Bethany, Are You Having a Laugh?

Not for the first time I find myself writing about the ill-conceived protest against Richard Littlejohn and the Daily Mail (aka vigil for Lucy Meadows). When LGBT.co.uk advertised it the only person that they cited in evidence of the unproven claim that Lucy Meadows took her own life was the comedian Bethany Black. Not, you might think, the most reliable of news sources. For example, the following morning they could have read the most detailed early report about Lucy’s death in the Bolton News, where it states that the ambulance service summoned the police because of a sudden death. They would also have read that Lucy’s employer asked for the privacy of all concerned to be respected, which presumably includes the respect for Lucy not to be publicised as having been driven to suicide, when all we know for certain is that she suffered a sudden death. The police reported that there were no suspicious circumstances and that a file was sent to the coroner. Since then the coroner has opened an inquest and quickly closed it again (as is the norm) adding two new pieces of information, that Lucy’s death was discovered by her estranged wife and that although there are reports of prior suicide attempts, it is not clear if that is relevant to this case. Her body was released for the cremation last Thursday (28th March 2013), which means that the coroner was satisfied that no further post-mortem examination was required before the inquest re-opens on 28th May.

Back to Bethany, she is no journalist, her skill is in comedy. She sought to give a balanced view of Lucy’s death by stating that while some were saying that it was suicide, there were no suspicious circumstances. So far so good, but it did not last, and she concludes that this awful thing must never be allowed to happen again. A quick intro on writing up news, Bethany, when you say that an awful thing must never happen again and that there were no suspicious circumstances, then you are saying that Lucy was driven to suicide by the Daily Mail article that you have just criticised. Unless you think that she died from a tragic domestic accident and you want to campaign for better health and safety protections at home. Bethany presents this case as if it has all just happened, it being the school’s announcement that Lucy was about to start working as a woman teacher, that Richard wrote his article and before Lucy returned to work she suffered this awful thing. This shows Bethany’s lack of ability as a journalist as there is no idea given of the timing of different events. A lot of the subsequent erroneous reporting about Lucy’s return to work and the presumption of suicide may derive in part from Bethany’s foolish attempt at journalism, just a day after the school announced Lucy’s death. It may also be why the change.org and SumOfUs petitions to sack Richard imply that he outed Lucy and led to her suicide (claims for which one of the co-sponsors of the change.org petition has since apologised).

The rest of the LGBT.co.uk advert for the protest is incredibly odd. After quoting Bethany it turns to David Allen Green,sometime legal advisor to Trans Media Watch, who is quite clear that it is unknown if Lucy ended her own life, but who also criticised the earlier article by Richard (first published on 20th December 2012). After brief mentions of Richard and Lucy, the last third of the advert is about a Press Complaints Commission judgement on a controversial article by Julie Burchill, which was in the Observer, not the Daily Mail. There is no conclusion about Lucy, although there is a link to David’s resource page about her.

This was Bethany’s first blog article in 14 months, I wish for the sake of Lucy that she had maintained her silence. Bethany, please stick to comedy and then when this is all over we can all have a laugh at your jokes rather than your reporting skills. Of course, if the coroner judges that Lucy did not take her own life, it will be no laughing matter for her family, as millions around the world already think of her as the trans teacher who ended her own life.

© Mercia McMahon 2013