Too late for sorry

I try to ignore it. But I’m not strong enough.

The flame seduces me daily even though it is hot and it burns.

It burns me to see the disgusting behaviour of some of Britain’s journalists and how they have abused the precious rights of a free press and freedom of expression.

I pondered this week whether I would have been so determined to become a journalist if this was the state of the industry when I was starry-eyed about newspapers in the 70s. Maybe not.

Let’s take Richard Peppiatt’s evidence. This is the Daily Star reporter who made up stories – and now says he’s ashamed.
Bit late for that, mate. One of his fictions was about Muslim-only toilets.

He said he’d make these things up, phone community leaders to get quotes that gave his lies plausibility.

Peppiatt once dressed in a kilt, bought roses and then knocked on Susan Boyle’s front door and proposed to her.
SoBo told him to “piss off”.

Quite right.

My heart went out to Charlotte Church and her evidence of how one tabloid gave a day-by-day countdown to her 16th birthday because this implied – she said – that’s when she could have sex. For a young girl to be subjected to such atrocious journalistic behaviour boils the blood.

It’s not funny. It’s not clever. It’s crap.

Photographers spat at actor Sienna Miller just to snap her outraged reaction and ex-footballer Paul Gascoigne once took refuge from paparazzi in a police station.

Terrible but not the worst of it. Nowhere near it.

Here’s the story of Margaret and Jim Watson – not famous, infamous or anything other than decent folk from Glasgow, Scotland. Tragically, their daughter, 16, was stabbed and died in a playground fight. Another schoolgirl went to jail for life. The trial judge threw out evidence that it was self-defence, expressly declaring this to be false.

That did not stop the Glasgow Herald re-running the self-defence tale afterwards.

Mrs Watson said the paper “tore everything that we had of Diane apart”.

She stood outside the Glasgow Herald’s offices, demanding to see the reporter and editor. She did not stand there for one day, not even two . . . but six weeks before those bastards would see her. She held a placard with her demand all that time. No one on that paper, surely, could have missed her.

What must they all have been thinking.

Months later, Marie Claire magazine did one of those horrible cuts-jobs on the story. . . you know, where at least 80 percent is rewritten from the files.

It so upset the dead girl’s grieving brother Alan, 15, that he took his life; the magazine article in his hand.

All this happened two decades ago. The newspaper publisher said sorry last Tuesday.

Mrs Watson told the inquiry she just wanted to “thank everyone for being so kind and for listening”.

Mark Hollands is the CEO of PANPA. He has worked on the Daily Mail, The Sun and the News of the World

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