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The Daily Record apology: Is it a meaningless gesture?

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From Thugs & Thieves to Who’s more hated…. the Daily Record have a history of producing some headlines and articles with one goal in mind – to sell copies through controversy, then apologise two or three days later when the damage is done with little recourse from those parties involved.

We reported on Saturday morning, the Record’s headline ‘Who’s more Hated at Ibrox? Neil Lennon or the taxman. It was a headline that was criticised from all quarters, but printing such a piece just a day before the first Old Firm derby of the season was downright irresponsible. Especially after the events of last season.

Celtic then issued their own statement and withdrew co-operation with the newspaper and all its journalists.

A spokesperson for Celtic Football Club commented: “Clearly, given the year Neil Lennon and his family have experienced – with bombs, bullets, death threats and physical assaults – this kind of reporting is inflammatory, highly irresponsible and quite simply offensive. For this newspaper to treat the matter in this insensitive and ill-judged manner is astonishing.”

“Celtic has today been inundated with complaints from supporters relating to this story and the Club fully understands their feelings on this issue.”

The spokesperson added: “There is no question, on the eve of a Rangers v Celtic match to use “Lennon, “Hate” and “Ibrox” in a newspaper headline is extremely irresponsible. Neil Lennon, his coaching staff and the Celtic players are very disappointed at this reporting and have jointly decided that they will not be co-operating with journalists from The Daily Record. It is only right that the newspaper delivers a suitable retraction and apology.”

“Neil Lennon as always will continue to receive the full support of everyone at the Club.”

In the morning edition today, the Record or should I say the Trinity Mirror Group published an apology. It read:

“As part of the build up to yesterday’s Old Firm match the Daily Record used a headline in Saturday’s paper (September 17, 2011) which contained the word “hated”.

“This has caused dismay and anger and it was wrong.

“We apologise for any offence this may have caused Neil Lennon, his family and also supporters. The Daily Record has a history of condemning intolerance in all its forms.

“Our headline was a misjudgment and it was not intended to stoke up feelings ahead of yesterday’s match.”

Following the retraction and the apology on the back page of the Record, Celtic issued their own statement.

It read: “Celtic Football Club can today confirm that the Daily Record newspaper has printed a retraction and apology on its back page concerning a weekend article relating to Celtic manager Neil Lennon.

“Celtic has made its feelings very clear on this issue. We felt the language used was inflammatory and highly irresponsible. The treatment of Neil Lennon has been well-documented and in this context the article in question was insensitive and unnecessary.

“We understood absolutely the feelings of Neil Lennon and our supporters on this issue. It is only right that the newspaper in question has admitted it was wrong.

“We would hope that this kind of ill-judged reporting does not occur again.”

The last comment within Celtic’s statement is interesting. The club hope that this kind of ill-judged reporting does not occur again. How many times have we heard this?

In 2010, the Daily Record published an article claiming that Scott Brown had been told that he was no longer required by Tony Mowbray. The story contained quotes from the player which gave the story extra strength, but Brown was quick to ‘put the record’ straight.

On the official website, Brown said: “Obviously I am very disappointed with this article as there is no foundation to it. I have worked with the manager for some time and have a very good relationship with him. It’s disappointing to have been out for so long with an injury but I’m looking forward to getting back to full fitness as soon as possible and getting back in to the team for the second half of the season.”

The Record claimed: “Tony Mowbray has stunned star man Scott Brown by telling him he has no future at Celtic.”

The Celtic statement added: “The story, which appeared on Wednesday morning, has been dismissed by both Tony Mowbray and Scott Brown as being totally without foundation. The club is currently taking legal advice over the issue.”

And then there was that famous fall out between Celtic and the Daily Record in December 2002 with the infamous front page story ‘Thugs and Thieves’, relating to the behaviour of Celtic players on a Christmas night out in Newcastle. The article alleged that a fracas in Newcastle involved Celtic players and a photographer from the newspaper, who had been sent to take pictures of their Christmas night out.

Three members of the Celtic squad, Joos Valgaeren and midfielders Johan Mjallby and Bobby Petta were taken into custody by police after it was claimed a camera was stolen and part of it thrown into the Tyne.

Despite being advised against publishing the potentially libelous article, then-Record editor Peter Cox chose to cover the incident on the front page with pictures of the players and the club crest beneath the headline ‘Thugs and Thieves’.

The newspaper later published an apology to Neil Lennon for alleging that Neil Lennon had pursued and robbed the Daily Record photographer Paul Chappells of £12,000 worth of camera equipment. The newspaper apologised and stated that the: “allegation was without foundation and we apologise sincerely and unreservedly to Mr Lennon for the distress and anxiety caused to him.”

The Record then dealt out of court with Lennon being paid damages and his legal costs covered by the paper.

Peter Cox, a few months later, was sacked as editor of the Daily Record and replaced by the editor of rival newspaper, the Scottish Sun, Bruce Waddell. Paul Chappells still works for the Daily Record.

The Record’s circulation has been in freefall since the late 90s, when they were selling more than 700,000 copies in Scotland. The downward spiral increased under Cox, falling to around 525,148 before 2003 and in July 2011 their numbers stood at 305,226, a fall of 5.86% from July 2010.

This year also saw 90 jobs cut at the Daily Record and Sunday Mail, with non-Scottish content now written by the other Trinity Mirror Group newspapers, such as the Daily Mirror. Magazine and Features pages will also be handled by the Press Association.

So it is safe to say that the Record is in its worst period in its history and many journalists are looking over their shoulders. It could also be argued that the continued publication of controversial articles is solely down to boosting their circulation numbers, and caring little for the consequences. It is all too easy to dish out a few words saying sorry in a corner of the paper.

On Saturday night’s BBC Radio Scotland football phone-in show, the Daily Record’s sports editor, Jim Traynor, who hosts the show, said: “I am not defending [the headline]. I can’t defend it. I would have pulled it. I think the headline is wrong. The paper will be dealing with this properly tomorrow before we address Monday’s paper and we will also deal with Celtic’s statement tomorrow.”

So what does a Sports Editor’s responsibility entail then? Especially for the Saturday morning edition?

What was Mr Traynor doing on the Friday afternoon and night? Who passed the headline?

Was the full newspaper including the headlines scrutinised by the paper’s lawyers as they usually are, in case of possible court action?

Why did Keith Jackson bring up the question in his article in the first place – who edited said piece? Such a statement gave the sub-editor the easy choice of producing said controversial headline.

Who checks the sub-editor’s work? Again why was it passed and who passed it?

In any industry the boss takes the flak, he takes the plaudits and he is held responsible if things go wrong. It seems to me that, in regards to Mr Traynor, his comments on Saturday night were a major cop-out and stating that it was down to the sub-editor, when there are individuals above the sub – including Traynor himself and the paper’s lawyers – who would have to pass headlines and articles for the next day.

Is Jim Traynor covering his own back? Is Jim Traynor trying to pass the buck to the unnamed and mysterious sub-editor?

The Record’s Football writer Hugh Keevins on the newspaper’s Online Hotline this morning stated: “To err is human. To forgive is truly divine.”

One or two mistakes are all well and good, but when there is a history of said ‘human errors’ then something seriously stinks in the Record household.

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About Author

scotzine

Andy Muirhead is the Editor of Scotzine and the Scottish Football fanzine FITBA. He is the Scottish Football columnist for The Morning Star and has written for a number of other publications including ESPN, Huffington Post UK, BT Life's a Pitch and has had his work featured in the Daily Record, The Scotsman and the Daily Mail.

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