The Express wins the race to the bottom

March 18, 2009

The Dunblane Massacre was an atrocity almost beyond imagining. A man named Thomas Hamilton walked into a school in a small Scottish town in March 1996, and shot dead sixteen children and one teacher. It was not what we’ve since come to think of as a ‘normal’ school shooting as it was a primary school, and all the children were between five and six years of age. We were filming an episode of ‘Father Ted’ that week, and on the night of the recording, no-one, the audience or the cast, felt terribly inclined to have a good time; difficult to throw your head back and laugh when all you could think about were those kids, their parents, the town…but most of all, those kids, those kids, those poor kids…

All those useless thoughts, sent to torture the unwary after a tragedy such as this one, we knew them well. If only someone had sensed how dangerous he was…if only handguns had been banned a year before it happened, rather than a year after… In the days and weeks that followed, we were all  endlessly replaying  the same fantasy of somehow managing to stop Hamilton before he got to the school gates.  But there was nothing we could do, of course, except respect the memory of the kids who died, and thank dumb, blind chance for the survival of the others.
That basic human reaction, that powerful urge to protect those children, has always been something I presumed was shared by most other human beings. But a lady named Paula Murray has disabused me of that particular whimsy.

Paula is the journalist who thought it was well past time that the survivors of the Dunblane massacre were given a tabloid punching. To that end, she befriended a group of them on Facebook and collated their photographs and comments (UPDATE: she didn’t actually befriend them, she just took advantage of their lack of awareness of privacy settings. Still reprehensible, of course). Clearly aware of the legal guidelines in place to protect those under eighteen against invasion of privacy (and the specific instructions that the Press Complaints Commission issued regarding the Dunblane children), she waited until they hit eighteen. Then she wrote this.

The story continued inside under the headline “SICK MESSAGES SHAME MEMORY OF CLASSMATES”, referring to the normal, teenagery stuff they were saying to each other on their profiles. (I should say thank you to those on Twitter who helped me black out the names and photographs of the kids). As others have pointed out, the gist of the story is that these kids are showing disrespect to their dead classmates by… being alive.

Here’s an example of Paula’s scoop: “For instance, (name deleted), who was hit by a single bullet and watched in horror as his classmates died, makes rude gestures in pictures he posted on his Bebo site, and boasts of drunken nights out.”

Rude gestures. Boasting. Drunkenness.

Now, I’m coming late to this one… complaints to the PCC have been made by two of the victims of the article, the piece has been pulled from the Express website… so we should probably forget about it, right?

I don’t know. I think the line that has been crossed here is different to all the other lines the press routinely cross.

The press likes us to believe they’re a properly regulated body, but they’re anything but. First of all, The PCC seems to be a completely toothless organisation by design. It is made up of representatives of the major publishers, who are obviously not inclined to be too hard on themselves. Also, unlike Ofcom and the Advertising Standards Authority, who have easy-to-use complaint forms on their websites, the PCC don’t even accept third party complaints – in other words, unless you are the person named in a printed article, they’re not interested in hearing your opinion. So when faced with an affront to our humanity (which is what I believe this Express story is), there is no official channel for us to register our anger. That’s right – if you are offended by something on TV, Radio or in an advert, you can complain; if you’re offended by something in the print press…well, you’re just going to have to walk it off, because literally no-one wants to know.

So, I think it is up to us to take a stand for those kids who had their privacy so ruthlessly invaded. Paula Murray set out to do a hit job on those kids– character assassination (of the most pathetic, intelligence-insulting kind) was the aim, and the weapons were a Facebook account and an editor with a moral centre as atrophied as her own. If there is a line beyond that one that the press can cross, I think we should make it harder for them to do so.

So! What can we do? Here are a few suggestions:

1) Stand up and be counted. Matt Nida has started an online petition which you can find here. When he’s got a decent number of names, he’ll be submitting it to the editor responsible for the story, the publishers and managing directors of Express Group Newspapers, the PCC, Downing Street and all media outlets who may be able to help shame the Express Group into action by making public the strength of national feeling about this.

2) Email your personal complaint to the Editorial Director of the Express Group about the conduct of Paula Murray and Scottish Sunday Express, Derek Lambie, who was responsible for placing the piece on the front cover. The Editorial Director is Paul Ashford, and this is his secretary’s email address, so please try to avoid being abusive to her – it’s not her fault! – and preface your email by asking Jo to pass your letter on to Mr Ashford. Jo.dimond@express.co.uk

3) Write to Express Group publisher Richard Desmond. He keeps his email address well hidden, but you can write to him by snail mail at: Richard Desmond, Northern and Shell building, 10 Lower Thames Street, London EC3R 6EN

4) Tim Ireland of Bloggerheads suggested targeting the advertisers, which seems like a marvellous idea. I’ve written a template letter here. Tim’s blog has a full list of advertisers, but here are a few selected contact details to get you started – and it may be more effective if we all write to the same companies.

(UPDATE: Enough people have expressed discomfort with this idea to make me rethink it. The concensus seems to be that  too many innocent people stand to suffer with this avenue of complaint, and it would be better to concentrate on direct complaints and the petition.)

7) If you have a Facebook account and would like to vent with likeminded folks, here’s a group set up to protest the story.

Again, thanks to everyone on Twitter who helped me write this post by providing links and hosting the original story after it was taken down. Sorry if the post goes on a bit…as they say, I didn’t have time to write a shorter piece.

Thanks for listening.


  1. It makes a nice change imho. Usually they’re just racist.

  2. This kind of issue needs someone to bring it all together, and you’ve just done that. Excellent work, Graham. I’ll follow all the suggestions, and I’d encourage anyone reading this to do the same.

  3. When I first saw that story, I had to read it several times, I thought I had missed something. Maybe I had skipped a paragraph, or maybe the point of the article had gone right over my head. Nope. As Judge Death from 2000AD comic would say, “The crime… isss Life!”

  4. Appalling lack of brain and/or basic human emotion. Makes me sooo proud.

  5. This was indeed a shocking article, but you’ll be glad to know that the internet is already exacting justice – http://tinyurl.com/d72kyv

  6. Disgusting! That’s the only word for it. Punishing these kids for living and going on to lead normal lives is pityful. How can this woman call herself a journalist, she’s just vicious.

  7. I blogged this on Sunday after you tweeted it (I’ll try to remember to add a link to this post), and earlier today I got a comment on an unrelated post making some rather nasty accusations towards Tim Ireland, and advising I contact the Daily Mail offices if I could offer any information about them. I’ve no way of knowing if there’s any truth in the allegations, but I do plan to contact the Mail to see if the comment-spam was genuinely anything to do with them. (I suspect it wasn’t, as even they can usually punctuate and correctly spell web addresses, but that’s what I thought about AskMen.com as well, so who knows…)

  8. How dare these 18 year olds have a drink and swear and boast a bit? That’s really the angle of her story?

    It’s clearly digging around for dirt, and making a mountain out of the little that was there. It’s disgusting journalism to start with, and I’m surprised the piece got approved for pubication in the first place. Wouldn’t most journalists approach the victims openly, and write a piece on how well they’re doing in spite of their trauma?

  9. In supermarkets and newsagents – I cover up both the mail and the express stacks with a single copy the guardian and/or independent.

    Been doing it for years.

    (also, why not cover Heat with Private Eye)

    just some thoughts

    thanks for caring glin x

  10. “Among the blogs on his site is a list of 23 chat up lines – but he is still single.”

    What is that line about? What on earth is that observation (I use the term loosely) doing in a national paper? I wouldn’t consider that line worth even bothering with to say in the company of friends, nevermind to a readership of millions. Joke article.

  11. Well put.

    I’ve always felt strongly about the Dunblane Massacre (as does everyone, this I know) because I was the same age as those kids when it happened. I remember it being the first and only time I’ve seen my dad cry. To see Murray going out of her way to keep from letting those guys get on with their lives is sickening. They act no differently to the majority of people my age I know and why should they be made to?

    It’s interesting that according to Murray’s own Facebook page just before she wrote the article she was “looking for a story”. Who’d have known that that piece was written purely out of desperation? That well thought-out piece of writing? Really?

    Has she been fired yet?

  12. Have you taken steps to make sure website doesn’t crash (whatever they might be) as Stephen Fry does often!

  13. I was 9 years old in a primary school in a small town just south of Dunblane when this happened. I was not old enough to understand the full extent of what had happened but it still rocked me to my core. When I came across this article on Twitter I was shocked and appalled. I’ll post this article on every website and forum that I use.

  14. There are many articles in the Express, which I’d call “sickening”, but Ms Murray has taken what was always figurative and turned it in to the literal!
    Letters shall be written!

  15. Completely agree with the points and the suggestions. I saw a few things online where they posted facebook pics and messages from Paula Murray drunk but it felt like a pretty cheap attempt at payback.

    Time to put my complaint writing hat on.

  16. A brilliantly written post – and thanks for taking the time to upload links and draft letters. Count me in on all action points.

  17. […] read more | digg story No Comments so far Leave a comment RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI Leave a comment Click here to cancel reply. Line and paragraph breaks automatic, e-mail address never displayed, HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong> […]

  18. 1. For more on the ineffectiveness of the PCC, you should read Flat Earth News; it’s truly shocking how few cases they rule on.

    2. I think encouraging advertisers to interfere with the editorial agenda of newspapers is dangerous, no matter the morality of the individual case. I would encourage people to take any of the other suggested forms of action.

  19. What an absolute disgrace. Teenagers should be allowed to behave like teenagers. What these particular teenagers witnessed should not be wintessed by anyone, let alone a bunch of kids (which they were at the time of the massacre). That these people have turned into “normal” teenagers should be something to praise them and their community for; not something to disparage them for.

    After all, they have no need to feel guilty that they lived when others die. Who is this woman to try to say that they should?

  20. […] Sunday Express is Abhorrent Just wanted to draw your attention to this brilliant post by Graham Linehan @Glinner on Twitter) about the horrendous Sunday Express article which ran last […]

  21. Someone from the ‘Anti Daily Mail Coalition’ Facebook group alerted me to this story on Monday. It made me sick so I emailed the editor of the Scottish Sunday Express and have not recieved a reply. Not sure if I really expected one to be honest!
    You’re right, this is a new low even for the Express.

  22. Both the editor and the writer should be sacked over this. It makes me sick to the pit of my stomach. An utter disgrace.

  23. Well done you .. I have signed the petition and joined the FB group too. People like her do my nut in. Loved the link that DJ Bogtrotter posted, revenge is sweet :))

  24. Well done Graham. You are so right. People should be warned about accepting people as Facebook friends that they don’t know. I’ve been invited to be friends with people I’ve never met and can’t understand why so I decline. Shame these kids didn’t do the same. Unfortunately there seems to be some sort of kudos to be had by the number of friends you have – a measure of popularity perhaps?

  25. I agree with the post by shreena.

    As a Journalism student myself currently at University, I feel this story served little or no purpose at all other than maybe to court some controversy. Besides that it doesn’t get to the real issue of how these kids have done so well after what they have been put through.

    It’s disgraceful. And I have to say my tutors who themselves have worked within the media for years, would most likely agree with me.

  26. Yeah fuck freedom of the press! Lets go the China!!!

  27. Down with this sort of thing!!

    (Shakes head sadly) Will they never learn.

    I won’t sully my eye-balls with the filth that The Express and The Mail peddle … you’ve just reminded me why. I’ve signed the petition. I’ll write the letter … but I worry in these days when irony seems to have gone the way of morality and the Dodo, if this isn’t all just giving the paper more publicity and ultimately putting more coin in Desmond’s pocket?

    Still, fear of unintended consequence doesn’t stop people from starting wars, so it shouldn’t stop us from firing off a few complaints.

    So it goes.

  28. Thanks for posting this, I first saw Peter Serafinowiz (sp) post about this on Twitter and I’ve been getting more and more interested.

    I’ve always been a stickler for picking up on the gross misconduct of The Daily Mail and Express and this is just the kind of story to get the attention onto the issue. A kind of watershed that might mean they have to clean up their act. I hope the PCC can be proven to be more use than they have been in the past. I’ll definitely be emailing a few people with my two pence.

  29. Disrespecting their dead classmates by having fun? That’s completely foul. Who the hell is this woman to speak on behalf on the memories of those who died anyway?

    Nicely written post, it has pissed me off sufficiently to partake in some of the actions suggested.

  30. Thanks for giving this wider exposure, Graham – though it’s shameful that it doesn’t seem to have been picked up by most of the ‘old media’.

    It’s also worth noting that Tim Ireland (Bloggerheads) had an exchange of emails with the Derek Lambie, editor of the Scottish Sunday Express, who accused “mass bloggers” of making a mountain out of a molehill. Or could it just be, Mr Lambie, that a great “mass” of people are truly horrified by a new low for an already desperate paper?

    It’s going to be hard boycotting M&S cinnamon and raisin bagels, but dammit, someone’s got to do it.

  31. Bravo, sir.

  32. It’s absolutely disgraceful – I’ve already posted my own thoughts on it. I have to say though that I think for the most part complaints will just be ignored and/or swept under the carpet, so hitting them in the pocket – via asking the advertisers to express their displeasure – will be the most effective method of getting the point home.

    I don’t necessarily want anyone to lose their jobs, but a certain unpaid ‘sabbatical’ as per Wossy might be appropriate. Although Wossy was prepared to acknowledge his mistake and publicly apologise, unlike some newspaper editors & journalists…

  33. I think it’s about time someone pulled certain papers up on this sort of trash.

    It’s designed to incite all sides and is thoroughly unpleasant and pathetic.

  34. […] just read Graham Linehan’s take on the Express Dunblane Anniversary cover story (now withdrawn from the Express website but available in plain text and as scans of the front page […]

  35. The Express and Mail are continually offensive to any human worthy of the name but they’ve chosen the wrong victims this time.

  36. it’s been done!
    I was well furious when i read the story first time around, and am glad that this has been set up to give the ‘journo’ a good wedge of feedback.

    fecking Middle England! it makes my blood boil!

  37. What sort of person is this journalist, I use the term in the loosest possible sense, are these young people who witnessed a terrible atrocity not allowed to grow up as normal teenagers? are they not allowed to get drunk, and make the odd rude gesture? just because some of their friends died in that tragic event surely they do not have to spend their lives living like monks in order to pay their respects to their lost friends?
    I would dearly love to know what Paula Hamilton got up to as a teen, someone somewhere must have the photos!

  38. According to Bloggerheads, this is Paula Murray’s Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/people/Paula-Murray/616303022

    I note she’s a fan of “Bars, Clubs and Pubs”. I guess it’s ok for journos to get pissed up but not teenagers who were shot at when they were kids?

  39. Cheers for this. The Daily Express are utterly hateful at the best of times. This is a low.

  40. Petition signed. What a disgraceful article – not exactly unusual for The Express or Mail though. These papers are in place purely to stir up bad feeling, racism and xenophobia in the general populace. Why people continue to buy them is completely beyond me.

  41. Type in Paula Murray in google and click on the 1st link (well a 2pm today it was)

    This is someone who;s found lots of pictures on Paula’s facebook of her drinking alcohol and acting loutishly. Even includes a photo of her giving a baby a glass of wine. also has screen shots of her boasting about her drinking binges.

    Can anyone say hypocrit?

  42. How disconnected from reality do you have to be before a feature like this seems like front page material? It’s a non-story.

    In terms of sheer editorial contempt for a paper’s readership, this reminds me of when the Sun applied some anti-scouse spin to coverage of the Hillsborough Disaster – claiming that Liverpool fans had urinated on victims and picked their pockets, etc. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hillsborough_disaster#The_Sun_newspaper_controversy)

    Sales of The Sun in the North West have never recovered, despite several apologies from the paper.

  43. Good work @Glinner.

    As anyone who’s read a copy of Private Eye over the last few years has seen, Richard Desmond’s titles really are a disgrace to journalism.

    My wife’s uncle was head of West Berks social services when the Hungerford incident happened. He took early retirement because of the stress of dealing with the aftermath of that, and he wasn’t even present when it took place. Obviously the Express have no consideration for the feelings of the people involved and no sense of compassion or empathy. Their only concern, I’m afraid, is their own profits.

    Hopefully this article will provoke a similar reaction to Express newspapers as Kelvin MacKenzie’s Sun received with their post-Hillsborough coverage.

    This sort of stuff really makes me ashamed of this country and our woefully inadequate Fourth Estate.

    Cheers @glinner, for partly restoring my faith in the human race.

  44. Just when you think the press can’t get any lower. Some ‘journalists’ are barely human.

  45. Ironic typo in that last comment – Paula Hamilton…

  46. Bravo, Mr Glinner, nicely done.

  47. Can someone explain to me why Wossy and Russell Brand make a bad taste joke about a girl Brand had sex with- by her own admission- and the press build it up in to such a frenzy they get pay docked, fired and demonised and yet this disgusting, evil little woman scrapes the sewer beneth the barrel and the press close ranks to protect her?

    How do you set up Downing street petitions. I want to set one up to make the PCC fully independent and along the lines of other regulators. It is massivley overdue.

  48. http://www.pcc.org.uk/complaints/process.html

    Anyone can make a complaint to the PCC. It’s easy.

  49. Just fired this off:

    Dear Ms Dimond,

    I would be very grateful if you could pass the following letter of complaint to Mr Ashford.

    I recognise I am not the target audience of the Express newspapers, and do not expect to like what I see on their front pages. However the recent feature by Paula Murray on the Dunblane survivors’ “shame” has made me very angry indeed, and despair of the way certain parts of the British media are heading.

    The survivors of the massacre witnessed something utterly horrifying in their childhood that, thankfully, none of us can really even comprehend. At a young age they watched schoolfriends killed in front of them, and many sustained injuries themselves. I would imagine the images of that day will haunt them forever.

    Now they have reached 18, I think the majority of the British public would be very encouraged and happy to think that the children who survived this awful crime can live a semblance of a normal life. And, whether your readership likes the fact or not, in 2009 a normal teenage life includes such “sins” as drinking, swearing and having sex – all the things Ms Murray is (perhaps hypocritically) castigating them for. The fact that the horrors of their childhoods have been raked up by a cynical, opportunistic hack, who suggests that they should somehow feel shame for occasionally forgetting their dead classmates and leading a normal life, is absolutely disgraceful. She is the one who should be ashamed.

    Ms Murray is simply a gutter journalist being a gutter journalist, however, and real blame should lie on Mr Lambie, who saw this horrific error of journalistic judgement as not only fit to publish, but as suitable to run as a front page story. I would hope that some kind of apology will be given to the victims of your newspaper’s hurtful attack on innocent teenagers, who had already faced more hurt in their lives than most of us will in our lifetimes, and that those responsible face some kind of punishment.

    Yours sincerely,

  50. Graham, you write that “Paula Murray set out to finish the job that Thomas Hamilton started, except this time, character assassination (of the most pathetic, intelligence-insulting kind) was the aim, and the weapons were a Facebook account and an editor with a moral centre as atrophied as her own”: surely that sort of offensive and tasteless comparison – of a journalist to a murderer – is an example of exactly the sort of controversy-baiting journalism you’re supposedly trying to stop?

  51. The Bloggerheads chap has a good piece featuring excerpts from the genius writer’s own Facebook –


  52. The Express story gives journalism a bad name. Top work Graham. I’m backing this for all the reasons above, but also because I’m a journalist who loves the job for all the good it can do. It’s time we got rid of all the cheap, offensive rubbish that’s damaging people and the business. And as we learned with banking, no industry should regulate itself…

  53. Paula Murray doesn’t just besmirch the memory of those who died at Dunblane, she also tarnishes the profession of journalists like Anna Politkovskaya who are killed for daring to tell the truth.

  54. […] The Express wins the race to the bottom « Why, That’s Delightful! – Graham Linehan on the Dunblane/Express disgrace. […]

  55. Thanks for writing this – this Express report has been bothering me a lot since I first came across it at the end of last week, and even more so that the Express’ rivals in the mainstream press have been so slow to hit out at what is without doubt some of the worst journalism I’ve ever seen (most still haven’t).

    Unfortunately it is possibly a sign of things to come. Newspapers are dying in this country – big time. We only don’t know about it because the place where such a trend would normally be written about is in – yes, newspapers. But all newspapers are losing readers and advertisers and while some do run relatively good websites, no one has really worked out how to make good money out of online newspapers.

    The result is that newspapers are:

    [a] desperate to find shocking and scandalous stories that can help sell papers.


    [b] increasingly don’t have the resources to investigate real shocking and scandalous stories (such investigations are expensive).

    So they turn complete non-stories (eg teenagers in Dunblane behave like teenagers everywhere else) into front page scoops in a bid to shift more newspapers.

    Sachsgate was the result of the same phenomenon – yes Ross and Brand were stupid, but the Mail et al escalated the story because it led to a sales boom for a few days.

    The good news is that I don’t think, ultimately, such gutter journalism is going to work. Unless something big happens newspapers (except for the freesheets) will be gone in 10-15 years. The Express, already an exercise in vanity publishing for its owner, in five years.

    Except that’s not good news. Because, dumb tabloid stories like this one aside, I quite like newspapers.

    In the meantime – I salute your campaign and will be adding my name to the petition.

  56. William > Hmmmm… I think harassing and muck-raking against a group of innocent teenagers whose only “crime” was to watch their classmates shot in cold blood in their primary school classroom, all in the name of a particularly substanceless fluff piece in a national newspaper, goes beyond it being a “silly story”.

    People aren’t getting worked up because they’ve read something they’ve found a bit offensive (a la Ross/Brand complainers), but rather that what is being done in the name of journalism is stooping to almost unrecorded low. We have a right to fume about that if we want, without being labelled “humourless wankers”.

  57. This sickening farrago of contrived righteous indignation and hypocrisy (not to mention staggering stupidity on the parts of both the journalist and her editor) emphatically underscores the moral bankruptcy of current day mass media outlets such as the Express. They clearly serve as megaphones for those with less-than-progressive political agendas, but I’ll leave the party politics out of this. The fact is that this non-story not only represented an all-time low for aforesaid news distributors, but also brought into sharp relief our ever-dwindling right to privacy. It was a most unsavoury attack on every value and standard we claim to hold dear. And the fact that the innocent survivors of an unimaginable horror are deemed fair game in this war of attrition on human decency… Well, it shows you that the gloves really are off here. With the Express assuming the mantle of moral police force, I think it’s safe for us to assume that they have over(goose)stepped their jurisdiction. Which is why people should do everything in their power to extract a full and frank front page apology from them.

    Great blog, Graham. Keep on biffing the evildoers.

    Stand up and be counted, good people of these isles!


  58. There is an entire generation of kids, my own included, who will forever have the after-effects of these horrors imprinted on their memories of school days. When my kids were in high school 10 years ago, they had bomb threats every week. Even now, when they hear alarms go off they get nervous. I cannot even imagine what the poor darling children who survived actual attacks must carry inside for the rest of their lives. There is so much compassion for soldiers who have seen combat…why should it be different for these kids? Especially considering their tender ages and sense of security forever crushed.
    Many thanks, Graham, for using your fame to help defend these kids.

  59. […] been meaning to blog about this for a while, but Graham Linehan has beaten me to it: on the 8th of March, the Scottish Sunday Express ran a contemptible piece of shit by Paula Murray […]

  60. This is a great article, thanks.

    I shall add my name to the petition and do what else I can.

  61. Fantastic article Graham, and I’m doing all that you suggested.

    I really don’t think this situation can be compared with Ross & Brand. Those were two blokes who did a stupid, juvenile prank and (rightly, I think) got punished for it.

    This is a journalist who befriended a group of kids with the express intention of very publically stitching them up in front of the whole country. What she has done is utterly, utterly sickening, and I really do hope she has the book thrown at her. Hard, preferably.

  62. “express intention”. Oh, I am a comedy god.

  63. Petition signed – that “journalist” has the morals of a dead badger.

  64. Was sickened to the stomach when I read the article and have signed the online petition. Haven’t those poor people suffered enough?!

  65. I would just like to say that I am not normally the kind to be outraged by sensationalism in the press. I usually take it as a given. But this is ridiculous. The press is out of control. The woman who wrote this article needs to be sacked

  66. Dammit, I’m already ill and in a bad mood, then the Express comes along, vilifying kids for having the audacity to survive an atrocity and not spend the rest of their lives as monks. GAH!!!


  67. That’s vile and disgusting, and you managed to seethe without blowing your top in writing it, which is more than I could say for myself while reading it.

    This is the modern equivalent to “it bleeds, it leads”, I guess… wait for a non-story to gestate, and then pounce like journalistic integrity was only a leash holding her back.

    Sorry – I get lengthy when enraged.

  68. I found the article irrevelant & insensitive. Lazy & disgusting journalism. A campaign should be not b uy the Express similar to the one in Liverpool with The Sun after Hillsbourgh

  69. Hi everyone. Thanks very much for your support.

    I’m very busy today, but please be advised that I am trying to draft a more focused list of advertisers, and would be much further along with this, if it weren’t for the whole dual event thing, plus my ordering of a copy of the last edition of the Scottish Sunday Express that hasn’t arrived and now looks like it never will.

    What I wish to do is compare one edition to the sister edition from down south (from the same day) and thereby target advertisers specific to the Scottish edition.

    If anyone has retained a copy of the most recent edition of the Scottish Sunday Express (15 March 2009), I have the corresponding title from down south and I would really appreciate you sending/scanning me some or all of it, depending on what an initial comparison reveals. (The differences are likely to be restricted to as few as 8-16 pages. Desmond is a notorious tightwad.)

    I can be contacted via:
    manic AT bloggerheads DOT com

  70. It would be good to add CarpetRight to the list of advertisers to contact, as they advertised on the front cover of the Scottish edition of the issue in question:


  71. Thanks for writing this post, I was too young at the time to be aware of what had happened, so god help the children who were involved. Doing what I can to help.

  72. Vile.

    But a boycott? I’m worried about anyone who reads the Express in the first place.

  73. Why a boycott:

    The article and response to date, plus past behaviour of a range of editors under Richard Desmond lately = rogue element

    This is less about content and more about conduct.

  74. “But a boycott? I’m worried about anyone who reads the Express in the first place.”
    Yes, that’s why signing the petition is probably the best way to go.

  75. As a journalism student, I found the Dunblane story really made me question why I’m paying thousands of pounds to end up working with scum like this and, if anything, it’s made me want to be a journalist that much more so I can help to stop disgusting things like this being printed. Paula Murray is vile and should be sacked. There is no excuse for what she’s done to these defenceless people.

    Top article, Graham, I’ll be signing the petition straight away.

  76. […] have now pulled the original article from their site, hence the Flickr link. There’s a post at Graham Linehan’s blog which pretty much sums up my feelings on this. The UK Press Complaints Commission is looking into […]

  77. “…surely that sort of offensive and tasteless comparison – of a journalist to a murderer – is an example of exactly the sort of controversy-baiting journalism you’re supposedly trying to stop?”

    I agree. I’ve altered the post slightly. Anger got the better of me.

  78. This newspaper piece was hideous and I think the journalist and editors responsible should be severely taken to task for it.

    I lived very near Dunblane at the time and although I knew noone affected directly, they were only one or two acquaintances away. It was a horrible time, the sadness in the area was tangible.

    However, please, please think again before targeting the Express via the advertisers. It may get attention, but it also may gain some innocent ad sales and production staff their redundancies! Newspaper ad revenue is really suffering in the current climate. Hitting this will have minimal effect on a journalist’s morals but may be the last straw for another department’s jobs.

    Newspaper’s are more than their editorial departments, please bear that in mind. I back this campaign to the hilt, but I don’t want to see any innocent staff out of a job because of any methods used.

  79. In all seriousness, and I’d love it if someone can enlighten me, how on earth does an idea like this germinate? How does one come up with this kind of stunning wheeze? I am seriously confused as to how the thought pops into your head…

    “I know, I’ll run a piece on the kids that survived a horrific shooting back when they were toddlers and try to destroy their characters and make up a tonne of shit about them disrespecting the dead childrens memory.”

    What kind of person actually comes up with that shit? I mean I’m borderline psychopathic but even I couldnt ever think of such an evil bastard thing to do.

    Is there nothing else going on that they could write about? You know like a war here and there, a World economy collapsing… silly me.

  80. @Alison:

    Let’s not pretend that this piece is a blemish on the reputation of an otherwise fine publication; this is just the worst excess of a consistently nasty and corrupt rag. The only thing that will stop the Express being shit is if being shit costs them more money than it makes. If their profits go down, people might lose their jobs, but it’s the only way anything will change.

    In any case, nobody whose job is to produce, promote, fund or sell such a vile newspaper is remotely innocent.

  81. Great write-up – thank you for bringing it to your readers’ attention (I’ve duly tweeted it)

    What you said about the PCC was right – can you imagine what would happen if the BBC broadcast something like that? It would piss all over the Ross/Brand trivia, I can tell ya.

    Time to get even.. now where’s my petition-signing finger?

  82. I’ve just emailed this off to Jo Dimond. If it’s any help to you, feel free to use it.

    Hi Jo,

    I’d be grateful if you could forward this to Paul Ashford and Derek Lambie.

    Many thanks for doing so.

    Iain Harrison

    Dear Paul and Derek,

    I just want you to know that I’m absolutely disgusted with the barrel-scraping done by your journalist Paula Murray on Sunday March 8th.

    I’m equally as disgusted at you two for running it and placing it on the front page.

    Those kids have a right to exist and do what any other teens do. They’ve been through enough as it is, without having to deal with the indignant sniping of Paula Murray.

    I hope your sales suffer. Massively.

    I hope a lawsuit arrives on your desk and that it costs you heavily.

    I also hope that Paula Murray is blacklisted by every publisher in the country.

    That’s what I hope for.

    What I expect is an apology from your paper to those kids.

    If you have any humanity in you, it’ll be on your front page tomorrow, along with details of Paula’s sacking.

    Yours sincerely,

  83. As if trying to live their lives after surviving such an unimaginably harrowing tragedy wasn’t hard enough, this so called journalist feels compelled to codemn a group of people who are guilty of nothing and whose behaviour is completely normal for a bunch of 18 year old’s.

    I think this highlights a very important point which is where is the accountability within the press, evidently they feel they are above any morality if this story is anything to go by.

    Well done for rightfully vilifying the writer of such a sick, sorry excuse for journalism, and bringing attention to a important issue that must be dealt with to avoid any further hurt being caused.

  84. […] The world’s nastiest intrusion 2009 March 18 tags: direct action, Dunblane, invasion of privacy, Paula Murray, press intrusion, The Express by Sarah Graham Linehan’s plan of direct action against the Express. […]

  85. Andrew,

    I agree the Express is a foul paper on the whole.
    However when it comes to who you work for, these days beggars can’t be choosers! The industry is struggling, and if that’s what you’re trained in then you don’t necessarily have the luxury of choosing to go elsewhere.

    This is going off-topic a bit, but I do not believe anyone on the printing/pre-press/sales or admin sides, who is just trying to earn (a pretty paltry) living should be made to suffer because of some idiot journalist!

  86. […] The Express wins the race to the bottom « Why, That’s Delightful! That basic human reaction, that powerful urge to protect those children, has always been something I presumed was shared by most other human beings. But a lady named Paula Murray has disabused me of that particular whimsy. […]

  87. I usually only blog silly poetry. But when I heard about this on Twitter I decided to post about only this today and put a link to this post. I have also started a thread on Authonomy – the HC aspiring authors website.

    You have my full support in trying to right a very nasty wrong. That article was a new low in British journalism – and that’s saying something.


  88. Retweeted. Good work Graham; I hope you get some momentum on this.

  89. I’ve emailed this page to loads of people. Thanks for this.

    I was horrified by the article in the Sunday Express. The lowest form of Journalism possible. The main crux of the article is that teenagers go out, have a laugh, get drunk, make rude gestures. I’m sorry but that was my teenage life also. The Express Newsgroup which includes OK Magazine should be fined an enormous amount of money for this. OK is currently running a Last Words from Dying Jade special edition.

    Richard Desmond is disgusting (check out past issues of Private Eye for more info).

    I’ve signed the petition.

  90. As a Dunblane resident (not a native, only lived here four years), as someone who was at primary school when this happened (and was old enough to understand what had happened), as a Scot, and as a human being, I am furious with what this women has written about these kids. I hope some serious repurcussions follow for her and for the people that allowed this to be published.

  91. Thanks for organising this. This is the email I wrote:

    Dear Mr Ashford,

    I would like to register my disappointment with your newspaper’s publication of Paula Murray’s nasty smear of the Dunblane survivors. It is unacceptable that she invaded their privacy in this way.

    The piece seems to be attacking these young people for little more than being young and posting pictures of it to the internet.
    How you thought it was in the public interest to publish a story about 18 year olds getting drunk and giving their friends the finger, I will never understand.

    You had no right to attack these people just for being witnesses to mass murder. This piece was more than terrible, misguided hackery; in printing it you have revealed how inhuman the newspaper industry really is.

  92. […] The Express wins the race to the bottom […]

  93. Why would anyone want to traumatise these kids all over again? The fact that they can do normal things like get pissed when they hit 18 is a testament to their resilience and the strength of the human spirit, not something to sneer at.

  94. Thanks Graham – very worthy cause. Here’s mine:
    Dear Ms. Dimond,

    I would be grateful if you would pass the following letter to your colleague Paul Ashford.

    I am not a regular Express reader, so it takes a story of some considerable notoriety for me to be aware of what goes in to your publication. But I was appalled when the story about the Dunblane survivors was published, under the guise of front page “news”, a few days ago. It appears to me an appalling, unforgivable lapse of judgement and taste to have published the details and photographs of these people’s lives, without any good reason, and castigated them for living the lives of normal people. To my mind, these young people are doing something quite worthy of praise in moving on and not letting a tragic event in their past cast a shadow over their lives.

    The only shame here is in the Express Group which has, without any justification, publicised the normal events of these people’s lives when what all of them deserve now is respect and privacy. The story was an insult to the fine tradition of investigative newspaper journalism. If the Express has any scruples whatsoever I should hope it will publish a full, prominent apology to these people and henceforth leave them all well alone.

  95. This is mine…


    I was hoping this might be passed onto Paul Ashford, Paula Murray and Derek Lambie.

    Your Dunblane article was the most shameful piece of journalism I have ever read. I honestly hope that the people responsible feel deeply sorry, and strive to make amends for this awful mistake.


    Jon Ronson

  96. I know one of the teachers caught up in what happened at Dunblane. It took this person many years to cope I’ve no idea how the person must feel with this type of “journalism” raking through the ashes

  97. I’ve sent my email to the Express.

    What gets me more than anything isn’t the intent, but the fact that no one in the editorial team stopped it.

  98. I disagree with the decision not to target advertisers. They are the only ones with the power to make the Express apologise and think hard about its standards.

    I remember when its sister paper The Star printed a picture of a fifteen year old girl and said that once she turned sixteen they would be printing topless pictures of her. The outcry made major advertisers such as Tesco withdraw their business and the newspaper was forced to stop.

    Buying advertising space is a routine task in a business and little thought is put into repeat orders once the decision is made. Complaints such as this will make those in charge of the businesses re-examine their original decision, and ask themselves if they really want to be associated with such a publication.

  99. I’m not easily made speechless but good grief……

    Many thanks for expressing what so many are thinking.

  100. Totally agree with those who have suggested the analogy with Hillsborough. The Sun still hasn’t recovered its sales and it is still not the done thing to be seen with a copy on Merseyside.

    I’m not totally 100% behind the advert list. I can see the reasoning – advertisers have been known to change tack to avoid being connected to the unpopular (Celebrity Big Brother springs to mind as does Carlsberg’s volte face over free beer in The Sun after pressure from Liverpool fans). It’s just that there are so many on the list. Maybe it’s just a case of each person selecting a few to target/avoid.

  101. I absolutely agree that this article was a piece of filth and have signed the petition and written to both contacts.

    But… vile as pieces like this are, do we really want a government body telling the press what they can and cannot write? For better or worse, this is the freedom of the press. It comes with responsibility and in this case the complaints will hopefully have some effect (though frankly I doubt it).

    Personally I’d like to see the Daily Mail barred from publishing the constant stream of misogynistic crap that fills its pages but I would not have this happen at the expense of press freedom.

    It is a shame that the editors of these papers do not appreciate the privileged position that they are in and instead abuse it by paying a pittance to bad writers and demanding that they vomit up these kinds of articles.

    it is more of a shame that people continue to buy these papers, since ultimately if publishers profit from this behaviour it will continue.

  102. “the piece has been pulled from the Express website”.

    Yes, because that’s how the news works. If readers don’t like a story, pretend it was never published. Stalin would be proud.

  103. […] The Express Wins The Race To The Bottom […]

  104. At least with the red tops you know that they are lowest common denominator, show-us-yer-tits, get the camer up the skirt, rabid, mouth-foaming piss weasels (to steal a phrase from Charlie Brooker). But the Mail and the Express are even worse, doing much the same things while disguising it (badly) as well-meaning outrage. The hypocrisy would be hilarious if it didn’t stink to high heaven. And now of course they can’t really find another Princess Diana angle, so they have to look elesewhere for their jollies.

    The best example was the Mail’s late Lynda Lee Potter; the womoan was the embodiement of bitter, curdled shrewishness.

    The only thing to be said is that the Express and Sunday Express are hardly setting the world alight any longer. Maybe as the sad old reactionary readership dies off we may have them put out of our misery.

  105. Come, now. A boycott of advertisers is the only effective means you have to express your extreme displeasure at their behaviour. If you don’t like what they did, and they do not see a decline in sales, *then it don’t matter a bit that you don’t like it.* If you don’t affect their profits, You. Don’t. Matter.

  106. It just goes to show, you can’t be too careful.

  107. “If you don’t affect their profits, You. Don’t. Matter.”
    It’s a question of tactics and a question of realism. Where there are alternatives then choices can be made. As Tim himself conceded, changing things like Broadband etc can be difficult.
    Quite frankly, we can look at most large firms and find a rerason for not buying their stuff.
    The potential success here is that so many people are peeved and so advertisers could be hit.

    An interesting development is the attempt to separate the Scotland paper from the national edition. Mere hand-wringing from the editor is noe good enough.


  108. Thanks for bringing this to my attention Graham. I don’t quite understand why this isn’t bigger news among “quality” journalism, it’s an appalling example of complete lack of editorial judgement and gratuitous sensationalism.

  109. While the petition on Facebook is a good and important thing (which I have signed), the wider issue here is the toothlessness of the PCC.

    I had a look, and there is a petition to establish an Independent Press Authority on the Downing Street Website. It comes from a different angle (the demonising of those with Schizophrenia) but its aims are the same so I implore everyone here to sign it am publicise it.

  110. While the petition on Facebook is a good and important thing (which I have signed), the wider issue here is the toothlessness of the PCC.

    I had a look, and there is a petition to establish an Independent Press Authority on the Downing Street Website. It comes from a different angle (the demonising of those with Schizophrenia) but its aims are the same so I implore everyone here to sign it and publicise it.

  111. Amazing, and right on the tail of a similar event.

    Did no-one consider the fact that the “antics” of the teenagers described could just possibly be because they’re desperately trying to forget something that would give the average combat veteran pause for thought?

    Doubtless the brainless hacks at the Express are already tracking down Tim Kretschmer’s schoolmates via facebook.

  112. Thanks Glin. I feel quite sick but I have signed the petition and written the email.

  113. I examined the treatment of sexuality in the Scottish media for a period of ten years – which included the Dunblane massacre. The Scottish Daily Express is polarising its grotesquely ‘moral’ opinions in a way only the right-wing press know. No change there! The kids are being – well… just kids. If anything, their behaviour is a direct result of this overly pinched, haughty, censorious declaration of ownership of the ‘moral higher ground’. They’ve been doing it for years. Now they sneer when a new culture, more open; more vital; more challenging – a culture that these papers will never embrace no matter how much their readerships decline to critical levels. In short: The Daily Express just doesn’t get it!

  114. Hi folks. I’m a very busy person today and my blog isn’t working exactly as it should, so I’d appreciate folks generally putting the word out that I’m going with the consensus on this one, withdrawing from the boycott, and advising against action of this kind until further notice.

    I’ve updated the relevant post so newcomers to it will know what the latest is:

    Cheers all.

  115. Thanks, Tim! I think putting our shoulder to the wheel on the petition is the right way to go.

  116. PS – Whoever wrote that petition deserves a round. It’s spot on.

  117. Oh, hello.

    Yes, totally agree.

  118. […] Blog post by Graham Lineham (writer of Father Ted) […]

  119. Right, I signed the petition, emailed Ashford (via Jo), and written to Desmond. Now it’s just the eternal wait for the Express to grow some morals, make the apology and revise its whole system of journalistic ethics.

    The story didn’t get a mention in the latest Private Eye. Shame – it’s the sort of thing I’d hope they’d be all over, and they could have gotten a “Barely Legal” gag out of it too.

  120. […] by politicians. There is a groundswell of outrage in the blogsphere, including Father Ted creator Graham Linehan, as well as 30 complaints to the Press Complaints Commission. But, accepting that there may be a […]

  121. completely agree with everything you say, i’ve signed the petition and joined the facebook group. now i just need to wait for the express to assassinate me for joining facebook groups….

  122. Thanks Graham for blogging about this, this is so bad it’s untrue. I’ve signed the petition and also tipped the editors at another blog I read a lot.

  123. […] with the interwebs, and send them the link to the petition via e-mail along with an explanation (my original blog post, or anything you think brings the point home). Don’t ask them to send it on…leave that […]

  124. It comes down to one thing… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q3-KOoVbUr8&feature=channel_page

  125. […] with the interwebs, and send them the link to the petition via e-mail along with an explanation (my original blog post, or anything you think brings the point home). Don’t ask them to send it on…leave that up to […]

  126. By the way, you spelled “consensus” wrong.

  127. It just goes to show you can’t be too careful!

  128. Oh the shame! And apparently they were mocking poor Princess Diana as well!

    The Express = Thrash. End of. The Mail’s not too far behind.

  129. Appalling article by the Scottish Express.

    I’m a journalist and am disgusted by it – as would be many of my journalist friends.

    I must note that I don’t believe that it’s fair to look on “the press” as one body; and I don’t think the answer is media censorship based on public complaints. That tool could be used for idiotic reasons, as well as good ones. There’ll always be Mary Whitehouse types using that kind of power for moral panics, if they have the right.

    But the paper should certainly be universally condemned for its actions and suffer from the bad publicity as a result.

    Regardless of the incredibly poor taste, it’s also incredibly poor journalism and there should be professional repercussions.

  130. PS… I agree with this:

    “I absolutely agree that this article was a piece of filth and have signed the petition and written to both contacts.

    But… vile as pieces like this are, do we really want a government body telling the press what they can and cannot write? For better or worse, this is the freedom of the press. It comes with responsibility and in this case the complaints will hopefully have some effect (though frankly I doubt it).

    Personally I’d like to see the Daily Mail barred from publishing the constant stream of misogynistic crap that fills its pages but I would not have this happen at the expense of press freedom.

    It is a shame that the editors of these papers do not appreciate the privileged position that they are in and instead abuse it by paying a pittance to bad writers and demanding that they vomit up these kinds of articles.

    it is more of a shame that people continue to buy these papers, since ultimately if publishers profit from this behaviour it will continue.”

    by Lucy March 18, 2009 at 10:05 pm

  131. #LB81… But what about balance? Doesn’t the rabidly right-wing press have a responsibility to fair and balanced reporting? Haven’t young people always been denied a voice? Perhaps when this changes they might start reading papers. I had high hopes when Desmond first came onboard this ailing paper – he emailed me with ‘Watch this space!’ I have been. Once Scotland’s biggest read. Instead of a tabloid Guardian, we’ve now got The Mail’s poor, bitter, twisted sister!

  132. I actually know one of the survivors coz his dads a friend of mine. Nicer kid you couldnt meet.

    Methinks a lawsuit is in order against this express group and the journalist involved. In fact jail sentences would be fitting.

    Also, how twisted and sinister is it to befriend these kids and wait until they are 18.

    At that age who doesnt kick loose and live large, its all about discovering yourself and who you are in the world. Its all about the celebration of live, and by god these kids have earned the right. Obviously this journalist lived in a plastic bubble at that age. By her tactics, opinions and general way of conducting herself, this would not surprise me.

  133. why wouldn’t you go after the advertisers too? they’re the ones who sponsored the message, and it’s usually the most effective recourse. none of us are innocent, least of all them.

  134. In a similar vein, this article from the Sun is particularly ridiculous


  135. #Disorientator. Perhaps you’d cared to read what happens when this kind of thing gets out of control? I’ve been serialising the repeal of Section 28 in Scotland on http://www.scottishmediamonitor.com. (Badge of Shame). There really is blood on the Scottish media’s hands.
    Newspapers illustrating their distinguishing features; posters denouncing their practices while the media spread rumours of cliques, warned of an international conspiracy… (stories missing in editions printed in other parts of the country). Intellectuals were discredited, windows smashed; there were beatings and even murders…. Germany 1935? No… Scotland 2000!

  136. I’m inclined to think that directly contacting their advertisers is the only thing that will work. How is it going to hurt innocent people to do so? I don’t understand. Can someone enlighten me?

  137. Also, has anyone thought of siccing /b/ on her? She’s really pissed me off.

  138. Tabloid scum – absolutely vile. Thanks so much Graham for alerting us. x

  139. Um..

    Why are we surprised… From a newspaper that can’t even spell.. (Assessment in the banner ad..)

    Please, the Express is sensationalist garbage, and always has been.

    Damn them for having the rights to Dilbert though…

  140. Gary Otton: With respect – I think your point is valid (to some level), but don’t really see how it’s relevant to mine???

    Taking responsibility and giving the public the power of media censorship are hardly the same thing.

    I actually think you’re being rather condescending in assuming that “young people” don’t read papers already! I know plenty who do.

    My opinion is that the article was appalling; and there should be some kind of punishment (ideally professional) for the parties involved – on the basis of appalling journalism and poor judgement.

    BUT that’s not the same thing as legislating on the basis of people taking offence.

    If you make a law for one thing; it affects many. Some people are offended by very stupid things. Any new law would mean that they would have to be considered too. The impact on our free press would be enormous.

    Just look at the Daiy Mail hysteria over Sachsgate as a typical example. Thousands complaining with no genuine basis other than moral panic.

    This article was horrifying. But let’s not pretend that censoring the press is the answer. I’d rather just embarass the publication as much as possible.

  141. done and done, viz:


    I write to express my utmost disgust at the conduct of Paula Murray, and her appalling sensationalism and abuse of survivors of the Dunblane atrocity.

    Such content is not worthy of the term journalism, and she ought to be ashamed for her sheer lack of integrity and respect. Such privilege, to comment on life in this nation, should now be rightly denied her. I and my peers shall not even so much as touch your publication discarded on a railway seat, let alone part with money for it, until this woman is no longer on your staff.

    With great displeasure and disappointment,

    The Reverend Father A******* M******

  142. I agree that the PCC is a waste of space. I (and many others) complained about the Times article where Matthew Parris suggested piano wire should be strung across country lanes to decapitate cyclists.
    It was the most complained about story of 2008 (see http://tinyurl.com/c52es9).
    The PCC found that its guidelines had not been breached, and Parris got off with a weaselly “apology”.
    There don’t seem to be any real penalties to deter journalists from writing nasty stuff like this.

  143. […] action against Murray and her editor, David Lambie – on his blog, Why, that’s delightful!: The Express wins the race to the bottom. Latest posts in In the NewsFormer KGB officer takes over Tory tabloidA Rothermere […]

  144. LB81. I don’t really see where you get the idea I support media censorship. Balance, I said.
    Young people read the media? Of course they do. But newspapers have consistently failed to capture the younger market without alienating its older readers, instead, young people have flocked to other mediums. Newspaper circulation is in terminal decline. Not surprising when it tips from the hopelessly anodyne to the rabidly rightwing. (Now, if Shameless was a newspaper…. If only!)

  145. 1. Go to http://www.google.co.uk
    2. Search for ‘sunday express’ (no quotes).
    3. Marvel at hit #3, and #3.1

  146. Hello Graham,

    I’d like to thank you for writing such a brilliant article on this piece of hypocritical, hurtful and demoralising piece of filth. I’m 19 and from Dunblane, although was not in the class concerned I am very upset about this article. Your links to the petition seem to be the most active and I’m hoping that an apology will be issued soon, considering that there was absolutely no basis for the article but to attack those who should be commended for not only living the semblances of normal lives, but perfectly normal lives at least until that harlot, Paula Murray dipped her acid pen in. Thank you very much xx

  147. Very sad!

    It says a lot about the Express readership that Ms Murray and her editor thought that this piece would go down well!

    Very little else to say!

  148. Gary Otton:

    I didn’t say I thought you supported censorship. I said that I thought that’s what would happen if editorial descisions were based on whether the public might be offended.

    You, on the other hand, inferred that I hadn’t considered balance [“LB81 – what about balance?]. It’s clear that I believe in balance. But I don’t necessarily approve of achieving it through legislation. Balance of free speech should be obtained through professional standards and free debate, not the use of law.

    I’m a strong supporter of freedom of expression – whether in the press; or in the behaviour of teenagers.

    In my view, supression of free speech is a right-wing action. Whatever the topic happens to be. Far better to have public debate like this, which hopefully other journalists will learn from, than to bring in a heavy-handed law.

    As for the cyclist article… yes, I can see why it was offensive. But I don’t feel the journalist should have been prosecuted just because people moaned. He had every right to say what he said (and it was PLAINLY meant to be humourous, not serious). Shall we also prosecute Monty Python for pretending to blow up old ladies?

    The case of the Scottish Express is different. The journalist is clearly an idiot; as is her editor. They should be punished. But professionally and by public shaming – not by law.

  149. “Shall we also prosecute Monty Python for pretending to blow up old ladies?”

    Nobody expects…………..

  150. This campaign has to succeed. If not, the road ahead for these kids just got a lot darker. The Sunday Express has served notice that the downmarket stalker press considers them fair game for the rest of their lives. Whatever successes they enjoy will be trumped up as being down to their hardy survivor spirit, and whatever failures they endure will be chalked up to the psychological damage of the shooting. Their sadnesses will be exploited as “heartbreak for tragic Dunblane victim”. You can just see the headlines now, and for decades to come.

    If the media gets the message right here right now that these kids are not fair game for lifelong exploitation because they happened to be in one room for one hour aged five, they can continue to live normal lives. Who knows, some of the papers might even have to go dig up real stories, not manufacture the problem.

  151. LB81. I don’t see anything to disagree about here. A meeting of minds, I’d say. ‘What about balance?’ was not attacking you – it was in the sense: Had you considered it? It was worth a mention. In the realm of sexuality and the media – which I’m more experienced in – we’ve seen in Scotland a one-sided view with Church spokesmen adding their comments to almost every report on a sexual issue. We’ve seen large numbers of journos sharpening their teeth in papers like the Scottish Daily Mail before joining other publications to express their retrenched or Catholic-inspired views of sex and sexuality that does not reflect the population at large. Look at the BBC… Spending £10m annually on its ‘Religion & Ethics Dept’ (yes.. try and get your head round that one)! Apart from the plethora of religious programmes we have ‘Thought for the Day’ interrupting the morning news and the news itself (a few weeks ago) interrupted by the results of a BBC-commissioned report on religion showing how the vast majority (us) loved it! And Islamists appreciated it taking precedence over their religion. Hmm. Not my experience at a debate on Atheism at Glasgow’s Aye Write festival, recorded by the BBC, when the audience of around 1,000 (same as their poll) was asked if they believed in god. Barely a dozen put their hands up. Didn’t see that pushing its way into a BBC News in any hurry!

  152. PS… Just re-read my post… don’t think I made it clear enough that I THINK THE SCOTTISH EXPRESS ARTICLE IS DISGUSTING AND AWFUL AND ALL INVOLVED SHOULD BE PUNISHED!!!

    I also agree with much of what Graham Linehan is aiming for.

    It’s just that I also think we have to be very careful with law, because any legislation can be twisted for bad uses.

    And – Gary Otton – I think we’re talking at cross purposes :)

  153. I’m not sure that “innocent people” will be hurt by asking advertisers if they really want to continue advertising in a newspaper that runs stories like this.

    You don’t need to boycott the companies involved, I think you’d be surprised what a stiff letter to the company involved can do.

    There is a precedent, which funnily enough features the Express’ sister paper. A couple of decades back the Star entered a soft merger with the Sunday Sport, which was launched with a story about a teenage girl with large breasts and the promise that the paper would publish her with her shirt off just as soon as she reached the age of consent. There was much other unsavoury, sub-porn stuff brought into the paper.

    The Star didn’t bother about the complaints of readers, so the public sent letters to the advertisers – enough of whom decided they didn’t wish their products to be associated with that sort of content that the arrangement with the Sport was dropped, the editor replaced, and the Star… well, it became a little less extreme. For a while.

    Most companies don’t want their brands to be tarnished. Pointing out that their brands are being tarnished by sharing newsprint with the Express is usually enough.

  154. PPS… Gary Otton – just saw your new post! Yes, I think we’re basically saying similar things. But with different perspectives… hence why it felt like disagreement :)

  155. You do have to be very careful with laws. At present it’s absurdly easy to accuse anyone you like of libel, but there’s no mechanism at all to discipline companies who directly lie to the public – even if it’s in as advert they rarely get more than a slap on the wrist. But you do need something to stop newspapers just picking someone more-or-less at random and systematically ruining their lives, which I am totally convinced would happen if the News of the World thought they could get away with it — I mean, look what they did to Max Mosely. And it does have to be a law, because nothing else will work. We can’t rely on ‘public shaming’ to stop journalists invading our privacy, because they’re better equipped to do public shaming than we are.

  156. wow, that is truly awfull. i dont agree with you on the banning of handguns though graham, hamilton shouldnt, by law, have been allowed to posses a handgun. it was the ineptitude of the police, who knew full well that he did own a registered handgun although he wasnt allowed to, that allowed this tragedy to occur. lord knows how the police managed to divert all attention away from this fact.

  157. Matthew Parris “had every right to say what he said”?
    “A festive custom we could do worse than foster would be stringing piano wire across country lanes to decapitate cyclists…”
    Full article here:
    PLAINLY humourous.
    Of course, Parris was actually within his rights because he didn’t breach the narrow terms of the PCC code of conduct. That’s the point. In most cases, the PCC doesn’t give the public any come-back against journalists who misuse their privileged position. And to return to the original subject, I suspect the PCC will be just as ineffective in the case of the Daily Express.

  158. […] Why, That’s Delightful! Graham Linehan’s Hompendium of Dorithies. « Goodnight, all. Thank you, mysterious stranger! March 21, 2009 Someone with the internetty name of Idea15 wrote a brilliant comment on my original post about the Dunblane/Express saga. […]

  159. Wow, thank you for the hat tip, Graham. I’m putting on Pat Mustard tonight in your honour.

  160. […] serious note. 21 March 2009 Filed under: Scotland — idea15 @ 7:16 pm I made a post on Graham Linehan’s blog about this awful, disgusting, unmentionable THING that has arisen over a story which ran in last […]

  161. […] March 21, 2009 by jenikkimagic Should have thought about linking to this days ago, but I didn’t, so here you are. […]

  162. […] was rightly outraged and wrote this blog post. It has since attracted a lot of press and online attention, leading to nearly 10,000 signatures on […]

  163. Sorry, Mr. Linehan. I have enjoyed “Why, That’s Delightful!” for some time, and am a great fan of “Father Ted”, Black Books” and “Big Train” – but you officially became a pussy in my book with the posting “Goodnight, All”. Aw, gee, toddlers are so cute…(yeeccch)

  164. The Scottish Sunday Express have responded with 6 paragraphs about how great they are, 4 paragraphs about how sorry they are, and 1 paragraph about how great they are for being willing to say sorry (eventually)…


    …giving us a mitigation reading of 7/4 (which is high, even the tabloid scale).

  165. Scottish Sunday Express apology:


    Heavy on the self-aggrandisement, short on admissions of wrong-doing, clarification of how those responsible will be disciplined or commitment that the mistake won’t be repeated.

  166. All good stuff, but forget Paula Murray. While not defending her, the man responsible for all of this is a barely human guttersnipe named Richard Desmond, a porn baron of this parish who has cut back until the pips squeak. He’s the one who has left hacks deskbound and scrawling through social networking sites in an effort to fill the paper. And other newspaper proprietors, especially in the local media, are no better.

  167. […] brings us onto the second newspaper bugbear of the day.  This follows the Dunblane/Sunday Express extraordinary story .Finally they printed an apology.  Page Five (whereas the original story was page one) and […]

  168. […] ran over The Dunblane Tragedy, which they today apologised for. His entire post on the subject is here but this point is especially true: The press likes us to believe they’re a properly regulated […]

  169. […] Linehan, writer of the Father Ted and the IT Crowd, posted a quite wonderful critique of the original piece on his blog, which covers the main points of contention extremely […]

  170. I live in Dunblane, and what I heard was that Paula approached the boys mentioned and asked them for a story regarding their memories of the massacre. When they refused, she dug up this trash on them. Sick.

  171. […] newspapers reported (as if this was some fringe). That included comedy writer Graham Linehan, who wrote a wonderful post urging readers to take action: “Clearly aware of the legal guidelines in place to protect […]

  172. […] paper, the Scottish Sunday Express, invaded Dunblane survivors’ privacy earlier this month by befriending them on Facebook and using their photos and status updates to claim they were “SICK MESSAGES” that […]

  173. […] This is simply an extreme example of the state that journalism in the UK has found itself in. In the comments section on my original post, some have expressed concern at the prospect of press regulation, arguing that it’s a […]

  174. What planet is this Paula on?? So these teenagers get up to things like,-shock, horror- foul language, drinking, tattoos?? Oh my Gosh! … Sounds like normal teenage behaviour to me and if their behaviour is considered seriously anti-social, it doesn’t take a degree in psychology to figure out that this could be a perfectly normal reaction to an early violent trauma. What this low-life Paula has done is way worse than what she accuses the kids of. What a twerp.

  175. […] Sticky situation Filed under: drwho, usability — Peter A @ 3:39 pm I used to tease someone because he got irrationally angry about stickers on fruit. He wasn’t daft enough to consume them accidentally, he just resented the placement of them. There was so much more to get cross about, I reasoned. How could he get so upset about labels on fruit, in a world of poverty and injustice and the Daily Express? […]

  176. These kids deserve to be left alone.
    Let them grow up unlike some of the friends they lost.
    Paula is a disgrace to the human race.

  177. Dear Jo,

    Belated but I only just read the article. Absolute filth.

    Today I read a blog relating to the Scottish edition of the Sunday Express, March 8th 2009 http://tygerland.net/wp-content/uploads/2009/03/sxp1.pdf. Not since the Sun’s coverage of the Hillsborough disaster in 1989 have I seen anything that so cynically attempts to distort human tragedy into exciting copy. I feel a real sense of disgust that this article was allowed to be printed and your page 5 apology doesn’t really suffice as pennance.

    I can only hope that the Sunday Express suffers the same kind of collapse in circulation in Scotland that The Sun did in Merseyside and that any self-portraits Paula Murray has at home go through some kind of Dorian Grey effect.

    I would appreciate my comments being passed on to Derek Lambie for his consideration.

    Thank you for taking the trouble to read my email.

    Yours faithfully,


  178. Truly, truly awful.

    Words fail me.

    Journalism is dying and this ‘journalism’ is the type of shit that will kill it off.

    But, for what it’s worth, there are some of us out there trying to do a good job.

  179. […] X / The Fantasy Channel, which is owned by that stalwart Labour supporter and owner of the fine and ancient Daily Express newspaper, Richard “Dirty” […]

  180. […] application to fabricate a story was last month when the Scottish Sunday Express, as Graham Linehan put it so well, won the race to the bottom by describing the impish Internet behaviour of Dunblane teenagers as […]

  181. […] March 2009 by allfivehorizons I have just read Graham Linehan’s blog about the disgraceful article written for the Sunday Express by journalist, Paula Murray.  The […]

  182. […] » Dunblane/Express update April 2, 2009 Matt Nida on delivering the Express/Dunblane petition. “On Monday, I delivered the Sunday Express petition to the Press Complaints […]

  183. Bob Quick’s Open Seekrits

  184. Whoops – that previous comment of mine is in the wrong thread, and it turns out that the correct thread has had comments disabled.

    This is the Post I was trying to comment on Why they want to make it a crime to take photographs of the police

    Mayhap the web master might delete my previous comment OR mayhap enable comments on the Post in question?

  185. […] is incredible. While we await the response of the PCC to our petition protesting the Express/Dunblane scandal that the press won’t cover (STILL not as important to the broadsheets as Sachsgate, […]

  186. […] Does anyone else remember the Scottish Sunday Express castigating the now 18-year-old Dunblane survivors for erm… behaving like perfectly normal 18 year olds? Come on, you must remember it: I blogged about it, Justin blogged about it, Tim blogged about it and Graham did too. […]

  187. Hi, y’all! I’m going to disable comments on this one and reopen them on follow-up posts on this matter. Thanks for your thoughts so far!

  188. […] Linehan has had some success using Twitter as a campaigning tool already, spearheading a petition on the Daily Express’s front page on Dunblane survivors. […]

  189. […] we had some gobshite Scottish journalist stalking the Dunblane Massacre survivors (the link is to Graham Linehan’s exellent write up of the proceedings), followed by Tim […]

  190. […] entire affair is summed up very well on a variety of sites,  I like this one quite a lot. I’m not really adding to the story here, but I do feel that as many people as […]

  191. […] barrel  by carrying a horrified and unbelievably sanctimonious front page about survivors of the Dunblane nursery massacre, claiming that these teenagers were having the temerity to, well, be teenagers and […]

  192. […] Hans blogginlägg, fick sedan ett eget liv när den distribuerades via Twitter. Så småningom resulterade protesten i en sorts ursäkt från Sunday Express, men Linehan har blandade känslor om huruvida den övergripande kampanjen – som resulterade i leveransen av en e-petition med 11 186 namn på den till tidningens kontor – kunde anses vara en Framgång. […]

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: