‘World’s Greatest Newspaper’: Yes, we printed lies about the McCanns

March 19, 2008 at 11:29 am | Posted in Idiot Hall of Fame, Media | 2 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , ,

2008-03-191.jpgWhen it comes to our newspapers, speech isn’t free; it’s dirt cheap. It’s cheap when you blame Fiona MacKeown for her daughter’s murder or Karen Matthews for her daughter’s abduction. It’s cheap when you blame the country’s problems on immigrants or benefit claimants, when they blamed Liverpool fans for the Hillsborough tragedy and the miners for the miners’ strike. Every day and on every page you will find exaggerations and fabrications, fearmongering and hate.

But every once in a while, someone comes along who has enough money and enough resolve to make them defend their despicable smears in court. When that day comes, chances are they won’t be able to do it. From the Guardian:

The Daily Express and Daily Star carried unprecedented front page apologies to Gerry and Kate McCann today for publishing more than 100 articles on the disappearance of their daughter, Madeleine, some of which suggested the couple were involved in her death .

After being threatened with legal action over the articles dating back almost 11 months to when their daughter first went missing, the newspapers, owned by Richard Desmond, also agreed to pay out what it called “a very substantial sum”.

Someone remind me – is this what makes the Express the ‘World’s Greatest Newspaper?’ From the devil’s own lips:

The Daily Express today takes the unprecedented step of making a front-page apology to Kate and Gerry McCann. We do so because we accept that a number of articles in the newspaper have suggested that the couple caused the death of their missing daughter Madeleine and then covered it up.

So why this unprecedented show of contrition? Roy Greenslade explains:

The deal was worked out without any court hearing having taken place, and the fact that the papers capitulated without a fight suggests that their legal advisers told them they had no chance of winning if the case went to trial.

[…] 

This was no journalistic accident, but a sustained campaign of vitriol against a grief-stricken family. The stories were not merely speculative, but laced with innuendo which continually made accusations against the McCanns on the basis of anonymous sources and without any hard evidence.

Wild claims, often made by unattributed sources to Portuguese newspapers, were then spun even more negatively by the Express and Star titles. Of course, they were not the only papers to carry prejudicial material, but they were by far the worst. (emphasis mine)

So not only are their words cheap and their morals cheap, but their methods – the kind of thing that’s meant to distinguish a journalist from some know-nothing down the pub – essentially amount to that of a third-rate blogger, culling made-up quotes from foreign newspapers and accompanying them with callous ‘analysis’. Why did they do this? Because the McCann story sold lots of newspapers. But because they didn’t want to pay for proper journalism, they simply string together some unscrupulous, anonymous sources and tart them up as ‘exclusives’.

Greenslade concludes that the Express and Star‘s apologies to McCanns bring all of journalism into disrepute. No, Roy, it brings tabloid journalism into disrepute, and the only way they’re going to stop their malicious, disproportionate and unethical reporting is if they’re forced to pay large out-of-court settlements each and every time they stoop to it. Speech should be free, but lies should be expensive

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2 Comments »

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  1. Why today’s Daily Star is a PR text book classic

    A teachers’ union this week has been discussing how the cult of celebrity is damaging children’s education and there are not enough ‘ordinary’ positive role models. Is it really any worse than it has ever been? Or is it simply…

  2. I think the whole front page of the Star throws up some interesting comparisons.


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