October 04, 2011

A bit more digging in to this Daily Mail / Amanda Knox story

I’m not normally one to defend the Mail, but this story going around that they pre-wrote two versions of the Amanda Knox verdict story, and then published the wrong one, set off some alarm bells.

If you haven’t seen it, the background is here

Writing two stories isn’t so bad, running the wrong one is a horrible mistake to make, especially when it has details and quotes that are obviously made up as they could not possibly have happened.

But.

I can see a reporter writing the two outlines, then leaving it with some work experience kid or junior reporter to stay on the desk all night and just “fix the details” when the actual verdict is reached. We can’t know for sure that the intention was ever to publish the story as it was. Take this bit:

“As Knox realized the enormity of what judge Hellman was saying she sank into her chair sobbing uncontrollably while her family and friends hugged each other in tears.”

This didn’t happen, but maybe it was just a way of writing an instruction to whoever was going to run the final piece to make a note Knox’s and her family’s reaction. Or maybe I’m being generous. We can’t possibly know as none of this ever happened, and they didn’t mean to publish the story anyway. So we can’t prove any sort of intent.

Or can we?

It stands to reason that if a ‘guilty’ story was pre-written with false quotes and observations, then the ‘not guilty’ story as run should also have false quotes and observations, which would be actually verifiable.

And this is where it gets a little wonky.

Here’s the current story in the Mail, that is found here:

knox1

It covers the reaction to the verdict as follows:

“Last night, there had been screams in court as the verdict was delivered.
Knox burst into tears and hugged her parents Curt and Edda Mellas – as just feet away the family of Meredith could only look on in amazement.”

But let’s have a look at Google shall we, which still has a search result extract from the original version of the ‘correct’ story that they posted which you might be able to see here:

Knox 2

Apparently:

“Knox, 24, punched the air in delight and screamed yes while her parents Curt and Edda Mellas collapsed in a flood of tears”

So apparently upon hearing the verdict, Amanda Knox must have punched the air, screamed in delight before bursting into tears and jumping on her parents to hug them while they were collapsed on the floor.

The detail of her punching the air doesn’t appear in the current version of the story on the Mail site at all, and it’s a rather odd thing to leave out. If it actually happened. Alas Google doesn’t have last night’s version of the page cached, so we can’t check any other details or quotes, but while it’s less obvious and certainly less funny than them reporting her as being found guilty, I can’t help but feel it’s a much bigger smoking gun in terms of demonstrating the fact that they’d already written and made-up these stories well before they went live last night, and then just fixed them with actual facts earlier this morning.


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