I think it's important to look at the reasons why they took a great big custard pie in the face, to see if there are lessons to be learned for times when the tabloids misbehave as disgracefully in the future.
Did they apologise because they were wrong? No, they were wrong straight away. Surely colleagues of Derek Lambie and Paula Murray knew they were wrong - perhaps I naively have too much faith in journalists - would have voiced their concerns. The papers are often wrong; they often shrug their shoulders and do nothing about it, unless they have to.
Did they say sorry because of the threat of the PCC? Not entirely. The PCC can't actually do anything to hurt them, and besides, the Express offered a couple of letters in response as a 'right of reply', which the PCC regards as mitigation. They hoped the matter would end there with that feeble attempt to smooth things over.
Was it because of press coverage? No. The other boys and girls in the national press couldn't have cared less. There's a sense of 'there but for the grace of god' and 'You don't piss on your own doorstep' from fellow hacks. If someone else misbehaves, you don't call them out - besides, you might want to work there one day. That's why the Glen Jenvey saga hasn't received wider attention, despite being a demonstrably abominable example of pisspoor journalism combined with a hysterical racist agenda. Even those fellow journalists who disapprove just shake their heads rather than their fists.
What was it then? Well there was a time when you couldn't mobilise support for a campaign like the one against the Express. Facebook, Twitter and blogs - those things contemptuously dismissed by 'proper' journalists - weren't about; there was no way of connecting together separate angry people - they were just shouting in the dark, writing letters to the editor but not knowing how many others shared their views. Whatever you think of online petitions, and many doubt their effectiveness, the one against the Express gained 10,000 signatures in a very short space of time - they knew this wasn't going away.
It's a story that brings quite a lot of hope. Newspapers haven't learned it yet, but they will soon. You can't get away with it any more. People are watching. People are checking. And, more importantly, they can mobilise support against you very efficiently when you step out of line. And that's got to be a good thing.