Thoughts on politics and life from a liberal perspective

Thursday, 19 March 2009

The Express should be ashamed of itself

A couple of weeks ago, the Scottish Sunday Express published an article on its front page about the Dunblane massacre survivors. I read the article when I first saw it linked to on one of the blogs I read. Well, to be honest I didn't finish it as I was so disgusted but I did read enough to get the gist of what was being said. They have now taken it down from their website but here is a link to a copy of the front page from that day. The article basically ripped into the young adults (who have just turned 18) for sending rude messages to each other online, drinking and boasting about sexual activity. Yes, all normal things for 18 year olds to do. The journalist concerned (Paula Murray) has befriended the youngsters of Facebook in order to get the material for the article.

I started off just feeling depressed about it. I have recently read Flat Earth News and it links in with so much of what is covered in that book. I know how toothless the PCC is and how newspapers can to a large extent get away with publishing what they like.

However the more I thought about it, the more angry I got. How dare they target these people. The only reason they have gone for them is because of what happened to them when they were children and all they have done is do the things that normal young adults do. Their actions have been taken out of (private) context and twisted around to suit the narrative of a despicable tabloid hack. Tim Ireland from Bloggerheads has done something similar to the journalist concerned here just to demonstrate how easy it is to sully the reputation of someone using her own techniques.

It feels to me like there is an opportunity here for a strong message to be sent to the press. There is widespread revulsion about what the Express has done here. It is not manufactured or got up by the press themselves like sometimes happens with public reactions, it is a genuine swell of opinion bubbling up from the grassroots (blogs, online fora etc.). I would urge anybody who feels strongly about this to blog about it, post about it, e-mail or write to the newspaper and/or the PCC. If we could force them to print a front page apology for this, it would send a clear message to the press that there are limits to what they can do and hopefully it would make them think twice in future before publishing anything as abhorrent as this in future. There is a petition you can sign here.

This article was a pre-meditated hatchet job on a group of normal blameless young adults who are only newsworthy because their classmates were slaughtered by a mad man in front of their eyes when they were 5 years old. I hope the journalist and the editor lose their jobs over this. I really do.

Graham Linehan (co-writer of Father Ted) has written a longer post about this here with some further ideas about what can be done.

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