(This post comes with a wearingly necessary caveat, as you'll see at the end)
Never let it be said that this blog blindly attacks the Mail, or other newspapers, without due consideration of the good work newspapers can do. In fact, I'd state it this way: it's precisely because these newspapers could spend their time with valuable campaigns, investigative journalism and insightful reporting that I feel compelled, in my particularly ineffective pissing-in-the-wind (yet still more effective than the Pathetically Craven Commission) way, to take these jokers to task for the repeated re-hashed press releases, prejudiced drivel and complete made-up bollocks they stick together in order to produce their daily news ejaculation.
I've praised the Mail before, though it always comes with a caveat - they included a wonderful piece about the Kindertransport which made me wonder why they couldn't understand the plight of modern-day refugees, for example.
But here are a couple of examples where I really can't fault them (well I say that, but you know there are going to be exceptions). Firstly, the campaign to stop Gary McKinnon from being deported to the US to face a trial for hacking. This is a superb piece of campaigning journalism from a national newspaper, and is just the sort of way in which daily papers can really make a difference to channel support from their readership for causes they may not otherwise have heard about.
I have but two issues with the campaign. Firstly, calling McKinnon an 'Asperger's victim' strikes me as a bit clunky. I know one or two people with Asperger's and I wouldn't call them victims at all. But that's a mere quibble over terminology. Secondly, though, was this story headlined "As Gary McKinnon faces Jail in the U.S. look who CAN'T be kicked out". You know what's coming and, yes, the story delivers.
Last week there was even an article in praise of science and against quackery, although as Sarah pointed out at the time, that was probably more to do with an anti-Justice Eady agenda than the Mail really being on the side of wisdom versus witchcraft. As well as that it's in the Mail's financial interests to get a change in those pesky libel laws which see them regularly creamed for £30k here and £50k there for getting facts wrong, defaming people and so on. But still, a reason to be cheerful? A sign of progress?
And now today. I've seen a story on the Mail's website, whose content and whose comments I'd like to share with you. I want you to think of some stirring music in the background - Land of Hope and Glory if you like, or Fingal's Cave, you know, something like that - as you read this.
Our rainbow family: Three children, three skin colours... all born to the same parents
Rainbow family...? Why that sounds almost... I don't know, as if the Mail - The Daily Mail, for God's sake, who earlier this very year attempted to claim that non-white British-born people weren't entirely British - is trying to be positive about mixed-race relationships and the changing face of this country under immigration. Surely not...? Surely not! But wait.
Carla Nurse and her husband Cornel have three beautiful children, all with different-coloured skin.
Look at the words! Look at them! I've been cruel about Mail reporter Andrew 'M Beat Featuring General' Levy before, but not this time. Can you believe it? Read on...
Six-year-old son Jermaine has golden skin and brown eyes. Daughter Tanisha, four, takes after her father, with dark skin, dark eyes and tight curls in her hair. And two-year-old son Jayden has fair skin, blond hair and blue eyes.
*checks website* No, it's really the Mail. It really is!
But now, the comments. I know what you might have been expecting. But you were wrong. Check out these highly rated comments...
It's absolutely horrid that people can't get over skin colour, but my belief is that when people stare it's not because of skin colour but because the children are so cute.
- Lorraine, Quebec, Canada, 6/7/2009 15:49
What a lovely family, No racial discrimation in that house. Pity the world couldnt live like that.
- William S., Alicante Spain, 6/7/2009 15:07
I see this family to be the true new age energy, this is shows the beauty of love and uniqueness of our DNA's structure.
I so love this family..... they look PERFECT
- kaveeta, windsor UK, 6/7/2009 15:34
What a beautiful family!!!
- Sharon, Brussels, Belgium, 6/7/2009 13:45
I'm almost in tears - aren't you? What lovely comments on a rather nice story by the Mail. See, it can be done! It can! I wish it got done more often, but it can happen - and look at how the readers respond. (Although the more sceptical part of me wonders if the moderators haven't been stemming back an almighty tide of racist crap).
Isn't that nice, though? I wonder if with this and the McKinnon stuff, the Mail isn't dipping its toe into the water. I said last week that the Tories were moving away from the bad old days of the Birching Brigade and the rabidly anti-gay stuff; maybe the Mail's moving that way too? It's probably too soon to call that one, I think, especially given the fact that Melanie Phillips and Richard Littlejohn are still employed, but I noticed a columnist the other day who wrote a rather reasoned and well thought out article about gay rights - and they were writing for the Mail!
Make no mistake, the Mail doesn't do anything on principle. It exists to make money for shareholders, so the only reason it might be trying a more liberal stance on some issues is because maybe they've done some market research and they've discovered that the brand has been pretty tainted by the disgraceful prejudiced nonsense of the past, and that maybe, you know, potential Mail readers don't actually like racism and are a lot more liberal than their newspaper tells them they should be. It's certainly not a complete about-face, let's not be under any illusions.
And here comes the caveat I spoke about at the beginning. Now, it's only right that newspapers should scrutinise reports and statistics - so long as they scrutinise MigrationWatch press releases, which we all know the Mail doesn't; and it even allows an 'Andrew Green' (is it Sir Andrew Green, the head of MigrationWatch?) to write articles without any balance whatsoever.
You'll notice that last article was about 'council house queue jumping' - yet today's report from the Equality Commission says that's complete nonsense, and no queues are being jumped. How does the Mail deal with this report? By repeating it as unquestioningly as MigrationWatch's opposite viewpoint? By reporting it in the same way as almost every other publication in the country, by saying it states that council house queue jumping is a myth and there's no evidence for it.
Oh dear. Let's not break out the champagne just yet then, shall we? There are encouraging signs from the Mail... but it's got a hell of a long way to go.