Way back in the sands of time, a Labour Party staffer named Jo Moore made the papers for doing her job.
Her job was doing spin control for the government, and in particular for the minister of state for transport, Stephen Byers, for whom she worked. Moore was good at her job. She was too good at it and she was focused on it way beyond the point where she stopped to consider the effects of it on the wider world.
There comes a point, sometimes, when someone’s natural inclination to put the job in front of everything else strips them of humanity. It’s a clear and ever present danger in any number of professions. Politics is just one of them.
Moore’s moment in the sun came when, on 11 September 2001, even as the world was still watching the terrorist attack on America unfold, she emailed Byers personal office to suggest that the events made it “a good day to bury bad news.”
Of course, it leaked.
Something so breathtakingly cynical was never going to stay locked in the vaults.
She was forced into a humiliating apology, and was publicly excoriated for what she had done.
She deserved to be.
I thought, until this morning, that it would remain the worst example of exploiting the dead for profit or gain that I would ever hear of outside of one of the right wing organisations that routinely seeks to take advantage of terrorist attacks in this country.
And then I heard about The Daily Record, using a total non-story, months old, and shamelessly, and shamefully, appropriating the death of Liam Miller for tweets and clicks on their website.
Liam Miller’s death is shocking, and tragic.
A guy that young, with a family, it’s awful beyond what mere words can do justice to.
That he was a former player at our club seems secondary to the more important point; this is someone who’s life had barely started, someone taken away far too soon. He leaves three kids behind; it’s to them and to his wife and those who knew him and loved him that our sympathy is conveyed.
For Liam himself, there is the consolation of knowing that whatever pain he was enduring is over … scant consolation but it’s all any of us has got. I’m not going to do an article on Liam the player; this is more than football story. It’s a waste of life. It’s too shocking to limit its scope to one thing. I know others will do pieces on his time in football and I’m sure they will do justice to the player he very nearly was, and who we saw tantalising glimpses of for a short time at Celtic Park.
I’ve been bitter about how that time ended; today that seems hopelessly petty and shallow.
I hope I personally learn something from that.
There’s a lot of that going around today, a lot of introspection and a lot of regret.
Those are, I think, wholly appropriate emotions … and in contrast to them the paper, that rag, that disgraceful publication, looks even worse.
Whilst almost the whole of the country was pausing to pay tribute to Liam – players, coaches, Celtic fans, media pundits, even rival supporters, and much love to all of them – someone at The Daily Record, someone senior, was thinking about web traffic.
Someone was thinking about money, and how the moment could be turned into cash.
The word “disgusting” barely does justice to that.
It is so low as to reset the bar.
The outpouring of fury forced them into an apology.
An apology isn’t going to do.
Since this was about money, that’s the least this should cost them.
If I had my way, if most of our fans could, it would cost them a Hell of a lot more.
A six figure donation to a cancer charity and a more fulsome – and honest, and heartfelt – apology to the family will go some way towards putting this to bed.
But this ought to cost them a lot more than that.
This is the sort of incident that ought to make Celtic rethink its official policy of not banning journalists or titles. As I don’t believe The Record will ever actually make a six figure donation to charity by way of an apology, our club should impose than on them by making their continued access to press events conditional on it.
Where possible, it’s about time we ended any commercial relationships we have with them.
I understand why we don’t ban titles. Celtic believes the media should be able to scrutinise our club, we don’t play games with that. But this is beyond the pale, and an example should be made. That newspaper is not our friend. Today they have made it abundantly clear just how low they are willing to go for clicks and hits and cash. Their core audience is well known to all of us; it’s not for nothing that some of our fans once called it The Daily Rangers.
We know they will pander to that audience, even as far as attacking us. But exploiting the dead is a step way over the line, and that doesn’t impact on us as a football club but it reveals the title and those who run it for what they are, in a way that leaves no doubt.
And it is time they paid a price for it in a way that demonstrates our resolve to do something about them once and for all.
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