Friday, 23 December 2011

Gary Speed: Reading Between The Lines

An interesting and oblique leader column in The Times today about Gary Speed, Untold Story.*
And I think it's interesting precisely because it is so oblique.
It's basically wondering aloud if we wouldn't know what caused Speed's death if he hadn't died in the year of Hackgate and at the time of the Leveson Inquiry?
"In the past, tabloids would have hunted this story down. Doing this now, however, might not seem wise. The press is, after all, under investigation. And, because some newspapers have failed to make the public interest case for their stories, they have lost confidence in their ability to do so. Many newsrooms are also, rightly, questioning their methods. As a result, this story is being left alone.
"But the question has to be asked: is this reticence a good thing? Precisely because the case is such a hard one, Mr Speed’s death provides a good test of the arguments being made in the debate now taking place on press privacy."
And thus the questioning and speculation has taken place in the virtual world, on chatrooms, forums and blogs - Gary Speed was the most searched for name on Fagburn this year, by a very long margin.
The header to the leader asks; "Gary Speed’s death raises matters of public interest that need to be reported".
"Public interest" in the causes of the death of a sportsman - no matter how popular and succesful - seems a ridiculous claim.
But then The Times' sister papers The Sun and The News Of The World would often cry "public interest" to defend their most indefensible actions.
They add: "It is complicated because the extent of public interest in Mr Speed’s death is impossible to calculate until after reporting work has begun."
The Times also claim that they "know very little", but they would say that, wouldn't they?
The conflation of these lines makes Fagburn wonder what they've heard.
As does an earlier line; "Although the inquest into his death has not been concluded, it appears that Mr Speed committed suicide."
An inquest unconcluded after a month is unusual.
Note also the sense of doubt now over his "apparent suicide" (A phrase used by Private Eye two weeks ago).
The Times' leader concludes by applauding the Leveson Inquiry; "But it is critical, too, that we do not live in a society in which rumour takes the place of reporting, and misinformation triumphs over truth."
Much old media seem unaware - or aware and angry/jealous - that the internet is that you can not regulate the internet.
How interesting that The Times runs this leader at a time when many have concluded that the old media needs more regulating?
And if anyone is wondering what I know I must stress; I'm sorry, I haven't a clue.

PS If you want to see the current state of play of the many Gary Speed rumours just Google "Gary Speed rumours".
It doesn't quite seem to back up the Times' argument that at the time I type the two most popular search results are stories from The Daily Mail.

* It's behind the Times' paywall, of course - many local libraries will give people a code for this as part of their membership.

Update Saturday 24th December: Can anyone think of another time one newspaper has re-printed another's leader column verbatim, as The Daily Mail does here? Hmmm...


  1. Have to disagree old chap; >1 month for an inquest isn't that unusual when waiting for input from the pathologist (as is the case here). Foregone conclusion or not, the inquest remains open so 'apparent' is good form.

  2. Okay - apologies.
    I was (foolishly) extrapolating from the few I've personally known about, which I think were concluded within a week.