Much has been said about the journalistic profession, and how the quality of both writing and research has plummeted ever since online media started to outflank the printed press. While more scurrilous types could always be found in the murky offices of the red tops, much of what you found in the so-called quality press was for the most part well written and – perhaps more crucially – competently researched.
This cannot be said for a lot of what one can find online, where the ongoing battle be the first to hit Google with the killer headline has given way to shoddy writing, a glut of spelling and grammar gaffes and research that can best be described as piss-poor. It is as if the responsibility has been handed over to the work experience student or, worse still, the illiterate office tea monkey.
Take this Telegraph Online piece on Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg, for example. The article itself tells us nothing new, and reads like a potted version of Stauffenberg’s Wikipedia entry puffed up with a few factoids gleaned from the Tom Cruise movie Valkyrie; through its rather misleading title, it offers the idea that the body found in Berlin-Wilmersdorf is that of Hitler’s would-be assassin, though when one actually gets to the meat of the story it is revealed that no positive identification has actually been made.
An historical society said it will apply to disinter the victims in the coming months to ascertain whether they are those of Stauffenberg and his helpers.
So what they are really saying is that we do not know yet – with the facts not quite hitting the same dramatic height as the sensationalist headline.
Curiously, I had always believed that Stauffenberg’s body had been cremated by the Nazis not long after his execution in order to prevent any burial site being turned into a martyr’s shrine; my feeling is that this story is just an attempt to puff up the Count’s legend on and around the 66th anniversary of the assassination attempt, but then it could just be me being mean-spirited.
The thing that struck me though was not so much the article itself but the image accompanying it – for me, the ultimate proof that the piece was put together and then approved by people who clearly don’t know or even care that much about the period. The figure in the image, wearing the uniform of an Untersturmführer in the Waffen-SS, is in fact Léon Dégrelle – the man often described as Hitler’s favourite Belgian.
One could possibly argue that this goes beyond a mere gaffe, in that Leon Dégrelle is man that could best be described as Stauffenberg’s polar opposite. I am not going to bother providing a biography: that’s what the Internet is for after all.
Of course, just in case the folks at Telegraph Towers finally twig and replace the image, I have saved a screen shot to preserve the moment. At least the Daily Mail sourced a correct photograph – though they fail to get the cigar on account of their shoehorning in an image of the Cruisemeister to satisfy their more plebian readership…