It’s a single issue Mediawatch. We try and stay lighthearted (honest) normally, but today was a test…
Aaron Lennon and the Daily Mail
Mediawatch felt uncomfortable from the moment the story over Aaron Lennon’s detainment under the Mental Health Act broke. News outlets have a duty to report news (the clue is in the title), but effectively writing a story that ends with a plea to give Lennon privacy is a difficult balance. Thankfully, most got it spot on.
And then there was this:
— Daily Mail U.K. (@DailyMailUK) May 3, 2017
The misnomer about mental illness is that anything (wage, wealth, status, profession, relationship status, family) can be an effective vaccination against its grip, when the opposite is true. Mental illness cares not about the where, when, who or how much they are earning. Mental illness does not leave a calling card to say that it will be back next week or at a more convenient time. Mental illness does not knock to say it is entering.
By reporting Lennon’s wage, the Daily Mail are asking the question: He has all this money – how can he possibly be sad? At best it is is ignorant, and at worst shamefully misleading. They are in a position of authority, and have a duty to get this right.
The Daily Mail (along with others) must also accept their own culpability in the difficulties of professional sportspeople to deal with mental illness. They use pictures taken with a long lens of private lives, offer gossip on personal relationships and criticise the person as well as the player when results go awry. Can we honestly pretend that this treatment does not isolate sportspeople, leading them to be perceived as commodities rather than human beings?
And then we get to the story itself:
‘The flying winger, who has been known to party with female TOWIE stars Lauren Goodger and Maria Fowler, has had dealings with the police before. In May last year, he was fined £660 after he was spotted speeding at 56mph in a 40mph zone in his Land Rover, minutes before teammate Kevin Miralles.
‘In 2011, TOWIE’s Maria Fowler reportedly had a public row with her boyfriend outside night spot Nu Bar in Loughton, Essex, after flirting with Lennon. The following year, he and teammate Jake Livermore were seen partying at a poolside in Marbella with Lauren Goodger.
‘The player is also said to have had a nasty argument with One Direction star Liam Payne in 2013, when he played for Spurs, in the upmarket Funky Buddah nightclub, London. In July last year, a waitress at a nightclub in Manchester claimed that she was sacked after reporting Lennon to the police for ‘groping her’. Charlotte Long, who was 18 at the time it happened, won an unfair dismissal claim of £15,000 against the Suede nightclub.’
A hatchet job. A brazen, disgraceful hatchet job, not on a player who you are accusing of letting his country down because England didn’t do very well in an international tournament (see Raheem Sterling), but a man who is suffering from mental illness.
Why does any of that ‘information’ matter? Who gives a flying f**k what or who Lennon may or may not have flirted with, danced with or talked to? Who cares whether he has a speeding ticket?
The Mail are selling its readers an image of a party boy footballer known to police, and therefore hinting that his mental anguish has somehow been brought on himself. It may not be deliberate, but Lennon is sold as the footballer who cried wolf.
Mediawatch does not blame the author of the piece. He was presumably instructed to write it, and newspaper editors are not in the business of listening to the pleas of a junior writer. Of course he could have handed in his notice and walked out with his head held high, but that is far easier said than done. Moreover, there are tens of people ready to sit in the same chair and take the same instructions.
That is not excusing the writer entirely, but this is an editorial problem. When a paper cares more about courting controversy, gaining notoriety and reducing sympathy for a person suffering from mental illness, something is deeply broken.
‘Aaron Lennon’s celebrity past – including rubbing shoulders with Lauren Goodger and rowing with Liam Payne,’ reads the Daily Mirror headline. It was published eight hours after the MailOnline effort, meaning the Mirror saw the (mercifully hateful) reaction to that Mail piece, and thought ‘Yes, we want a bit of that’.
So the Mirror saw the reaction to that Mail story and thought 'We want some of that'. And actually made it worse. For f**ks sake. pic.twitter.com/93d0QGMZUQ
— Football365 (@F365) May 3, 2017
‘The 30 year old has been playing in the Premier League since he was 16 and joined Tottenham in 2005 for £1million. And it’s not just on the pitch that Aaron has been a trailblazer, he’s was a live (sics everywhere) one on the party circuit too – hitting headlines for rowing with Liam Payne and holidaying with Lauren Goodger.
‘We look at Aaron’s colourful partying past…’
We’ll stop there, if only to stop us from crying angry f**king tears. What right do you have to do this? How dare you? Imagine Lennon’s family and friends, desperately worried for his wellbeing, seeing that story. How do you think it will make them feel?
‘The club is supporting him through this and his family has appealed for privacy at this time,’ read Everton’s statement on Tuesday evening, as reported by the Daily Mirror and Daily Mail. What gave you the right to ignore this?
When Mediawatch saw this story breaking on Tuesday evening, we worried about the reaction. The internet is a dark, angry place, with people prepared to troll for amusement. We disabled comments on the news story, and it’s desperately sad that we had to. Yet we could not have expected this. The trolls have become editors, or editors have become trolls.
Lennon is not our property, nor the property of the Daily Mail nor the Daily Mirror. He is not a news story or a click-banker. He is not a ‘£55,000-a-week England footballer’, either, or someone who partied with Lauren sodding Goodger. He is a human being, and one who deserves help, sympathy and love. It is at times like these that the dark corners of the tabloid media reveal their true selves.
Recommended reading of the day
Jonathan Wilson on Paulo Dybala.
Amy Lawrence with Remi Garde.
Miguel Delaney on Cristiano Ronaldo.