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March 22 2010

10:16

Checking your facts – to every last detail

Via the Fleet Street Blues blog, comes a story of intimate fact checking at the Sunday Times.

Showing that editors take their ‘There’s a part of you for every part of the Sunday Times’ motto seriously, journalist Camilla Long rang UKIP’s press officer to find out which of MEP Nigel Farage’s testicles had been removed, for yesterday’s profile feature.

The story not only reveals some meticulous journalism practice, but a disputed version of events.

Compare the two different accounts:

UKIP’s press officer, Gawain Towler:

“Look Gawain”, she said, “I am really sorry to ask you this but the editors have told me to”, “What’s that?” I said, “They want me to ask which one of his balls was removed after his cancer”.

You want odious? I would suggest even asking that question is pretty bloody impertinent and cheap, and I told her so, but she persisted. So I agreed to ask, but told her not to expect a particularly forthcoming answer. When I asked Farage, he was, unusually for him somewhat put out, but after saying that he though it a cheap shot he then he recovered his normal poise, “Tell her if she is so bloody interested that she can come over and check herself”. So I called her back and told her, both that he felt is tawdry, but if she must then that is his coment [sic].

and Long’s version:

[I] call his press officer to confirm which testicle he had removed. Farage has just given his party conference speech and is in high spirits. “Tell her to come and find out, ha-ha-ha!” he shouts over the din.

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