Wednesday, June 22, 2005


This is the twist in the tail I mentioned in the previous post. I think it's marginally amusing, and it's an interesting illustration of how the media works (or perhaps doesn't work).

To recap, I had read an article in the Press and Journal (13th June) but it wasn't available online. A search turned up this article in the Sunday Times, written by Jason Allardyce and Mark Macaskill and published on the 12th June. I'd just finished re-reading the P&J article and immediately started on the ST one. The twist is that they were the same article. To be clear, I don't mean that both newspapers covered the same story, that would be dangerously close to a pot-kettle-blackness interface. I mean they are almost exactly the same. Having read through them both one after the other, I can safely say that at least 80% of the contents of both articles are made up of exactly the same words in exactly the same order. Someone's made a very half hearted effort to rearrange some of the wording but they are all just superficial changes like these:
Sunday Times, paragraph 3
Section 44 of the legislation will allow police to stop and search anyone they consider may pose a threat to security, while section 43 will enable them to hold suspects without charge in purpose-built cells in Glasgow for up to seven days.
Press and Journal, paragraph 3 (not online, strangely, but I do have a copy of the newpaper so that's ok.)
Section 44 of the act enables the police to stop and search anyone they consider may pose a threat to security while Section 43 gives them the right to hold suspects, urcharged, in Glasgow cells built for the occassion for up to seven days.
And so it goes on, for all 15 paragraphs of both articles. Word for, very nearly always the same word. There's no mention of a writer in the P&J article but it is on the front page of the paper. Nowhere does it say "This article has previously appeared in yesterday's Sunday Times".

Now it might be that Allardyce and Macaskill are freelance and sell articles to as many newspapers as possible. I don't know enough about how the newspaper industry works to say how likely this is. It did occur to me that the P&J might be some sort of subsidiary of News International, but this turns out not to be the case. In fact, as I think I already knew but kept trying to forget, the P&J is owned by the Northcliffe Newspaper Group, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Daily Mail group. Well, you can see why I try not to think about it too much.

So what we are left with is an article which appeared in a News International newspaper on Sunday and appeared in a Daily Mail group newpaper on Monday. Do these bitter rivals share articles like this often? I've no way to tell. It's interesting though.

It's worth highlighting the performance of the Evening Telegraph here. Their report informed its readers of the official position of Tayside Police, and took the time to consider the implications:
The Scottish Human Rights Centre has voiced its concerns over the Section 44 powers claiming their use would be “extremely controversial”. Chairman John Scott said, “It would represent an easy way for the police to deal with some people they suspect of being troublemakers and keep them out of circulation for the duration of the G8.”
Excellent regional reporting there from the Evening Telegraph. (The Evening Telegraph is owned by DC Thomsons). It's certainly a lot better than an almost exact replica of a national newspaper story from the previous day.

Ah well, there goes any possiblity of an exciting new career in regional newpaper publishing. I suppose I could move to Dundee, maybe get a job at the Beano, that'd be cool...

Update: I forgot to mention the conspiracy theory. It is possible to imagine a situation where both newspapers have actually just printed two versions of the same private press briefing from Downing Street, no question asked. Just a thought.

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