Such a carry-on up the Khyber pass

There remain vital gaps in the Yvonne Ridley saga. The Sunday Express cannot simply dismiss all criticism as professional jealousy.

It cancelled her press conference. It limited exposure to free-plug appearances on ITN and Sunday’s Breakfast with Frost. Neither pressed matters such as her lack of resources and the fate (or even the status) of her escorts.

The Mail on Sunday challenged the authorised version. It reported that Ridley was captured before she set foot on Taliban territory rather than on her way back to Pakistan.

Her detailed nine-page account encourages belief that her rival was misinformed. But it also encourages the question of what she was on her way back with.

Her capture and captivity had yet to happen. Until then, what did she have that fulfilled her assignment to get "the real story" from inside Afghanistan?

However well written, her account showed that what she was able to file at that stage was unremarkable. She could describe the Khyber. Five taxi rides. Some exchanges with villagers. And one (just the one) overnight stay in Taliban land, in a room with "a magnificent Afghan carpet and nothing else".

Her ability to see much was "impaired by the dreadful burka". Her ability to learn much was impaired by her pose as an Afghan deaf mute.

Next, surely, the book. Maybe then we shall learn the whole truth. And why we had to wait for it.

ABC panto: oh yes it is Another month, another set of ABCs, another pantomime of statistic-spinning blurbs. Rival claims seem irreconcilable. Yet each can be validated by one table or another.

And now what faith remains in such pick-and-mix arithmetic faces a new threat, thanks to Colin Billett. Who he? eds might well ask. Answer: An advocate of buying and binning papers you don’t like.

Mr Billett, of Bewdley, Worcs, launches his campaign in The Guardian. He writes that, annoyed by a Sun splash – "KICK ASS, TONY" – he bought all copies at his garage and chucked them away.

We can hardly expect ABC to allow for however many Guardian readers follow his example. Or, for that matter, however many Sun readers are buying and binning Guardians.

But what ABC could usefully apply itself to is persuading publications to cease mucking about with the figures. When a particular month’s results don’t suit their self-image, they ought to settle for binning them.

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