The Daily Mail has really surpassed itself today. In its absolute determination to stitch up Jeremy Corbyn at all costs it has forgotten, or abandoned, the absolute basics of the journalist’s craft. So for the benefit of Mail editor Paul Dacre and those who do his bidding, here are some pointers, starting with the front page strapline:

Revealed: Photos that show…

The ‘revealed’ gives the Daily Mail its pretext for printing the story today. News is supposed to be new. The event in question took place on October 1 2014, and Corbyn wrote about it soon afterwards in the Morning Star. The smear was reported in the Daily Telegraph and elsewhere in 2017, along with Corbyn’s denial. So nothing is new apart from some pictures.

…Labour leader at tribute…

Point of information, he wasn’t Labour leader at the time. Also, the word ‘tribute’ is ambiguous. The wording seems to want to imply that Corbyn was ‘paying tribute’ when actually he was attending an event. Replacing ‘tribute’ with ‘event’ would have clarified it, but then the Mail didn’t really want to do that, did they?

… to Palestine ‘martyrs’

A martyr is someone who dies for a cause. It doesn’t matter if you agree with it or not. Putting those sneery ‘quotes’ round the word makes you think ‘alleged’ or ‘so-called’. As in, the Daily Mail is a ‘newspaper’.

Headline:

Corbyn’s wreath at graves of Munich terrorists

It wasn’t his wreath. He was simply holding part of what looks like a very large communal tribute.

Body copy:

“A memorial wreath in his hand, Jeremy Corbyn stands feet from the graves of terror leaders linked to the Munich massacre”.

You can always rely on proximity to imply collusion. As in “Jeremy Corbyn stands at the despatch box, just feet from the Tory leader whose policies he admires so much…”

Corbyn’s words in the Morning Star:

“Wreaths were laid on the graves…”

Note that he didn’t say “I laid wreaths”.

The article goes on to quote various outraged people as you might expect. The more supporters you can quote for a given point of view, the more peer pressure the reader feels to agree with it.

In case you’re wondering why I’ve posted this very political article, it’s because I was trained to believe that certain parts of the journalistic craft were sacred.

I help clients talk to the media, and most of the time I assume that they will be talking to parts of the media that play fair. That’s to say:

  • They tell the truth
  • They separate fact from comment
  • They do not imply that physical proximity equals support.
  • They do not rehash old stories in support of their own agendas.

When the Daily Mail does what it did today – and it’s not the first time – I suspect the old rules no longer apply.

For all our sakes I hope I’m wrong.