A personal memory of grief and the media

There’s something of a furor about the way the prurient way have covered the Manchester terrorist attack, with no regard for those grieving.

This is justified, but a note of caution, from personal memory, who take this to be evidence of the ills of mass media in the internet age.

The day after my dad was killed, in 1979, a reporter from the local paper (the Eccles Journal, later merged with the Salford Advertiser)doorstepped my mother, seeking details of what had happened, about my dad, and about the family.

He was killed on Tuesday. On Thursday, it was headline news.

My mother, who had accepted at the point she was doorstepped that “they were only doing their job” was shaken to the core — I remember it to this day — that they had printed inaccurate details, with the wrong age and wrong number of children.

She composed herself, and sat down at the desk cabinet we still have in my living room, and composed a letter to the editor, in which she said that the very least she had expected was for the journalist to have the decency to print correct details, and that she felt that my father had been dishonoured.

I returned to school on the Friday, and on the Monday she asked me to hand deliver the letter to the newspaper office. I did so, explaining briefly in my quivering, gawky teenage voice what it was about. The woman at the desk took it from me, with no sign of emotion, and no obvious understanding that it related to the front page of the previous edition. I left, feeling I had failed my mother.

The editor never replied, and no correction was ever printed. I suspect my letter had been thrown in the bin. My mother always remembered that hurt.

I don’t remember much of my teenage years, but I remember that as clearly as though it was yesterday.

That deepening of my mother’s grief was because they wrote a couple of details wrong. I can only imagine what Saffie’s mum will go through if she reads the Daily Mail’s “journalism”. I hope she doesn’t. It makes me recoil to think of it.