staring at a blank page I simply plucked it from my arse. Not that it was all bad. I pocketed a £150 bonus. You may have read some of my other earth-shattering exclusives."

To many of us , this admission is remarkable. 

We may have suspected the dearth of veracity in some of the articles we read in such papers, but to have our suspicions confirmed in such a powerful way in Peppiatt's letter leaves us sighing 'At Last! One of them has held up his hands and told the truth!'

What seems to have been the straw which broke Peppiatt's journalistic back was his being 'forced' to write articles denigrating Muslims and aimed at a faction of the public only too willing to believe the worst of this group in our society. He writes in his letter to Desmond:

"The decision came inside my local newsstand, whilst picking up the morning papers. As I chatted with Mohammed, the Muslim owner, his blinking eyes settled on my pile of print, and then, slowly, rose to meet my face.
"English Defence League to become a political party" growled out from the countertop.
Squirming, I abandoned the change in my pocket and flung a note in his direction, the clatter of the till a welcome relief from the silence that had engulfed us. I slunk off toward the tube.
If he was hurt that my 25p had funded such hate-mongering, he'd be rightly appalled that I'd sat in the war cabinet itself as this incendiary tale was twisted and bent to fit an agenda seemingly decided before the EDL's leader Tommy Robinson had even been interviewed.
Asked if his group were to become a political party I was told the ex-BNP goon had replied: "Not for now."
But further up the newsprint chain it appears a story, too good to allow the mere spectre of reality to restrain, was spotted. It almost never came to this. I nearly walked out last summer when the Daily Star got all flushed about taxpayer-funded Muslim-only loos.
A newsworthy tale were said toilets Muslim-only. Or taxpayer-funded. Undeterred by the nuisance of truth, we omitted a few facts, plucked a couple of quotes, and suddenly anyone would think a Rochdale shopping centre had hired Osama Bin Laden to stand by the taps, handing out paper towels.
I was personally tasked with writing a gloating follow-up declaring our postmodern victory in "blocking" the non-existent Islamic cisterns of evil."

Many of us interested in daily news outlets had been aware for some time that the mood and direction of the Daily Star had (not so subtly) changed and that the Editor or Desmond himself had decided to throw their support behind the EDL and redouble efforts to stir up public antipathy against Muslims. 
As Peppiatt himself states:

"Our caustic "us and them" narrative needs nailing home every day or two, and when asked to wield the hammer I was too scared for my career, and my bank account, to refuse."

Is this not what many of us had suspected all along? 

To be so overtly supportive of such a movement is unusual for a British daily, and it will be interesting to see whether the stance of the paper changes now with Peppiatt's revelations.

The Guardian also prints a reply from the Daily Star:

"Richard Peppiatt worked purely as a casual reporter at the Daily Star for almost two years. Recently he became unhappy after he was passed over for several staff positions. He refers to a Kelly Brook story: in fact, he approached and offered the newspaper that story, vouched for its accuracy, and then asked for and received an extra freelance fee for doing so. Since he wrote his email we have discovered that he was privately warned very recently by senior reporters on the paper after suggesting he would make up quotes. Regarding the allegations over the paper's coverage of Islam, he was only ever involved in a very minor way with such articles, and never voiced either privately or officially any disquiet over the tone of the coverage. For the record, the Daily Star editorial policy does not hold any negativity towards Islam and the paper has never, and does not endorse, the EDL."

Is this a suggestion that the revelations in Peppiatt's letter of resignation are simply bitter vitriolic outpourings from what is a 'rogue reporter'?

Where have we heard that before, News of the World?

In an ideal world, Peppiatt would be the first of many journalists grafting for these papers to come to their senses and rediscover the ethos and principles they must have had when rookies. They owe it to the rest of us.

Healthy democratic choice in any country is completely dependent on the truth. Facts must be presented honestly to the public for an informed choice to be made. 

Update March 9th:

As well as new links to this story under the 'Journalists' tab on this blog, I have come across this recent podcast which adds more detail in an interview with Sean Ellis.

"Ex Daily Star journo Rich Peppiatt" speaks to the Pod Delusion: here 

 A podcast in which he offers further, more detailed reasons for the tone of his resignation letter. 

A fascinating insight, perhaps, into the way papers like the Daily Star operate.... 

Rosie Robertson