The Tabloids’ Guide To Responsible Reporting On Trials


CRIMINAL trials of all descriptions are sadly exploited and poured over in lurid details by newspaper editors and principle-less online news publications, but luckily for the public Irish tabloids are always a bastion of restraint and respectful reporting.

The temptation to turn someone’s tragedy into titillating conversation pieces for rubbernecking readers must be quite high, but thankfully that’s the sort of gutless moral-less tripe you get across the water in the English press. Here in Ireland, tabloids never let themselves down as evidenced by this handy guide on how to responsibly report on criminal trials:

1) Don’t worry, this guide works for broadsheets which pretend not to be tabloids.

2) Sift through the horrific, incomprehensible tragedy of someone’s life and make sure to only focus on the most lurid and salacious elements of the crime and share these details with the public. Do not, under any circumstances, cover a trial with a sense that you should focus on legal arguments made in court. You need headlines that will shock, responsibly of course.

3) Don’t simply report on the facts of the trial, focusing only on the pertinent evidence being presented. You should be knocking on the doors of the victim’s neighbours, friends and family in a bid to make this as traumatic as possible for the grieving and bereft.

4) Drag seemingly unimportant elements of people’s personal lives and circumstances to the public’s attention, and subtly suggest through brightly coloured words and pictures that these people should be intensely judged. If they’re working class…you know what to do.

5) Repeat ‘it’s in the public interest’ so many times that the words somehow lose all meaning.

6) Make no attempts to seek out the opinions of experts. You must ensure you make the same tasteless and irresponsible mistakes made by tabloids in the past when covering other famous high profile cases. If you insist on quoting an expert, make sure to omit the part in which they mention how the type of coverage your tabloid is in engaged in is damaging and adds nothing of value.

7) Start planning a special 88-page pullout on the trial for whenever a verdict is reached. Double down on the lurid details, see if you can come up with a catchy title for the trial. Sure ‘the trial that shocked/captivated a Nation’ will do, but why not try some alliteration or a pun or two. It’s important to rush to conclusions and make incorrect moral pronouncements.

If you can have a picture of yourself looking serious with arms folded included next to your piece, all the better. Play your cards right and there could be a book deal in this for you.

8) Go home, look at yourself in the mirror and tell yourself ‘I am a good person’ until you believe it.

9) Don’t lose any sleep over this. Don’t beat yourself up – if you’re worried you didn’t exploit a victim and their loved one’s suffering enough, don’t worry, there will be another trial along next week or the week after that to monetise.