COMMENT: Heard the one about the media group that thinks the bushfires are funny?

mosbushfire2It’s been a day now since I saw that Mail On Sunday headline – the one saying “Er, Bruce, the fire’s the other way!” next to an image of a fire truck with a huge wall of flames behind it.

And if anything I’m more astonished than ever that the British paper let it go out of the door.

Those who defend it might say that the paper did it before they knew the full seriousness of what had happened. But it would have gone to press at lunchtime Sunday, Australian time – by which time the situation was obvious. And you can just make out in the copy that they already knew that the death toll was in double figures.

One can only conclude that they thought they were writing about  events far away, that wouldn’t reach an Australian audience. But that changed when British media commentator Roy Greenslade wrote about it. It was then picked up here by Crikey’s Margaret Simons.

Nonetheless, I was so surprised, that I put in a call to London late last night and spoke to John Wellington, the newspaper’s managing editor, to ask if they had already issued an apology. We had a brief, off-the-record chat and he said he’d get back to me with the paper’s formal position. I expected to come in this morning to find an email and write a short story about how the newspaper has admitted a lapse of judgement and apologised. But they’ve chosen to say nothing.

Although not on the same scale of offence, in some ways it reminds me of The Sun newspaper’s mistake over the UK’s Hillsbrough football disaster, in which the paper slandered dead fans. Nearly 20 years on, sales have still not recovered in some parts of the country.

In our earlier piece, one of our commenters says it’s a pity that the Mail On Sunday doesn’t own any media over here.

In fact, as a point of information, the newspaper’s parent compant, the Daily Mail and General Trust does have significant interests in Australia – DMG Radio owns much of the Nova radio network, while DMG World Media is one of Australia’s biggest exhibitions and events company. In our space that includes the digital marketing conference Ad:tech.

As a further point of information, the British newspaper industry is governed by the Press Complaints Commission’s code of practice. One of its points covers “intrusion into grief and shock”. It states that “publication must be handled sensitively”.

The PCC also accepts complaints online. You can do so here. You know, if you want to.

Why not tell a friend too?


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