Well, its done – and a big thank you to all those who a) offered and b) actually provided help in turning this from a pathetic word doc to a spanking pdf.
The paper can be downloaded from this site…and you are welcome to do so and to use material contained in it for your own work and research.
And thanks to Andrea for some of the research (particularly on the evolution of press cover of trans costs) and possibly for her advice (er, orders!) on document formatting and layout. I believe the term is “designer with attitude”.
I have today sent off to the Leveson Inquiry my potted history of recent complaints about press accuracy in respect of three quite key trans stories – and the lessons that may be drawn more widely from the way in which the press have dealt with those stories.
Broadly: they tend to reach for the nearest rentaquote, rely on other press for key facts (so once an incaccuracy is introduced into the mix, it is hard to drive it out again, as it is quickly redistributed through multiple publications, all relying on the original).
They are also slow to react, and exceedingly defensive of text once it is published.
This is odd – or maybe not: the press is quite capable of getting a news item up in minutes, and, before it is published, it is usually desperate for sources to “stand up” a story. Once up, the press usually takes weeks to consider any factual criticism of a story – and they tend to wriggle and twist at every turn in order to reject new – often better qualified – outside information.
Last but by no means least, the PCC is something of a damp squib in this respect.
The paper details ways in which the PCC appears to match the press in wriggliness: specifically, in respect of one complaint, defending the journalist because at one point they had NOT used a specific word, so could not be accused of implying it; while at another, in respect of a literal inaccuracy (where another different and inaccurate word was used) claiming that of course the average reader would have understood what the writer meant.
Disingenuous? Or just incapable of adding two and two and making four?
The big idea
Last but by no means least, the paper includes a radical suggestion: other bodies – such as the Internet Watch Foundation and British Board of Film Classification go to some lengths to include external input in order to “moderate” their decisions. Basically, check they are doing what they are meant to be doing.
Not so the PCC.
One of their key duties is to determine whether a piece is misleading or inaccurate. I have in the past suggested that they actually survey members of the public to divine what impression they had gained from a particular piece, since only in that way could they tell what had been taken from it, and whether or not it had been misleading.
But no: such an idea is met with pained incredulity…as though i had proposed an indecent act involving Lord Dacre’s maiden aunt and a goat. When it comes to understanding what the public has understood from a piece of writing, the PCC declares that it knows best – and the very idea of involving the public… well, honestly!
Out of touch? Much!