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Echo admits it was “deceived” over giant rat picture

A regional daily has admitted it was “deceived” after republishing a weekly newspaper’s year-old picture of a man holding up a giant rat.

The Liverpool Echo published a story in its Sunday edition about “mutant” super rats invading the city, which was later picked up by its national stablemate the Daily Mirror.

It was illustrated by a picture of Highgate man Adrian Whitaker holding up a 2ft-long rat found in his home which was originally published in the Hampstead and Highgate Express last year.

The Echo story, which has since been removed from its website, wrongly claimed that the rat had been caught in Liverpool, and that the photo depicted pest controller Sean Whelan holding the dead animal.


It led 35-year-old  Mr Whitaker to issue a stinging e-mail to both titles accusing them of deception.

“I do not live or work in Liverpool nor have any association with Whelan Pest Control Services.  I originally gave permission for my image to be used to highlight a serious local issue. I certainly did not give permission for it to be used in a national newspaper,” he wrote.

“Your article amounts to… deception and I would like to know what you intend to do about this.”

“It just makes me realise how much more of this probably goes on in tabloids. It’s not really journalism if you’re making stuff up and sensationalising.”

A Trinity Mirror spokesman said: “We were deceived about the picture of the giant rat. We were led to believe that it had been taken recently on an industrial estate in Liverpool.

“It has since become clear that it was taken in another part of the country. We will be clarifying the position with our readers on Sunday.”

9 comments

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  • April 15, 2014 at 3:44 pm
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    I dunno. You’d think with a picture like that, someone on the news desk would’ve had the nous to smell a rat.

    I’ll get my coat.

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  • April 15, 2014 at 5:07 pm
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    Is it not very, very first rule to do a quick cuttings search to see if the story has been done before? Maybe things have changed in this new digital world we live in. “Hey, it’s on Facebook. Must be true.”

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  • April 16, 2014 at 9:13 am
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    ‘Deceived’ or too lazy to do the most basic of checks. Surely they contacted the finder of the big mouse to see if he would be interviewed/pose for a picture alongside the mobile phone snap.
    Come on Echo…….

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  • April 16, 2014 at 12:23 pm
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    Baffling story, the idea that ‘mutant rats invading Liverpool’ is stated as fact yet there, presumably, no contact with the random person that sent in the photo, no interview, certainly no consultation with the authorities to find out if it was true, council, environment agency etc.

    Presumably I could just email a picture of myself with a quiff asleep on the lavatory under the banner ‘Elvis lives’.

    It’s obvious this brave new era is about what’s in the top left hand corner of that screenshot ‘5081’ shares. All we want is shares, Tweets etc, the quality of what’s actually being shared doesn’t seem to matter anymore.

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  • April 16, 2014 at 12:53 pm
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    Today’s news is tomorrow’s chip wrapper – or for those who can remember it, the opening titles of Lou Grant on tv where the LA Tribune went from squiggles in a notepad to line a budgie’s cage in a day.

    One day (very soon) that kind of transience will be looked on as longevity as we continue to gobble up and spit out infotainment.

    Are these the same mutant rats that were recently heading towards the UK on board an abandoned cruise liner – with the King of Rock n’ Roll lashed to the wheel?

    Seriously – how long before a bright young journalist, perhaps those who have just passed their exams, will dare to ask the right questions about the so-called ‘news’ passing across their desk (or screen) only to be shouted down with: ‘facts, multiple sources, attributed quotes – they are all sooo last night!’

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  • April 19, 2014 at 8:06 am
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    The Echo phoned me trying to get a story last Thursday. Im a Liverpool pest controller. I told them rats where always big (14 inches not 2 foot though) and that resistance in rats was not much of an issue in Liverpool but it was getting much worse in mice. They asked to use a photo on my business Facebook page from Jan last year. I said fine they said I’d be in the paper on the Sunday. When I looked it was a pest controller from down South making the statements. Its pretty shameful really.

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  • April 19, 2014 at 3:15 pm
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    Papers are not checked properly any more. Someone will pay one day.

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