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July 27 2010

12:49

Complaint over attack on hyperlocal blog upheld by PCC

You may remember ‘investigation’ by The Hull Daily Mail into HU17.net, a hyperlocal publisher that was operating on its patch back in March, and the resulting backlash against the newspaper by observers who saw this as a commercially motivate hatchet job. Now the Press Complaints Commission has upheld a complaint on the basis “that readers would have been misled as to the scale of the complainant’s involvement in adult websites. The result was a breach of Clause 1 of the Editors’ Code.”

More at Journalism.co.uk (which points out that one of the articles is still online) and Press Gazette.

March 05 2010

09:52

Hull Daily Mail hyperlocal ’smear’ job backfires

The Hull Daily Mail’s article accusing a hyperlocal competitor of having a ‘porn business’ has been misfiring spectacularly over the past 24 hours. The article ‘reveals’ that the founder of HU17.net has designed sites for the porn industry. “There is no suggestion any contain illegal material.”

At the time of writing the article has over 300 comments overwhelmingly critical of what is variously described as a “smear campaign”, “set up” and “character assassination”. Some point to the hypocrisy of the attack from a newspaper which recently launched a campaign to back local businesses, while others point out that the newspaper has previously published glowing articles about a local sex shop.

A distinction is also drawn between operating a ‘porn business’ and building websites for companies who then use them to publish porn. I wonder if they’ve investigated their own printers to see if they are running a ‘porn business’?

And many, of course, point out that the newspaper itself is happy to provide a platform for sex industry advertising in its own pages.

The comments spill over onto a response on HU17.net itself, which the publicity has clearly brought to a wider audience locally. The most curious comment suggests that ads for escort adverts are being removed from the Hull Daily Mail website as they are being highlighed in the comments – certainly there are a lot of dead links, which seems odd given that the Classifieds have a whole section devoted to ‘Escort Agencies’ (image above).

Whatever you feel about the story, the comments across both sites provide a real insight into how people perceive their local paper and the attempts of hyperlocal publishers to run a business and serve a specific community.

More coverage at Journalism.co.uk and The Register. Journopig’s post pulls out some of the unnecessary and unsupported paedophile-innuendo running through the story.

09:48

Hull Daily Mail publishes update in ‘investigation’ linked to rival website

Yesterday the Hull Daily Mail and its website received fierce criticism from commenters following a series of articles on Paul Smith, the founder of community news site for the Beverley area, HU17, and designer of pornographic websites.

Several readers suggested that the Mail was being overly critical of Smith’s profession, which as the articles stated is not illegal, because of his involvement with a rival community site.

Today the Mail has published another story on Smith – this time with a more balanced approach. Headlined ‘Beverley Minster virger backs web publisher’, the piece notes the support for Smith voiced in the Mail’s article comments. It also adds a comment from Beverley and Holderness MP Graham Stuart, who was a client of Smith’s web design business and mentioned in the previous articles:

Mr Stuart said: “I think it’s absolutely disgraceful and appalling to run a story like that mentioning me in the second paragraph without getting in touch with me. It is a sleazy unpleasant story that attacks a bloke running a Beverley website.”

But the new piece has done little to appease readers – asks one commenter on today’s piece:

Once again HDM are continuing in their persecution of this poor guy and alienating their readers,are they trying for the most complained about article of the year?

The articles also continue to feature adverts for the Mail’s own local website for Beverley – whether this is automatically generated by the mention of Beverley in the pieces aside, it doesn’t seem to be helping the paper’s case.

In a post on community site HU17.net today, Smith said he has lost business as a result of the articles and has suggested he could close the Beverley website as a result. He also challenges several claims made by the Mail’s investigation into his business, in particular denying that he had agreed to make a website for ‘client’ created by the Mail.

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March 04 2010

15:42

Hull Daily Mail criticised for tabloid journalism tactics against rival website

The Hull Daily Mail and its website have been at the receiving end of fierce criticism from commenters today following a series of articles on Paul Smith, the founder of community news site for the Beverley area, HU17, and designer of pornographic websites.

Today’s story ‘Town website publisher’s porn business’ details Smith’s involvement in “thousands of hardcore pornography sites” and urges readers to buy tomorrow’s paper to read “how our reporter posed as an escort and confronted Paul Smith at his Beverley home”.

The article does point out that: “There is no suggestion any [of the sites designed by Smith] contain illegal material.”

But the current 179 commenters on this piece are far from happy, with several encouraging readers to complain to the Press Complaints Commission (PCC).

Suggests one commenter:

This really does smell of a set up. Having looked at HU17.net this is a very very good site that seems to promote all that is good about Beverley, what a refreshing change. I am also pleased to see and hear that East Riding Council are supporting Mr Smith. Has he been affecting HDM advertising revenues, is that the real reason you have had a go at him.

Another reader questions the subject matter of the piece in light of the site’s own adverts for personal escorts available via the stuff4sale site.

A piece on Smith’s HU17 community site, which covers news and information in the Beverley area, describes the Mail article as “deeply upsetting” and counters several of its claims.

“There is certainly some truth in what the Hull Daily Mail has printed. Paul Smith has had some dealings with people involved in the adult industry in the past, and has coded some of their websites. He has also taught many of them how to update their own sites, and this looks like being a huge mistake, as the content is then completely out of his control yet still carries links to his website company.”

The number of domain names the Mail claims Smith owns is an exceptional exaggeration, according to the HU17 piece.

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