Apology noted. Now what?

March 24, 2009

Well, for whatever reason, the Express apologised for the Dunblane story on Sunday. Here’s the link. Take a moment to read it.

This is certainly an apology, and it was advertised on the front page, which is enough like the first demand on our petition to get by. For that reason, we’re shutting it down on Saturday and handing it in next week. Matt Nida, who drafted the petition, will deliver it to Express Group Newspapers, the PCC and Downing Street so as to show the strength of feeling that this story has induced in over 10,000 people in a single week.

So, if you feel strongly about this issue and you haven’t already signed the petition, you’ve only got a few days left in which to do so.

However, before that date, we felt it important to leave a few questions hanging in the air. Over to Matt Nida:

“I think the apology is inadequate. It dodges the issue of what was wrong with the original article, fails to provide a satisfactory explanation for how this piece happened, holds nobody to account for its publication and offers no reassurance that this won’t happen again.

It opens with a deeply saccharine mission statement:

It is 81 years since the first edition of this great newspaper rolled off the presses in Glasgow. Over that time, we have established a reputation for crusading journalism built on the twin cornerstones of honesty and integrity. Scottish Sunday Express readers expect us to shine a light on the wrongs in our society, to expose the crooks, highlight the hypocrites and to give everyone the odd chuckle with the extraordinary stories that ordinary Scots so often have to tell.

Even if these are the principles that guide the newspaper’s editorial process, it’s hard to see how anyone could have presumed that the Dunblane article fulfilled any one of these criteria. The Dunblane survivors have done nothing wrong, nor are they crooks or hypocrites. And the piece certainly wasn’t funny.

Additionally, the Bebo/Facebook postings would not have come to light had Paula Murray not been actively looking for them – further evidence that her intention was to muck-rake on a group of people previously sheltered from press scrutiny, rather than bring to light a “wrong in our society”.

It is also hugely important to us that the Scottish Sunday Express reflects the feelings of the people of Scotland.

This masks the issue, suggesting that the problem with the article was that it misjudged what people wanted to read. That the paper mis-read its readers’ feelings is immaterial; it flat-out contravened at least two points of the PCC code and used the intrusion on private individuals as the basis for an entirely self-constructed story. It is an open and shut case, yet the SSE is attempting to paint it in shades of grey.

It is our belief that nobody was misquoted.

A transparent attempt to rescue Paula Murray’s journalistic integrity. Who does this refer to? If it’s MSP Elizabeth Smith, she claimed that her words had been taken out of context, not misquoted – a crucial difference. If it’s the survivors themselves, then the accuracy is irrelevant – they were selectively quoted to support a spurious moral argument.

The Scottish Sunday Express is a big newspaper, with a long and illustrious history. We are also big enough to say we are truly sorry.

In many ways, this sums up the problems with the apology – it’s an attempt to recast this as a one-off piece of poor judgement by a cosy cottage-industry rather than a cynical piece of manufactured outrage that has backfired badly. The following questions remain:

– The article was written and filed by Paula Murray. It would presumably have then been passed through at least one sub-editor, before being signed off by editor Derek Lambie, who deemed it appropriate for the front page. Are we supposed to believe that all of these people innocently made the same mistake? It suggests a wholesale institutional failure of the editorial process that needs urgent correction.

– Neither does it indicate what action has been taken to prevent this happening again. Will it be adhering more closely to the PCC code in future? If the paper won’t acknowledge its contravention of the code and publicly bind itself to its principles, then this voluntary agreement has been rendered worthless.

– Finally, this is a public apology – but to the readers. SSE’s readership may well have been offended by the article, but a far greater wrong was done to the individuals named in the article. The paper claims to have apologised privately (and note the “where possible” caveat – given that the whole basis of the article was Murray’s access to their social networking profiles, the paper will definitely have some form of contact details for each and every one of the people named), but if the piece was “undeniably inappropriate”, don’t its victims at least deserve an apology as public and prominent as the humiliation meted out to them in the first place?”

Back to me. I don’t have much to add to that, except to say that this is not an isolated case of some crazy hacks, or even a crazy paper, getting out of control. 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 slippery slope that ultimately leads to State censorship,  but we would argue that the system of self-regulation as it stands has led to a press that does not take its responsibilities seriously and as a result can not be trusted to pursue the stories that need to be pursued. It’s a different slippery slope, and the Express story marked the point at which the press were sitting at the bottom of it.

Think about it…what have the press done for us lately? Have they been diligently scrutinizing the emergence and workings of the surveillance state? Or have they been pursuing Madeline McCann’s parents for some crazy reason? Did it clear up the confusion about the MMR vaccine, or did it add to the panic?  In other words, what exactly are we protecting by not asking for a better system of regulation?

There are plenty of good, responsible journalists out there who are looking at the Express saga with the same resigned disgust that most of us felt when we first came upon the story. They need to be part of this conversation too. If not, the conversation will be held elsewhere, out of their earshot and beyond their influence. That won’t be good for journalism, and it won’t be good for society. But whether they turn up or not, the conversation will happen. It has to.

Anyway, as I was saying, four more days if you’d like to sign the petition. Here’s the link again.

(Thanks to Elena for giving this the once-over)


  1. This is an absolutely essential debate that has to be had, now more than ever. The press are not being taken to task often enough while terrible decisions continue to be made editorially while good journalists and reporters miss out on opportunities to truly make a difference. I’m disgusted by the original article and disappointed with the apology, but my heart is warmed by the support this campaign (to give it a grand title) has garnered. I’m happy to have signed the petition and to have passed it on to a number of people to do the same. I’d be willing to pound the streets of London next week with Matt Nida as well.

  2. A sad situation really. The Express gets caught writing a non-story attempting to rake up people’s privacy in an unpleasant way, but rather than hold their hands up and say ‘we’re sorry’ they instead try to write an article which tries to tell the readers about how great they think they are instead. The actual admission of guilt comes across as almost an afterthought.


  3. […] Mr Linehan & Matt Nida express it better than I can… Bookmark: […]

  4. It’s still heartening to see so many people getting involved in this. They need to know that they’ve not gotten away with this.
    Keep fighting the fight.

  5. I’m not sure this isn’t more depressing than outrageous – a laughable attempt at journalism aimed at shocking parents with outdated or idiotically misguided views on the way children should act.

    The fact that they clearly realise they have been atrociously and colossally misguided about their responsibilities just adds to the inadequacy of this response – clearly they feel their story was no worse than misprinting someone’s name or slightly misquoting someone.

    I hope this goes further, and thanks for bringing it to my attention.

  6. An apology that begins with six paragraphs of flagrant self-promotion cannot possibly be considered an apology. Truly contemptuous.

  7. Graham, I would love to know your opinion of the method in which Paula Murray initially acquired her information. The “cyber background search” is becoming increasingly popular with employers and business partners. Lately I have been hearing all too many stories of people losing jobs/contracts due to a careless seemingly inoffensive statement on a blog or personal website.

    At what point are searchers, not searchees, in the wrong? We are told over and over again that the web is a public domain, but at what point has a person made enough effort to keep information private that it should be considered impolite or almost cyber-stalking to dig it up? At what point also are cyber-bloggers being punished for opinions, not inappropriate behavior?

    Additionally, there are countless children currently using the internet to socialize on 3rd party websites. Many websites do not allow easy removal (if at all) of content once posted. Decades down the line, should these children still be held responsible for immature statements made in their youth?

    I think these are issues that are going to pop up more frequently in the future and I would love to hear your point of view.
    Thank you!

  8. Not good enough. Huge part was beating their own chest about how good they think they are. Then a bit of stating the obvious. Then the smallest and poorest excuse for an apology. They missed the opportunity to say sorry properley. It is also unfortunate that you cannot leave a comment on the story on ‘Have Your Say’ Although I would imagine it possible to ‘Have Your Say’ about the apology on a different story?!….

  9. Oh wow. What would we do without this paper? They’re such martyrs to their work and yes, how big of them to apologise.

    What a load of codswallop!

    This type of Facebook Journalism has to come to an end. Not only is it sly and invasive it’s also completely lazy. Not good enough.

  10. It is a poor apology, but it is an apology and it is referenced on the front page – this isn’t always the practice with apologies. However the apology is wrapped in far too many words about how great the newspaper is in a clear attempt to dilute what there is of apology anyway.

    I have a very dim opinion on journalism at the moment and the Express in particular (even before this). However equally I don’t want to get into trawling through the Express’s editorial processes to see what steps are being put in place to ensure it doesn’t happen again whic is very much a corporate minded view of the world that leads to no fundamental accountabiltiy – people just hide behind the process and how would we know of their rigour? There is multiple sign off on each story now – it ACHIEVED NOTHING.

    The ONLY SOLUTION to this type of journalism is to not consume the products and services either produced or promoted by the Express group. Do not visit their site, never click on an ad on their site, do not buy the papers. Do not buy the product’s advertised therein.

    Previously there was talk of a similar boycott and people wimped out on the mis-guided notion that this would hurt too many innocent people.

    Who are these innocent people? If you place your advertising pounds with the Express you are endorsing the values that the newspaper espouses and are appealing directly to a readership that actively buys and consumes its output – who shares its values.

    They are not innocent people – they are part of the Express’s demographic and they need to take a stand or the paper will, quite rightly and justifiably, feel it has no need to change as it has a paying public interest serve.

    If the readers don’t vote with their feet – even only temporarily – that demographic WILL NEVER change.

  11. Great, from now on newspapers will only supply factual information a day late.

  12. A couple of comments on the comments, so to speak.

    Firstly, as Ei2g says, it’s referenced on the front page. And it is fairly plain – although the undercurrent of ‘golly this was a one-off, can’t believe a quality and venerable paper like ours let this slip through!’ made me smile.

    However, I didn’t think that people ‘wimped out’ of an advertising boycott solely because they might hurt the innocents. There’s a long tradition in the UK that advertisers don’t influence editorial and that it would be a bad thing if they were able to. I imagine that’s hardly gospel at the Express group. But it does protect coverage of matters that many well-organised groups find distasteful (example – those with a firm view of ‘family values’ may object to advertisers using a newspaper that writes in favour of civil partnerships. Golly! I’m such a liberal.)

    Just sayin’ that’s all.

    And having just said that – the question of ‘what exactly are we protecting’ is an interesting one. The definition of ‘in the public interest’ seems to have slipped somewhat over the years.

  13. […] 24 March: Graham has made another post which you should read – this ain’t over. Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Letter to the Newsquest […]

  14. Becks re your comment on the responsibilty people have for what they post on bebo, facebook etc.
    You are of course right, people ARE responsible and need to think of what the consequences could be if seen by employers etc.
    However, the issue here is that they were very normal teenagers, posting about very normal teenage activities. It was all totally unexceptional.
    Except that when they were very young children, these particular teenagers were caught up in a devastating tragic event that made headline news.
    Does that mean that they should therefore self-censor everything that they post on the sites used by practically every other teenager, even when all they are saying is what every other teenager says?

  15. In the comments section on the original article, someone claiming to be from Dunblane said that Paula Murray took this tactic after the survivors refused to provide her with a story. If owning a press card entitles you to stalk, blackmail, and take revenge on *kids who got shot* – all from the comfort of your own home and probably under the influence of too much wine) – then Paula Murray and Derek Lambie should be investigated by the police as well as the PCC.

  16. As loathsome as Paula Murray, her story, and the paper she “writes” for are, I would still have to argue against any regulation regarding what can and cannot be printed by any press. It really does open the door to state enforced censorship, and once THAT starts it’s almost impossible to stop. It’s the greatest tool of any dictatorship.

    The best way to protest this, though lacking the instant gratification of having the hag Murray sacked, is to simply not buy this paper. Ever again. Organize and boycott.

    Having said all that, it does my heart good to see people finally starting to kick against this type of so-called journalism.

  17. The original suggestion of pressuring the businesses that advertise in the Express should be reconsidered. It can be done by 10,000 people politely ‘asking’ the businesses to put pressure on the Express for a direct public apology to the Dunblane kids. To be honest, the advertisers have controlled the press for so long to boost profits or hide things that would affect profits that it’s time that this manipulation was used to the public’s advantage. There is more than just this story at stake here. This is a milestone in the future of journalism. It looks like it could be a future where the people finally get some control thanks to the Internet – and that means the end of this type of gutter journalism once and for all.

  18. I can’t believe that people think that public pressure would end in government regulation. It’s bizarre. Don’t they know what’s happening here?! The Internet and this type of pressure means the exact opposite. The Government and the advertisers and the giant corporations have regulated the press for years and this is a way OUT of that and not into it! People have always wanted to kick against this type of journalism – that hasn’t changed. Now they have a tool that makes it possible, that’s what’s changed – not people. Up to now people have been preached to with no other source of news and information and now they have access to such a wide range of opinion that the press as a monopoly of people’s minds is in its death throes. PLEASE don’t let an unformed and little considered emotional reaction to ‘press regulation’ stop this tidal wave that will force this newspaper to apologise to these kids. This is a precedent that has to be set.

  19. Pleased to see that this petition is still alive. When it comes to the free markets and free press, there will always be an element that work out how far they can push things and will delight in doing so until it is no longer in their interests to do so. With the chances of a benevolent dictator taking over the country being relatively slim, and with the organisations set up to regulate these areas proving to be fairly toothless and ineffective, it would have been nice to see some of the other mainstream press taking this story up to show that it offended their sensibilities as well. The internet campaign was great, but a story on, say, a British version of the Daily Show, could have brought much more public attention to the shame of Express newspapers. Until the repercussions outweigh the benefits to printing such bilge (I’m sure their sales went up with the Dunblane headline and as daft as we’d like to think they are, they will have expected some form of backlash from this) these things will continue to happen. It’s not that long since they apologised to the McCanns after all.

  20. A disgustingly lacking excuse for an apology and far from the type of response deserving of the issue.

    Surely this contravenes privacy laws in some way given the deception used to gain access to the information?

  21. The Internet is now the mainstream press. Am I living in a different world to everyone else?

  22. Sue, since you seem to have missed this in Graham’s last post, here’s the quote that prompted me to chime in: ”

    Some have expressed concern at the prospect of press regulation, arguing that it’s a slippery slope that ultimately leads to State censorship, but we would argue that the system of self-regulation as it stands has led to a press that does not take its responsibilities seriously and as a result can not be trusted to pursue the stories that need to be pursued.”

    I may be wrong (and I hope I am), but to me that implies that since self-regulation has failed, what choice do we have but to hand the regulation over to some higher body.

    I’m afraid that the “unformed and little considered emotional reaction” is yours, Sue. In your understandable outrage at Murray and the Express, you’re also succumbing to a knee-jerk reaction.

  23. Regulation is not the same as censorship.

    A free press is not the same as being able to print anything you like without consequence. A free press should be able to pursue information that is in the public interest without coercion from governments, corporations, etc. – i.e. it serves the people, and is therefore an important tool of a democratic state. When the press acts autonomously and the people have no method of redress, this devalues the importance of the free press.

    In pushing for stronger regulation, I am not for one minute suggesting limits should be put on what a paper can or cannot say. I just think that there needs to be a framework by which the press can be held to account when they act irresponsibly, and that this is not best achieved through self-regulation. The PCC code is actually a pretty good document, but the fact that the Express is happy to ride rough-shod all over it indicates that the press does not take the responsibility of self-regulation seriously.

    The phrase “free press” is all too often used defensively by papers fearful of being held to account for what they print. Unfortunately, the phrase “public interest” appears to have dropped out of their vocabulary, distorting the very fundamentals of press freedom.

    Were Murray’s investigative tactics deployed to expose, say, ministerial corruption, it would be in the public interest to know about this. However, she used them to attack members of the public to support spurious moralising. This is an abuse of her duties to the public, and she needs to be held to account; however, I have little faith that this will happen when the responsibility for doing this falls to those paying her wages.

  24. […] continue to stand by its man?”, says John Plunkett), and its reporting of the Express’s barely-adequate sorry as a “strongly-worded […]

  25. “The Internet is now the mainstream press. Am I living in a different world to everyone else?”

    No, but I’d say you’re wrong. There’s no way that more people go to the internet* than rely on the usual corporations for their news

    *obviously excluding the vast amount of mainstream press that is already on the internet.

  26. “No, but I’d say you’re wrong. There’s no way that more people go to the internet* than rely on the usual corporations for their news

    *obviously excluding the vast amount of mainstream press that is already on the internet”

    I don’t want to disagree as we’re all on the same side here, but people are sharing information on Facebook, Twitter etc. News stories are reported in the papers and on TV yes, but people then read opinion blogs and can do their own research to find out more and this is where diverse opinions can be found. There is no longer one voice.

    You say that there’s no way more people go to the internet for news than the usual corporations, excluding the mainstream press already on the internet. But there are so many reports (yes, on the Internet, where I get my news from) that are talking about the death of mainstream journalism.



    And many many more if you care to search.

    Things are changing very quickly. Even yesterday’s reports on every TV channel of Jade Goody’s death contained celebrity quotes taken directly from Twitter, showing that even the old mainstream press is using the Internet to get its news! Second hand news on the news!

    People might, as you say, turn to the websites of the established press first of all but then they look elsewhere to find out more and the ‘citizen journos’ out there give them the chance of collecting different views, creating a more rounded opinion.

    You’re reading this blog, aren’t you? You won’t find any of this stuff about the Express and Dunblane in the newspapers, not without it being watered down (see the Guardian’s report on it). People are realising that to get satisfying news, the truth and opinion on the news and the truth they will have to turn to the Internet.

  27. hmmmm, sorry but I feel bad sending a funny link to you when there’s a crusade afoot (well done on making an issue of it by the way). This is a clip I happened across on YT and I found the old lady near the end to be so animated and lively in her opinions on the matter that it almost came across as a piece of highly scripted West End stage acting. But maybe it’s just me…

  28. To Brian,
    I wasn’t referring to your comment. I was referring to those who objected to asking companies who advertise in the Express to pressure the paper for a direct apology.

    Sorry if you thought I was referring to you. I did use your comment to form the latter part of my post about people kicking against this sort of journalism, though.

    Apologies for not making that clear – and for not considering or forming my opinions and for being emotional :-)

  29. Sue,

    No need to apologize, but thank you for clearing up the misunderstanding. I think we’re both essentially on the same side here. Best wishes!

  30. Thanks for replying, Cindy! To clarify my original question, I am wondering if there really is a safe way for any teenager to behave like a teenager on the internet. Given the potential permanence of anything displayed online, should -all- teenagers be worried about censoring their online activity?

    I think there is an underlying problem. Those of us who are older may find it easy to watch what we say on the ‘net, because there is relatively little to watch. The current generation of teenagers, however, have a potential lifetime of internet activity to watch and can not possibly fully understand how normal teenage activity today will impact the future.

    Furthermore, there are agencies dedicated to collecting and storing this “permanent record” for future employers/banks/etc. A normal teenager acting as such online today may make a mistake which can cost them a job, loan, or even a home as an adult.

  31. A great many people revel in the distance offered by the internet to behave in a way that they absolutely would not to people’s faces. It may cause them some problems later. But so does shouting at motorcyclists. It can matter when you forget you have your car window wound down!

    Most of the issues that are reported of people being caught out online are, well, fair enough!

    In this case no one was caught out as people twittering about their job have been. No one was saying unpleasant things about their employer or about other people – they were just enjoying life and the Express felt they shouldn’t.

    However the only thing that is going to stop behaviour like the Express’s is a drop in revenue. Remember the faux outcry from people abhorrent at the idea of paparazzi photographers after Diana’s death? Many of the same people that bought the papers containing the photos? The same people who continue to buy the papers that now contain paparazzi photos again. The paper believes it is giving people what they want and will justify it by looking at its circulation and ad revenue (because the advertisers value the demographic that consumes the content). And anyway, the odd blip in standards (as they see it) probably increases circulation

    But if enough people stopped buying it or visiting its site, even for just a month, it would have a clear message to itself and to its corporate supporters that it must change. More Diana stories, obviously :-) !

  32. Can I add a link to distract you all from your anger, frustrations, and legitimate fury?


    Sorry it’s a long link! But if you love Jesus, don’t view it!


  33. I think the “apology” for what it is, is pathetic. Barely a third of that article actually apologises for the original offence, the rest is a puff piece.

    Advertised on the front page? Maybe. But it wasn’t a headline, like the original. It didn’t take up the same space as the original.

    I must admit I wasn’t a fan of the Express to begin with, but for me this has kinda sealed the deal on me not going near it again.

  34. Sue

    Agree to not disagree (if that makes sense). I think this is more of a semantic argument about the use of one word.

    For what it’s worth, I would say that if you have to go looking for it after seeing the story first, then what you’re looking for isn’t really mainstream. And I’d also say that I doubt if so many people would have been so angry about this story had it been on one of the websites you just linked to. It was the mainstream status of the Express that makes their lack of judgement all the more reprehensible.

    To go back to my original post, it’s those more established providers of the news that I would have liked to see take a stronger position on the Express issue than they did (as you referenced with the Guardian), but the success of the online petition does show the growing importance and relevance of the online community.

  35. Now can we go after the advertisers?

  36. This whole affair does serve to illustrate just how abject print journalism has become in this new media age. I’m not exactly sure what the Scottish Sunday Express were trying to achieve with this story, other than to sell copies (and get us talking about them of course), but it just seems to put a point on how emasculated and desperate for circulation newspapers are these days.

    I was browsing the Guardian online earlier, and I noticed a response one of their writers had posted in response to some criticism of a blog he’d written; it went:

    “While I accept this isn’t a great piece, some of you might want to understand how this site works before throwing around abuse. The nature of the site means that sometimes, as with this, you get no more than 30 minutes to write something: something on which you have no existing view, so in that time you have to form a viewpoint, and articulate it. To expect comprehensive research alongside that is simply impossible.”

    I have to confess I felt slightly dismayed reading that a national newspaper will publish tosh in order to fill space (I’m not so naive to think it doesn’t happen, but so explicitly and shamelessly confessed to…). I’m not so sure that something similar hasn’t happened with the Express.

  37. […] The apology wasn’t ideal: it spent an awful lot more time saying how brilliant the Scottish Sunday Express actually was than admitting that they had actually done anything wrong. As Graham Linehan notes on his blog Apology noted. Now what? […]

  38. Re: ‘The Pickards Blog Archive’ above…

    Another ‘this was all the fault of *Cultural Failure*’ and we shouldn’t really be expecting anything more than the ‘apology’ offered by the SSE.

    I know! How about……….

    ….although these days, this concept has become equivalent to ‘Scapegoating’, ‘looking for conflict’, ‘getting drawn into the Blame Game’, ‘pointing fingers’ (and ‘standing outside someones house with pitchforks’). All of which are bad. And not constructive. We must not do this…

    Nope, the semanitically ambiguous ‘Cultural Failure’ is a far better starting place for maintaining the status quo.

  39. “omeone claiming to be from Dunblane said that Paula Murray took this tactic after the survivors refused to provide her with a story”

    This deserves investigation, as does Lambie’s very careful wordning about who he may or may not have apologised to personally.

  40. Eddie – it’d be easier for me to respond back to you if you commented on my blog also!

    I have no problem with personal accountability. Indeed, I say that disciplinary action MAY be appropriate, but it needs to take into account previous conduct. What I do object to is trial-by-blogger-outrage; it’s no different, and no less wrong than trial-by-media-outrage.

    We asked for an apology; we asked for it on the front page. We got that. Can’t we accept it with good grace?

    But I maintain that the culture that allows these things to happen is the bigger problem: that is what ultimately needs to be fixed, rather than a convenient scapegoat.

    I’m sorry you don’t agree, but that’s your call. You are welcome to disagree on my site too: I’ve never attempted to crush dissent :-)

  41. Yes, what Dave says – can we go after the advertisers now?

  42. The attack on the survivors of the Dunblane massacre was, in part, a headline that dominated the front page. What we got was a reference to the self-serving not-much-of-an-apology on Page 7 that was 1cm high.

    But, more, importantly, nothing has been done to show that measures have been taken to stop this kind of things from happening again.

  43. Tim,
    I did mention the different in font-size type on the front page. I did also mention that the apologiy wasn’t exactly ideal. And that I agreed with the suggestion it didn’t go far enough. And I said that we now needed to see that they meant the apology. All that stuff can be found in the trackback link…

    Of course it could be that I’m getting paranoid here and you weren’t referring to my post or EddieK’s at all. I should maybe stop jumping at shadows…

  44. I’ve read all of that, but we differ on accepting this lip service with good grace to the point where I’m not sure if I’m happy to ‘wait and see’.

  45. This apology, taken at face value, might lure people into a false act of clemency. But the article, heaving with carefully chosen emotive language, is almost nothing more than a self-lauding brag with a clear aim to keep the readership strong rather than to give a heartfelt apology to those who Murray truly affected by writing her ridiculous, disdainful, and in all likelihood, hypocritical piece.

    Is this what we have come to expect from the press? Probably. But this is exactly why the issue needs to be raised. Regardless of whether Murray feels true remorse over her actions, she found it perfectly acceptable to essentially stalk a group of eighteen year olds in search of a scoop. A group of eighteen year olds who were involved in something so horrific, none of us could even begin to imagine what they went through (hopefully).

    Having very obviously planned it all from the beginning, Murray set out for a cold-hearted story worthy of the front page. What she came up with was a report on how incredibly disgraceful it is that the survivors of Dunblane have grown up to be normal 18 year olds. I hope you’re proud of yourself, Murray. But I wouldn’t know; it’s not like you’ve said much since.

    The readers of the Daily Express in Scotland need to see past the newspaper’s rose tinted self-exculpation and make a stand. We need to stop this kind of lazy, manufactured and preposterous journalism from being accepted and from happening again.

  46. “What I do object to is trial-by-blogger-outrage; it’s no different, and no less wrong than trial-by-media-outrage.”

    That is why partly why we decided to end the petition on Saturday. We are hoping that the whole thing will lead to a wider discussion of the issues brought up, but as yet, hardly a peep from the press about any of it. Keep the pressure up, and sign the petition if you haven’t already.

  47. As a regional crime reporter I would just like to point out there is a difference between national papers and regional/local.

    Otherwise it’s like accusing the local neighbourhood bobby of being as bad as the SPG.

    Please don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. For those of you who do actually still by their “local” paper, you’ll invariably find a more balance series of stories. Invariably local papers cannot afford to be partisan. Or to put it another way (the way I talk to my police contacts) “if I shat where I ate everday, eventually my food would taste crap too”. Not that you won’t go after iniquity – but you don’t dig up stiffs for no good reason or shit on people without just cause.
    To be honest, I too am pretty sick to death of the nationals for a number of reasons – the Ross/Brand thing really got my goat for a start. But my main ersonal gripe is they give the majority of reporters (for regional reporters ARE the majority in the UK) an unjustified bad name.
    They also steal our copy, and put their own byline to it… don’t they Helen Nugent of The Times.
    There’s a false belief that those reporters who “make it” to the nationals do so because they are the best.
    No – they usually make it to the nationals as they are willing to do what other reporters are not willing to do, which in this case was throw any integrity and ethics out the window and behave like a thug.
    I’m happy to support the petiton and have done so days ago.
    But if you lot end up lumping the local papers in on your crusade against “the press” purely because you can’t be arsed to tell the bloody difference between a parish councillor and a Member of Parliament, I’ll harry and badger you all until your ISP collapses.

    Bless you and much love in the meantime.

  48. bugger

    “buy” their local paper, not “by”…

    clearly the sub editor has gone home

  49. It’s not sufficient compensation for the crime, of course. However, by the standards of legally unforced newspaper apologies, that’s as fulsome as you’re likely to get.

    I am aware of course, that that is an indictment of our press in itself.

  50. I applaud Linehan’s expose of the Express’s vitriolic, life-hating article and join the clamour for more publicity of the issue – may I also posit that there is a campaign to have the case notes of the Thomas Hamilton inquiry released from under their one-hundred year old secrecy order?
    Those who care would do well to seek out and read ‘Dunblane Unburied’ – details here:

    • stop parading as me, you clown. ROOOOAR!!!

  51. Sort of going off topic, sort of, but I wanted to be a journalist from the age of 10 when I wrote to the Guardian asking them for career advice. I ended up working for women’s magazines as a sub editor and then as a freelance writer because when I realised what journalism really was, I gave up on my dream. For twenty years I watched as women were provided with information to download into our brains that was just recycled advertising rubbish or articles specifically designed to make us feel bad about ourselves so that we’d consume the products and services on offer. The manipulation wasn’t just in women’s mags, but in all of the Press. Journalism in the conventional press is just a way of manipulating people’s opinions for profit through advertising. A nice little hamster wheel was set up and left to run. And I saw the editors’ real attitudes towards the readers and their awareness of what they were doing. I’m not surprised the Express won’t give a proper apology.

    Sounds like a conspiracy theory, I know, but I was there. I’m sitting here waiting for the internet to end all of this and for the generation now growing up under the influence of giant corporations to produce a new generation of Internet-able young people who will have their own minds and seek out their own opinions by finding the whole story and not just one side of it, who won’t end up stuck thinking image is everything.

    Citizen journalists. A job for everyone.

    Anyway, this isn’t so off topic because this pressure that is being applied to the Express is a sign of the change created by the Internet and mass communication. It’s brilliant.

    We’re helping repair the damage to those unfortunate kids as well as being part of a revolution.

  52. http://medialens.org/faq/#whatis

  53. Er Sue – Citizen Journalism… more of the same self interest vitriol.

    As and when I see Citizen Journalists sitting alongside me at magistrates court hearings or the council chamber, or out on the streets with the fuzz at 1am in the rain, or talking to some poor woman who’s just lost her son in an awful car crash, then I’ll cheer their arrival.

    Meantime, they’re earnest, they’re keen, they’re passionate. But so’s my new puppy and she still shits on the carpet and hasn’t learned a lot of the house rules and without the right training will bite all the wrong people.

  54. Robust debate! Let’s be careful it doesn’t spill over into its near neighbour, insulting invective!

    Yay for citizen journalists! But also, yay for diligent journalists who do their job with integrity! Yay for regional papers! And boo to the people Sue worked with!

    I know what would iron out the bad journalists and perhaps give the Citizen Journalists something certain to measure themselves against..some sort of code! A Press Code, if you will!

    Do we have one of them or not? Because if we do, it’s either a) not very well written or b) not very effective, because in any civilized country on earth, you don’t go after the victims of a terrible crime that happened when they were five years old.

    I like newspapers. I get them reflexively…habit I’ve had for years. Need something to read. Get a newspaper. Very simple. But recently it’s been harder for me to read read them because of the disconnect between what I know to be true, and reality as presented in their pages.

    With Creationists and Holocaust deniers and others rewriting the truth before our eyes, we have to be able to trust the press to walk an imaginary line that has ‘JUST THE FACTS’ written on it. Also,’Public interest’ should be a guiding principle, not just something you have to prove in a court of law when caught lifting photos of celebs off a social networking site.


  55. Couldn’t agree with you more Graham. I only read a few of the nats because I occasionally have to. I enjoy one or two, but not as fully as I used to.
    Too much “oppositional reading” on my side to enjoy them in ignorance.

    But there are newspapers where we argue this stuff constantly. I can’t count the amount of debates I’ve been a party to at my current paper and my previous one where we argue the rights and wrongs of taking pics from Bebo, Facebook, Friends Reunited. “is it justified in this case, are they in the public domain or partially private, who holds the copyright, will it add or detract from the article, is this intrusion or not?” And I’m pretty sure many other local papers have similar discussions.
    We’ve recently put a bar on using pictures from Facebook unless we can show real iniquity – and even then we will often wait until conviction.
    Using victims and then turning them into moral criminals? Bang out of order. Atrocious behaviour.

    Whether the Sunday Express’s behaviour is the beginning of the end for all newspapers (the immigrant/gay/socialist/young people-hating tabloids, the holier-than-thou broadsheets and the “your council tax rise will be 5% and we will campaign on your behalf to keep the local swimming pool open” local newspaper) remains to be seen.

    I’d much rather it be a wake up call to the nationals stop taking the piss out of their readers, give them some intellectual credit and treat them – and not solely their bloody advertisers or shareholders – with some bloody respect…

  56. […] look at the most successful holding-to-account of recent weeks: the blog campaign, exemplified by Graham Linehan and Tim Ireland, against the poisonous, depraved and vicious actions of “professional news […]

  57. Have tyou read Mark Ames’ “Going Postal”? He’s got an interesting take on the workplace/school-yard massacre phenomenon.

    Here’s an interview with him on AbeBooks:

  58. Hey Graham,

    Not sure if this will get read, as I am not a twitter, and I think we’ve lost you to the insta-blog world. But hope you enjoy this track/vid:

  59. Incredibly How much time do you spend updating this blog every day? I had no clue on some of the things you mentioned earlier, thanks!

  60. Just bookmarked this post with my jumptags account .. thanks

  61. Flo, I swear you are my fricken hero in all respects. Not only are you hilarious as hell, but youre just a bad ass. Can I swear on your blog???

  62. I’m gone to inform my little brother, that he should also pay a visit this weblog on regular basis to get updated from
    newest news update.

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