Enemies of intellectual dishonesty in public discourse, rejoice! This week Paul Dacre, editor of the UK’s best selling newspaper, the Daily Mail, announced he will step down as editor of the publication in November.
Many, especially those outside the UK, won’t recognise the importance of this act, but no one put it better than James O’Brien who was quite possibly not exaggerating when he said: Good riddance to an amoral sociopath who has done more damage to the fabric of this nation than anyone or anything since the Luftwaffe.
Why is the move so momentous? It is well known amongst the politically informed in the UK that the Daily Mail has powerful sway over the country’s political agenda. It is known in Westminster for frequently being the driving force defining Downing Street’s morning meetings.
Politicans are so afraid of the fiercely politically campaigning newspaper, that many believe it can make and break British governments. Under Dacre’s control since 1992, the newspaper, which holds the largest readership in the UK, has stoked hatred of immigrants for a quarter of a century and campaigned fiercely against immigration, regularly being caught spreading false information.
After 26 years, the pro-brexit newspaper is being handed to a new editor who has strongly contrasting views, including being a staunch remainer. The new editor, Geordie Greig, has a history for turning newspapers around. When he took over the Evening Standard in 2009, he issued a series of advertisements saying “sorry” to Londoners for the previous editor’s coverage, he has recently publicly clashed with Dacre and his sister paper has sometimes fiercely debunked the Mail’s incorrect scoops suggesting we may be about to see a repeat performance.
As an individual, for me it was an easy decision to boycott the Daily Mail my entire lifetime; but as a professional journalist, adamantly refusing to work with my country’s most profitable, powerful and influential publication has been a significant sacrifice, especially when the rest of my industry is dying around me. If you’d like an idea of the scale of the problem, competing publications that report with intellectual honesty have lost millions per year, while the Daily Mail has raked in hundreds of millions per year in profits. I make no secret of my public support for Stop Funding Hate, the group that informs the Daily Mail’s advertisers of the hatred the newspaper spreads.
The move is reportedly an attempt at “detoxifying the Daily Mail”, which is undoubtedly a direct reference to the Stop Funding Hate campaign’s success.
How can you help? We now have a rare opportunity to change the direction of the UK’s most powerful newspaper, the father publication of the world’s most read news website, Mail Online which is read by 11 million per day and influences discourse globally. I implore you to join Stop Funding Hate, check which of the Mail’s advertisers you are a customer of and let them know the influence they have over the newspaper’s oncoming change in agenda.
Here’s an example of how I’ve tried to do this myself. Below is a copy of an email I sent a couple of years ago to John Lewis, one of the country’s most famous and reliable department stores:
Below is the campaign that inspired me. I implore you to put on your headphones, turn the sound up and watch it, it’s only two minutes long:
This week I’ve asked John Lewis for an estimate for the replacing of all the carpets in my home with hard floors, a £6,000+ job I am having done this Xmas. I’ll be informing the engineer at the end of the 3 hour in-home assessment that any order I make, for the work that is due to be conducted will be subject to John Lewis not placing ads in any copy of the Daily Mail from this point forward that contains lies and a hateful agenda.
If you feel like your vote doesn’t have value, this is one way you can make your voice count.
The fight isn’t over yet, Dacre may continue to have significant sway over the paper in his new role as chairman and editor-in-chief of Associated Newspapers, let’s make sure those in power realise this isn’t acceptable and they must nip that role in the bud soon too or be prepared to suffer the consequences.
Where does my beef with Dacre come from? Here’s where it get’s personal. After observing their hateful publishing for several years, I first discovered the newspaper’s wilful factual inaccuracy while starting out as a science blogger nearly a decade ago. When I found so many clearly disingenuous errors in the Daily Mail’s reporting I entered an article by them for the “Orwellian Prize for Journalistic Misrepresentation” a satirical prize designed to expose inaccurate science reporting, which it won with flying colours. In spite of this, obtaining corrections from the Daily Mail for clear factual inaccuracies was worse than getting blood from a stone.
I won’t go into detail rehashing the saga here, but a good recap can be read here. Importantly, while this award was designed for the offending journalist, in this case it was awarded to Paul Dacre himself, as the article was part of a series of misleading articles from the newspaper along the same campaigning agenda. I present here for prosperity a copy of the certificate Dacre was awarded.
Here’s to hoping that the stepping aside of Dacre will lead to a country less vulnerable to the many and varied disinformation campaigns his newspaper has run for so many years, for many an entire lifetime. I, for one, will be offering to end my boycott of the paper if under new leadership it can consign its disinformation campaigns to the dustbin of history, where they belong.