Corrections and Clarifications: Brooks Newmark Sting

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 claimedthere 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. 

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

You can read the IPSO ruling in full here.

IPSO Clears Sunday Mirror Over Brooks Newmark Sting

The Independent Press Standards Organisation has cleared the Sunday Mirror of any wrongdoing over the sexting sting on Tory MP Brooks Newmark. Despite unfounded allegations made by the the less popular elements of the Twittersphere and the sloppy journalism of Media Guardian, among others, the press regulator found that the use of subterfuge was justified. The ruling also accepted that the story was in the public interest because it exposed “serious impropriety” by Newmark.

The CEO of IPSO Matt Tee said:

“The editors’ code prohibits subterfuge unless in the public interest, and only then where there is no other practical means of obtaining the story. After a lengthy investigation we have found that the subterfuge used was justified at each stage of the investigation and publication was in the public interest.”

As Guido said all along, the story was legitimate and carried out in the public interest. Brooks Newmark was one of the founders of “Women2Win”, a campaign to get more Conservative women into politics. This was no fishing operation, it was a narrowly targeted effort. As the later revelations of his affair further proved, and IPSO have finally agreed, the investigation was justified. Subterfuge and clandestine methods will continue to be used to go after wrong ‘uns – there is no other way.

“Widespread and Habitual” Hacking at Mirror

Today the High Court was told:

“The evidence demonstrates that voicemail interception, as well as the unlawful obtaining of personal information by blagging or use of private investigators, was in widespread and habitual use by a large number of journalists across all three MGN titles.”

The Guardian reports:

“Between June 2002 and mid-2006, Sherborne said MGN journalists made nearly 10,000 phone hacking calls to Orange’s voicemail platform.

There are reporting restrictions in place.

Press Ethics Crusaders Strangely Silent on Mirror Hacking

Mirror[1]

A national newspaper group today admits that “some years ago voicemails left on certain people’s phones were unlawfully accessed” and that it “apologises publicly to all its victims of phone hacking”. Yet for some reason the Leader of the Opposition is not calling for a Commons debate and a judge-led inquiry, and past crusaders for press ethics turned Mirror columnists, Tom Watson and John Prescott, are silent. How can Prezza, the victim turned scourge of phone hackers, work for the very people who hacked phones? What is about his grand-a-week column that makes him turn a blind eye to the criminality of his paymasters? What about Hacked Off? There is nothing about hacking at Trinity Mirror on the front page of their website this morning. The humblest day of their lives…

UPDATE I (11.42) Hacked Off have belatedly noticed the Mirror’s front page, over an hour after we clipped their ears for their silence.

UPDATE II

Gove’s Jag Snag: Red Box Missing From Footage

At his speech in Westminster this morning, Grant Shapps was quick to point out that he had not driven the 400m from CCHQ to the Institute of Directors in “a government car”, nor was he willing to get drawn “into commenting on individual’s car use”.

Andrew Mitchell, for example, refused a car when he was in the same job. Both Gove’s people and the Cabinet Office are kicking back hard at the Mirror’s splash today, claiming that the car was carrying important government papers for the Chief Whip. Gove is holding a folder in the footage, but there does not seem to be any sign of his red box – in which official documents are kept – neither when Gove got in nor out of the car.

Decide for yourselves here.

Leon Brittan Buried in Accordance With Jewish Customs

The Telegraph, Mirror, Metro and Mail have all followed up Exaro’s top scoop that Leon Brittan has been buried in an unmarked grave for fear it would be vandalised. The MailOnline headline has however since been changed with no explanation, though the URL remains the same:

Why the subtle change? As is being pointed out this morning, and as the new Mail copy states: “In accordance with Jewish tradition, the former home secretary is said to have been interred in an simple plot without flowers in Golders Green Cemetery”.

Wonder what other assumptions Exaro have failed to check…

Bi-Textual:  Letter Is Cut ‘N Paste JobSham Business Endorsement Written by Chuka

Goldman Sachs predator turned Olympics boss Charles Allen has a letter in the Mirror today praising Labour’s plans for British business. It does not mention he’s actually the Chairman of Executive Board of the Labour Party, but who cares for such details. The letter is so generous it could almost have been written by Chuka Umunna. In fact, it was.

Lord Allen, ennobled by Labour, uses the exact same words in his letter as this article by Chuka for LabourList last year:

Allen: “We cannot and we should not push Britain towards the EU exit door or putting Britain’s future at risk for the sake of party management.”

Chuka: “Not pushing Britain towards the EU exit door or putting Britain’s future at risk for the sake of party management.”

Allen: “This plan means creating a new high-quality technical baccalaureate to give our young people the skills they need, with all young people studying English and Maths until they are 18.”

Chuka: “Creating a new high-quality technical baccalaureate to give our young people the skills they need, with all young people studying English and Maths until they are 18.”

Allen: “It means more rigorous standards so that apprenticeships last a minimum of two years and using the money the government spends to create new opportunities by requiring suppliers on large contracts to offer apprenticeships.”

Chuka: “More rigorous standards so that apprenticeships last a minimum of two years and are level three qualifications, and using the money the government spends on procurement to create new opportunities by requiring suppliers on large contracts to offer apprenticeships.”

Allen: “It means investing for the long term and making sure businesses of all sizes can get access to the finance they need to grow, with a proper British Investment Bank supported by a network of regional banks.”

Chuka: “It means investing for the long term and making sure businesses of all sizes can get access to the finance they need to grow, with a proper British Investment Bank supported by a network of regional banks.”

Allen: “It means giving the Green Investment Bank – initiated by the last Labour government – borrowing powers to enable it to support low-carbon industries of tomorrow.”

Chuka: “Giving the Green Investment Bank – initiated by the last Labour government – borrowing powers to enable it to support low-carbon industries of tomorrow.”

Allen: “But most importantly it means an open, outward-facing approach to the world: engaging positively with our European partners and reforming the EU so it is more focused on growth.”

Chuka: “It means an open, outward-facing approach to the world: engaging positively with our European partners, reforming the EU so it is more focused on growth.”

Where’s Bill Somebody when you need him? 

Guardian’s Small Correction & Clarification

coulson-correction

Over page after page last summer the Guardian splashed on the front page of G2 about the baby-eating antics of News of the World journalists. Today hidden back on page 32 a small clarification reveals allegations were untrue. Notice how the Guardian is currently now splashing page after page, day after day, about the Daily Mirror’s corporate malfeasance and multi-million pay outs to hacked celebs? Nope.

Ex-Sunday Mirror Hack Pleads Guilty to Phone Hacking in 2001 “Shown By Senior Person How to Access Voicemails”

Graham Johnson is the first Mirror employee to plead guilty to hacking, admitting he accessed the voicemails of a celeb in October 2001 after being “shown by a senior person in a supervisory capacity how to” do so.

Reporting restrictions have been placed on a number of leading media names until tomorrow…

WATCH: Newmark Story Was Not Entrapment

Fleetstreet Fox’s defence of the Sunday Mirror’s Brooks Newmark story on Question Time last night is worth watching. Critics who have not read the original story and trigger happy IPSO bosses should watch:

“I think in this particular case that it’s not entrapment because Mr Newmark, if you’ve read the original article, responded to this journalist, which he thought was a young woman online, by firstly offering his mobile phone number, secondly going into private messages, and then on seven occasions seeking explicit photographs from her, and on another three occasions asking to meet her. Now that doesn’t sound to me like someone who was reluctant or who needed persuading, it sounds to me like someone who was quite enthusiastic with the opportunity to misbehave, and he grabbed it with one hand while lowering his pyjama trousers with the other one.

“I think there are two issues that would make this in the public interest. One of those is one of the messages that Brooks Newmark sent was “you send me a picture and I will send you one, that way we both have a secret”. Now if that were you and me, it doesn’t matter. A government minister who has security clearance, that’s an invitation to blackmail, and corruption. Under the Ministerial Code of Conduct that alone would be a reason to resign… A man with power and wealth and influence repeatedly, not once or twice, sought explicit photographs from what he thought was a young woman who had no power or wealth or influence, and if she had been the young activist that he thought she was, he would have had the power to influence her career for better or for worse. To me, that smells like exploitation and it’s certainly abuse of power.”

Notable that Grant Shapps also refused to say Newmark was entrapped…

Trinity Mirror CEO Blasts Brooks Newmark Story Critics Buzzfeed, Telegraph Criticised for Revealing Innocents' Names

brooks-newmark-mirror-frontpage

Trinity Mirror CEO Simon Fox has put out an extremely robust defence of the Sunday Mirror/Brooks Newmark story:

“Whilst this has attracted a barrage of negative comment and the threat of an IPSO investigation, we believe that we were right to publish this story on public interest grounds.

If you have only read or heard the coverage rather than read The Sunday Mirror itself, you will have been left with a very wrong impression of what we did. Most importantly we did not publish any photographs of the women in the story. Nor did we list any names of any MPs other than Brooks Newmark.

The images of the women that you have seen widely reproduced were put there by other publications. The same goes for other MPs including those who have said that they will complain to IPSO.

Mr Brooks Newmark was not just an MP but a Minister (for civil society), with security clearance who took a role in foreign affairs and was co-founder for the campaign group ‘Women2Win’, an initiative designed to get more women into politics.

We acquired this story from a reputable freelance reporter who had set up a fake Twitter account as a Tory PR woman under the name of ‘Sophie’. She/he ‘followed’ on Twitter a number of MPs, celebrities and news organisations.

It is significant that it was Brooks Newmark who initiated the move away from the public forum and into private communication with ‘Sophie’. Since publication of our story and his resignation Mr Newmark has said that he ‘has nobody to blame but himself’.”

Ironically Guido understands that it is Buzzfeed and the Daily Telegraph who have attracted the ire of lawyers acting for parties unnamed by this blog or the Sunday Mirror. In fact one of those innocent parties will be writing for the Sunday Mirror about how she feels about her treatment at the hands of Buzzfeed and the Daily Telegraph..

Not So Pronto IPSO

IPSO’s Sir Alan Moses is in a rush for the three weeks-old new press regulator to get to the bottom of our Brooks Newmark investigation published in the Sunday Mirror. For the record and the avoidance of doubt, Alex Wickham – better known to our readers as WikiGuido – is a fine young journalist with more front page splashes to his name than some of his critics have had in their entire careers. His so-called sting – which was actually evidence gathering – was not an unauthorised operation. There will be no “rogue reporter defence”, it was an agreed plan.

Brooks Newmark was one of the founders of “Women2Win”, a campaign to get more Conservative women into politics. Newmark had a certain reputation among younger Tory women for being, for want of a better word, a bit of a creep. Think what his position gave him access to – ambitious, younger women. As with Lord Rennard that combination has obvious temptations.

MPs have been shown to be corrupt in the past by sting operations; Cash for Questions and Byers for Hire revealed MPs exploiting their positions for financial gain. How do our critics expect us to prove an MP is exploiting his position for carnal gain?

This was no fishing operation, it was a narrowly targeted effort. The Sophie Wittams Twitter account followed almost 100 MPs as part of the cover story – not to target them – which is obvious given that many of them were women MPs and the list included the Prime Minister. There was no intention to trap the PM.

If IPSO finds against the Daily Mirror it won’t prove it has teeth, it will prove as we told the Leveson Inquiry, that “media standards” are really a form of censorship that will protect the powerful from having their wrongdoings uncovered. This blog will never bow to the censors – we will continue to use subterfuge and clandestine methods to go after wrong ‘uns – there is no other way.

Media Movements: James Lyons to Sunday Times

Congratulations to the Mirror’s James Lyons, who has landed the Deputy Political Editor gig at the Sunday Times. Lyons is hardly short of a few bob having married into the multi-millionairess Margaret Hodge’s family dynasty. Still, nice little earner…

Nigel Evans Makes £21,000 From Post-Sex Trial Media Interviews

Cleared Nigel Evans was paid £21,000 for selling the story of his trial to the press. Evans is being paid £1762.50 a month until June 2015 by management company Exclusive Press & Publicity, in respect of three media engagements with the Mail on Sunday, Mirror and ITV. Following his not guilty verdict, Evans gave emotional interviews to the MoS, Sunday Mirror and ITV’s Daybreak. He says he spent three hours with each outlet, so it wasn’t a bad way of helping towards paying his £130,000 legal bills. If he’d been found guilty he would have got a column in the Guardian…

Twitter Bitch Fight of the Week: Morgan v Maguire

Two Mirror men past and present have come to blows in this week’s Twitter bitch fight.

Piers Morgan did not take kindly to Kevin Maguire’s diary story about him going to visit Andy Coulson in the clink. The Mirror associate editor cattily enquired as to why Piers didn’t tweet about the trip.

One problem, he did:

Cue Piers deciding to give Maguire a slap:

He should have quit while he was ahead:

Knockout…

Mirror Terror

Mirror, Monday: “EBOLA TERROR AS PASSENGER DIES AT GATWICK”.

No Ebola.

Mirror, Wednesday, “BOMB TERROR AT 38,000 FT”.

No bomb.

Mirror Readies Pennies for Hacking Payouts

piersknew480

Buried in the small print of the Mirror’s Half-Yearly Financial Report (out today) is this little note:

Historical Legal Issues
dailymirrorThe Group continues to co-operate with the police in respect of Operation Elvedon (the investigation relating to alleged inappropriate payments to public officials) and Operation Golding (the investigation into alleged phone hacking).

The Group is aware of a number of civil claims from individuals in relation to phone hacking. In the first half we have provided £4.0 million to cover the cost of dealing with and resolving claims. It remains uncertain as to how these matters will progress, whether further allegations or claims will be made, and their financial impact. Due to this uncertainty a contingent liability has been highlighted in note 18…

18. Contingent liabilities
There is potential for further liabilities to arise from the outcome or resolution of the ongoing historical legal issues. Due to the present uncertainty in respect of the nature, timing or measurement of any such liabilities it is too soon to be able to reliably estimate how these matters will proceed and their financial impact..

£4 million seems an awfully small provision when you consider the hundreds of millions already paid out to phone hacking victims…

Sunday Mirror and People to Merge

The People’s Nigel Nelson is the longest serving political editor on Fleet Street. Where does this leave him?

Piers Tears: Another Fake Mirror Front Page

Under the headline “Britain, 2014.” the Mirror’s front page is really going for emotional shock factor today:

The only problem is that the picture is not “Britain, 2014”, it is “America, 2009” and Anne is crying over an earthworm. The Getty photo was shared via Flickr by Lauren Rosenbaum in November 2009, she has a really cute smile:

anne-flickr

Of course this is not the first time that the Mirror have got into trouble for a fake front page photo misrepresenting a wider campaign, editor Lloyd Embley is following in the traditions of Piers Morgan. Nobody mention that “territorial Army base in Lancashire”  and “occupied Iraq”.

UPDATE: The Mirror ran a fake story about mutant super rats in Liverpool and had to pay compensation to a Hampstead man as a result.

Via Dan Barker

Lobby Won't Miss Another Downing Street Arrest

Downing Street’s failure to disclose to the public that Patrick Rock had resigned and been arrested for three weeks is causing some bother for the Prime Minister’s Official Spokesperson. At yesterday’s Lobby briefing Jean-Christophe Gray, or JC as he is affectionately known by hacks, was asked by lippy Mirror deputy political editor James Lyons: “Has anyone from Downing Street resigned or been arrested in the last 24 hours?” “No…”, a less than impressed JC sighed…[…] Read the rest

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