Sunday, March 30, 2008

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Hello to everyone at Football 365...

... there are now more threads about my story for the Eye about you scamming Sky in your forum, than there were threads scamming Sky in the first place. Which is a bit odd.

Oh, and what is a paedobear, please?

For those not in the know, this from the current edition of the Eye:

Another week, another victory for citizen journalism at Sky News… as storms battered Britain at the beginning of last week, presenters on the rolling news channel begged viewers to “help us put together the fullest national picture possible” by sending in their photos of the damage wrought. Hundreds took up the invitation – including posters on the Football 365 web forum, who, finding that such piss-poor efforts as a shot of a watering can (“the wind blew it round all night”) were being featured on the Sky website at, rose to the challenge and began to send in increasingly outlandish scenes created using photoshop and snaps lifted mostly from the rival BBC website.

By 11.30am on Tuesday, despite a solemn promise that “your photo will be checked by moderators before it can be displayed”, the 408 photographs in Sky’s “Wild Weather” gallery included a shot of a young Norman Wisdom dismayed by a car crushed by a tree; footballer Carlos Valderama in flooded New Orleans captioned “it’s windy here in Widnes”; a still from environmental disaster movie The Day After Tomorrow captioned “Whitley Bay”; a suspicious number of scenes of destruction featuring either teddy bears or the athlete and television presenter Kris Akabusi; and several shots of fallen trees and flooded streets in which missing toddler Madeleine McCann was clearly visible in the background.

Sadly, the fun was terminated after a mere 24 hours when moderators caught on and deleted all the images.

EDIT: As featured on Radio 4! Listen again to the Now show here to get the smaller, Jon Holmes-ier version. He's a lovely fella.

Good crikey...

The Daily Express still haven't switched on comment moderation for stories about Madeleine McCann....

EDIT: And half an hour after the first reader comment went up - "Are we still allowed to say they did it? Because everyone knows they did" - the story's been pulled. Madeleine McCann is now officially a non-person in Express world again.

Hold the front page - I can hear bedsprings creaking

Even amid across-the-board ickiness over Carla Bruni in this morning's papers - for a perfect mental picture of yesterday's editorial conferences up and down Fleet Street, just think of Vic Reeves doing that thigh-rubbing thing whenever he had an attractive female contestant on Shooting Stars - the Sun's front page deserves a special mention.

France scored twice last night as its football team beat England 1-0 and President Nicolas Sarkozy cuddled up with wife Carla in a Windsor Castle bed… Mr Sarkozy and sexy former supermodel Carla had a far more enjoyable time as they sidestepped royal protocol. The couple – wed less than two months – were given a traditional TWO-bedroom apartment with a door in between for their castle sleepover. But according to a royal source, Mr Sarkozy swiftly abandoned HIS designated room to join gorgeous Carla in HER four-poster bed. The source said: ‘it’s not surprising newlyweds didn’t want to spend the night apart.’

Really? Really? One for the final edition, presumably, given that the pair of them didn't retire until fairly late last night due to being at that state banquet. Or, as the French pronounce it, Bonk-it.

Our Men in the Palace haven't had a comparable "married couple have sex shocker" scoop since their stroke-by-stroke account of the conception of Leo Blair in November 1999:

'Och aye the noo-kie! Tony and Cherie Blair are expecting a "Royal" baby - conceived at Scotland's Balmoral Castle when they were guests of the Queen.
The secret of where Cherie's pregnancy began was revealed yesterday after days of speculation. The Blairs, who expect their fourth child at the end of May, spent the first weekend in September at the romantic royal holiday retreat in the Highlands.
By day the couple watched brawny, kilted athletes tossing their cabers and hurling huge iron balls at the traditional Braemar Highland Games.
They were stirred by the wild grandeur of soaring peaks and rushing streams as they walked hand-in-hand around Balmoral's impressive 50,000-acre estate on the River Dee. And at night - with their three children out of the way in London - the couple would retire to a luxurious tartan-curtained guest suite in the castle...

It goes on, but at this point I'm afraid I made my excuses and left.

Coming tomorrow: More on that 'cuddle' as Sun man sniffs the sheets and answers the question all Britain is asking!

Spot the freelancer

Mark Lawson in today's Guardian.

And I thought I was taking the piss when I managed to get 1000 words for the Times out of the spam emails I'd received that morning...

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Can I get a (expert) witness?

Here's last Sunday's report in the Observer on the 'expert' witness used by several police forces in trials resulting from Operation Ore and the Soham murders, who is due to be sentenced for fraud and perjury in April.

How police put their faith in the 'expert' witness who turned out to be a fraud.

And here's a story I wrote for the Eye in September 2003, so long ago that I'd completely forgotten about it until I read that:

After last month’s collapse of the case against DC Brian Stevens, liaison officer for the victims’ families in the Soham murder case, the papers rushed to speculate about the fate of several other men arrested as part of the anti-paedophile campaign Operation Ore.

The Stevens case was dismissed after an expert witness for the prosecution, Brian Underhill of “High Technology Crime Consultants” Celt Limited, was found to have made several mistakes in his analysis of the detective’s laptop computer.

According to The Mail on Sunday on 24 August, “600 child porn sentences could be quashed” because of Underhill’s involvement in their trials. Jim Bates, president of the Institution of Analysts and Programmers, told the paper that he was “calling for an inquiry into all Underhill’s cases”, and that “any solicitor worth their salt will be looking to see if they can get the case thrown out simply because he is listed as the expert witness, and who can blame them?”

But Bates is hardly a disinterested observer in all this. As well as heading the IAP, a professional guild complete with its own coat of arms, since its incorporation in 1993, Bates runs his own company, Computer Investigations, which has undertaken forensic work for several police forces. It is one of Celt Limited’s biggest rivals. Indeed, in the Stevens case, while Underhill served as an expert witness for the prosecution, Bates was performing the same function in the policeman’s defence - something the paper did not feel the need to point out in their report.

On his company website (, Bates devotes more than 8000 words trashing Nick Webber, Underhill’s business partner in Celt Limited. Since the two men clashed during a similar case at Hove Crown Court in September 2000 (an episode which the judge described as “mud-slinging between experts… never a very edifying spectacle for the jury”), Bates has offered “to provide free forensic services in any case involving Mr Webber's alleged expertise.”

With expert witnesses so devoted to destroying each other, nailing child abusers seems almost a secondary consideration.

The fake qualification stuff was in the Eye too, in July 2005, courtesy of one of my colleagues.

We're quite good sometimes, aren't we?

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Viddy: they're at it again

More clockwork in the Daily Mail, as the brilliant No Rock'n'Roll Fun points out.

Did Paul Dacre catch a repeat on Film Four or something? Or is he just thirty-seven years behind the rest of the world with his film-watching, as well as his politics?

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Say ooh-ah you're all fired

The Daily Express building might not be the most pleasant place in the world to be this morning...

Here's how the Daily Star website is covering the unprecedented front-page apologies to the McCanns right now:

And the Daily Express website? That won't load at all.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Horrowshow tonight, all droogs welcome (no vecks)

How has the Daily Mail captioned the photos it nicked off of Bebo of the teenage party in Devon that all went Pete Tong last weekend?

Hang on - what version of a Clockwork Orange have they seen?

Yeah, they're clearly paying tribute to a film released several years before they were born, like kids do. But come on, they're obviously going for The Warriors.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Continuing our occasional series "other people who live in East Sussex and earn more than me"

"Beatrice gets £35,000 a year. She is meant to travel B-class when her father travels A-class. Paul has always wanted Beatrice to go to a state school. He insisted that he wanted us to move to that area."

Beatrice McCartney is 4.

Oh, and have a look at the shiny new website her mum launched this morning.

A meat-free soyburger for anyone who can find a single mention of Paul on it...

Friday, March 14, 2008

Dirty books...

Ok... so I've peaked at 561. For the moment.

But just look at the company I'm keeping in the Amazon Hot New Releases Chart!

And they say EastEnders isn't as dramatic as it used to be

From the "Soap Spoilers" page on Digital Spy:

Hollyoaks: Jake gasses himself and baby Charlie.
Friday, 18:30 on Channel 4.

Emmerdale: Nicola attempts to kill Donald again.
Friday, 19:00 on ITV1.

Coronation Street: David pushes Gail down the stairs.
Friday, 19:30 on ITV1.

EastEnders: Minty receives a postcard from Hazel.
Sunday, 19:30 on BBC One.

Thursday, March 13, 2008


Closing in on Harry Potter like a Dementor on the wing...

The obsessive clicking has begun...

Four years after I was briefly the best-selling historical biography in the UK, and seven weeks before (current woes of my publisher permitting) my next book is due to be published, I'm 1784th best-selling book on Amazon.

Just the 1,783 places to go before I'm up there with Delia then. And mine is guaranteed to contain no frozen mashed potato.

12:08pm update: I've jumped all the way to 767th! Thanks to everyone from here who's put in their pre-order today...

Monday, March 10, 2008

Local journalism at its finest

So it's a bit blowy here.

The local news - which, along with the rest of the BBC, has stationed dozens of serious-faced men and women in Goretex on the seafronts of Britain to warn us how imperative it is that no one goes near the coast - just informed us of exactly how serious the situation is.

Apparently, "In Hove, the waves are crashing on to the beach."

The least appealing cover line in the world

From yesterday's Observer Life & Style section:

INTERIORS: Inside KT Tunstall's eco-home

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Continuing our occasional series, "Things that are annoying Adam on ITV right now"


Welcome to the Pleasuredome (disturbing picture of Paul Rutherford with his hand down his pants on inner sleeve excluded)

Lexicon of Love.

Tatu's first album.

The Pet Shop Boys' last album.

And now, on Guilty Pleasures, Toby Fucking Anstis is telling me that Trevor Horn is embarrassing?

Friday, March 07, 2008

How the spike works

A spike, yesterday

1) Write article for one edition of the magazine, with which editor pronounces self so pleased he will save it for the following edition where there will be enough space for it to run at full length and prominence.

2) Wait two (2) weeks.

3) Watch editor spike piece because on re-reading it, it somehow doesn't seem so topical any more.

4) Chuck it on the blog instead.

What can we see this week on Telegraph TV, the thrusting new cross-platform initiative which executive Ed Roussel claims epitomses “our philosophy and forms the pillars of our editorial strategy for 2008”?

Well, there’s a series of news packages produced by ITN, which could make useful viewing if, say, the ITN site itself was down, along with that of every other major news broadcaster that you would consult for video ahead of a broadsheet newspaper. There’s the Culture Minute, launched soon after the Telegraph berated the BBC’s plans for a 60-second news broadcast as “dumbing down” and “catering to the lowest common denominator” – a charge that certainly could not be levelled at presenter Sarah Crompton’s recent opening observation that “Lily Allen makes everyone smile as a singer, but how’s she doing as a chat-show host?” There are exciting one-off reports such as Bryony Gordon’s piece to camera on receiving a “psychic makeover”, which is appropriately delivered séance-style, in almost complete darkness, complete with mysterious objects levitating above her head (oh, alright, it’s a sound boom). There is an excruciating Bafta red-carpet report from her rival Celia Walden, who promises “we’ll be speaking to some of the biggest stars in the world,” but actually ends up chatting her own boyfriend and to Myleene Klass, who was only there herself to deliver similar red carpet “content” for mobile phone company Orange.

Since any Telegraph staffers with genuine TV talent are busy elsewhere – Jeff Randal has his own Sky News show and won’t provide anything more than the odd cameo; Boris Johnson wouldn’t touch this with a bargepole – we instead have plenty of perfectly adequate print hacks nervously DEMONSTRATING that they’ve BEEN through the “TALKING to CAMERA” training SESSION on HOW to speak VERY slowly and EMPHASISE words AT random, and in the process, demonstrating just what perfectly adequate print hacks they are. And there is Right On, “the politics show that leans to the right”, launched with much fanfare soon after the public’s appetite for political television proved so voracious that ITV axed its Sunday Westminster programming because no one was watching it. Co-presenters Andrew Pierce and Ann Widdecombe sit at a table covered in an enormous number of empty wine glasses, presumably demonstrating just how much booze you would have to sink for any of this to begin to look remotely appealing.

Herein, however, lies the crown jewel of Telegraph TV – indeed, perhaps the greatest achievement in broadcasting since It’s A Royal Knockout – Heffer Confronted. Sadly viewers do not get to vote on the identity of the confronter each week (A hysterical toddler? An escaped tiger? Khalid Sheikh Mohammed?). Instead, Simon Heffer spends each Thursday in the company of failed Tory candidate Iain Dale, who, to add an extra frisson, is obliged to straddle the irascible columnist’s lap and debate the finer points of Conservative policy while their bellies gently bump together just off-screen. The intention is to reproduce the famous head-to-head set-up from Smith and Jones - albeit in this case with two Mel Smiths - but the black-and-white title sequence in which the besuited pair stride about and scowl menacingly into the camera recalls instead that other 1980s comedy duo Hale and Pace doing “The Management”, despite in seven seconds being infinitely more hilarious than their entire career.

Absent, despite the lengthy and vociferous campaign by the Telegraph a few years back against the BBC’s “urban bias” after its coverage of the hunting ban and the dropping of One Man And His Dog, is any mention of rural issues. For the 150 years the Telegraph existed as a single-platform content provider (one that was difficult to fold and got ink on your hands), the shires were its natural constituency. Now however, readers are offered a cookery show with Lloyd Grossman and endless fashion makeovers. In the unlikely event that any of them actually wanted to see this sort of thing done properly, wouldn’t they a) switch on a telly; b) read the Daily Mail instead?

That was quite fun, all that hyper-linking business, wasn't it? Shall we do it again sometime?

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Utterly gratuitous totty picture

Last week's half-baked thoughts, this weeks lead story:

PLUG: you should buy the edition of Private Eye this appears in, the rest of it is terribly good too.

General Sir Richard Dannat pronounced himself “very disappointed” at the leaking of details of Harry’s posting to Afghanistan, and the prince himself agreed on his return to Britain, saying “angry would be the wrong word to use, but I am slightly disappointed”. He described the colleagues he left behind in Helmand as “gutted”, which they presumably are – not least the ones who were hawking cameraphone footage of him in Afghanistan just after Christmas, presumably having come to the realization that seems to elude much of the British press that the Taliban tend to treat them as “bullet magnets” whether or not they have a royal among their number.

Despite the success of such “gentlemen’s agreements” in the past, Dannat would not convincingly be able to claim surprise, given the amount of material he had allowed the co-operative press to have cued up and ready for release five weeks ahead of the Prince’s planned return. PA’s chief reporter John Bingham had already conducted extensive “pool” interviews with Harry in Helmand and the agency had 11,548 words, plus video and photo packages ready to go within one hour of his deployment being confirmed by the MoD. Sky News had also had an “embed” with Harry and were sitting on tapes.

The original plan had been for material to be released following Harry’s return in three ‘tranches’ over the course of a weekend, to allow as many media outlets as possible (dailies, Sundays etc) access to new material. Lobbying from ITN had resulted in this being pushed back to a Thursday in order to guarantee them a splash for their resurrected (and ailing) News at Ten on ITV, which does not run on a Friday. By an astonishing coincidence, Matt Drudge posted his scoop – “they’re calling him ‘Harry the Hero’!” at 4.37 on a Thursday afternoon – and, as it happens, on a Thursday when ITN just happened to have a full crew and anchor Mark Austin in Kabul. Naturally, the broadcaster claims Austin’s presence, and subsequent helming of an hour-long News At Ten on the topic, was simply “exceptional good luck”, the team having been in the country for a week of special coverage under the banner “frontline live”, and denies any link to the leak to Drudge. And indeed, the wording of Drudge’s report – “CNN has debated internally on the merits of reporting Harry at war” – suggests a source on his side of the Atlantic. CNN International chief Tony Maddox denies sanctioning any leak – “it was absolutely not in CNN’s interest” he told the Canadian Press agency – and points out that his organization had only joined in with the British vow of secrecy “about a week before Harry's deployment when it was told about it by a British affiliate.” And who is CNN’s British affiliate? ITN.

2 = articles in British national press on report by US Defence Intelligence Agency that Taliban have retaken 10% of Afghanistan and government control only 30%, news of which was released on 28 February
0 = articles in British national press on US State department report that opium poppy production in Afghanistan at record high, news of which was released on 29 February
250 = articles in British national press on Prince Harry’s deployment in Afghanistan, news of which was released on 28 February