THE Scottish Sunday Express has issued an apology for an article about Dunblane it published a fortnight ago.
Yesterday, the paper devoted half of page five to saying it had got it wrong with a report claiming that now teenage survivors of the Dunblane Massacre had ‘shamed’ the dead by boasting on the internet of alcohol binges and fights.
Thirteen years ago, a Thomas Hamilton shot dead 16 children at Dunblane Primary School and their teacher.
Published on the eighth of this month, the article attracted more than 30 complaints to the Press Complaints Commission.
In addition, an online petition received almost 10,000 signatures registering ‘widespread disgust’.
Says the petition text: “The article – whose groundless message of outrage appeared to be focussed on the normal teenage behaviour of these young people – represented a gross intrusion into their privacy.”
Among those encouraging people to sign the petition was the co-writer of the Father Ted situation comedy, Graham Linehan.
Headlined: ‘Dunblane: We’re Sorry’, the apology began: “The Scottish Sunday Express has enjoyed a long love affair with the people of our nation.
“It is 81 years since the first edition of this great newspaper rolled off the presses in Glasgow. Over this time, we have established a reputation for crusading journalism built on the twin cornerstones of honesty and integrity.”
It continued: “Scottish Sunday Express readers expect us to shine a light on the wrongs in our society, to expose the crooks, highlight the hypocrites and to give everyone the odd chuckle with the extraordinary stories that ordinary Scots so often have to tell.
“We think we are pretty good at all that, and everyone involved in producing this newspaper takes pride in what we publish.
“It is also hugely important to us that the Scottish Sunday Express reflects the feelings of the people of Scotland.
“On March 8 we got that all wrong.”
The apology was teed up on the front page.
It went on: “Our front-page story about the teenage survivors of the Dunblane massacre and their use of social networking websites has caused terrible offence, not only in that town, but across Scotland and around the world.
“It is our belief that nobody was misquoted, but the story was undeniably inappropriate. It has upset the young people we named and caused great distress to their parents.
“Where possible, we have spoken to the families involved and given them a heartfelt apology. Today we apologise to you, our loyal readers.
“The Scottish Sunday Express is a big newspaper with a long and illustrious history. We are also big enough to say we are truly sorry.”