Saturday, 16 April 2011

Mail caught copying old stories from BBC website (again)

Quotes from a Close Friend is a new 'media watching' blog which began last month and aims to highlight bad journalism and, in particular, celebrity gossip, political news and other stories which are based on the words of 'close friends' and anonymous sources.

The first post on the blog highlighted this Mail story from 10 March:

Why this story?

Because only the day before, I had read this old BBC story from 2003, which reappeared briefly in the ‘most popular: shared’ box on the front page of the BBC News website. It described a paper by a Dr Fox (sadly not the DJ or politician) – published in a medical journal – which recorded the various acronyms used by doctors to covertly describe their patient.

And as Quotes from a Close Friend points out, it's not just the same story, but it includes several rather familar sentences:

From the BBC:

Thus rheumatology, considered by hard-pressed juniors one of the less busy specialties, becomes “rheumaholiday”, the “Freud Squad” are psychiatrists, and “Gassers” and “Slashers” are anaesthetists and general surgeons respectively.

And from the Mail:

For example rheumatology, considered to be one of the less busy specialties, is ‘rheumaholiday’, the ‘Freud Squad’ are psychiatrists, ‘Gassers’ are anaesthetists and ‘slashers’ general surgeons.

They add:

To be fair to the Mail (what?), they might just have stumbled across the same journal the original BBC article came from, albeit 8 years later. However, the big problem with that theory is this not-in-any-way-lifted quote about the acronym TTFO (Told to f*** off);

From the BBC:

He told BBC News Online: ‘This guy was asked by the judge what the acronym meant, and luckily for him he had the presence of mind to say: ‘To take fluids orally’.”

And the Mail:

He said: ‘This guy was asked by the judge what the acronym meant, and luckily for him he had the presence of mind to say: ‘To take fluids orally’.’

So, perhaps the Mail came up with this story on their own, and phoned up Dr Fox, who gave word-for-word the same quote as eight years ago. Or, perhaps they’ve seen an eight-year-old story on the BBC website, rearranged some of the paragraphs, changed some of the words, and added a few extra examples. Answers on a postcard.

The answer is, of course, obvious.

After all, the Mail's been caught re-heating old stories from the BBC website's 'most popular' box at least twice before - once with a story about the removal of clips from YouTube, and once with an article involving wrongly-translated Welsh road signs.

Incidentally, the Mail website recently won the award for Digital Innovation of the Year at the Press Awards for demonstrating:

ingenuity and innovation in the use of multi-media applications and content.


  1. Good stuff. I might rearrange it a bit, add some filler and put it on my own blog.

  2. "ingenuity and innovation in the use of multi-media applications and content."...of others.

  3. This was mentioned in the previous fornight's issue of Private Eye - thankfully it is obvious that the Mail is doing this!

  4. The Mail Online yesterday ran a story about a grenade being left outside Kenny Dalglish's house: two years late, but, never mind!


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