There’s a funny thing about newspapers, that whenever you read a story about a subject you are knowledgeable about, you think what a load of nonsense it is and wonder at how the journalist can get so much wrong; and then you turn the page to read a story about which you know nothing, and take every word as the Gospel truth.
Thus it was for a story that appeared last night in the Guardian, which was inaccurate as it related to me in a number of ways. I have no idea how much of the rest of it was true, or relevant, but the parts about me left a false impression in suggesting that I had donated £3,000 to secure lobbying objectives for gambling clients, and in doing so to try to insinuate something unpleasant about one of the mayoral candidates.
I therefore mailed the journalist who wrote it, and the exchange that we subsequently had on e-mail is copied below. You have to read it from the bottom in order to follow it in order: I have pasted it verbatim.
It is curious that the story as it now appears on the Guardian website does not mention that it has been amended, which would be standard when they have to make changes. I do not know why this is, but it is for that reason that I am copying the text of our conversation below.
After that, you can make your own judgments.
On 15 Jan 2016, at 12:09, Rajeev Syal <email@example.com> wrote:
The story is being amended. Many thanks.
On 15 January 2016 at 12:01, Mark Davies <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
The other possibilities, of course, are that you misread it when you first looked before writing your story (assuming that happened); and/or that you mis-read it when you checked between 9.42 and 10.16 this morning (although maybe I changed it between you writing to tell me what you thought it said and me replying with what it actually said twelve minutes later); or you didn’t check either before you printed your story or before sending me a mail at 10.16, and instead took the word of the CFFG lobbyist who it seems likely gave you the story in the first place, not realising that he was months behind. Or maybe that you just got it wrong, having made a mistake.
The wording has not been changed. Even if it had been changed, which it categorically has not, the basic underlying fact of the matter would not have changed, which are that Camberton has no gambling clients and has not had since before Zac Goldsmith announced that he was standing as mayor, wherever it was that you got the evidence I would imagine you sought in support of your story. Your story is therefore wrong. Would you like to correct it please, as requested in the first place?
On 15 Jan 2016, at 11:50, Rajeev Syal <email@example.com> wrote:
I told you what it said this morning; you have written back to me to
tell me what it now says. The wording has been changed.
On 15 January 2016 at 11:43, Mark Davies <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
Well, Charlotte my PA has, as I say, been standing at the scanner since she dropped her son off at day care; and Ollie, the only other Camberton employee, is not around because his partner had a baby girl last night, so he may have other things on his mind. None of us, in any case, has the first idea how to do it, which is why we have to mail Mark. So who else might you suggest? A random hacker?
On 15 Jan 2016, at 11:25, Rajeev Syal <email@example.com> wrote:
The words have been changed; if it wasn’t you, it was someone else.
On 15 January 2016 at 11:23, Mark Davies <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
Honestly, it hasn’t. There is absolutely no way it has changed. My PA has been photocopying and scanning all morning, and I was at the BBC to review the papers. No-one has access to it. We mail Mark when we want changes done. The last time we did was so long ago that our most recent client, from August 2015, isn’t listed. The whole reason the website is as simple as it is is because it was such a faff to make changes that we altered the whole website in order not to require any.
On 15 Jan 2016, at 11:19, Rajeev Syal <email@example.com> wrote:
It is odd, because the wording on your website has changed since this morning.
Could anyone have done it without your knowledge? Is that possible??
On 15 January 2016 at 11:17, Mark Davies <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
No, don’t be daft. Let’s leave aside the fact that the suggestion is rather insulting, and instead stick to the fact that I can’t change the website without going back to the people who made it.
You can mail them if you want to ask them when I last asked for an amend. I think the answer will be about 6 months ago, although without going to check paid invoices I wouldn’t be certain. They are called Ston***** and the guy you need to speak to is Mark ****. ****@ston*****.com
What I AM certain about is that Camberton has no gambling clients, and haven’t had since well before Zac Goldsmith announced he was running for Mayor.
On 15 Jan 2016, at 11:06, Rajeev Syal <email@example.com> wrote:
Have you amended your website since this morning?
On 15 January 2016 at 10:51, Mark Davies <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
If you had a website, it might say, “Papers I have written for since I
started as a journalist”. And it would list the Times, and the Telegraph,
and the Guardian (among others, maybe – I don’t know). If it did, it
wouldn’t mean you were writing for all three of them now… Camberton’s
website uses exactly the same (correct) part of speech to describe exactly
the same situation.
On 15 Jan 2016, at 10:28, Mark Davies <email@example.com> wrote:
No it doesn’t. It says “Business we have supported since we started in 2010”
and then it lists Ladbrokes. This is because Ladbrokes is among the business
that we have supported since we started in 2010. This is not the same as
saying that it is a business that we are supporting at the moment. It means
that we have been supporting businesses since 2010 – i.e. we started our
business then – and in that time, the companies listed have at some point
been clients. It does not say that they are clients today, and indeed most
of them are not.
If we supported all those businesses now, it would say either, “Businesses
we are supporting”, or “Businesses we have been supporting”. It says
neither. It says that since 2010, we have supported a number of businesses,
as listed. it does not say we are supporting all those businesses now,
because we are not.
So, to be clear: Camberton has no gambling clients. Indeed, as already
stated, the only people of relevance that I have been advising since July
are fighting the gambling industry.
On 15 Jan 2016, at 10:16, Rajeev Syal <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
To be clear, your site reads : “Businesses we have supported since
2010” and then lists Ladbrokes among a number of clients.
On 15 January 2016 at 09:48, Mark Davies <email@example.com> wrote:
Indeed. This will be why I say below, “who have in the past represented
gambling firms such as Ladbrokes”.
Businesses that “we have supported since we started in 2010” means exactly
that. It does not mean “businesses that we are currently supporting”.
Camberton has no gambling clients, and has not had since the first half of
2015 – before Zac became a mayoral candidate.
On 15 Jan 2016, at 09:42, Rajeev Syal <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
Ladbrokes are still listed on the homepage of Camberton’s
Listed as one of the “Businesses we have supported since 2010”.
On 15 Jan 2016, at 09:21, Rajeev Syal <email@example.com> wrote:
Thanks mark, I’ll pass on your comments to my news desk.
Sent from my iPhone
On 14 January 2016 at 23:44, Mark Davies <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
PS The story is also completely wrong in suggesting that the donation went
to his mayoral campaign. It was given to the local party long before it was
even discussed that he would stand to be Mayor.
On 14 Jan 2016, at 23:31, Mark Davies <email@example.com> wrote to Rajeev Syal <firstname.lastname@example.org>:
You seem to have been sold a pup, I’m afraid. Camberton doesn’t have any
gambling clients, so If Camberton are ‘top gambling industry lobbyists”, I’d
hate to see bad ones. Indeed, the only people of relevance that I have been
advising since July are fighting the gambling industry. And by the by, I
haven’t written any content on gambling for my blog since November 2014.
My personal links to the gambling industry, inasmuch as I have any any more,
are that I am a shareholder of Betfair. My donation to Zac is because he is
my local MP and I like him. That’s it. Perhaps you don’t, which is fair
enough, but I am sure you would agree that that shouldn’t be a reason to
tell stories that aren’t true.
Do you want to correct it? You story could legitimately read, “who have in
the past represented gambling firms such as Ladbrokes”, but you might want
to add, for clarity, that I haven’t advised them on FOBT or High Street
issues – lobbyists for which appear to be the provenance of your story.