< Daily Mail Misreports Amanda Knox Verdict

Transcript

Friday, October 07, 2011

BROOKE GLADSTONE:

This past Monday 24-year old Amanda Knox was freed from jail after an Italian court acquitted her and her former boyfriend of the 2007 murder of British student Meredith Kercher. Knox is American but her case, crammed with tales of orgies and intrigue, all baseless, became an international story. The whole world was on the edge of its seat as the Italian judge stood to read the verdict.

[JUDGE READING VERDICT IN ITALIAN]

And would Amanda be acquitted or would the guilty verdict and the 26-year-sentence be upheld.

INTERPRETER:

Amanda Knox is guilty of –

BROOKE GLADSTONE:

At the word “guilty,” someone at the English tabloid The Daily Mail the hit Publish on a story with this headline:  “Guilty. Amanda Knox Looks Stunned as Appeal Against Murder Conviction is Rejected.”

But that guilty verdict was referring to the lesser charge of slander. Seconds later, the judge announced:

INTERPRETER:

Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito have been freed.

BROOKE GLADSTONE:

Oops! Now, it’s not uncommon for papers to prepare two articles in advance of a trial verdict, but The Daily Mail didn't simply misreport. It embellished, describing in detail Knox and her family's reaction to the verdict.

Tim Ireland, a blogger for The Daily Mail Watch, which tracks the excesses of the tabloid, says many news organizations jumped at guilty and posted the wrong story, but The Daily Mail’s blunder was a bridge too far.

TIM IRELAND:

Fair enough, they're made a mistake. The BBC made a mistake, The Guardian made a mistake, The Sun newspaper made a mistake. But only The Daily Mail published an account of reactions and statements and events that could not have been witnessed, as described.

BROOKE GLADSTONE:

Okay, so it was Nick Pisa, based in Italy, who did the story. You decided to have a little bit of fun with him. You wrote him an email that you posted online. How did the email read?

TIM IRELAND:

Uh, the email said, Do you have any response to the evidence that you and the relevant Daily Mail staff stuff were prepared to go to print with an entirely invented account of events, reactions and statements that you could not possibly have witnessed? And I included the little statement that I predicted he would make –

BROOKE GLADSTONE:

Mm-hmm?

TIM IRELAND:

- on the basis that he had predicted statements that other people would make.

BROOKE GLADSTONE:

You wrote, “Mr. Pisa said, ‘Oh do calm down, everybody does it,’ in a clearly emotional tone, before calling his critics names and running away.”

TIM IRELAND:

Yes. And –

[OVERTALK]

BROOKE GLADSTONE:

But he replied to you, didn’t he?

TIM IRELAND:

He replied to me. And the funny thing was he objected to me reporting that he had done this, when I was obviously [LAUGHS] taking the Mickey, uh, uh, but —

BROOKE GLADSTONE:

He, he took offense that you prepared his statement in advance.

TIM IRELAND:

Well, he took offense to the content in the statement that I prepared in advance, which completely missed the point –

[BROOKE LAUGHS]

- that I’d made the statement in advance in a satirical manner. But then he behaved exactly as I predicted.

BROOKE GLADSTONE:

He called you a name?

TIM IRELAND:

He called me obsessive, and then said you better talk to The Daily Mail.

Now, admittedly, his legs may not have b – been moving very quickly, but where I come from saying, I'm not talking to you anymore, you want to go talk to these people, that’s running away.

[BROOKE LAUGHS]

So, uh, media portrayals of Knox have varied wildly. Sometimes she's a beautiful naïve, innocent young girl, other times she’s a sex- crazed killer. How have the British media depicted her, and specifically The Daily Mail?

TIM IRELAND:

Uh, well, The Daily Mail offers their readers a combination of titillation and outrage. So to have a woman who’s suspected of murder and the theory is she murdered someone because an orgy was involved, well that’s perfect Daily Mail fodder.

And, uh, I don’t think Nick Pisa helped things when he attached the nickname Foxy Knoxy to Amanda Knox and the story. Now, admittedly Foxy Knoxy was a nickname that Amanda Knox gave herself, but it was in the context of her ability as a soccer player.

BROOKE GLADSTONE:

Mm-hmm?

TIM IRELAND:

Um, to present it in the context of a hot piece of totty who’s involved in  a bit of murdering shenanigans and a bit of sex – wah-ha-ha, it was not only entirely uncalled for, but The Daily Mail pretended that it was the nickname that the media assigned to her, the media generally, or people generally, people say. No, you say. You were the ones who brought it up. Take responsibility for it.

BROOKE GLADSTONE:

Now, journalism in the UK claims to be largely self-regulating. There’s something called the Press Complaints Commission –

TIM IRELAND:

Yes.

BROOKE GLADSTONE:

- the PCC, which is supposed to handle the regulation of the press.

TIM IRELAND:

Yes. The PCC is the self-regulating body for print media. One of the first rules in the guidance is if the article isn't about you, you can't make a complaint about it.

BROOKE GLADSTONE:

Really?

TIM IRELAND:

Yeah. The article has to be specifically about you.

[OVERTALK]

BROOKE GLADSTONE:

Well, what about if you're complaining about substantial factual errors in the reporting -

[OVERTALK]

TIM IRELAND:

No-

BROOKE GLADSTONE:

- of a government study —

TIM IRELAND:

No, no -

BROOKE GLADSTONE:

- or traffic patterns?

[OVERTALK]   

TIM IRELAND:

No. The, the PCC remit is so narrow as to be blatantly self-serving. There is a committee that makes judgments about what the guidelines should be, what the code of conduct should be. And the chair of that committee is the editor of The Daily Mail. 

BROOKE GLADSTONE:

Ah-ha!

TIM IRELAND:

Public confidence in the PCC, I think I can fairly describe it as an all-time low.

BROOKE GLADSTONE:

Do you think that this Amanda Knox episode will have any lasting impact on the regulation of newspapers, or at least the public's opinion of these tabloids?

TIM IRELAND:

I think this incident is going to count as a major landmark, something that only really happens once every six to twelve months. Admittedly, it's been a very busy year, so I had to say six to twelve months because I had to take Hack Gate into account.

BROOKE GLADSTONE:

Yeah, that's the Murdock tabloid scandal.

TIM IRELAND:

That’s correct. But the public reaction to this was, was really quite extraordinary. We had eighty times as much traffic as we normally get as a result of this story.

BROOKE GLADSTONE:

Tim, thank you very much,

TIM IRELAND:

[LAUGHS] You’re welcome, thank you.

BROOKE GLADSTONE:

Tim Ireland as a blogger for The Daily Mail Watch.