The Scottish Sunday Express made one of its most shocking revelations yet in its 8 March 2009 edition. Apparently it’s willing to give front-page coverage to a complete non-story that’s only newsworthy because it’s about the surviving child victims of a tragedy. More shocking still, the journalist in question – Paula Murray – is willing to turn on those victims as soon as they reach 18.
(We would have provided a link to the original sickening article, but it’s been removed from the Express website. What a surprise.)
Essentially the “story”, such as it was, was that children who were at the school in Dunblane at the time of the shooting in 1996 – and who are in their late teens now – have been posting on social networking sites like Facebook and Bebo. Nothing sinister, just the usual sort of silly stuff that teens post about sex and drinking. As her excuse for launching her outraged “moral” crusade and invading these kids’ privacy, Murray took the angle that they were shaming the memory of their dead classmates.
Nasty, eh? And complete tosh, of course – these kids were behaving in the same way as most other kids of their age do. Quite naturally, there’s been an outcry against Murray, not least for her apparent hypocrisy – as documented, for instance, in this blog posting on Bloggerheads (UK).
Graham Linehan, though (one half of the team that wrote Father Ted, along with Arthur Mathews), has a different take on it, pointing out that the Press Complaints Council is a pretty toothless beast:
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.
You can read more of Graham Linehan’s views on this tawdry tale – and find out about an online petition calling for disciplinary action against Murray and her editor, Derek Lambie – on his blog, Why, that’s delightful!: The Express wins the race to the bottom.