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Sunday 24 March 2013

Follow up: The Lucy Meadows bandwagon

Some comment and interaction about my post deserves follow-up.

I tweeted at two advisory board members: Paul Hilder (Oxfam), and; John Wood (TUC). No response yet, if it comes I will add it here.
Update: Kaytee Riek, Campaign Manager, at the SumOfUs New York office emailed me, referred to my tweet to the Board members and said that she'd "be happy to talk with you about your concerns". I reminded Riek of my point on consultation and that some trans people were suggesting caution. I asked again why their petition was launched in competition with an existing petition and why the initial PR was so bad.

I haven't heard back from her but following today's (Wednesday's) delivery of 200,000 signatures new PR from them reflects a change in no longer directly blaming Littlejohn for the suicide, instead it talks of his "connection to the tragic death of transgender schoolteacher Lucy Meadows". It also says that he and the Daily Mail have "become focal points of outrage over an abusive press."

I didn't sign the petition so haven't seen this but there are claims of fundraising emails to signatories.

The petitioner has also been in touch - you can read his comments at the re-post of my post. If he responds to my email I will post anything relevant.
Meadows' MP, Graham Jones, in a long interaction with me, pointed out that:
The Leveson debate was too often glowing about the innocence of local newspapers.
Jones suffered his own 'reputational damage' through local media last year when he was falsely accused of intimidating voters.

Liz Gerard on her blog gives an example of how local media can, and maybe should, cover the same sort of situation to the Lucy Meadows' one, this time in Chelmsford. She generally praises the consideration but not the front page headlining (pictured).

Then Essex Chronicle Editor Alan Geere wrote about how he wrestled over the story in a blog post.

A Google search on the Accrington Observer has their last 'gay' article at more than five years old. Reader Norena Shopland wrote to say:
Last year I put together the first history of LGBT in Wales and during my research I did a survey on the number of 'local' titles owned by groups such as Tindle, Trinity, etc. Most have a search engine from 2000 onwards and my survey consisted of standard keywords but the results were almost non-existent - they rarely if ever published any LGBT news. Even when laws were changed! There was only the occasional article which, like this one, was negative.
At least one person will not be buying the Accrington Observer or the Lancashire Telegraph again after reading my post.

In another bit of local input, Julie Carpenter writes:
I agree that not enough emphasis has been made on the local and other press behaviour over this, and I tried with my little twitter account to raise that yesterday. I even posted on the Accrington Observer's comments, but oddly there was a cull of any posts that criticised their involvement and it (and other) posts doing the same disappeared after a few hours.

There is a huge 'anti-DM' movement and it's a shame they have pinned themselves to the coat tails of this. I guess Littlejohn makes a good pantomime villain and it has raised awareness, but there is a risk that the core point about the on-the-ground behaviour of the press is getting lost in the calls for his sacking.
Former "news agency hack" Dan Waddell has contacted both the Accrington Observer journalist Stuart Pike and the quoted aggrieved parent and had no response. He suggests from experience that Pike spun the original 'non'-story. But this wasn't enough for the Daily Mail so a local news agency added more spin. Waddell goes into great detail about the history of this story, with follow up here.

"The story of Lucy Meadows death is a tragedy. The story of how her story was reported in the newspapers is very revealing about how the press operates," Waddell writes.

In a echo of the Mail's removal of Littlejohn's bile:
The Accrington Observer's Twitter feed usually promotes their front page and other stories each week. In the week of the Lucy Meadows story nothing at all was tweeted. Looking through the timeline, I can't find another week where that's the case. Anyone would think there was a story in their newspaper they might be ashamed of.
Waddell also notes that:
Stuart Pike tweeted about Lucy's death. There was no acknowledgement of his involvement, the previous story he wrote, or any remorse. Just a matter of fact link to the news story in the paper.
David Allen Green, whose tweets have driven much of the traffic to my post, described it as "balanced and measured" and resummarised it as follows:
You think the Lucy Meadows case is just about bashing Littllejohn?
He noted that journalist Amanda Kendal has argued that:
.. however much Littlejohn himself was bang out of order, he is far from unique and he is not ‘The Problem’. Were Littlejohn to disappear off the face of the Earth tomorrow, transphobia would not be consigned to history with him.

We need a cultural change in attitudes toward trans people – indeed, toward both sex and sexuality as a whole.
Indeed. Worth noting that journalist David Banks tweeted earlier a link to the Samaritans media guidelines which, amongst other things, notes:
Avoid simplistic explanations for suicide

Although a catalyst may appear to be obvious, suicide is never the result of a single factor or event and is likely to have several inter-related causes. Accounts which try to explain a suicide on the basis of a single incident, for example unrequited romantic feelings, should be challenged. Where relevant, news features could be used to provide more detailed analysis of the reasons behind the rise in suicides.
Martin Robbins in the New Statesman has linked to my post and followed some of my points. He also got this quote from Trans Media Watch:
We understand the anger behind calls for Richard Littlejohn to be sacked. He has persistently belittled trans people in his columns, but we feel that the real problem is bigger than one man and we don't want to see him become a scapegoat, allowing others to avoid responsibility.
David Allen Green has compiled 'What we know and what we don’t know about the death of Lucy Meadows'.


  1. Ms Lucy Meadows posed no threat to the local community; on the contrary she was considered a ‘valued member of staff’. The real danger to the community were the media who chose to vilify Miss Meadows, and now she is dead, presumably by committing suicide.

    I’ve today published a blog about this issued called, “UK media needs a sex change”

    1. This is the reason why the 'press' needs legislating against. The local rags can be as bad as the national toilet rolls, but keep on acting as though they never do anything wrong