Friday, February 18, 2005

When is a fact not a fact?

Hugh Hewitt, about whom I shall have a lot to say next week, complains bitterly about the ‘bias’ of what he calls the mainstream media in America. Well, Hugh, the problem in the UK is not so much bias as excessive credulity; either that or an alarming lack of interest in verifying the facts.

Take for instance, the case of 13-year-old Emma Maree Urquhart. In my post of 7 February (see archives), I related how Emma has written a novel, Dragon Tamers, which has, allegedly, set the world on fire and is selling in vast numbers. I expressed some dismay that the Times, in which I had read this story, had done nothing more than reprint the publisher’s press release without, apparently, asking a single relevant question.

Today the Independent does more of the same. (Thanks to for the link.)

There is an article in the Indie about young Emma’s Dragon Tamers which is written by the paper’s Scotland correspondent; and he seems to be an unusually trusting sort of chap.

The headline is ‘Schoolgirl’s tale about dragons becomes hot stuff in Hollywood.’ But when we read on, what do we find? We find that this article is based entirely on hot air.

Emma Maree, we are told, is ‘mulling over the possibility of a Hollywood movie deal.’ But we are not told that this is something that every writer does, usually three times a day, after meals.

The book’s publisher, Charles Faulkner, head of Aultbea Publishing, said that ‘discussions were well under way for the book to be turned into a Hollywood film after interest was expressed from several major studios.’ But we aren’t given any details.

There is a lot more in the same vein: apparently there are discussions about a television series, an audio book, a game, and translating the story into ‘almost every major language of the world.’

Well now, look – I don’t want to spoil anyone’s fun. And I certainly don’t want to damage the emerging career of a 13-year-old. But surely it must be obvious to even the dimmest young journalist that this is the purest flim-flam. There is not an independently verified fact or name or figure anywhere in sight. So either the Independent is employing someone who is remarkably naive, or else they are printing the story knowing full well that it’s all bull. Which is it?

One thing we can say for certain. This guy Faulkner writes one hell of a press release. And when he talks to reporters they just seem to sit there in a trance, writing it all down. I wonder what he puts in their whisky.

1 comment:

Constance said...

Sadly, I agree with opening paragraph. But, facts are also over-rated. History is filled with too little of them to tell a good story.
Link to "article" went well but the first lost me and the other was incredifind page?