Paula Murray, Speak For Yourself

Sunday, April 26, 2009 23:17 | Filed in Media

Does anyone else remember the Scottish Sunday Express castigating the now 18-year-old Dunblane survivors for erm… behaving like perfectly normal 18 year olds? Come on, you must remember it: I blogged about it, Justin blogged about it, Tim blogged about it and Graham did too.

Yes, Paula Murray used Facebook and other social networking websites to find stories about Dunblane survivors who had boasted of getting drunk (or having sex, shock!) and used this to suggest that they were shaming their memory of their classmates, instead of the more obvious point that this was perfectly normal behaviour for an 18 year old, and her behaviour in writing that article actually was shameful even by the remarkably low standards of the gutter presses.

This story made the front page of the Scottish Sunday Express, and upset a lot of people, leading to something of a successful campaign amongst bloggers to petition an apology from the Scottish Sunday Express, and complaints to the Press Complaints Commission.

It’s impossible to tell whether or not the Press Complaints Commission have actually done anything, partly because it’s not actually independent of the press, but mostly because their website is shit, with not so much as a date on the resolved cases, their adjudicated cases not actually appearing to be in date order (at least by adjudication date, which is the only one used), and also it does not appear that they have actually adjudicated anything for over two months.

Not entirely sure how that fits with their own tagline of “fast, free, fair”…

However, what we can tell is that The Scottish Sunday Express apologised, albeit in a somewhat self-serving manner, and also ended up simply describing the story as “inappropriate”, rather than the more apt “shameful”, “disgraceful”, or possibly “abhorrent”.

However, it has come to my attention that, apparently, none of this was Paula’s fault:

…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…

“Claire” (follow link for full comment)

Now I have no reason to doubt Claire is who she says she is — effectively a friend of a friend of Paula’s. However, if the actions described actually did take place — Paula pushed into a position where she has to write a story in that manner in order to keep her job — then I would like to make a couple of points.

[Update: well, when I originally wrote that, I had no reason to doubt "Claire", but it has since come to my attention that Claire has posted exactly the same comment -- and I mean, word for word identical -- at Bloggerheads, which rather suggests that the comment is a generic one and not specifically associated with that particular question. And now I'm wondering whether it's an attempt at sock puppetry to attempt to dig Paula out of a whole without her needing to say anything publicly herself. Of course, if it is an attempt, to do this, it's a crap one. ]

Firstly, why can’t Paula herself apologise publicly? If she does realise that what was written was wrong, and was vile, then why not apologise for it herself, particularly since the Scottish Sunday Express has already done so?

Secondly, if Paula was pushed into writing a story like that by the editor of the Scottish Sunday Express and doesn’t go public with her side of the story, then she is condemning anyone else who works under this editor to possibly share the same fate: to be scapegoated in order to escape the real culprit from blame. She’s possibly even risking this happening to herself again. If this is the case, she needs to ask whether her integrity is worth more, or less, than a job with an editor who is prepared to sacrifice her when it suits them.

[Please note I am not saying that this is what happened: but if it was, Paula needs to say so, and say so clearly, herself]

Thirdly, even if she was specifically told to do this by her bosses, she still chose to follow that path, knowing it was wrong. While I am not comparing “writing nasty unpleasant things about someone” to murder, “only following orders” was not a valid defense at Nuremburg, and I don’t see why it should be seen as a valid defense against other actions either.

Fourthly, if she did object to it, then why not submit it under a pseudonym? Editor is presumably satisfied, since the story is still published, but Paula has the opportunity not to have her name associated with it. Of course, this would mean that if it was a great big scoop and a success, Paula wouldn’t get the credit, so maybe Paula was willing to take that risk in order to promote her career at the expense of the Dunblane survivors?

If there is any truth in this — so far entirely unsubstantiated — suggestion, then Paula needs to come forward and put her side of the story. If she accepts what she did was wrong, then why not come forward and seek to put it right?

Admit her mistake; be honest about how the story came about and take the public criticism on the chin. After all, if she actually bloody showed some remorse (and not just at ‘getting into trouble’) then people might think she’d learned from it, and that maybe, just maybe, there was a responsible journalist or a decent human being in there somewhere…

You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

2 Comments to Paula Murray, Speak For Yourself

  1. Twitted by bloggerheads says:

    April 27th, 2009 at 3:44 pm

    [...] This post was Twitted by bloggerheads [...]

  2. Heather says:

    April 28th, 2009 at 10:43 am

    Hear hear.

    “She was forced into doing the story by her bosses” – the Nuremburg Excuse didn’t work in Germany, Claire, and it doesn’t work here.

    As I previously alluded, not just any person, and not just any journalist, could happily accept the task of stalking (erm, seeking out) underage children with the full intention of exploiting them as soon as they turned 18. That is the gist of the issue here, not that her big bad bosses made her do it. If the story was forced on her, what does it say about her that she was the right person for the task?

    I also repeat my insistence that she disclose whether she was under the influence of alcohol when cyberstalking and manipulating those underage Dunblane survivors.

    “Your silence will not protect you.”

Leave a comment