The regional daily which broke the story of a four-year-old boy found sleeping on a hospital floor has run a front page plea urging readers not to be “fooled by fake news” about the incident.
The Yorkshire Evening Post splashed today on an editorial responding to criticism it has received about its exclusive on the plight of Jack Williment-Barr, who was photographed sleeping on the floor of Leeds General Infirmary with suspected pneumonia due to bed shortages.
The hospital itself admitted there was no bed and has apologised, yet YEP editor Laura Collins says her reporters have since “come under attack from trolls and bots on social media channels purporting the story to be ‘fake news'”.
The Leeds-based daily included some examples of those doubting the veracity of its story on this morning’s front page, pictured.
In her editorial, Laura wrote: “Never has there been a time when journalism, the industry and our journalists have come under such scrutiny and criticism and frankly, it is worrying about the power of social media and its reach. The level of abuse would not be accepted on the streets and must not be tolerated.
“Statistics from YouGov show that local press in print and digital is the most trusted source for local news and information (74.1 per cent). This contrasts starkly with the 22 per cent who trust what is published on social media. This figure should and must speak for itself.
“Our team of reporters will fact-check and verify information at the highest level before it is published – yet anyone can hide behind the guise of a fake profile and tweet out spurious claims without a single check. We will be accountable – nobody will take accountability from a fake account.”
The story by reporter Dan Sheridan was followed up by the Daily Mirror and came to dominate Monday’s general election exchanges, but there were claims on social media that the story amounted to “fake news” and that the picture of Jack was “set up” by his mother and Labour-supporting hospital staff.
HTFP covered yesterday how James Mitchinson, editorial director of YEP owner JPIMedia in Yorkshire, had written a detailed response to one reader who had been taken in by what he called “cynical social media messaging driven by dark forces”.
In her editorial, Laura added: “It is alarming to see that this story of four-year-old Jack is now being used as a political football to score points against politicians as the election campaign enters its final 24 hours.
“However, the fear is now that with all the outcry on social media will this now put people off from coming forward in the future to share their experiences of the NHS whether they are good, bad or indifferent?
“If you’re going to be vilified by strangers questioning your honesty, integrity and care and love for your child then who will ever want to speak out in support of the NHS staff and against its management?
“That will be the real tragedy given that it is stories, such as this, which are integral to shaping the future of the NHS for the benefit of all – young and old alike.”