Intl. Notebook Oct 15 2009
SUCKER PUNCH
New documentary highlights slippery ethics of London tabloids.

In Great Britain, controversy is building around an upcoming documentary depicting the loose journalistic ethics of London tabloids. Entitled Starsuckers, the movie is the brainchild of Taking Liberties director Chris Atkins and a group of colleagues, whose goal was to prove, in a comical way, that modern tabloids cannot be trusted to print the truth. To do this, they decided to anonymously call tabloid tip lines with fabricated stories. Their first test involved ringing up the Daily Mirror claiming to have seen singer Avril Lavigne passed out in a nightclub. The story appeared in the Mirror the next day, embellished with a few taunts to the effect that the singer was a “lightweight.”

In the next few weeks the Starsuckers team planted false stories in the Daily Express, the Daily Star, the Sun, and most of the other London tabloids, all using the same method—anonymous tips that were not in any way questioned. The planted stories often spread from one tabloid to the next with no evidence any attempts at corroboration had been made. One fabrication about Amy Winehouse’s hair catching fire spread to all the daily tabloids, a New York Post blog, and even to the Times of India.

Starsuckers promises to show not only that Rupert Murdoch-style sell-first/ask-questions-later journalism has infected the entire tabloid industry, but that it has spread to mainstream media, and in turn made consumers vulnerable to social, economic and political manipulation. The London tabloids have thus far declined comment on the claims made by Starsuckers and Atkins. Later this month the public will have an opportunity to judge the truth of these matters for itself when the movie debuts at the London Film Festival.     

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
May 25
1938—Alicante Is Bombed
During the Spanish Civil War, a squadron of Italian bombers sent by fascist dictator Benito Mussolini to support the insurgent Spanish Nationalists, bombs the town of Alicante, killing more than three-hundred people. Although less remembered internationally than the infamous Nazi bombing of Guernica the previous year, the death toll in Alicante is similar, if not higher.
1977—Star Wars Opens
George Lucas's sci-fi epic Star Wars premiers in the Unites States to rave reviews and packed movie houses. Produced on a budget of $11 million, the film goes on to earn $460 million in the U.S. and $337 million overseas, while spawning a franchise that would eventually earn billions and make Lucas a Hollywood icon.
May 24
1930—Amy Johnson Flies from England to Australia
English aviatrix Amy Johnson lands in Darwin, Northern Territory, becoming the first woman to fly from England to Australia. She had departed from Croydon on May 5 and flown 11,000 miles to complete the feat. Her storied career ends in January 1941 when, while flying a secret mission for Britain, she either bails out into the Thames estuary and drowns, or is mistakenly shot down by British fighter planes. The facts of her death remain clouded today.
May 23
1934—Bonnie and Clyde Are Shot To Death
Outlaws Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, who traveled the central United States during the Great Depression robbing banks, stores and gas stations, are ambushed and shot to death in Louisiana by a posse of six law officers. Officially, the autopsy report lists seventeen separate entrance wounds on Barrow and twenty-six on Parker, including several head shots on each. So numerous are the bullet holes that an undertaker claims to have difficulty embalming the bodies because they won't hold the embalming fluid.
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