So it’s Summer, it’s silly season and as such the pace of life in the nation’s newsrooms is that bit slower. However in the UK, the Daily Star’s newsroom have reportedly taken this relaxed vibe to the next level and put their heads down on their desks and allegedly ‘dreamed up’ a story.
Yesterday the tabloid posted a story by Jerry Lawton with the sensational headline: “Raoul Moat: Video Game, Film and Book Plans Cause Fury“.
The piece read: “Fury erupted last night over plans for a Raoul Moat book, movie and game… before the man he killed has even been laid to rest.”
The story was accompanied by a doctored image of the well known ‘Grand Theft Auto’ videogame – except in this case it was “the cover of Grand Theft Auto Rothbury”, the village traumatized by the killer. The Star attribute the image to “gaming websites”.
The story was altogether light on specifics. Which gaming websites started all this? No-one knows. One gaming site addressed the Star’s claims and wrote: “We read a lot of games websites. We have not seen these websites.”
The journalist also claimed that “film companies are lining up bids for the rights” to a movie. Again no details were given.
Probably the most surprising thing about this article is that the journalist actually interviewed people close to Moat to get a reaction to the “news”. The grandmother of Moat’s former girlfriend, Samantha Stobbart, who was shot during Moat’s rampage, said “I can’t believe someone wants to make money out of people who have been killed.”
Stobbart’s sister went on to say: “It is sick – it’s blood money. The game is beyond belief.”
‘Beyond belief’ pretty much sums it up. The story has been pulled by the Daily Star….an admission of guilt!? However some bright spark slipped up as the story still sits at the top of the website’s ‘Most Popular‘ stories list on the homepage but mysteriously vanishes when you click through to view it.
The Guardian’s Charlie Brooker, eloquent as always, reacted to the story on Twitter: “I hope Rockstar sue the shit out of the Daily Star for this.” It will be interesting to see if Rockstar Games, the video game’s publishers, take issue with the piece. At the time of writing no official statement has been released.
Yet the question remains – was the Star duped by a photoshopped video game cover, forgetting to fact check and verify sources in their eagerness to run with the story? Or was it entirely fabricated by the publication (at least one site claims the tasteless doctored image has been around a while so that, thankfully, might be off the table)? No doubt the Press Complaints Commission will be asking just that.