Let's imagine for a moment that journalists have discovered a story about a member of the public who gave booze to underage kids - and those booze-fuelled kids then got involved in a serious incident that left a child in a coma.
Can you imagine the outcry? Can you imagine the column inches? Can you imagine the witch-hunt to find this person and expose them?
You can bet that, within hours, local hacks would have discovered the name of this person. They would be exposed for the disgrace they are. Perhaps the tabs would label this person 'vile' and 'disgusting' for giving booze to kids who then got involved in real trouble and violence.
But... this did happen. This actually happened. Yet the identity of the person concerned has been kept secret and the story has only been run by the BBC and a couple of the more serious newspapers. The tabs have left it untouched.
Why might that be?
Well, the person who recklessly, stupidly and disgracefully gave the booze to the kids is a journalist - believed to be working for the South West News agency who were supplying a story for the Mirror.
(Hmm that name rings a bell - where have I heard of South West News before? Oh yes, that's right, they got into dead teenager Scarlett Keeling's caravan and took photos so that the Daily Mail could slag her and her lifestyle off. What a nice bunch of coves they are.)
Alcohol was supplied to the teenagers as props for a photo shoot on underage drinking and the journalist told them they could keep the alcohol afterwards, the police added.
So... let me get this straight. You're writing a story about how terrible underage drinking is, but you can't find pictures of underage kids drinking - or you're too lazy to do it - so you find some underage kids who aren't drinking, and give them booze to show how terrible it is that underage kids are drinking, even though they weren't actually drinking at all, then you let them keep the booze because it's so terrible that underage kids are drinking. Right? Hands up who can see something a teensy-weensy little microscopic bit wrong about all of that?
That journalists sometimes 'recreate' scenes isn't a surprise to me, and I'm not really shocked at that myself. But... you're writing about what a bad thing it is that underage kids are drinking - and then you give underage kids, who weren't drinking, drink? I mean, what the fuck? At what point does your brain have to detach itself from the need to pay the mortgage?
Now I'm not even going to moralise about underage drinking, as I think it's not as awful as it's portrayed in such campaigns as the Mirror's, but here's the thing: these kids weren't drinking. And then they got given drink. If we needed a story about kids and knives or kids and guns, would we give them knives or guns? Fine, if there are teenagers running round on the street with booze, then let's find them and take pictures of them - that's journalism. If you can't find them, then bad luck - that's journalism as well. Sometimes you come home empty-handed. The newspaper can use some stock pictures; you can't tell me that there aren't any photos anywhere on file in the entire Mirror archive of teen boozers.
But to go that stage further and create a totally false story just so you can make it appear that something is happening that isn't actually happening is ridiculous. Yes, I'm sure there are kids who are underage boozing away - in fact, given that I live in Bristol, not far from where all this happened, I know there are underage kids boozing away. But this is the kind of cynical, nasty, pisspoor teddy-in-the-rubble lying hackery that makes people hate journalists and everything they stand for. And rightly so.
But... the story hasn't even been covered very extensively. No-one's really done any digging to find out this person's identity, even though if it had been a normal citizen they would have found out within seconds. Many people in the industry surely know who this is. And they're keeping shtum. Even the Sun, arch-rivals of the Mirror, haven't launched into a smug attack as regards this article. Why might that be?
Well, it's a case of 'there but for the grace of god go I'. Everyone in tabloidland does this sort of shit, and everyone knows that if they crow about the failures of their rivals then they could be instantly exposed for doing exactly the same thing. Plus, if you want to keep the news agency sweet and get the exclusives and stories from them that you want, you're not going to upset them by exposing them for what they really are. Far easier to put this one down to a 'bad apple' and move on, isn't it. Close your eyes, close ranks and get on with the job. Yes, something's been faked, yes it went wrong, yes someone ended up in hospital, but never mind.
No wonder journalists are hated.
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