Thursday, January 11, 2007

Telegraph pulls Toby Harnden blog

ed April 11th 2007 : scroll down to brown font to read the comments placed on Toby Harnden's "Hoodgate" blog post

Update:Sunday 14 Jan Dreams and Daemons has been described by Suw Charman on her Corante site as the blog "the Telegraph does not want you to read". Her remit for that highly-ranked blog of hers: "Picking out the patterns from the chaos that is the blogosphere" .

ed. Oops. One has overlooked Corante's co-author, Kevin Anderson, featured lower down the home page, who is described as the Guardian's blog editor. Thought I to ought mention that, since I had already decided to do a "Be nice to the Guardian week" (having dipped a toe in its blogging waters recently, and been pleasantly surprised) .

But before readers assume that I have been frozen out of a favourite (if currently problematical) haunt, see Shane Richmond's most recent post to his Telegraph blog. There you will find a friendly difference of opinion between the two of us on the matter of IT jargon, with welcome reinforcement coming from none other than Sarah Hague. The matter of creeping jargon-blight had been raised by me earlier with Ceri Radford, the Telly's literary aficionado whose day job is acting as Chief Moderator on readers' comments. Poor kid.

Re jargon, congratulations are in order for Blogger, our host, for this message that one sees when logging on:

"We're already moving some lucky people, but you can cut the line and switch now".

Although clearly written by someone in California (please, can someone explain to this Brit what's meant by "cut the line" ?) note that he or she was content to use the simple "moving".

Not so the geeks who supply the Telegraph's IT software, who currently inflict this monstrosity upon anyone who still tries accessing Toby Harnden's now-withdrawn Saddam execution blog post (see below):

"We have recently migrated some content over from an old blogging engine, so it's possible that we haven't migrated the item you were looking for."

Ouch !

Update: Saturday 13 Jan There's a must-see article in today's Guardian, entitled "Telegraph gets tough with bloggers" That's a reference to the Telegraph's own bloggers, needless to say.

Shane Richmond, the online News Editor, has been reading the riot act to his team of bloggers (some 38 at the last count), warning them against getting too matey with the likes of us, or revealing too much about journalistic "tricks of the trade". Now who did he have in mind, one wonders ? Toby, or not Toby ? That is the question.

Update: 19:50 London time. Hello. This will be the fourth or fifth time today that I have tried to update this report. Every attempt so far has been frustrated by Blogger's buggy software that throws up supposed faults in the html code when I try to publish (after, say, 20 minutes of editing or more), meaning I have to abort and lose the lot. So this is entered now as plain text, not formatting as bold, or italics, or coloured font, purely to see if this time it's accepted. Even as I type, text is inserting into previous sentences and paragraphs. Is this really the 21st century ? If so, bring back yesterday , and my Amstrad 1512 with its Edline text editor. Anyway, I shall stop here, now things are quietening down (traffic from OrganGrinder on the Guardian) with this simple addition, and see if it "sends" without suffering sensory overload or going into a big sulk. If it does, I'll return later with a backlog of updates.

Come back, Alan Sugar. All is forgiven (especially as I've just had to delete/paste your surname from the end of the sentence to its proper position). Is it just me, or is everything just ..... ? (just had to relocate that question mark as well...)

NB This blog post has now been reorganized to make it more user-friendly. Toby Harnden's comments now come first, followed by the first 35 or so comments, when I then stopped saving. These are followed by 4 of my own comments, sent after I had stopped saving everything that appeared.

For a complete transcript of the blog post, go to OrganGrinder (see Links in margin), which appeared the following day. In fact Handyblogman kindly gave "Dreams and Daemons" first refusal, which was politely declined, for fear of making this post unwieldy, although there were other considerations that need not bother us now.


Want to know what Toby Harnden said in his withdrawn blog, and some of the initial reader reaction ?

Start here, but it may be disjointed in parts, or repetitious, as a result of first recording events as they happened, and then ( hurriedly) re-organizing in logical time-sequence.

20:55 Thursday The graphic at the top of this post shows what was visible on our screens just 45 minutes ago. It was the opening of Toby Harnden's latest blog for the Daily Telegraph. It then suddenly disappeared, without any word of explanation, having accrued some 84 Comments, most of them irate. It would appear that the Telegraph has pulled it, perhaps on the advice of its lawyers, given the acrimony and accusations of impropriety and professional malpractice flying back and forth.

Here is Toby Harnden's now-withdrawn blog post :

"So there I was the other morning, checking my Inbox. Amongst the offers of cheap Viagra and financial deals with dodgy Nigerians nestled an email from a dear reader, offering a remark about my work. That's the thing about this brave new world. Want to say what you think? Post a comment below. Reach me direct? Click on that email address over there to the right. Feeling forward? Call me on my mobile. Hey, the number's out there. "An appalling s*** of a man", read the subject line of the message. A verdict on George W. Bush or Donald Rumsfeld? An epitaph for Saddam Hussein, or John Kerry's career? No, apparently this was a reference to me. "Harnden - you were a total c*** in the Royal Navy, and you continue to be one even today," the email went on - and I quote verbatim, apart from the asterisks, misspellings and all. "How on earth you ever were accepted by the Telegraph as an alleged 'journalist', the Lord only knows." "Your piece on Saddam Hussein's execution (full of inaccuracies and made-up background) had me and my colleagues chortling for hours. No wonder the foregn desk pulled the piece shortly after its appearance. "Why don't you take up window-cleaning or something more suited to your meague abilities? Sincerely, Ian Black". Well, thanks for that Ian. Jolly nice of you to be back in touch, though my memory of our purported previous meeting has sadly faded. Glad I was able to provide some mirth. You're right that writing about Saddam's hanging before it happened was not my finest hour. It was one of those tricky journalistic challenges when no matter how much you hedge and speculate, the reality will always mischievously diverge from the finely-turned piece one filed. Thankfully, my industrious on-line colleagues helped me out and history now records an updated version, though the doomed dictator remains forever hooded in the headline. Hey, ho. I Googled Ian using his email address and it appears he is a "Scotsman living in China". A couple of years back, he wanted us "all to know that the courage of the Canadian forces in WW2 will never be forgotten and always appreciated. Thank you and God Bless." Nice thought, Ian. For some writers, like Joel Stein, all this interaction can be a bit much. Not me. Really, some people have said much worse. As Colin Berry reports, there can be the odd snafu with comments - but please, stick at it. I even emailed Ian back. Strangely, he hasn't been in touch again. Maybe he thinks that feedback only works one way. Update: The situation with the Saddam hanging illustrated that "old media" difficulty of the fixed newspaper deadline and the complications of writing across time zones. It was 5am on the morning of Friday December 29th in Washington, 10am in UK and midday in Baghdad when it began to look like Saddam was going to hang imminently. By our deadline of 6pm London time (1pm Washington, 9pm Baghdad), we had to finalise the stories for a paper that many people would read after - possibly - Saddam had hanged. Or by then Saddam might have been given a stay of execution. Or he might have been just about to hang. Another possibility was he would have been hanged but no details at all would have been released. Clearly, whatever happened this was a huge story that everyone would want to know every detail of. Much of the interest would focus on on the ghoulish procedure for the hanging. The Iraqi authorities had already carried out dozens of these and there had been briefings from US and Iraqi officials on what would happen - he would be hooded, dressed in a boiler suit, probably hanged at Camp Cropper etc etc. One of the three pieces the foreign desk asked me to write was on how the hanging was likely to happen, based on the briefings and the previous hangings. That's what I wrote, making crystal clear that the piece was written before the hanging. Saddam hanged just before dawn in Baghdad on December 30th, the early hours in UK and the evening of the 29th in Washington. Of course, we now know from Saddam's YouTube moment that the hanging was a shambles, that almost every normal Iraqi practice was departed from and virtually every aspect of planned procedure was violated. And there was my before-the-event piece being read on the morning of Saturday December 30th in UK illustrating just how differently things had turned out. "

Posted by Toby Harnden at 09 Jan 07 08:49

Toby Harnden: biographical details: Toby Harnden has been The Daily Telegraph's United States Editor since October 2006. He lives in Washington DC with his wife Cheryl and their dog Finn, a native of Belfast. Toby was previously Chief Foreign Correspondent for The Sunday Telegraph. He first joined The Daily Telegraph in 1994 and has been its Ireland Correspondent, Washington Bureau Chief and Middle East Correspondent. He is the author of Bandit Country: The IRA & South Armagh (1999). An archive of his work is at, and he can be contacted at

ed: Here are the first 35 or so comments:

Ian Black's comment shown in red.

Well done!!
I totally agree with Mr Black's earthy comments about you!! I have, thankfully, never had the dubious pleasure of meeting you, but the pomposity displayed in your blog indicates that your head is, as the Australians are apt to say, clearly buried deeply up your arse.I, too, read the appalling story you filed (by your own admission) even before Saddam had been executed. I don't think many people (if any) would take your jottings seriously henceforth.
Dr Jane Devonport at 09 Jan 2007 09:53

Your neck on the block
Dear Mr Harnden: I am sitting on the train fron Tunbridge Wells heading for central London, idling away an hour or two until I reach my office.Ir would appear that your somewhat waspish, vindictive response to a reader has stirred up a veritable hornet's nest, one that has sent you springing into action on defensive mode grade one!!I did not see the report referred to by the readers above (although two fellow travellers say they did read it and they tell me they do remember it well because of its apparent shortcomings).Did you never hear the phrase "If you can't take a joke, don't join" during your National Service in the navy?When you get something wrong, as you apparently did, caution should be the order of the day.Wind your neck in Sunny Jim, and pray that the boss has had a good New Year or else the noose that sent yon Saddam to his doom may tighter round YOUR rubber neck.Metaphorically speaking, of course.
Gregory Kemp at 09 Jan 2007 10:52

I know how you feel Toby
As a published writer myself, I know full well that for every fan that writes to tell you they love your work, there are five unhinged idiots ready and waiting in the wings to make your life hell. The world is full of loonies with nothing better to do with their day than fire off idiotic comments to other people, such as "Dr Devenport" in the previous post. If she doesn't take your "jottings" seriously then why is she reading your work in the first place?Don't despair Toby. There are lots of people out there that enjoy reading your work. Don't let the lunatic minority ruin your day.
Thomas Bosch at 09 Jan 2007 11:05

Missing the point
Mr Bosch appears to miss the point. Your earlier respondents seem to have been complaining about the flagrant inaccuracy of your offerings. Is Bosch suggesting that he expects other Telegraph readers to accept any slipshod workmanship which might appear in your newspaper's columns too?
Enzo at 09 Jan 2007 11:30

Ref good journalism
I am a comparatively old hack, having been in the newspaper business for some 40 years. I do not recall having seen - ever - such a pitiful response as the one Toby Harden had the gall to publish on his blog today.Not only did he fail to justify his having filed a story riddled with half-truths and downright errors.He had the temerity to defend it by referring (in his reply to Mr Black)to the story thus, and I quote:"You're right that writing about Saddam's hanging before it happened was not my finest hour. It was one of those tricky journalistic challenges when no matter how much you hedge and speculate, the reality will always mischievously diverge from the finely-turned piece one filed".Tricky journalistic challenges? The only "tricky challenge" I ever learned as a cub reporter on the Dundee Courier was this one - GET IT RIGHT!!We don't want hedging and speculation in the stories we pay for when we buy out Daily Telegraph each morning.We were not ALL born yesterday, Mr Harnden, and you'd do well to remember that your audience is both wide and experienced and unwilling to tolerate poor work.As you say in truth - "not your finest hour".
Stuart Knight at 09 Jan 2007 11:59

Mr Harnden - you seem to be earning yourself an unenviable reputation for below-par reporting since you arrived in the USA a few weeks ago.I was most surprised to see your admission today that you had apparently made up or otherwise manufactured the account of Saddam Hussein's execution which I read online on the day he died.
Carlos Riccardi at 09 Jan 2007 12:07

Saddam's death
I do not usually write to newspapers, but I have to say I was very disappointed to read your message referring to reader Ian Black.If what you write about his message to you is correct, then you ought to have kept that information to yourself.By publishing his comments on the blog (did he give you permission to do so) you have exposed yourself to ridicule.If he did indeed refer to you by these rude epithets, Mr Black may have been incautious.But the fact that your initial story on Saddam Hussein's hanging in Bagdhad was wrong in significant detail does you absolutely no credit.Like your correspondent Enzo, I do not understand what Mr Bosch was talking about.If I want to read fiction I will go to John Le Carre - and not to the news pagers of the London Daily Telegraph.Most sincerely, F. L. Nitzsche
Frans at 09 Jan 2007 12:17

Your blog
To: Toby Harnden From: Helmut JohannsonDear Sir - it brightened my morning to read the contents of your blog today.Did you really make up all that descriptive detail of the Iraqi dictator's last moments?I agree with Mr Nitzsche's comments about fiction a-la-John Le Carre and what we expect from Telegraph reporters in the field.Where did you learn your craft (if I may call it that?).Maybe you ought to go back to night school or spend more time with your dog and less in front of the computer screen.
Helmut Johansson at 09 Jan 2007 12:38

Ho Ho Ho

I rest my case, Harnden, and stand by everything I said (and which you quoted without permission - always a risky line of attack as you are now discovering to your cost).Happy New Year and bon voyage on your journey home from the USA, which should not be long in coming if there's any journalistic justice left.People in glass houses should never throw stones - something else you seem to have forgotten, if ever you learned it.
Ian Black at 09 Jan 2007 12:45

Your blog
I'd prefer a grovelling apology to your inadequate (and snide) justification for the story from which you are now attempting to distance yourself.I know little about journalism.But I do know that Saddam's execution had massive international interest.But the fact is that you broke every rule in the book by filing something riddled with holes without either checking its veracity or having it held back for confirmation.The fact that you are now trying to blame your foreign desk staff holds no water with me, old fruit.Did you not have the guts to tell them to wait until you had all the facts at your fingertips?
Arthur Leonard Port at 09 Jan 2007 13:01

Mr Ian Black
Dear Mr Toby Harnden - I would like to have the e-mail address of Mr Ian Black. I believe he is a very experienced British foreign correspondent now working in China, where I now live and study.I met him at a seminar on international relations in Beijing two years ago, but have lost his address.If this is the same gentleman, he is a Scotsman who has been visiting my country for over 30 years and who has an excellent reputation in the People's Republic of China.We read the Daily Telegraph on-line here very often, and like very much the work of Mr Richard Spencer.But I must say many of us are sorely ashamed of the fact that you wrote lies in at least one of your reports.Shame on you Mr Toby!!
Lin Bin at 09 Jan 2007 13:24

Grubby Grub Street
May I say how heartened I am to read the comments addressed to Toby Harnden in today's blogs.It has not gone un-noticed in our officers' mess here in Baghdad (I am a Special Forces officer and Grey Thompson is therefore not my real name) that your so-called Washington Editor lied in his work.But I speak for many of my colleagues of all ranks when I say that Harnden's admission justifies our total rejection of the claims of accuracy and impartiality in the reporting of many American and foreign journalists working in Iraq.
Colonel Grey Thompson at 09 Jan 2007 13:39

Also ashamed
Mr Harnden - I am also a student in China (Inner Mongolia) and I, too, am ashamed that you have written lies in a well-respected newspaper.We not always believe what we read in the People's Daily, but we have come to depend upon the foreign press for the truth.You have done much to disillusion us here.
Penny at 09 Jan 2007 13:47

Ian Black's comments
From: Martin Allison in HanoiI am delighted to see that many of your readers are hitting back at Toby Harnden for his totally unacceptable explanation.You asked for us to "make your day", and by golly I imagine you've had much more than you bargained for.As another of your correspondents said, we were not born yesterday and are both experienced AND discerning when it comes to judging what we read.How many other Brtish nationals made the same gaffe as Harnden, if any?
Martin Allison at 09 Jan 2007 13:56

Take heed

I am a journalism student currently travelling in Asia, and have just come across this man's blog.Mr Harnden would seem to have an awfully high opinion of himself, one that is wholly unjustified, in my humble opinion.He should take heed of what readers say about him.
Serena McKenzie at 09 Jan 2007 14:01

Doggy style
Talk about dog eating dog!! Nothing like the feathers of a bumptious journo being ruffled.Cool it, Harnden. You can dish it out but it seems you can' take it (criticism, that is).You're not in the navy now, you know!!
Alastair Wilson at 09 Jan 2007 14:12

In agreement
From the Reverend Marcus SchultzWhilst I may deplore (mildly) the language your correspondent Ian Black is said to have used in writing to you, I must tell you that I agree with his sentiments wholeheartedly.
Marc Schultz at 09 Jan 2007 14:41

I feel sorry for you Mr Harnden - you must feel awful to read these messages of condemnation.But remember this - you brought their ridicule down on your own head, not just by lying in print, but by then boasting about it on today's blog.Let that be a lesson to you.
Martin at 09 Jan 2007 15:01

Good Grief!
Dear Readers - get a grip,PLEASE! To listen to your comments, you would think Mr. Harnden caused an innocent man to be hanged!! Journalists, it appears are not allowed to make mistakes, much less to own up to them. The personal attacks on Mr. Harnden seem to be coming from some sort of a nasty readership that makes me wonder who these mean-spirited souls are. Accusing Mr. Harnden of being pompous? Projection, perhaps....?
Cynthia Stone at 09 Jan 2007 15:08

Back! Back!
I sense a braying mob here, rounding on Mr Harnden. As with any should mob, they should disperse and regain some grip on their reason and personal conduct.I saw the Saddam story online while in Iraq the morning after Saddam's execution and thought, 'Whoops!'. It was inaccurate and left TH with some egg on his face. There was a lot of other rubbish written, the result of frenzied speculation by Iraqi and international media.But before we all put the boot in, let's ask whether any of those contributors with any journalistic experience can genuinely say they never got caught out in print. I think not.The personal nature of Mr Black's attacks on TH suggest a sour, dour individual who should get out more.I have met Toby Harnden, seen him at work, reviewed his writing against what I have witnessed myself and read a large volume of his work from N. Ireland, Iraq and the US. I rate him very highly as a journalist and will continue to read his work with as much good faith as one should invest in any report.If you don't like his writing there's plenty more to read elsewhere.
Cyrus Williams at 09 Jan 2007 15:23

Nasty vindictive readers
This illustrates why reporters should not be required to do blogs. They are honest about the limits of their trade and this is what happens.
Chris Fielding at 09 Jan 2007 15:36

Grow Up Mr Black
So Mr Black and his team of cooperative cohorts clearly don't like Mr. Harnden...Roger that! Now can we please get back to some legitimate opinions, or is this just going to be a forum for Mr. Black to vent old naval rivalries?
Jamie at 09 Jan 2007 15:38

What exactly did he do wrong?!

This is a reporter who is feeding the beast, as reporters call their newspaper, and described events as they stood when he when he was writing.I don't think he had any need to apologize.The problem he had is the age-old one of deadlines. And now the new one of foul-mouthed embittered old soaks resentful of their lot in life being able to vent online.
Benjamin Ambrose at 09 Jan 2007 16:01

No need for blogs
I do tend to agree with Chris Fielding that, in the case of Mr Harnden certainly, the use of blogs has backfired very badly on him.Harnden's assignment is to investigate and report the news from the USA (accurately) and to spend less time airing his views in blogs such as the one which has caused him such embarrassmment today.
Carnation at 09 Jan 2007 16:03

The way one expresses oneself...
...Reveals ones true colours. Mr Black's use of the c-word says all I need to know about the man.
Ari W at 09 Jan 2007 16:11

Consider the source
The accusations here against Mr. Harnden, seem to be that he 'lied'! In fact I believe he made it clear that the article on Saddam's execution, was written before the fact. By admitting his error, was this "boasting"? These personal attacks on the journalist, are to me, lower, than Harnden's journalistic error.
M. Shannon at 09 Jan 2007 16:15

so sad that Britons think this abuse is justified. I read Mr Harnden regularly and he is as honest and insightful as they come.
JIM SNYDER at 09 Jan 2007 16:18

The word I most object to is "lying" - bandied around willy nilly these days. This is a person who is telling us how, for reasons outside his control, an article was not as good as he would have liked. That shows he is conscientious and I find it interesting to hear about how newspaper errors can come about.
Margaret Broadbent at 09 Jan 2007 16:26

Fair comment
Has Mr Benjamin Ambrose (if that is, indeed, his real name) ever spent an evening in the company of journalists at any watering hole where the species congregates? Foul-mouthed language and a tendency to violence as the witching hour approaches is par for the course as your older staff members will doubtless remember.To accuse any of the correspondents who have contributed to this current debate of bad language, bad taste or of being "embittered old soaks resentful of their lot in life" is, to put it mildly, rather stretching a point.Let us not forget that if Toby Harnden had kept his mouth firmly shut in the first place we'd have all forgotten that he filed a story full of more holes than the proverbial watering can.
Donna Krupa at 09 Jan 2007 16:27

Regardless of what anyone thinks of Harnden, I find it indefensible to send emails using profanity as a way of relaying personal opinions about the media. Black's crass manner of expressing himself says it all, really.
Alex Rathbone at 09 Jan 2007 16:30

Most of you should be reading "Lunatics Today" instead of the Telegraph. Have any of you read T.Harnden's book or his Spectator articles? He is one of the most prolific and clever correspondents on Fleet Street.
Farmer Ged at 09 Jan 2007 16:49

His point is proved!
The point is that in this electronic age this is the type of thing journalists now have to deal with. Toby is man enough to bring it out into the open and then the nutters go and prove the point he was originally making.
You vilifiers totally miss the point at 09 Jan 2007 17:06

Take them on!
Good to see a reporter engaging with critics and showing them up for what they are. An email like that is totally indefensible.
Jan Volk at 09 Jan 2007 17:20

Can we please return to the subject of Saddam and whether he deserved the manner of his demise? Mr Harnden actually highlights here how bizarrely it turned out in relation to how we had been told it would be done.
John Taylor at 09 Jan 2007 17:27

Substance please!
Mr Taylor is right. Whenever there is a serious, thoughtful subject on a blog everyone ignores it. Yet then gangs of people rush to defend someone as potty mouthed and vicious as Mr Black, who made no contribution at all to the sum of human knowledge (or kindness).
Karen at 09 Jan 2007 17:43

Dishing the dirt
How refreshing to see readers taking the opportunity to let newsmen (and women) know what we think when they screw up on a story!!Some of you seem to blame Mr Black for this whole debacle, when it seems to me his initial correspondence with Harnden was, if I am not mistaken, of a private nature in the form of an e-mail. Perhaps as a "prank" the recipient decided to make this correspondence public on his weblog, with disastrous results for Mr Harnden.What's so special about journalists, anyway? We are daily exposed to their opinions and stories which, as we know all too well, are not always based upon truth.So good on ya, Ian Black, lay into the blighterand let's have a lot more of this kind of reaction to mealy-mouthed hacks like the Telegraph's man in Washington!!
Summer at 09 Jan 2007 19:46

Copying stopped at this point ( having got interested in posts on the Apple iPhone).

ed: the entire 84 comments, including those not shown here, as well as Toby Harnden's original piece ( produced belatedly as a comment) were posted by handyblogman on the Guardian's OrganGrinder blog. I had alerted this site earlier in the day to the fact that Toby Harnden's blog had been "pulled". They were grateful for the tip, and in their news update provided a link to this site, which set the hit counter whirring. In fact over 1000 hits were recorded in the subsequent 12 hour period, from midday to midnight, over 6 times the peacetime figure.

But I decided to enter the fray later, under a pseudonym ( Non-blown-away sceptic) chosen earlier that day. Odd name, you might think, but it was related to the title of another post on the subject of Apple's iPhone, entitled "iPhone blows even the sceptics away" (Catherine Elsworth).

Here are my four main contributions (there were some later minor ones too). The second one resulted in Tony Harnden finally releasing the text of his initial "preview" story, which for reasons best known to himself he had withheld at the beginning, making it difficult to judge whether or not Ian Black had a case.

First posting : Separate issues

Why can't we just accept there are three entirely separate issues here, each of which is important.

1. Toby Harnden's reporting of the Saddam execution in the past, instead of the future tense .

2. Ian Black's lying in wait for years for a fellow journalist to make a mistake before revealing himself as someone from Harnden's previous existence. An unpleasant individual, with unpleasant language, confirming many of our worst stereotypes of the journalist's craft/trade (once called a profession).

3. Harnden's extraordinary decision to use his blog in a quality paper to "out" someone who had the temerity to send an unflattering email.

Why could Harnden have not started his report with " In a few minutes, if all goes according to plan, and barring any last-minute reprieves, Saddam Hussein will step onto the gallows ..... Thus will end the life of one of the world's most notorious ..... Will he be allowed to decline the customary hood .... ?

My own belief, for what it's worth, is that neither individual comes out of this with credit, but for entirely different reasons.

But it's the first which is the crucial issue: the reporting an event as if it had already taken place, when it had not.

What has happened here has served simply to compound the initial error, bringing it to the attention of everyone, when previously only a small observant minority might have spotted it.

Was the previous generation of naval officers taught how to shoot themselves in the foot ?

ed. The Telegraph moderators deleted the final sentence !

Second posting: Clarification still needed

Deanna. I did read Toby's original blog, in which he refers to the original report that caused him such embarrasment, but to which he gives no copy or link, merely to say he never used the past tense.

Two points: why would Ian Black have been so scathing if it had simply been a case of the Telegraph's deadline being before the execution? Are executions in China always coordinated with newspapers' deadlines ?

Where's the sin in writing about a likely scenario, ahead of the actual event, as long as that's made clear ? Has Ian Black never been called upon to do that ? Does he perhaps live in an ideal world, out there in China ? If so, why does he need to use gutter language ?
Second point: if you go to the end of the later updated report that Toby does cite, there's a link to another report that reads like an earlier version, under the byline of Toby Harnden (Washington) and Graeme Baker;jsessionid=AH2ITOROFYMQLQFIQMFSFGGAVCBQ0IV0?xml=/news/2006/12/30/wsaddam30.xml

Title: Saddam: the end

"Hussein was hanged early today for his crimes against humanity.

The former dictator of Iraq was led to the gallows in Baghdad's fortified Green Zone, which houses his former presidential palace, before being executed without ceremony in front of Iraqi and American officials...... "

Is this the report that the Man- with- the- Score- to- Settle read, replete with its past tenses ? Or is there, as Toby said, an even earlier one that avoids the past tense. If so, why doesn't Toby provide a link or copy, and enlighten us on why's he supposed to have egg on his face (apart from the incorrect reference to a hood) ?

Third posting : Clear winner, unsavoury contest

Where are the "inaccuracies", Ian Black ? Or do you use that word loosely to mean differences in detail from events which the writer was attempting to visualise ?

If you were "chortling for hours" over a fellow-journalist being compromised by the clock and time-zones - through no fault of his own - then it shows you up for what you are. You are a petty-minded individual, harbouring a long term grudge, unable to move on, unable to make your point eloquently.

But Toby Harnden was perhaps out of order in using his blog to hit back in the way he did, divulging the contents of a private email without permission. As it happens, I had one from him shortly before Christmas. There was a standard message at the end from the Telegraph's legal department, warning against unauthorised publication of its contents, which I naturally respected.

Match to Harnden, despite throwing away a game or two, and antagonising spectators with his tactics.

Fourth posting: When was the future tense abolished ?

Seriously, some of you folk, is this really the first time in your lives that you have encountered one of those " Here's how it's likely to happen stories" ?

Did you really fail to spot the future tenses ?Does every article in this genre of reporting that tries to visualise an event that clearly hasn't yet happened - a fact of life, born of the rigid newspaper deadline - need to carry a health warning ? Like: "Stop. Read on at your peril. Beware concealed future tenses. Because actual events, when they occur, may not correspond with every detail you see here."

Sorry about the sarcasm, but if anyone knows of a better way of dealing with those unable to grasp what is self-evident, do please let us know.

Some afterthoughts from this blogger:

Having followed the thread closely (and contributed under a pseudonym) it seems to me that it's all a storm in a teacup, and that whilst Harnden's handling of criticism has lacked finesse, his professional credentials as a reporter at the time of of Saddam Hussein's (then) imminent execution did not seriously depart from normal journalistic practice. To meet his deadlines, he had to visualise the likely sequence of events, based on precedent and intelligent guesswork. It's what has been called a preview report.


ColinB said...

Hello folks. Yes, there were 5 comments earlier (some my own), which are now deleted. Same problem as before - some adolescent wind-up merchant cum time-waster who's having a bad day.

As for myself, I've been having a good day, not in terms of Comments, obviously, but going by the hit counter. I'll tell you later about developments in the last 24 hours that have increased traffic to this blog.

Apologies, once again, for having to disable the facility for
anonymous contributions.

Sarah said...

I just added another comment to Shane's 'filter' blog although as it was quite rude, I wonder if/when it'll go up. I did object to him implying that we were blog yokels and not up with hip and with-it jargon. And I didn't see why we should accept hip and with-it jargon when it was grossly sweeping and inaccurate just because some hip and with-it geezer came up with it.

Sarah said...

Actually, I wish I'd said 'blog yokels' in the post. I rather like that. :)