Tabloid Watch questioned the Daily Mail’s failure to publish an apology or correction for its November 28 story reporting that a woman named Lyn Marie Cunliffe “has taken her obsession with Victorian literature to the extreme – by living her modern life dressed as her heroine Charlotte Bronte.”
Cunliffe doesn’t “live her life dressed as Charlotte Bronte,” according to the Mail.
According to the clarification, the Daily Mail got its story “based on an interview with Lyn-Marie Cunliffe – which was provided by an agency.” Despite the Mail’s claim that she lives “her life dressed as Charlotte Bronte,” Cunliffe only “occasionally dresses as the author as part of her work,” the Mail noted, “but does not harbour a passion or obsession for the Brontes.”
Further, the Mail wrote: “She has made clear she did not refer to her husband as her Mr Rochester or say that she thought of Heathcliffe while walking her dog. We are happy to clarify her position.” In a blogpost, Cunliffe adding that she does “not like the character of Mr Rochester.”
Cunliffe noted that the Daily Mail “conceded it has never spoken to me and merely published… a story bought from a news agency.” Cunliffe explained in an e-mail to IMediaEthics that she was interviewed by a news agency called Caters News and she got “the impression” that she was being interviewed “about the Brontes, the area and my work.”
She told iMediaEthics: “I have research that has been used on a lot of Bronte blogs so while I couldn’t imagine it would be a very exciting story for anyone. I replied to Caters email and asked for details.” She told iMediaEthics that her work is “primarily” as a costumer and educator, but that she also does “promotional work/tourism work in costume for Haworth or the Bronte Parsonage.” She noted that she “used to give talks called ‘an interview with Charlotte Bronte/an afternoon with Charlotte Bronte’ and talked about the Brontes.” Also, she helped write a “short play.”
She added that “this has been a bitter and hard battle” and that the Guardian and Telegraph both “corrected their genuine mistake promptly and behaved in every respect with decency and rectitude.” A search of both the Guardian and the Telegraph’s websites of Cunliffe’s name didn’t produce any results. Cunliffe told iMediaEthics by e-mail that “the Telegraph ran more or less the same story as the Mail though with more photos.” The Guardian “didn’t run the actual story” like the others, but ran its own article about Cunliffe that “was quite pleasant but unfortunately based on the premise that I was this woman who went around dressed as Charlotte Bronte all the time.”
She said that the Mail’s response “is entirely due to the efforts of the Press Complaints Commission as prior to their intervention the Daily Mail had refused to answer my emails.” Further, she argued that the Daily Mail “behaved in an appalling manner” and “trawled, by its own admission my blog ,my flickr profile and my eBay listings” and her Facebook page.
Cunliffe told iMediaEthics by e-mail that the PCC has been “always very prompt in replying to my emails” but that the Daily Mail was “extremely slow in replying to the PCC” so it ended up taking about three months to get the Daily Mail’s clarification.
“The story took every aspect of my work made up lies which twisted it to make it look a part of an unhealthy and silly obsession so it has harmed almost every aspect of my work,” she blogged. She added: “This retraction leaves only the Daily Express deliberately continuing to run a story known to be untrue ”
See here a Nov. 29, 2011 story, “The Full Bronte! Fan Who Apes Her Literary Idol,” about Cunliffe. That story claims that Cunliffe “spends every day dressed as her heroine” and has a “lifelong obsession with the Jane Eyre author’s works.” Further, the Express writes that Cunliffee chose “three years ago she wanted to live in a time-warp.”
Cunliffe told iMediaEthics that she has “contacted them several times by email” and their parent company.
We have written to the Daily Mail and the Express for comment and will update with any response.