Sensationalism Comes At A Price

A Clickbait Vultures series article about the ways ordinary people are being harmed by the misconduct and intrusion of the press and what responsible people must do to hold them accountable

Image Credit: Ben White, Unsplash.com

In This Article

  • The stories of 3 different families and how the press went about treating them and their grief in order to sell papers and advertising space

  • The reality behind what we read and watch, as shared by families who have suffered from false reporting, twisted facts and truths and the callous tactics used by reporters

  • The responsibility we have as consumers to use our clicks wisely and compassionately and to join us in holding these press companies to account


What Are Your Clicks Promoting?

How much do you think of or consider the real people involved in a story when you read about them in the paper or watch online? What questions go through your mind as you do that and how aware are you of why you chose to read or watch the things that you did, because there is a side to many stories people need to hear more about.


As a company that has been on the receiving end of sensationalist as well as false, biased and libellous journalism we have known full well how inaccurate the press can be in their reporting as well as how much they will twist and distort the truth and facts of a situation to make it more appealing or to tap into the more base and reprobate elements of our human psyche. There is one driver for this; profit and we have written about the growing clickbait culture within the press that is centred around this, one that is turning reporters and the companies that back them more and more into human vultures, feeding financially off of real people's pain and suffering. But what happens when the press, or any industry for that matter, puts profit before ethics, morality and the respect of other human lives? What is the price other people are paying for press advertising revenues?


The following 15 minute video below, by Hacked Off, 'a campaign for a free and accountable press', follows the stories of three different victims of this clickbait vulture culture and the very real pain and and suffering they have had to endure at the hands of a callous industry hellbent on sensationalising tragedies and real lives to sell papers and advertising space.


'Grief Sells Newspapers'

When Heather Teale's daughter died from sepsis following a bout of flu the whole family had been suffering from one Christmas, the last thing she expected was to be hounded to near suicide by reporters. After the story broke through a local reporter the news soon spread nationally to the point Ms Teale describes from her experience that “every time the phone went there was a real fear, what am I going to be asked this time?”.


Ms Teale goes on to describe the way the press continued to remorselessly harass and hound her for comments on her family tragedy.

“One reporter asked me why I wouldn’t speak to him. When I said it was because I was grieving for my daughter, he said, yes but I need you to speak to me because grief sells newspapers. That is one step too far. I can’t even begin to tell you how much worse these people make the situation you are already going through. It’s absolutely horrendous. To just constantly hound people I think is just unforgivable. They nearly pushed me over the edge, they really did have me thinking about ending it all”

Ms Teale shares how newspaper reporters tainted some of the most precious memories she had of her daughter by taking pictures from her social media and printing them without concern or respect for Ms Teale's wishes.

“I don’t understand it, surely there is a little bit of them that thinks, ‘here’s somebody who’s world has just completely fallen apart and I need to leave her alone. But they don’t.”

Sympathy For The Devil?

On the 19th July 2016, the father of Luke and Ryan Hart murdered their mother and sister, Charlotte. It was just 5 days after they themselves had decided to leave the family home and their abusive controlling father. What they describe that followed was nothing less than a media frenzy filled with unscrupulous tactics, distortion of the facts and grossly irresponsible reporting that left a deeply painful mark on both Luke and Ryan in the midst of their grief.


Explaining how their father planned his actions and meticulously studied how he predicted the media would report on his crime, based on other similar cases, Luke and Ryan describe their ordeal:

“The media reporting showed an overwhelming sympathy and concern for our father and a total lack of concern for our mum and Charlotte who seemed to just be props in our father’s story. They were just collateral damage to our Father’s poor mental health. But our father didn’t have mental health issues in the traditional sense, what he had was an obsession with control. The media had framed things exactly how our father always framed them.”

In diminishing and minimising their father's responsibility for his crime, the press had publicly smeared the memories of their beloved mother and sister, in some instances apparently barging their way into neighbours houses through windows to take statements. Quotes were taken out of context and turned into facts in order to print the story they, the papers wanted to print, regardless of the full truth and impact that would have on Luke and Ryan, which was highly traumatic.


Shameless Clickbait In The Name Of 'Public Interest'

Mother of 4, Mandy Garner was woken at 2am when police called at her home to inform her that her eldest daughter had been killed in a hit and run incident earlier that evening in London. She waited with police until first thing in the morning where she broke the news of what had happened to the rest of her daughters. She would later hear from both her brother and brother-in-law the afternoon of that next day that the Daily Mail had obtained CCTV footage of the incident and posted it on their website.

“It’s obvious to me that it was a clickbait story. It was just a kind of voyeuristic thing to get clicks”

The Daily Mail had bought the footage from the owners of the shop across the road from where her daughter died and when police told them not to post the video online the Daily Mail said the police couldn't stop them from doing so. When the police then asked the Daily Mail to show compassion for Ms Garner by delaying the publication of the footage the Daily Mail's response was that they would give them 1 hour.


Ms Garner describes challenging the Daily Mail about their decision...

They came out with, it was 'in the public interest' and their story was to bring forward witnesses. Then I looked at the headline and the headline is.. ‘EXCLUSIVE: Shocking moment young woman is killed by hit and run driver escaping police as she is flung 20ft into the air and lands in front of horrified onlookers at London bus stop… That is the headline! There is nothing in there that suggests that they want witnesses to come forward or that it’s in the public interest. That is just watch this video of this girl who is about to get killed”.

Another justification the paper gave was that the images were quite 'grainy' and so people wouldn't be able to tell who the victim was from the footage. However, as Ms Garner rightly points out, that anyone who knew her daughter would know that it was her in that footage. Her remaining children would know, other family members would know and her daughters friends would know that footage contained the final moments of her young life and that it was being screened in public for all to see. Even though the paper edited the footage to omit the moment of impact Ms Garner says..

“That is not sensitive. That is the worst part because that is bit that as a parent you play over and over in your head. Those last seconds. What was going through her head and you want to .. you’re trying to save her. That’s all I do. I am just trying to save her and I couldn’t”

Despite taking her case to the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) they later, unsurprisingly, found that there was no fault or improper conduct by the Daily Mail. It is unsurprising because, in the last 7 years, IPSO - which is a self regulating body by the press for the press - has received thousands of complaints but has not imposed a single fine or launched a single standards investigation. Speaking about her anger and how much she felt her family's grief and tragedy had been exploited by the Daily Mail and ignored by IPSO, Ms Garner says:

“Why does the law in this country allow them to do it. Why do people who have suffered a tragedy not get some form of protection from that? Without a shadow of a doubt they are going to damage people and eventually somebody will harm themselves because of it and it’s got to stop.”

Your Clicks Count!

These are just 3 more cases of people's lives being ruined and exploited by elements of the press, all for shameless profit making. The problem is that the more any of us click on and read or watch such sensationalised stories the more we are complicit in the suffering such people and families go through and the more we fuel the problem.


Behind each of these stories are real lives being torn apart, real families dealing with real pain and suffering in their grief. Where is the compassion, the responsibility and the respect from members of this industry that more and more is losing credibility and respect with the public? The fact that they are resorting to newer and newer lows, central to which is a growing disregard and disdain for the truth that trust in the press was originally built on, is an increasing sign as to the dying days of the traditional media. They are confronted on all sides by other forms of media such as podcasts that are more and more overtaking the popularity of the traditional media and forcing them to more and more depraved tactics.


Don't encourage these base tactics and methods that prey on real people's lives and distort perceptions. Avoid sensationalism and boycott those publications that endorse and proliferate such reporting. You can watch the full interviews below and remember - Your clicks count! Don’t underestimate what a simple action can do. A lot of a little, is a lot!


Join our campaign against the 'Clickbait Vultures' of the press; read more about this here and contact us if you'd like to share any experiences similar to ours and those suffered by the people mentioned in this article and if you want to support us in this ongoing.


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