Over a period of six months, Media Guardian campaigned to stitch up the Sunday Mirror, consistently falling short of the journalistic standards it sets for others. In an extraordinary series of factually incorrect articles, Roy Greenslade alleged that “at least seven other Tory MPs were also offered similar lures” in “a giant trawl“. It is completely untrue to suggest that we “offered similar lures” to a “giant” number of MPs. If we had only tweeted at Brooks Newmark he would have seen the sting coming a mile off. The account followed and tweeted at many MPs, male and female, as well as celebrities and news organisations. Prior to the investigation we had a specific tip-off about Newmark. We only ever had a private conversation with one MP – Newmark – and it was instigated by him.
Media Guardian claimed on multiple occasions that “Wickham approached the Mail on Sunday’s political editor, Simon Walters”, and that “the MoS was concerned about the methodology employed to obtain the story, believing that it amounted to entrapment and also involved a fishing expedition”. We can now reveal this to be 100% untrue. Alex Wickham never spoke to anyone from the MoS about the story. A very brief conversation was had between Paul Staines and the MoS, where the detail was not discussed and it was agreed that the story would not work for the mid-market paper on the grounds of taste – Lady Rothermere’s taste. Despite the innuendo and factually incorrect reporting of Media Guardian, at no point was the methodology ever considered by the MoS as the prime stumbling block to running the story. Whatever may have been subsequently briefed.
Greenslade then wrote in the Standard that “the net had been spread wide in the hope of a juicy catch”, concluding “It is impossible to disentangle the public interest from the methodology. Given that we have a code of practice, we cannot argue that the end justifies the means”. Again, we had a specific tip-off about Newmark, and IPSO has found that the methods employed did not breach the code of practice.
Much of Media Guardian’s error-strewn reporting can be explained by their reliance on unfounded innuendos made by less popular parts of the Twitterphere. Peter Jukes claimed “there are many abuses being perpetrated here“, accusing us of “fishing others”, and again suggesting that two other newspapers “knocked back the subterfuge”. Our position has now been vindicated by IPSO.
A Buzzfeed report named a number of MPs with whom our account had interacted, implying they were targeted: “If you’re a middle-aged Conservative MP and a young attractive researcher starts taking an interest in you on Twitter, then be careful”. These MPs were not targeted, Buzzfeed’s irresponsible report was factually incorrect and responsible for much of the bad reporting that followed.
Finally those doyens of press accuracy at Hacked Off also made a series of untrue allegations about the story. They suggested there was no “prima facie evidence that any of the six MPs approached were engaging in inappropriate conduct on the internet”. This is clearly incorrect and the IPSO ruling has found that to be the case. They concluded: “There appears to have been nothing to justify the use of subterfuge by the freelance reporter”. This was always disputed by us and the Sunday Mirror, because we were in possession of the facts and we have now been vindicated by IPSO.
See also: Not So Pronto IPSO