UK newspaper The Lynn News Citizen apologized for a column that said the 25th anniversary memorial for the Hillsborough tragedy was “an excuse for more rabble rousing,’ the Guardian‘s Roy Greenslade reported.
At Hillsborough in 1989, 96 sporting fans were “crushed to death.”
The Lynn News Citizen is a twice-weekly print newspaper and online news site in Norfolk, England.
The column didn’t carry a named byline — it was credited to columnist “The Big Eye.” The story was titled “We endure a Hillsborough on our roads every 18 days.”
It read in part, according to the Liverpool Echo:
“A spokesperson for the Hillsborough Family Support Group still succeeded in insinuating into her references to their ongoing campaign for justice a rallying call for her team and their ongoing title ambitions.
“Whatever else has happened and however awful the deaths of those 96 people there is still something that will ease everyone’s pain – a big shiny cup with ribbons on it.
The Lynn News Citizen‘s editor, Nick Woodhead, apologized for the “wholly inappropriate” tone of the column in a statement on the Lynn News Citizen’s website. His “personal message” reads:
“The Lynn News of Tuesday, April 22, included a comment article by weekly columnist The Big Eye entitled We endure a Hillsborough on our roads every 18 days.
“While the piece sought to draw attention to the numbers of road traffic tragedies, the reference to the Hillsborough memorial and the tone of the article were wholly inappropriate and running it was ill-advised on my part.
“The columnist and this newspaper in no way intended to offend anyone involved in Hillsborough or affected by the tragedy and we would like to apologise profusely for any offence caused.”
Woodhead also tweeted an apology for his “grave error.”
My grave error to print Big Eye column relating road deaths to Hillsborough in wholly inappropriate way. I apologise. http://t.co/ugqBmffVJt
— Nick Woodhead (@EditorLynnNews) April 22, 2014
The newpsaper also tweeted about the column.
The Guardian‘s Greenslade noted that one of the newspaper’s advertisers, optician chain Optician Specsavers, issued a statement critical of the column. Specsavers wrote on Twitter, “We in no way endorse @LynnNewsCitizen’s ‘Big Eye’ opinions and withdraw our sponsorship of the column with immediate effect.”
According to the BBC, Specsavers sponsored the Big Eye column.
A Specsavers spokesperson distanced the company from the newspaper. The spokesperson told iMediaEthics by e-mail:
“Specsavers in Kings Lynn withdrew its sponsorship of The Big Eye column in the Lynn News on Tuesday morning. During its sponsorship of the column the store had no involvement in its content and does not endorse any of the views expressed within it. We found out about the content of the latest The Big Eye column via twitter and immediately acted to remove our association with it.”
The Hillsborough Family Support Group’s chairman, Margaret Aspinall, a mother of one of the victims, called the Lynn News Citizen article “an absolute disgrace,” according to the Liverpool Echo.
“They ought to be ashamed of themselves,” she added.
iMediaEthics has written to the Lynn News Citizen and SpecSavers for comment. We’ll update with any additional information.
Last month, the UK newspaper the Reading Chronicle also got in hot water for its Hillsborough comments. The Chronicle linked hooliganism to the Hillsborough deaths, as iMediaEthics wrote at the time. The newspaper’s editor Maurice O’Brien was suspended and ended up leaving the newspaper although the Chronicle‘s publisher hasn’t confirmed if he was fired or quit.