12 June 2011

Labour 'Big Beast' mauls the Sunday Times!

 There is no definite dawn on Twitter. Today seemed perfectly ordinary until this tweet appeared on my timeline at about 8 a.m.:

John Prescott
I see there's a quote purporting to be from me in the Sunday Times. It's completely made up. An absolute lie. Let me explain what happened..

Thus began a very interesting, very gratifying morning!
As the morning wore on, more and more 'tweeters' became involved in an attempt to put right an inaccuracy in the Sunday Times featuring John Prescott in particular.
The article was part of what seemed to have been a veritable and sudden onslaught by much of the press against the Labour leadership, beginning on Thursday in the Daily Telegraph :
"Labour coup: Ed Balls and his five fellow plotters

Ed Balls is exposed in the documents uncovered by The Daily Telegraph as the key figure in the plot to oust Tony Blair and replace him with Gordon Brown."

The story was taken up by most of the papers but without the 'secret' documents, written five years ago and 'given' to the Telegraph by an unnamed donor. These were said by Ed Balls to have been taken from his desk when he left the Education Department after the general Election. There is now an investigation, headed by Gus O'Donnell, underway to see if there has been any breach of security and in an attempt to find whoever was responsible for removing the papers.

Since the Telegraph's 'bomshell', the media have run with similar stories including one from the Guardian of the acceptance speech David Miliband would have given had he won the Labour leadership election, and a 'Brothers at War' frontpager today in the Independent:

Independent on Sunday - 12th June 2011

Little wonder, then, that by this morning many Labour supporters were feeling jittery and wondering what had hit them! Once most of the articles had been read and discussed on Twitter and those wide-awake enough had written their thoughts in their blogs, the general consensus was that most of the content was supposition, guesswork and ill-informed trouble-making! 

Quotations were not, on the whole, attributed to anyone in particular, but gathered from a great many anonymous 'friends', 'senior MPs', 'frontbench' sources. Some of the least convincing were from well-known Conservative political pundits.....

John Prescott had been credited with a comment about Ed Miliband in this morning's Sunday Times. He said:

John Prescott
Sunday Times called our home in Hull on our ex directory number. No journalist has it. Caller told Pauline she was Deputy Editor...

John Prescott
When pressed she admitted she was from The Sunday Times. It was Political Editor Isobel Oakshott. I spoke to her & asked how she got number

John Prescott

Oakshott had no opportunity to ask a question as I told her never to call the number again and put the phone down on her.
Sunday Times - 12th June 2011
John Prescott
I know Murdoch's News International doesn't like me, having admitted hacking into my phone messages. But his papers are now making up quotes

John Prescott
It's pointless going to the PCC so I thought I'd share it with you to show what Murdoch papers and their journalists are really like

Finally, at around midday, came the following:

Sunday Times News
Due to a prod error a quote was wrongly attributed to . We apologise for the confusion & are happy to set the record straight

 To  which John Prescott responded, adding a link to the part of the article where his name is clearly shown:

John Prescott
You'll see the quote is attributed to me. It's'hilarious' you don't read your own paper

John Prescott
Typical of Murdoch newspaper to blame a production worker not the journalist. My name was used to justify big beast headline..

Hopefully, the Sunday Times will also print an apology to John Prescott in a prominent place in next week's edition. What will be much more difficult to put right is the damage done to a newspaper's credibility. If a misattributed quote has found it way into one article, how many others have slipped through and caused damage in the wider world?

If the 'victim' in this case hadn't been a well known politician with a great many 'followers' on
Twitter, would an apology have been forthcoming without recourse to the courts?

One last point, why are so many people convinced that to report a case like this to the PCC would be a futile exercise?

Update #1

An article has appeared on the Guardian's online site: Sunday Times Apologises to John Prescott Over Wrong Quote  

('Wrong quote'?- He didn't give one at all to the Sunday Times...)

"He added: "I refuse to accept this mealy-mouthed apology. I want a front page retraction – due prominence – in next week's Sunday Times."
Prescott, a potential victim of phone hacking by an investigator working for the News of the World, another Rupert Murdoch paper, has been one of the most vociferous critics of the handling of the hacking scandal by News International and the Metropolitan police."

Perhaps the 'mauling' hasn't ended quite yet...? 

Update #2:

13th June 2011:-

PCC should investigate Sunday Times

'John Prescott' quote

                                                       The following is a letter sent by Full Fact to the PCC today:

Letter to PCC from FullFact.org