Friday, October 16, 2009

Who is Jan Moir and How Can I Persuade Her to Give Up Writing?

Thanks to the brilliantly unreliable Charlie Brooker for setting my blood thermostat to "boil" this morning.

He pointed me to a barely literate hack on the Daily GuessWho called Jan Moir, who wrote a particularly hateful article this morning about the death of Stephen Gately that was barely worthy of a BNP blog entry, never mind a national newspaper.

If you were to follow Charlie Brooker's advice and complain on the Press Complaints Commission website, you'd see

(a) that the site is running extremely slowly due to the sheer weight of outrage
(b) they've had to set up a separate section specifically to handle complaints about Jan Moir

If you check out the article on the Mail's online service, you'll see that it's currently running without adverts, because Marks and Spencer have asked that their advert be removed - it seems unsubstantiated homophobic innuendo doesn't sit well with their brand values. You can imagine the voice-over : "It's not just any gay-bashing; it's Marks and Spencer gay-bashing ..."

Look, Stephen Gately was not a giant in his field. He was one of the least talented, but most ornamental members of one of the most insipid boy bands of all time. But he died without warning, aged 33 and his partner, his friends, his family and his fans are in mourning. The last thing they need is some gossip-monger incorrectly joining the dots between "Gay", "Pop Star" and "Early Death".

The overwhelming medical evidence is that Stephen died from the pulmonary oedema he inherited from his father, rather than any kind of gay debauchery.

But the truth is rarely interesting enough for the Daily Mail these days. Their readers deserve better.

PCC Code of Conduct (extracts)

Section 1 : "The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information"

Section 5 (i) : "In cases involving personal grief or shock, enquiries and approaches must be made with sympathy and discretion and publication handled sensitively"

and especially :-

Section 12 :

i) The press must avoid prejudicial or pejorative reference to an individual's race, colour, religion, gender, sexual orientation or to any physical or mental illness or disability.

ii) Details of an individual's race, colour, religion, sexual orientation, physical or mental illness or disability must be avoided unless genuinely relevant to the story.

*** UPDATE ***

If you do complain to the Press Complaints Commission, you get the following email back :-

Dear Stan
Thank you for sending us your complaint about the Daily Mail article on the subject of the death of Stephen Gately. We have received numerous complaints about this matter.

I should first make clear that the Commission generally requires the involvement of directly affected parties before it can begin an investigation into an article. On this occasion, it may be a matter for the family of Mr Gately to raise a complaint about how his death has been treated by the Daily Mail. I can inform you that we have made ourselves available to the family and Mr Gately's bandmates, in order that they can use our services if they wish.

We require the direct involvement of affected parties because the PCC process can have a public outcome and it would be discourteous for the Commission to publish information relating to individuals without their knowledge or consent. Indeed, doing so might unwittingly add to any intrusion. Additionally, one of the PCC's roles is dispute resolution, and we would need contact with the affected party in order to determine what would be an acceptable means of settling a complaint.

On initial examination, it would appear that you are, therefore, a third party to the complaint, and we may not be able to pursue your concerns further. However, if you feel that your complaint touches on claims that do not relate directly to Mr Gately or his family, please let us know, making clear how they raise a breach of the Code of Practice. If you feel that the Commission should waive its third party rules, please make clear why you believe this.

Press Complaints Commission

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