Reach PLC journalists, whose titles include My London, Daily Mirror and Daily Express appear to be in an interlinked conspiracy to plagiarise the work of artists and community bloggers, in order to pass other peoples original creative works off as their own.
Tens of thousands of people all around the world have now read our exclusive blog post “As buyers reject a regenerated Balfron Tower, we reveal what’s next as all flats are withdrawn from sale“, published on 3rd April 2023, in which Balfron Social Club revealed that the developers who regenerated Balfron Tower- Telford Homes, Londonewcastle and Poplar Harca, have failed to sell a single flat in the socially cleansed Ernö Goldfinger brutalist icon Balfron Tower in Tower Hamlets, east London.
It came as no surprise to us that our exclusive revelations were picked up by other media outlets. One of the first such stories drawing upon the Balfron Social Club blog arrived in Novara Media in August 2023, correctly acknowledging Balfron Social Club as the source of the story and linking to the original article.
This was swiftly followed by ‘the brutal lessons from Balfron Tower’s unsold flats’ in the Standard on 10th August 2023, which quickly revealed how journalists, especially from a media outlet that had been such an enthusiastic cheerleader for the regeneration of Balfron Tower as the Standard had been, were completely unwillingly to allow a community blog to take credit for an exclusive story, citing Novara Media as the source; the sort of exclusive that they themselves should have written, the sort of exclusive that any decent journalist would have been proud of.
Preceding either of these stories though, on 29th July 2022, was an article entitled “Council tenants forced out of Britain’s ‘ugliest building’ so flats can be sold for £800,000” by Josh Bolton, in a Reach PLC online publication My London.
In this short film, which was exhibited in the Wellcome Collection exhibition Living With Buildings in 2018, numerous former-tenants of Balfron Tower were asked one simple question, what does Balfron Tower mean to you?
The results provided a unique glimpse into the thoughts and feelings of some of the inhabitants of this brutalist icon, at a time when they were being forced out of their homes so that the tower could be privatised, removing all of the social housing from this purpose-built tower block, with a plans to sell the 146 flats to bankers at nearby Canary Wharf and enthusiasts of Goldfinger’s distinct architectural style.
As we now know, this plan was a complete disaster and the developers failed to sell even one single flat, a disaster that left developer Telford Homes, recently acquired by CBRE, with a £193 million loss.
The story in My London must have been a success because that same evening another story appeared in Reach PLC’s sister national publication, the Daily Mirror, with a similar title “Council tenants turfed out of UK’s ‘ugliest building’ so flats can be sold for £800,000“, now credited to Josh Bolton and Charlie Duffield. Only this time the source of the interviews had been attributed to My London, rather than the original source.
Given Poplar Harca’s habit of intimidation towards residents who speak out against them in the media, Balfron Social Club posted a tweet advising those involved in the story that the interviews had actually been drawn from Rab Harling’s short film, and that they had not spoken to journalists from My London, as they had claimed. The tweet also commented that this was no doubt an “innocent mistake”.
Fast forward to September 2023 and Balfron Social Club was contacted by Ruby Gregory, the Local Democracy Reporter for My London, who having read the Balfron Social Club blog post was interested in telling the story of Hugh Thompson, who had been living in a hotel for seven years whilst awaiting a return to his flat in Balfron Tower, now five years overdue.
Balfron Social Club was acknowledged in this article, but the included hyperlink led to an unrelated post rather than to the actual source of the story. At the time, this really felt like a kick in the teeth, but it was decided to overlook this as the story was not about Balfron Social Club, and we felt that it was important that Hugh Thompson’s story was heard, given the appalling treatment of this octogenarian leaseholder by Poplar Harca.
At this point, we had still not joined the dots in realising that this was what appears to be a systemic approach to reappropriating the work of others and passing it off as their own, purposefully obfuscating the original source material.
This realisation hit us squarely in the face when we recently discovered the next article, some weeks after it was published.
On 16th December 2023, Mieka Smiles, Senior News Reporter for the Daily Express published “UK’s ugliest building cost £56million to upgrade with views over a dual carriageway” in the UK national newspaper the Daily Express, another Reach PLC title.
This article heavily relied on the interviews with Cindy, a former resident of Balfron Tower, who had spoken to Rab Harling in his 2015 film What Does Balfron Tower Mean to You? Only now, instead of crediting the original source of the interviews, it linked to the Daily Mirror, who had already removed the original source of the material.
As you can imagine, we were not too impressed to discover that this article now included what can only be described as plagiarised content, taking credit for work that was not carried out by the journalist, but through a series of convoluted references had deleted the original author of the work to take credit for work they had not done.
Mieka Smiles also failed to mention Balfron Social Club as the source of the story regarding the failure to sell a single flat in Balfron Tower, instead attributing the credit to Novara Media, just as the Standard had previously done.
In a post on Balfron Social Club we asked Mieka Smiles to apologise and to correct the article and to add the correct credits. At the time of writing, this has not been done.
Mieka Smiles did however send one single Direct Message to Balfron Social Club in which she acknowledged that she was fully aware that the quotes that she had attributed to the Daily Mirror came from an artists film.
All further contact has been ignored.
It seems very clear that this was a concerted effort to take credit for work that was plagiarised, and over a series of articles has removed the original author of the work and instead credited themselves for interviews that they did not undertake.
Interactions on Twitter have made us realise that this is a systemic problem at Reach PLC titles, who appear to have forgotten that journalists cannot just help themselves to the work of others, and may sometimes have to actually go out and do some original research of their own, you know, the job they are paid for.
We have advised Mieka Smiles that unless this issue is addressed appropriately, which it has not been, that we would be making a formal complaint to IPSO, the Independent Press Standards Organisation. However, our previous experience of any kind of UK regulator has revealed that they are more interested in covering up the crimes of the powerful and corrupt than actually ever taking appropriate action.
If a regulator ever actually did what they are supposed to do we suspect that this kind of unethical behaviour would not be so prevalent in the UK media.
Instead of making a complaint and then waiting months for a cover up which would only protect a plagiarist, we have decided to publish this account of the actions of Reach PLC journalists and editors, and then send it to the regulator for them to take appropriate action.
Once we have received a response we will keep you informed.
Balfron Social Club has operated since 2014 in order to highlight the unethical social cleansing of 146 purpose built social housing homes in Balfron Tower and to demand that a minimum of 50% social housing was retained in the block following redevelopment.
We are completely unfunded, nor have we ever sought funding. We publish our blog in order to expose corruption and social cleansing in attacks on working class communities.
Journalists are welcome to quote the work on the blog, with appropriate credits, but they are not welcome to plagiarise our content and pass it off as their own work.
Balfron Social Club
5th January 2024