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Teen cancer victim’s mum reveals how newspaper’s story error occurred

Jane SuttonThe mother of a teenage cancer victim who was wrongly reported to have been diagnosed with the disease has spoken of her anger over what she called the paper’s “inexcusable” error.

The Express & Star erroneously reported on Tuesday that Jane Sutton, left, was herself suffering from cancer after a speech she delivered at Lichfield Cathedral.  The paper has since apologised.

Mrs Sutton’s son Stephen raised millions for the Teenage Cancer Trust prior to his death in 2014, and documented his battle with cancer in his blog Stephen’s Story.

In a post on the Stephen’s Story Facebook page on Tuesday evening, Mrs Sutton explained that, in the speech, she had been quoting from a personal statement made by her son in 2011 rather than referring to herself.

She wrote: “Clearly, there was one person there who did not listen attentively to my speech and thought that when I quoted Stephen’s personal statement that I was speaking about myself. That person is the only one from hundreds who attended the ceremony on Saturday who chose to interpret it in this way.

“That person also had plenty of opportunity to ask me about what they thought they had heard. I have used Stephen’s personal statement many times over the last 18 months and no one has ever interpreted my speech as suggesting I have cancer.

“Quite why anyone would think I would use the platform of a school speech day to announce such news is beyond my comprehension. Whilst I can accept people make mistakes and can misinterpret statements, what is unforgivable in my view, is to publish a story without first verifying the facts.”

Mrs Sutton further claimed she received a voicemail from the Express & Star journalist who wrote the erroneous report, who she said had not been present at the speech, at 12.25pm on Monday.

The message requested an update on how her preparations were going for her attempt to climb Mount Kilimanjaro for the Teenage Cancer Trust this October, but she had been unable to call back.

The newspaper also phoned the Trust to ask if it knew Mrs Sutton had been diagnosed with cancer.

Mrs Sutton said the charity had been due to respond on Tuesday after checking with her on Monday evening – but the story was published first.

She added: “Despite having been in receipt of this supposed story that I had cancer since Saturday the Express & Star published this morning apparently in ‘good faith’, without waiting for a response from either me or Teenage Cancer Trust.

“I find it inexcusable for the newspaper to publish a story with such personal significance without any confirmation at all. There was and is no story to report. The only reason there could possibly be for publishing this morning was for the sensationalist headline.

“To be contacted by a friend this morning while on my way to work, saying how sorry they are to hear I have cancer, having read a story splashed over the front page of the paper and subsequently finding the story published on the newspaper’s social media platforms has angered me.

“It is not only distressing for me, but for my family and friends to read such news on the front page of their local newspaper when the story is completely untrue.”

The Express and Star published a correction and apology in yesterday’s edition after the mistake was realised.

It reads: “We wish to apologise for the error and for any distress it may have caused. Following the error, the Express & Star is making a donation towards Jane’s next challenge, climbing Mount Kilimanjaro to raise money for Teenage Cancer Trust.”

It also included a link to allow readers to donate to the same cause.

The newspaper has declined to comment further.


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  • June 30, 2016 at 7:47 am

    ‘Inexcusable’ is certainly one word that would describe one of the most awful examples of lazy journalism I’ve ever seen in almost 35 years as a journalist.

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  • June 30, 2016 at 8:04 am

    The Newspaper declined to comment further? Outrageous.

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  • June 30, 2016 at 9:14 am

    Head in hands time.
    There are no words.

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  • June 30, 2016 at 9:29 am

    Still nothing on the paper’s Facebook page, its being whitewashed.

    (Speaking of, hopefully HTFP does an article on the Facebook news of the last 24 hours as that will have a major impact on the digital strategies of many, and probably a large traffic impact starting today… )

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  • June 30, 2016 at 11:49 am

    I notice the Daily Mirror and Daily Star’s articles have simply been deleted. The links, which still come up on a Google News search for “Jane Sutton”, now lead to a 404 error rather than any acknowledgement that the story was false. Ironic how the newspapers are always first to harp on about accountability and transparency when it’s someone else’s muck-up…

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  • June 30, 2016 at 2:52 pm

    It was a howler just waiting to happen. You pay peanuts – yhou get monkeys.

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