Tuesday, January 08, 2008

The Press and Probity

You buy a newspaper to read the news. Right? You assume that the reporters and editors have done their best to provide you with correct information and to not deliberately mislead you. Wrong.
In one of London's less erudite papers this morning, the one I see the Brit passengers on Ryanair clutching to their bosoms as they fly off to their second homes in France, there is an eye catching headline.
“Diana told 'without any doubt' that she was being bugged by a five-strong surveillance team” it ran and continued: “An electronic surveillance expert made the astonishing discovery that Princess Diana's bedroom was being bugged after Diana asked him to check her Kensington Palace apartment, her inquest sensationally heard.”
“Ah Ha,” you say, and turn to the sport pages, since the second inquest on Princess Diana, performed at the behest of an unsavoury immigrant shopkeeper and paid for by you, the taxpayer, is a bigger bore than Britney Spears. “So Charlie boy was checking on her, not surprised.”
And so the world (well, those that read the Red Tops) now believe that Prince Charles had a bug placed in Diana's apartment. Must be true, it was in the papers.
But hang on a minute. Having produced a banner headline porky, the editor must have had second thoughts, for those that could be bothered to wade a little further into the mire would have come across this paragraph:
“He (the surveillance expert) said he was unable to get behind the wall to examine the device. But there was "no indication" that the fabric of the wall had been altered. He said he swept the room again later that day and the signal had gone. "I could not give an explanation to the reading. It could have been innocent electronic equipment in another room. But the noise behind the wall was very similar to a transmitter device."
So there was no bug. Yet the first paragraph stated quite clearly that the room was being bugged. This is, of course, by today's newspaper standards a better story than that the reading had been caused by Prince Charles' curling tongs.
All the news that's fit to print?
And I seem to recall that the newspaper in question used to have “For Queen and Commonwealth” at its masthead. Hope she appreciates their standard of probity.


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