The Times has let its readers down today over Hillsborough
Not to feature Hillsborough on the front page of the first edition of The Times today is a disgraceful editorial decision for a quality newspaper.
It’s been an emotional week.
And look, nobody expected The Sun to cover themselves with glory today. I’ve got some sympathy with the people in their office. Like throwing “Hurrah for the Black Shirts” references at people who work for the Mail in 2016, there can barely be anyone at The Sun who was also working at the paper in 1989.
And they were in a no-win situation. Go big on the story and be accused of hypocrisy. Ignore it and be accused of covering up your own role in the 27 year scandal. I don’t see there was any option they could take that wouldn’t attract criticism.
But this first edition?
From paper of record The Times?
And it is a disservice to the paper’s readers that insults their intelligence.
It signals very clearly to them that they are buying a product that puts commercial concerns above editorial principle.
Several people have pointed out to me that later editions feature a photograph from the inquest.
But it’s still not the lead story, nor the version that was on sale in London at 8am this morning.
How do you think Times readers feel when they see that The New Day has more closely followed the news agenda of the day than their regular, respected newspaper?
And imagine being in the editorial conference where you collectively decide you are happy to preside over the first edition of a quality newspaper that does not mention Hillsborough today.
“What did you go into journalism for, dad?”
“To keep the biggest story of the day off the front page to avoid embarrassing my employer.”
Sometimes it is easy to see why the general public rate journalists as about as trustworthy as estate agents and politicians. What a craven supine editorial decision to omit and then downplay Hillsborough. And what a disservice to your readers.
You can read David Conn’s long read account of the deadly mistakes and lies that lasted decades, and I recommend you also read this remarkable piece by my former boss, colleague and friend Mike Bracken, on his experience of surviving Hillsborough and how it changed his and many other people’s lives.
UPDATE: Four hours after I wrote this article, The Times has stated that the front page was a “mistake”
Martin Belam is Social & New Formats Editor for the Guardian in London. He helped set up UsVsTh3m and Ampp3d for the Daily Mirror, and has worked at Sony and the BBC. He is on Twitter as @MartinBelam. Every Friday he publishes a list of recommended reads about journalism and media.