It is a sad state of affairs when a national “newspaper” resorts to inventing stories to fill pages. It’s sadder still when the story in question surrounds a murderer and preys on the emotions of the families involved. On 21st July 2010 The Daily Star, a newspaper with a circulation of over 800,000 (the UK’s 4th largest), published a story reporting that a book, movie and game were to be developed concerning the actions of murderer Raoul Moat. The game to which he refers is a fictional version of the hit series Grand Theft Auto, purportedly set in Rothbury, the scene of Moat’s demise.
The journalist in question, Jerry Lawton, claims in his story that gaming websites were showing pictures of the front cover of such a title. As far as anyone can see the first instance of the image’s publication was in Lawton’s story and games websites have only subsequently published it to underline the ridiculousness of his “journalism”. He has not produced evidence demonstrating that other sites did so first.
What is most reprehensible about the story is that Lawton approached the grandmother of Moat’s ex-girlfriend, who was shot and left for dead, and showed her the image to obtain a reaction for his article. He got what he wanted, an angry response denouncing the game as “beyond belief”. And it is, as it does not exist.
There was, as you would expect, a big backlash from gaming websites denouncing this as gutter journalism. Apparently “baffled” by the reaction, Lawton has hit back by reportedly publishing the following on his Facebook page:
“These are grown (?!?) men who sit around all day playing computer games with one another who’ve today chosen to enter the real world just long enough to complain about my story slamming a Raoul Moat version of Grand Theft Auto!”
“You would think I’d denied the Holocaust!!!”
The post speaks for itself as to the attitude of this journalist and his contempt for the opinions of people rightly affronted by an unprofessional and abhorrent style of reporting. Perhaps they are right as the invention of such an inflammatory title directed the blame at their industry to begin with. The Daily Star has since removed the article from its website.
This incident does highlight an apparent hypocrisy; Video games journalists have long been accused of bad practice and poor or lazy writing, and in some cases this is true. However, a mainstream, albeit tabloid, newspaper allowing its reporters to produce such articles only serves to undermine all journalism and make the general public suspicious of news sources.