Sunday Times Editor: If You Have Questions About Our Snowden Story, Address Them To UK Government
from the you're-making-this-worse dept
So we already wrote about the absolutely ridiculous Sunday Times piece which claimed that Russia and China had “cracked” the encryption Snowden used on his documents (or, maybe, he gave them to them…) and thus all hell had broken loose and the UK had to remove “agents” from Moscow. Of course there were all sorts of holes in the story, which didn’t make much sense. All of the “evidence” was just anonymous quotes from government officials, much of which contradicted itself. And, of course, there were the outright factual errors. When finally confronted about this, the reporter who wrote the story, Tom Harper, admitted straight up, that he was just “just publishing what we believe to be the position of the British government.” When questioned about the evidence, he said that you shouldn’t challenge him, but the UK government — as if his job as a “reporter” was just to write down what they said, not actually search for the truth.
It appears that this attitude — “we are stenographers for the government, rather than reporters seeking evidence and truth” — comes straight from the top at the Sunday Times. Someone emailed Sunday Times editor Martin Ivens pointing out the many problems with the article, and got a short reply that says that all of these questions should be taken up with the British government, rather than the Sunday Times. Really.
Dear Mr Douglas,
I think you should address your remarks to 10 Downing St. If you think they have lied to us then so be it.
There are… so many problems with this, but let’s just address the two big ones. First, in suggesting that they ask the British Government (10 Downing St.), Ivens is flat out admitting what his reporter said earlier in the week: they were just acting as stenographers, and have no independent evidence to back up the story they wrote. That’s not the role of a journalist. A journalist is supposed to be seeking out the truth. Yet, here, Ivens is basically saying that the Sunday Times has no evidence to back up its claims.
The second big problem is the “if you think they have lied to us then so be it.” That, also, is an astounding statement for a journalist to take. If someone tells a journalist that you got a story wrong and your sources lied to you, the last reaction you should have is “so be it.” The reaction should be “oh shit” and then revisiting the issue carefully to make sure you actually got the story right. Instead, here, the Sunday Times position is “meh, who cares.” Incredible.
Filed Under: ed snowden, journalism, martin ivens, sunday times, surveillance, tom harper, uk
Companies: sunday times
Comments on “Sunday Times Editor: If You Have Questions About Our Snowden Story, Address Them To UK Government”
This is why governments want to define “Journalists” as only those working for major media outlets.
My God, what an insightful comment. So simple and yet so deeply frightening.
“This is why governments want to define “Journalists” as only those working for major media outlets.”
Doesn’t the Government already have PR staff for that? Or is the Sunday some sort of Government PR agency that we didn’t know?
Re: Response to: Ninja on Jun 18th, 2015 @ 8:16am
We could fix all of this if we just had press secretaries who only work on Sunday
Re: Re: Response to: Ninja on Jun 18th, 2015 @ 8:16am
No, we could fix that if there weren’t fucking clowns in Government.
Re: Re: Re: Response to: Ninja on Jun 18th, 2015 @ 8:16am
nope, its the clowns voting for them.
Re: Re: Response to: Ninja on Jun 18th, 2015 @ 8:16am
No no, press secretaries only work on Fridays, so as to maximize the number of people ignoring the news due to hangovers.
Of course the government has PR staff, and they’re called… oh what was it… ah yes, ‘The Sunday Times’.
Telliing lies to a journalist...
A true journalistic publication would make sure everybody knew about anybody telling them lies.
Somebody got a threatening visit from a couple of people in really nice suits. If they were wearing blue gloves, I’d have done what they said as well. Granted, I would have quit and emigrated after that.
“Two by two, hands of blue…”
Re: Re: Re:
Awesome quote! Canceling that show is still the dumbest mistake Fox has ever made IMHO.
Since the Sunday Times has admitted that they’re nothing but a governmental mouthpiece, then people should just stop reading it, as they are not bringing any value to the table. Everyone can just eliminate the middleman and get their “news” directly from the government PR department.
Anonymous Source = 10 Downing Street
Did Ivens actually admit that those ‘anonymous sources’ were from 10 Downing Street, or is he such a tool that he does not realize his admission?
It must be a real conundrum to be a journalist these days. There is a constant tension between integrity vs paycheck. Oh, wait…that means that the integrity part of the equation actually exists. That might be a problem.
Re: Anonymous Source = 10 Downing Street
It was already established that the anonymous sources were with the government.
Re: Re: Anonymous Source = 10 Downing Street
Yes, one anonymous government source verified by yet another anonymous government source, but neither on of those sources were attributed to the Prime Ministers office, which is what I believe the 10 Downing Street refers to.
Re: Re: Re: Anonymous Source = 10 Downing Street
IIRC, Tom Harper mentioned that his anonymous “confirmation” came from Downing Street.
Re: Anonymous Source = 10 Downing Street
It doesn’t sound like much of an admission to me.
It’s more or less “my belief in this story is as solid as the gun pointed at my head”. It’s a pretty clear statement that they have been forced into publishing this item but he is not going to pretend to believe it.
But isn’t the publisher responsible for content in the uk or is that just the commenters.
They ought to do what no rag does (as none of them has sense of ethics nor the balls to ever do it): To publish a retraction with headline and copy in the same font size, and on the same page, as the original lies.
they just destroyed themselves unless of course the sheeple outnumber the free thinkers
They are simply getting their customer service training from Comcast…
No, a journalist does not have a “responsibility to seek out the truth”. Other than restrictions to not defame or libel journalists have no responsibility other than those they wish to take upon themselves.
Re: Truth and Duty
In the US the media has no legal responsibility to tell the truth, and can lie as they wish — so says SCOTUS.
There is an ethical imperative for journalists to tell the truth, just as there are many occupations which have critical, though not legal obligations to tell the truth.
Do you really want to live in a world where there is no reasonable ability to depend on the word of others?
Re: Re: Truth and Duty
You could always move to Canada. We have laws preventing the news from lying. In fact FOX news was denied a spot because they refused to not lie on our networks. Even the current criminal PM Harper has been unable to get these laws overturned thank god.
Re: Re: Re: Truth and Duty
How’s that supposed to work? I mean, if the news isn’t allowed to lie and make stuff up, there goes a good 90% of their programs. How are they supposed to fill up the time then, idiot hosts with braindead banter on meaningless subjects for hours at a time?
In the UK we have an Editors’ Code of Practice – the first clause of the which insists that publications “must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information”
So yeah, journalists do have a responsibility to seek out and tell the truth.
Re: Re: Re:
The Editors’ Code of Practice is being ignored. What are the consequences?
Re: Re: Re: Re:
Well, in an extreme case the UK newspaper the “News of the World” was forced to close down in 2011 due to some of their “journalists” being found guilty of hacking peoples phones to get inside scoops. Some even went to prison.
It may not surprise you too much if I say that the “News of the World” and the subject of this Techdirt article “The Sunday Times/The Times” are both owned by the same company – News Corp aka Rupert Murdock.
Re: Re: Re:2 Re:
“Some even went to prison.” Well only the disposable ones did.
The Editor in Chief got a platinum parachute & now has a new job in the USA as she is Rupert’s Wonder Woman.
As for the article, of course Limited News is a government spoke-piece, without Rupert the RWNJ side of politics would never get into power in the first place in the UK or Australia.
“Other than restrictions to not defame or libel journalists have no responsibility other than those they wish to take upon themselves.”
I couldn’t disagree more. Journalists absolutely have a responsibility to seek and report truth. If they don’t do so, then they aren’t journalists.
I sense that you may be talking about legal obligations, though. I think that “responsibility” is a separate and distinct concept from “legality”.
If they are not seeking the truth then they re selling fiction under a false label.
I’m not convinced that this is a problem.
While its certainly true that a good journalist is someone who digs out stories, fact checks sources and so on, anyone can write for a paper. Now, whether you say ‘They aren’t really a journalist’ or you say ‘They are a bad journalist’ doesn’t really matter. They clearly consider it their job to write articles that sell papers, not to ‘find the truth’, and whether or not you grant them the title of journalist isn’t going to change that.
The problem then, would seem to be the people that buy the paper, who aren’t demanding of the quality of the journalism within, but who are we to demand that they demand quality? If they did, this kind of thing would quickly get out and they wouldn’t buy it. But when we tell them the problem, they won’t care. They won’t much care that it’s not true, much less will they care if the government lied, or if the paper didn’t catch the lie. They won’t stop buying and they won’t tell their friends.
And so the ‘journalist’ can photocopy the press release and feel satisfied in his work, and the people can buy it and feel informed. And you know what? That’s not a problem. Everyone involved has either accepted their level of misinformation, or would accept it if we told them about it. At the end of the day, I guess that’s their choice.
As you point out, in the end the purpose is to sell, whether it be newspapers, magazine, internet page views. And what is being sold is readers eyes, to view the advertisements that fund all of those publications, the newsstand price of them don’t really cover the costs. With Wall Street demanding quarterly profits, it is becoming more and more difficult to justify the cost of decent journalism. That, however, does not take away the responsibility of doing journalism properly. It is a matter of trust. The reader trusts a publication to some degree to ‘get it right’, and there are varying degrees of trust.
Either none of the following entities discussing integrity and journalism have addressed those points, or they just have not changed, and some journals have merely decided to ignore the tenants for the sake of profit.
In UK there are the tabloids and broadsheets. Tabloid papers are sensationalist and low quality journalism generally and broadsheets are often more nuanced and higher quality journalism. Usually Sunday Times is considered broadsheet, but stories of as low quality as this one would not seem appropriate for that. Basically Sunday Times is moving into tabloid news here and that is a heavy pejorative for a newspaper wanting to sell papers on reputation.
One question left for Sunday Times editor Martin Ivens:
If the content was indeed provided by the UK government, and just printed by the Sunday Times – why do you place it behind your paywall and ask people to pay for it?
Hmm, sounds like it might be copyright infringement to me. Unleash the Prenda laws of the world. They have a new deep pocket to go after.
Works by the UK government do not fall into the public domain automatically, unlike the US. The UK has what is called ‘crown copyright’.
I once heard that professional journalists working for so-called serious newspapers were supposed to do something called “fact checking”.
When truth is treason
The job of the tabloids
The `job’ of the (British) tabloids is to publish the most outrageous headlines and print pictures of scantily clad women, everybody knows that. (Yes that second part is sexist). The content of the articles does not really matter.
Although it is not journalism, the reaction perfectly fits this section of the press. Even if it is rather pathethic.
Sunday Pravda? Pravda Times?
I would expect no less of a statement from the UK’s Propaganda Times.
Given that the Sunday Times is owned by Murdoch’s News International empire, what else would you expect?
if reporters – whether print or tv or whatever – want to be taken seriously, they depend very heavily on a reputation for independence and the willingness to go hard after the truth.
these clowns clearly don’t – or can’t – care about their reputations.
Do you believe this crap, Ivens?
Harper: Do you believe this crap, Ivens?
Ivens: It’s not our job to believe it, Harper. Our job is to tell the people –
The UK is one giant circus.
Clowns in the media, clowns in the government and the clowns who vote for them.
It’d be nice to have some different acts.
No News Is…
It’s only news if they *don’t* want you to print it – to paraphrase Hunter S…a
It’s about time a government owned their own newspaper!
Re: london times
What, instead of a newspaper owning a government, or two.