“A source said…”

October 4th, 2011 § 0 comments

Everyone fucks up. You do, I do. Everyone does sometime or other. We either say the wrong thing, misunderstand something or as happened tonight at several newspapers, press the wrong button.

Amanda Knox won her appeal against her conviction for the murder of Meredith Kercher. Several papers, as the verdict was given, published their stories. The problem was that they jumped the gun a little and published stories about Knoxs’ conviction standing. The Sun did it. The Guardian did it.

Knox was found guilty of slander against a bar (or was it a hotel) owner she accused of the murder, and it was this guilty verdict declared by the judge that these papers hit the big red ‘publish’ button on. Ooops!

All three papers corrected themselves pretty quickly, as you can imagine, and in itself isn’t a problem.

Since the beginning of time, newspapers have always raced to get the story out first. On an occasion such as this, the newsdesk will have written two stories. One for a ‘guilty’ verdict and one for an ‘innocent’. In their rush to be first, these papers fucked up and published the wrong story.

That might’ve been that last of it, apart from a lil’ bit of ribbing on Twitter.

What this mistake has done, however was call into question, again, the use of anonymous sources and how can we be sure someone actually did say what the paper says was said?

You see not only did the Mail publish their story about Amanda Knox staying locked up, they also included in it quotes from one of the prosecutors team that were made up

Prosecutors were delighted with the verdict and said that ‘justice has been done’ although they said on a ‘human factor it was sad two young people would be spending years in jail’.

This quote along with other details such as…

Following the verdict Knox and Sollecito were taken out of court escorted by prison guards and into a waiting van which took her back to her cell at Capanne jail near Perugia and him to Terni jail, 60 miles away.

…are complete fabrications thought up by someone in London.

Now, we all suspect that these nameless ‘sources’, ‘insiders’, ‘someone close to…’ and ‘…who wished to remain anonymous…’ are sometimes made up, only real in the head of the reporter or editor, but because of the presses right not to reveal their sources it is extremely hard to pin down the actual source of a quote.

There is one little difference between this nameless source and the usual anonymuos quote: There is a tracability to the false quote. The quotes aren’t quite anonymous.

The prosecutor is Giuliano Mignini. There is your starting point. I’m sure a better blogger then me, or even a proper journalist, could get an official denial/confirmation from him.

But what of this big fat lie? Well, the Press Complaints Commission are unlikely to do anything. The story was written in advance and published by mistake and quickly taken down again. It was never put into print for there to be any need of a correction and the amount of people who would’ve actually seen the article would be relatively small. As far as the PCC would be concerned, there is nothing for them to do.

What it shows is that the Daily Mail is prepared to lie about a fairly big thing. With a path to be able to fact check it’s quotes from a major player in the story.

If the Mail feels it can make up a massive part of it’s story with made up quotes from one of the major people in an event, then what about the smaller stories, the ones that feed the papers agenda?

Is the Mail really going to go to the trouble of getting a quote from Joe Bloggs who’s been passed over for a council house in favour of a Somali pirate seeking asylum or because of the equalities commission isn’t allowing him to call a lesbian a dyke in his office or are they just going to print what Paul Dacre thinks and attribute it to “someone close to Mr Bloggs”?

The Mail fucked up. They made a mistake anyone could’ve done, but with that mistake they’ve revealed so much about the dishonest way they conduct business.

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