Channel 4 News Chief Correspondent Alex Thomson’s “doorstep” of former Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie over Hillsborough sparks a big debate online and on radio.
The doorstep, in which Alex Thomson grilled Mr MacKenzie over his decision to publish the “The Truth” headline in the wake of the Hillsborough tragedy, has been viewed 65,000 times on YouTube and has spawned parody videos (see bottom of the page).
The headline, over a story containing allegations that Liverpool fans had pick-pocketed the dead and urinated on police as they tried to help the injured, was written by MacKenzie. Harry Arnold, the journalist who worked on the article itself, which was based on information from sources in the police, has said that he was “aghast” when he saw the headline because “that wasn’t what I’d written”.
A report from the Hillsborough Independent Panel, published last week, exonerated the fans and revealed that the allegations were unfounded.
This is dreadful foot-in-the-door journalism in which the reporter achieves the almost impossible by making the appalling Kelvin MacKenzie look like a victim. – Balanced
In the video, Thomson confronts Mr MacKenzie and repeatedly asks him for an interview on the headline. This came after Channel 4 News had repeatedly requested an interview with the former Sun editor in the wake of the findings of the independent panel.
Mr MacKenzie and The Sun newspaper have both apologised for the headline.
Public reaction has been varied. A poll on the Guardian website currently shows that 88 per cent of people thought the “doorstep” was justified, compared to 12 per cent who disagreed.
Jeremy Vine has hosted a debate on his Radio 2 show, with opinions varying over whether or not MacKenzie has the right to be left alone. Ofcom has received fewer than 10 complaints and said it is not currently investigating.
Favourable reaction on Twitter included tweets from former deputy prime minister John Prescott, Daily Mirror journalist Tony Parsons and Radio 2 host Jeremy Vine (see below).
Now he knows what it feels like. Kelvin MacKenzie doorsteeped by C4’s @alextomo on Hillsborough
— John Prescott (@johnprescott) September 18, 2012
You would need a heart of stone not to laugh – Kelvin Mackenzie gets doorstepped by Channel 4 news. bcove.me/iw4q78lc
— Tony Parsons (@TonyParsonsUK) September 18, 2012
Of the thousands of tweets, most reflected the view that Mr MacKenzie was given a “righteous dose of irony”.
However, not all were in favour and questioned whether it was right for Channel 4 News to “sink to MacKenzie’s level”.
I ask as a Liverpool fan and a loather of the Sun: An intrusive and bullying journalist at Kelvin Mackenzie’s home proved what exactly?
— Jack Klaff (@jackshebang) September 18, 2012
— Paul Richards (@pbreathing) September 18, 2012
— Simon Hudson (@HeyHudson) September 18, 2012
The comments on Thomson’s blog were also mixed. Nick Maloney commented: “Although I don’t like Kelvin MacKenzie or his newspaper, it was sad to see a Channel 4 reporter behaving in an uncivilised way.
They were not advocating doorstepping as good journalistic practice they were exposing both that type of journalism and that type of man. – Mike Marsh
“Why stoop to the thuggish methods of the tabloid journalists? What were you looking for? An unsubstantiated, thoughtless, throw away line to make another piece of poor journalism?”
“This is dreadful foot-in-the-door journalism,” ‘Balanced’ wrote, “in which the reporter achieves the almost impossible by making the appalling Kelvin MacKenzie look like a victim.
“MacKenzie deals with the intense provocation, which takes place on his private property, reasonably well. Alex Thomson seems completely oblivious to the irony that he is lecturing MacKenzie on press ethics while simultaneously practising the type of gutter press tactics of which MacKenzie himself would have been proud as editor of the Sun.”
But others felt the irony of the doorstepping served to expose the worst practices of the press, rather than reinforce them.
Mike Marsh wrote: “All of those with sympathy for Mackenzie or outrage at C4 can you not see that this was a stunt laden with intended irony. They subjected the man who had made a huge contribution to the degradation of British journalism to the worst kind of example of his own standards.
“They were not advocating doorstepping as good journalistic practice they were exposing both that type of journalism and that type of man.”
On the Channel 4 News Facebook page an entry showing Thomson’s blog post caught the attention of 6,210 people. Again the majority of the comments were favourable to the “doorstep”.
A spokesperson for Channel 4 News said: “Given the seriousness of the allegations Channel 4 News was putting to Kelvin MacKenzie and the questions that remain unanswered about the Sun’s coverage of the Hillsborough disaster whilst he was the editor, we stand by this robust series of questions from Alex Thomson.”
What do you think? Tell Channel 4 News by commenting on Alex’s blog.