Archive for the ‘Mazher Mahmood’ tag

The Mail’s ‘Saddam Hussein strategy’ and a growing public backlash

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The Daily Mail is suffering yet another public backlash – this time over the Triesman affair. Following an unprecedented response to Jan Moir’s piece about Stephen Gately the Mail now finds many people were not impressed by its publication of the ‘Triesman tapes’ that led to the FA Chairman’s resignation and has – by many accounts – significantly damaged the chances of England’s 2018 World Cup Bid.

‘Dear Editor of The Mail, Congratulations, your paper is about to be as popular as The Sun is in Merseyside’ RKiran, London, 19/5/2010

‘Can’t believe your stupidity! Thanks for loosing us the world cup. Why would anybody from the birthplace of the game want to take it away from us in one quick blow! Just because you choose to print the actions of one man, didn’t you think about the hundreds of people working flat out to get us the world cup. Or the millions of people you have just broken the hearts of?’ Baxter, Swadlincote, Derbyshire, 19/5/2010

‘So who exactly is helped by this “expose”? What higher purpose is served by publishing it? Millions of pounds and thousands of hours of effort, plus the chance of a £3bn boost to the British economy, ruined by your insatiable desire for xenophobic tittle-tattle. What a vile, pointless hack-rag yours is’ Gary, Exeter, 16/5/2010

  • By Tuesday 55 people had complained to the Press Complaints Commission
  • 84% of Talksport listeners who responded to an online poll believed the Mail on Sunday had been wrong to publish (according to Cahal Milmo)
  • Gary Lineker quit his weekly column in the Mail on Sunday saying:

‘I think it’s a real shame the newspaper made the judgment that they did for short term gain in the sales of newspapers because it’s hard to see that there was any other positive from it… I think this story goes against the national interest… [and] There’s absolutely no question our chances have been damaged’ (Lineker writing in the Independent)

The Mail apparently has a second batch of Triesman tapes (according to the Independent) but given that he is now gone and the paper presumably does not want to rub salt into the public’s outrage, perhaps the paper will choose not to publish these.

The publication of secretly recorded conversations is far from new. The News of the World’s Mazher Mahmood (the ‘fake Sheikh’) has engineered dozens if not hundreds of secret recordings of public figures – particularly footballers and football managers. People may still remember how he taped then England coach Sven Goran Eriksson, prior to the 2006 World Cup, saying that he would step down after the World Cup to manage Aston Villa.

The difference now is the ease with which anyone can record and store audio, video, photographs and text. Almost the only constraint on what you can record of our own – or someone else’s – life is your own inclination.

The choice therefore becomes whether to publish. Such a choice is particularly acute for a newspaper that publishes to a mass audience, since publication is likely to have implications. It therefore has to base its decision to publish on:

  • What interests the public – unsurprisingly, the primary driver for many news/media outlets
  • What is within the law – a practical, if shortsighted, policy since the law can then be extended with potentially negative consequences for free speech (see UK privacy law)
  • How it conforms to the paper’s own principles – as outlined by the newspaper or a body like the Press Complaints Commission (the Mail says it adheres to the Editors Code of Practice)
  • The public interest – open to many interpretations, but defined on Wikipedia as “common well-being” or “general welfare”

The Mail wants to infuriate people and stir up trouble. That’s fine – more power to its sharp elbows. But it also wants to topple public figures – what one might call its ‘Saddam Hussein strategy’. Virtually every week one or more of its columnists calls for someone’s resignation (see previous post). The problem is, as we know from the UK’s experience in Iraq, toppling a public figure just because you can is not much of a strategy. Plus, without thinking about the consequences you can find it doesn’t do much good for the “common well-being” or “general welfare”.

In the case of Triesman, for example, the Mail’s defenestration has done more than derail one man’s career. The 2018 World Cup bid is, by many people’s reckoning, now looking decidedly shakey. Is this the sort of trouble the Mail wants to stir up?

Perhaps the public response to the Triesman affair, coupled with other recent responses, may make it rethink its Saddam Hussein approach. Or perhaps people will just stop buying the paper.

Also worth reading -

David Bond (BBC Sports Editor): ‘Triesman affair leaves sour taste

Roy Greenslade (Media Guardian): ‘Mail suffers, rightly, for its Triesman story

Written by Martin Moore

May 19th, 2010 at 8:15 am