Last year former Daily Star’s journalist Richard Peppiatt gave a guest lecture at my uni. Short story: he admitted that many stories he wrote were completely made up. (Which, incidentally, concerns many publications. Most publications. Not the Daily Star only.)
From his resignation letter:
'Michael Jackson to attend Jade Goody's funeral'. (He didn't.) 'Robbie pops 'pill at heroes concert'. (He didn't either.) 'Matt Lucas on suicide watch'. (He wasn't.) 'Jordan turns to Buddha.' (She might have, but I doubt it.)
But how come he didn’t get into trouble? He didn’t, he said, because those stories did no harm. Yeah, they were made-up, but they weren’t just enough to get sued for.
Truth is, and this is me talking, not Peppiatt, “any publicity is good publicity”. Plus, speech marks (‘“1D are scumbags,” says Louis Tomlinson’) are beautiful little things that sometimes are nothing but a pass to avoid a case of defamation and a lawsuit.
Also, a few of the first things my professors told our Journalism class are:
- If a news story reports an “anonymous source,” is 99% made up.
- Celebrity gossip stories are mostly agreed and planned between their PR and the newspaper/magazine.
- To ask yourself, “Why are they reporting this, and why now? What’s the reason behind this news story? Cui bono? Who benefits?”
Im Westen nichts Neues, but it’s always time for a good reminder.