Friday, July 13, 2012

Headlines that lie and the pursuit of truth

WE’RE all used to the nationals and TV coming down when there’s a big story in our patch and trampling all over the community.
The reporting of the death of ‘cop killer’ Peter’s Reeve’s death in a churchyard just two miles from our office was no different. The live TV feeds were full of wild speculation and the Daily Mail’s story (right) the following day just wrong, wrong, wrong.
But we’re aghast at how a local free newspaper – our ‘opposition’ here in Chelmsford - can get it so wrong in its sensationalist reporting of the events.
Whilst it really grabs the reader’s attention, the Chelmsford Weekly News’ headline Murderer kills himself on wife’s grave is simply not true. Even more so, because she is actually ALIVE and pictured on our front page.
To top it off, there is nothing in the story to corroborate this wild assumption.
Here at the Essex Chronicle, however, we did everything possible to find out the truth, after several national newspapers also made the same error.
On the day of the suicide, we had one reporter at the local register office trying to find out who the gunman’s relatives are.
Furnished with that information we sent three reporters down to the graveyard at 10pm, once the cordon had been lifted, so they could painstakingly search the gravestones to find that emotional link that the nationals had been so ready to peddle.
We even returned in the morning, and with the help of the local vicar, scoured the burial records.
So what was the local link? Was it Peter Reeve’s late father, mother, wife?
Neither. The truth is Peter Reeve had no close family connection to the gravestones in Writtle.
There are some Reeves buried there, but they are from the early 50s, when Peter Reeve would have been a small boy.
His mother and father are, in fact, buried at Chelmsford Crematorium, and his estranged wife is alive, and still living in Chelmsford.
I think we all deserve some sort of explanation.

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