Daily Mail spanked for fabricating Amanda Knox story

The Media Blog | The Guardian | Press Complaints Commission
The U.K.’s Press Complaints Commission rebuked the Daily Mail’s Mail Online for publishing a story last October saying Amanda Knox had lost the appeal of her murder conviction in Italy. Mail Online publisher Martin Clarke blamed “human error and over-zealousness” for the SNAFU, Will Sturgeon writes on The Media Blog.

The Guardian’s Roy Gleenslade reports that the Mail “said that it was standard practice in such high-profile cases for two alternative stories (plus supporting quotes) to be prepared in advance, and cited the fact that other news outlets had also initially published the wrong verdict due to some confusion in the courtroom.”

The problem is that the supporting quotes, like the scene they described — and this may not surprise anyone who follows Mail Online’s rollicking adventures in journalism — were entirely fictitious.

Malcolm Coles saved the Mail story, which was taken down within minutes of being posted and featured this gripping scene:

Amanda Knox looked stunned this evening after she dramatically lost her prison appeal against her murder conviction. …

As Knox realized the enormity of what judge Hellman was saying she sank into her chair sobbing uncontrollably while her family and friends hugged each other in tears.

A few feet away Meredith’s mother Arline, her sister Stephanie and brother Lyle, who had flown in especially for the verdict remained expressionless, staring straight ahead, glancing over just once at the distraught Knox family.

Prosecutors were delighted with the verdict and said that ‘justice has been done’ although they said on a ‘human factor it was sad two young people would be spending years in jail’.

Following the verdict Knox and Sollecito were taken out of court escorted by prison guards and into a waiting van which took her back to her cell at Capanne jail near Perugia and him to Terni jail, 60 miles away.

Both will be put on a suicide watch for the next few days as psychological assessments are made on each of them but this is usual practice for long term prisoners.”

The U.K.’s Press Complaints Commission upheld a complaint about the story; like all of the PCC’s decisions, this is meaningless: The body is funded by publishing companies in Britain and can encourage offending newspapers to run corrections or, in extreme circumstances, circulate statements encouraging them to behave. The PCC said of the Mail: “It trusted that the preparation of future articles would not involve inaccurate descriptions in this way.”

And now, those adventures in journalism I referred to:

Correction: The original version of this story stated that Martin Clarke is publisher of the Daily Mail; he is publisher of Mail Online.


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