Fury at MacKenzie’s apology demand

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The Sun’s infamous Hillsborough front page from 1989 and the real truth published 23 years later © News International

Locals have reacted angrily to Kelvin MacKenzie’s announcement that he is seeking an apology from South Yorkshire Police over the years of “vilification” he received for his infamous Hillsborough ‘The Truth’ headline in The Sun.

The 65-year-old Mr MacKenzie was editor of the tabloid at the time of the tragedy, and it published a shocking and offensive front page article claiming the Liverpool fans stole from dead and urinated on police officers.

Since the release of official documents on 12th September which proved that the police doctored information and attempted to shift all blame onto the Liverpool fans, MacKenzie has claimed his source was a reputable Sheffield news agency which was informed by four police officers and a Conservative MP.

Writing in the Spectator this week, MacKenzie states he wants an apology, claiming he faces “physical danger” if he visits Liverpool.

He wrote: “Now I know — you know, we all know — that the fans were right. But it took 23 years, two inquiries, one inquest and research into  400,000 documents, many of which were kept secret under the 30-year no-publication rule, to discover there was a vast cover-up by South Yorkshire Police about the disaster. Where does that leave me?”

South Yorkshire Police chief constable David Crompton says his force will not apologise to Mackenzie.

Since the 1989 headline The Sun has been boycotted by a large section of the Liverpool community and some have given JMU Journalism their reaction to his claims.

Alison Dunn, 51, of Noctorum, said: “I think the man is a shameless disgrace. After 23 years he’s tried to blame the police but he’s had all those years to research the information and check it. Any good journalist should research their sources and have both sides to a story. Journalists are there to give a balanced argument. I don’t know how he can hold his head up when he walks the streets.”

Kelvin MacKenzie defended his actions in a BBC interview alongside MP Chris Bryant in December 2011 © BBC

Adam Quail, 27, of Huyton, said: “I have very little sympathy for the man. He went to press with the headline and has to stand by what he said. More care should have been taken checking the validity of his source. Sadly, a person abusing a position of power isn’t a new occurrence.”

Nikolas Stott, 41, from Liverpool city centre, said: “Shouldn’t you always check your sources? He’s only got himself to blame. I can’t see for one moment that he was doing the right thing. I think he just must have thought about what would make him a lot of money, and sadly, it probably did.”

LJMU’s Head of Journalism and National Union of Journalists Ethics Council Chairman, Professor Chris Frost, agrees that MacKenzie should have done more to validate his sources.

Professor Frost said: “Kelvin was editor on the day and choose to go with unqualified unverified information. All journalists know to check their information but Kelvin was so keen to denigrate Liverpool fans that he couldn’t be bothered with that.

“Now he wants the police to take the fall for him. South Yorkshire Police have their own case to answer, and Kelvin should accept that what The Sun did was entirely his doing.”

The Hillsborough Justice Campaign declined to comment to JMU Journalism about MacKenzie’s remarks.

We attempted to contact Kelvin MacKenzie but he could not be reached.


About Sam McDonnell, JMU Journalism