A Dog Day For The Daily Mail

Last week wild-ranting, rabble-rousing, immigrant-hating Daily Mail columnist Richard ‘You couldn’t make it up’ Littlejohn was left somewhat ovum-visaged when his incredulous take on an unusually-monikered brood of quintuplets took a rather unexpected turn for. In his article for the Mail online, he wrote:

“Reader Nick Paterson-Morgan drew my attention to the following announcement in The Times:

‘Births:  On 27th August 2009 to Kate Pong, Newport, Shropshire, beautiful quintuplets, Beyonce Tyra Bobbi Barack and Earl’

My first reaction was that this must be a wind-up, probably placed for a bet by someone at the swine flu hotline with nothing better to do.  We rang The Times advertising department and they assured us it was genuine.  There’s no mention of a Mr Pong, or any father’s name for that matter.

If true, which I still doubt, somewhere out there in Shropshire is a single mother called Kate Pong with quins, variously named after an American pop singer, a model and the U.S. President.  You couldn’t make it up” – Source: Mail Online, 05/09/09

Well I’m not so sure that you couldn’t make it, but I do know you very easily could fail to do even the basic amount of fact checking and wind up looking like a fool. Ask Littlejohn, he’ll tell you.  Because, as it turns out, there was a few salient facts in the Pong tale that had fallen through the tight network of fact-checking and source-squeezing Littlejohn, as a working columnist in a daily newspaper, surely must have put into action.

Curiously, however, the truth wasn’t beyond the reaches enquiry of the skeptical blogger ‘MacGuffin’ from Tabloid Watch, who was able to cut straight to the meat of the story using cunning methods so intricate we can scarcely hold it against Littlejohn that he didn’t think of them himself: MacGuffin – and this is detective skills of the highest order in play here – googled the name Kate Pong. Which Littlejohn clearly had not done, for if he had he’d have come across the rather revealing and somewhat explanatory information that the single-mother-of-5 Kate Pong is in fact a Labrador. Dog. Pooch. Mutt. Bitch. Hound. Chien. Call her what you like, but she can hardly be blamed for her single-mother status.

At least she’s a Labrador, had she been a German Shepherd or a French Poodle the good journo would have been up in arms about foreign single mothers coming over ‘ere and increasing our over-population problems with their five foreign mouths to feed. You couldn’t make it up.

So, what’s the real story here? As the Newport Advertiser (look it up on Google, it’s there) reports:

“Kate has become quite famous because we always write about her antics in the news pages that are uploaded to our website”, explained owner Fiona Wallace

“We have a lot of friends in the business all over the country and lots of people read about her on the website. They keep logging on and it’s just snowballed from there.” – Source: Newport Advertiser, 03/09/09

Why the confusion? Besides the fact that Littlejohn is too arrogant and lazy in his reactionary, mob-fuelling rants? Well, it seems that as something of an in-joke pet owner and horsing-enthusiast Fiona Wallace likes to refer to her dog as a real member of her team, to the amusement of her friends. Given the dog’s unusual name, this causes confusion to lazy and arrogant reactionary journalists. Explaining the genesis of the unusual mutt-moniker, Fiona told the paper:

“Kate looked like a little King Kong when she was a puppy but one day she went out in the yard and rolled around in the mud, so the kids called her Kate Pong” – Source: Newport Advertiser, 03/09/09

Hear this and more on Righteous Indignation

Hear this and more on Righteous Indignation

There, that clears up that little confusion with some basic fact-checking. Great work MacGuffin; Daily Mail, take note.

What interests me most about this story, besides the opportunity to take yet another well-deserved potshot at Littlejohn and the Daily Fail Mail, is the way it illustrates so succinctly the oft-heard skeptical chorus – the authority of the source is no substitute for hard evidence. Always check the facts, because you can never even guarantee the journalists in question have.  Fortunately it also illustrates a more positive message – with the rise of the Internet and the advent and immediacy of blogging, there’s now an excellent community of amateur journalists fact-checking every claim that seems absurd, helping to turn journalism into a two-way street and introducing swift accountability to newspapers and their writers. With the blogging public watching, you CAN’T make it up.

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