Reporter 'aghast' at MacKenzie Hillsborough headline in Sun

Sep 7, 2012

But little sympathy for veteran Harry Arnold among Liverpool fans

THE JOURNALIST who wrote a now-infamous story for the Sun suggesting drunk Liverpool FC fans urinated on police and stole from victims during the Hillsborough disaster has said he was "aghast" at the way his story was presented in the paper, and insisted that editor Kelvin MacKenzie was personally responsible for the paper's coverage.

Veteran reporter Harry Arnold told the BBC that what he had written was "balanced and fair" account of "allegations" made about some fans as the tragedy, in which 96 people died, unfolded.

However, when his story appeared on the front page of the paper four days after the fateful FA Cup semi final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest it had the headline 'The Truth'. Below it were three sub-heads claiming fans picked the pockets of victims, urinated on police and beat up an officer who was giving the kiss of life.

In a documentary, Hillsborough: Searching for the Truth, to be screened on the BBC this weekend Arnold said, not for the first time, that MacKenzie wrote the headline himself.

"The reason I know that is I was about to leave the newsroom when I saw him drawing up the front page," he said. "When I saw the headline 'The Truth' I was aghast, because that wasn't what I'd written."

"I'd never used the words 'The Truth'... I'd merely written, I hoped and I still believe, in a balanced and fair way."

Arnold said he had tried to reason with MacKenzie, telling him that there was no way of knowing if the allegations were true, but his complaints were brushed off.

"I walked away thinking, well I'm not happy with the situation," he said. "But the fact is reporters don't argue with an editor. And in particular, you don't argue with an editor like Kelvin MacKenzie."

It is not the first time the story of MacKenzie's folly has been rehearsed in public. In the book Stick it Up Your Punter - the Rise and Fall of the Sun, Peter Chippendale and Chris Horrie wrote: "As MacKenzie's layout was seen by more and more people, a collective shudder ran through the office (but) MacKenzie's dominance was so total there was nobody left in the organisation who could rein him in except Murdoch."

But there was little sympathy for Arnold on Twitter, where actor Mark Moraghan described him as a "self-serving coward" for refusing to challenge MacKenzie.

Last year MacKenzie admitted that he wished that he had handled his paper's coverage of the tragedy differently, and indirectly insulted Arnold by suggesting that the story had been based on accounts from local news organisations and journalists from Liverpool.

Official papers into the tragedy will be released on Wednesday, more than 23 years after it happened.

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Whether MacKenzie wrote the headline or not, whether Arnold objected to that headline or not, he still wrote the article. How did he think a paper like The Sun (and an editor like Kelvin MacKenzie) would treat that? It's no excuse at all to say that he was only reporting allegations - he wrote as though he believed them. The tone and content was one of reinforcing 80s stereotypes of Scousers - thieving, disrespectful etc. A 'balanced and fair' report would have investigated the allegations.
I lived in Liverpool at the time; I was at university with a girl who died at Hillsborough; I was in the city as The Sun branded every Liverpudlian as wasn't just the headline that did that - it was the article. No article, no headline. Arnold's as culpable as MacKenzie. Who's really scum?

This c*nt mackenzie is a f*cking leech on society, wish we could get him back to Liverpool. The poor 96 have been vilified by this tw*t and now it comes out. He should be prosecuted for printing lies and Murdoch as well. God Bless the 96 YNWA.

Don't buy the Sun, the lies are exposed at last

God bless the 96 YNWA

People who purchase the sun are part of the demonization of Liverpool/Hillsborough victims, and I am certain that this was sanctioned at higher levels of government at the time. It has helped to prolong the agony of living relatives today.

Harry Arnold once told me a story that sums up Mackenzie's approach to accurate, responsible journalism. Harry was the Sun's royal correspondent. Late one Friday afternoon Mackenzie called him into his office and said 'I want a juicy royals splash for Monday'.
Harry said he would see what he could come up with and Mackenzie responded with 'It doesn't have to be true as long as it's not actionable'.

Mackenzie is a (*** and Arnold is a gutless coward.

You can bet he didn't refuse his pay cheque from Murdoch that month on a point of principle . . .

As an ardent Liverpool fan then and now, these lies were highly offensive and it is not excuse enough to say that he only wrote them; Arnold should have investigated, interviewed survivors, found out the real truth, and exposed the lies that the police told. He should have resigned in protest and written a different, independent and fair article later to expose the truth. He did neither. He may have protested, but he was paid for the article and the Sun allowed to spread lies, that were exposed as lies and has never done anything to put that right. I do not believe today will see the end for the Sun or News International: rats breed more rats and will survive. But it will with any luck be a huge swipe across their lying faces and give some vindication to the fans! I only hope that the 96 who where so tragically killed and whose deaths could have been avoided had the police not been cowards, the gates opened and not stewarded to lead fans in safely, and medical assistance given from ambulances kept outside, by police; who also lied; finally find some peace and their families closure. We will never forget them and they will never walk alone: until those who are to blame hold their heads in shame. May they all rest in peace and their souls find eternal rest. God bless their loved ones. YNWA