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Child abuse and reader abuse

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Tagged: / Posted: 5 October 2009

An alert reader from Germany (a journalist himself) noticed the recurrence of a single sentence in the news stories of different outlets covering the trial of three people accused in connection with the sexual abuse of very young children in Plymouth.


He says he found the sentence "Allen wept as she pleaded guilty while Blanchard showed no reaction and George hung her head in the dock" in stories produced by the BBC, the Sun, the Times and the Daily Mail. I can see it in coverage from the BBC and the Sun, although the Times and the Mail seem to have updated their online stories and removed the line.


Meanwhile, a second sentence - "Allen wept as she pleaded guilty to four child sex assaults and one count of distributing an indecent image" - is used by both The Guardian the The Daily Mirror.


I guess it's possible that journalists are trained to write in cliches and so different reporters spontaneously produce exactly the same words, but I think it's more likely that they were all recycling the same agency copy as usual - and then putting their own bylines at the top of it,  thus suggesting that they had been to court and covered the trial whereas, as usual, they had remained chained to their keyboards in the office.

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