Sunday Express Lashes Out At Dunblane Survivors

Monday, March 16, 2009 16:53 | Filed in Media

I’m sure many of you are quite capable of not buying the Daily Express (or its sister titles) without additional help from me, but just in case you were wavering, heres some more information.

Firstly, let’s start with the Dunblane Massacre. On the 13th March 1996, 43 year old Thomas Hamilton walked into a school in Dunblane, Scotland, with four firearms and over 700 cartridges. He fired more than 100 shots, killing sixteen children and one teacher, before killing himself at the scene.

I remember this. I was a student, I was sat at home working at the computer with the radio on, when the first radio reports starting coming in. I remember the horror, and mostly the disbelief — I couldn’t believe that someone would walk into a school and kill innocent children. I remember hearing in the aftermath that a lot of the children might struggle; that not only would some of them carry mental scars from being shot at, but you’d also have things like survivor’s guilt.

And then, over time and for the most part, I forgot about those events, unless something similar reminded me (Columbine etc).

Until I heard that the Scottish Sunday Express was being critical of the survivors for living normal lives…

A number of the youngsters, now 18, have posted shocking blogs and photographs of themselves on the Internet, 13 years after being sheltered from public view in the aftermath.[...]

But now the Sunday Express can reveal how, on their web-based social networking sites, some of them have boasted about alcoholic binges and fights.

For instance, [name removed by JP] — 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.

Paula Murray, Scottish Sunday Express: Anniversary Shame of Dunblane Survivors

Paula Murray obviously finds it shocking that these Dunblane survivors, only thirteen years after the initial incident, should actually be behaving like normal teenagers (as offensive as that obviously is to the Express). I don’t really know why this was considered to be newsworthy, other than from the cynical point of view that possibly the Dunblane survivors have been protected from media intrusion until their 18th birthdays, and after this the press consider them to be fair game. Oh, well that and the fact that the Scottish Sunday Express felt that them using social networking sites to talk about getting drunk was sending “sick messages that shame memory of classmates”.

Not only that, but they then used quotes from an MSP critical of people publishing this sort of thing on social networking sites, which were apparently taken out of context as she claims no reference to Dunblane was made when she was being asked about them, despite those quotes then being used in the middle of the article, and appearing to imply that she was being directly critical of the Dunblane survivors.

Disgusting. Paula Murray and the Scottish Sunday Express have published a sick article that shames all of journalism, if you ask me.

What’s slightly amusing about the whole affair is that it appears that Paula Murray’s Facebook entry shows lots of comments about her getting drunk; photos of her holding a baby with a glass of wine with the caption ‘starting early with auntie Paula’. I presume we are meant to read from this that Paula is encouraging toddlers to get drunk (original spot at Bloggerheads). At least, if you take the comments at face value and infer values from them — Paula’s reasoning in relation to the Dunblane kids — that’s what you’d get.

Now someone could possibly argue that it’s a little unfair to subject Paula’s personal life to this level of intrusion, but I think it’s in the public interest: after all, she is a journalist who lashes out against others for drinking — it’s only fair to know whether she’s hypocritical about it or not, isn’t it? *koff koff she who lives by the sword koff koff*

Oh, and my thoughts on the whole affair and the journalist in question (although it’s not just the individual journalist — the whole Scottish Sunday Express is culpable) have already been well summed by bloggerheads:

Picture someone having to deal with a cruel world where for no reason that makes sense to anyone, a soulless creature appears out of nowhere and attacks them. It does not make for a happy childhood, but they emerge into adulthood, hopeful for the future and — oh, for Christ’s sake — for no reason that makes sense to anyone, a soulless creature appears out of nowhere and attacks them!Bloggerheads

The Express quickly pulled the story from its website after people started to complain about it, but anyone reading the Sunday Express in Scotland the other week could hardly failed to have seen it, as it made the front page (PDF).

After a lot of complaints, and suggestions that the Scottish Sunday Express ought to apologise on the front page of their paper — since that’s where they had stuck the boot into those children whose only crime was not to have been killed when some of their classmates were — the Scottish Sunday Express decided to say nothing. No apology, no mention of the incident at all.

However, the Press Complaints Commission are investigating, having received over 30 complaints. I’m a bit surprised it’s only thirty complaints. It would appear that making offensive phone calls to Andrew Sachs is far more offensive to the British public than castigating teenagers who managed not to be murdered for leading a normal life.

Bloggerheads are looking at it in a bit more detail and are looking at a method of direct action for people offended. As well as the option of contacting the Express, joining the Facebook group The Sunday Express is abhorrent, Bloggerheads have come up with the idea of hitting the Scottish Sunday Express where it hurts — in the pocket.

What they are doing is coming up with a list of advertisers that use the Scottish Sunday Express, and asking people to contact them, asking whether they approve of their money being used to help support attacks on the Dunblane survivors by the Scottish Sunday Express. Obviously if they do, you might well be less willing to use their products and/or services in the future, and if they don’t, then they might want to choose not to send any more advertising revenue their way until they have published a front page apology…

Don’t allow the media to tread over ordinary folks like this. Ordinary folks who have already been through quite enough, thank you, without grubby ‘scandal-mongering’, moralising and yet strangely moral-free articles being used to sell a few more papers at the expense of these people.

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19 Comments to Sunday Express Lashes Out At Dunblane Survivors

  1. Rachel says:

    March 16th, 2009 at 8:28 pm

    I don’t need any encouragement at all not to buy the tripe that the Express and it’s right wing chums churn out (but always welcome additional information to remind me, lest I should weaken and forget, just how morally bankrupt the media are), but the ‘scandal-mongering’ judgemental press should not only be ashamed of themselves (if they actually had any shred of decency about them, which they don’t), but they should be muzzled for the good of the public at large.

    These ‘journalists’, a disgrace to their profession, really have no justifiable excuse at all for their behaviour.

  2. Paula Murray « Thoughts and ramblings says:

    March 16th, 2009 at 9:54 pm

    [...] I found out about the story through Dave Gorman and through Bloggerheads, Tygerland and The Pickards. [...]

  3. Facebook, Dunblane and a 2 page apology from the Express - a lesson in online journalism ethics | Online Journalism Blog says:

    March 23rd, 2009 at 9:41 pm

    [...] course, “the blogosphere erupted” as some newspapers reported (as if this was some fringe). That included [...]

  4. Claire says:

    April 26th, 2009 at 3:03 pm

    Just a thought, but has anyone considered that maybe Paula isn’t actually evil? I know the story was completely awful but having worked as a journalist for a while I know that editors often insist that journalists do stories they really don’t want to do. I don’t know Paula but I know people who do and the story seems to be that she was forced into doing the story by her bosses.

    Now maybe all of this women’s critics would have refused to do the story and dealt with the consequences (of being sacked and quite possible never getting a job as a journalist again) but I’m just pointing out that Paula might not have gleefully set out to write a horrible story that would upset lots of people.

    I understand that anyone connected with the Dunblane tragedy has the right to really, really dislike Paula, and I wouldn’t expect them to react in any other way than they have. But perhaps those not personally connected could try and remember that she is just a woman who wrote one very bad story. She’s not a murderer or a child molester. There are many people who have done considerably worse things than she has who haven’t been the target of anything like this kind of abuse.

  5. JackP says:

    April 26th, 2009 at 5:19 pm

    I agree with the point you are making – up to a point. The problem is that, whether or not she was pressurised into doing the story, she did do it.

    She wrote an awful, smearing story, ghoulishly attacking innocent 18 year olds for living normal lives. 18 year olds whos only “crime” was to have been attacked by Thomas hamilton.

    While ‘a friend of a friend’ may be one thing, I’ve not heard or seen any public apologies from Paula. If she is not willing to offer a public apology herself for such an awful story, then I can’t help but think she has deserved every last piece of the criticism that has headed her way.

    Some of it might have been unfair, but their was nothing fair about the vitriol she poured over those kids.

    Where is her apology?

    In my follow up post, I pointed out that public calls for her and/or Derek Lambie’s head may be inappropriate, and I also agreed with the suggestion that the problem is not so much one or two individuals, it’s a problem with journalistic culture.

    Nevertheless, “just following orders” is not, and should never be, an adequate defence. Paula Murray must admit her culpability in this: she should publicly apologise not only for the story, but also the way she went about getting it. Whether or not she is the only one who uses these tactics I very much doubt, but that doesn’t mean they were any less wrong.

  6. Rosscoe says:

    July 19th, 2009 at 3:35 am

    Don’t defend Paula. She Face-booked recently named survivors of a tragedy, then published their exploits on the front page of a newspaper in big writing with the word ‘SHAME’. That is not journalism. That is an asshole. Do’t get me wrong though, I don’t just blame her, but the various editors that had to approve the article, let alone make it front page, they also are horrible.
    The daily assholes. Good paper when you’re on the toilet…

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