Student journalists have expressed disgust at the offer of thousands of pounds from the Sun newspaper, in exchange for pictures of students dressed in 'bad taste' outfits, like costumes of beheaded aid worker Alan Henning.
Last year, The Sun splashed on a picture of two students from the University of Chester, who had gone to a Halloween party dressed as the Twin Towers, destroyed in the 9/11 terror attacks.
Marcus Johns, the comment editor of the Manchester Student Newspaper The Mancunion, who contacted HuffPost UK, said they were appalled at the attempt to "manufacture outrage".
He said a female reporter contacted Aidan Gregory, editor-in-chief of The Mancunion, on Wednesday, and the student journalists subsequently discovered newspapers in Bath, Bristol and Leeds Universities had also been offered cash for incriminating pictures.
Most insulting about the offer, Johns said, was the demand to get a picture of the student dressed as murdered Manchester aid worker Alan Henning, who was beheaded by masked jihadists from Islamic State, after being kidnapped in Syria.
Another suggestion for a lucrative photo was "Jihadi John", the IS killer who also murdered two American journalists and another British aid worker, in videos seen round the world.
"As Manchester students, if it had come about that one of our university had dressed up like that, it would have been very damaging to community relations in Greater Manchester. It affected the community here so badly," Johns told HuffPost UK.
"Publishing a picture like that would serve no purpose other than to sour relations between students and the rest of the community. We felt sure the Sun would contact the family of Alan Henning and it would cause great distress. And we knew the whole thing was a ploy to exploit political correctness and manufacture outrage."
“The Sun was aware that there were Halloween parties taking place on student campuses, with reports of some interesting choices of costumes, and was calling student newspapers to see if they had photos that they might want to share with the newspaper," a spokesman for the paper said.
“We categorically deny any suggestion that money was offered to construct or fake a photograph. Approaching other publications is a legitimate and often practiced journalism request which we stand by.”
Johns told HuffPost UK no exact figure had been offered, but there was talk of "thousands", which he pointed out was far more than most students' loan amounts. He admitted that the "offer of money could be quite tempting for students".
"The Sun denied they offered us money to stage a picture, and they didn't, but that's not really the point. For us, we felt the important thing was to acknowledge that people do stupid things sometimes, but the right response to that is to tell them to go home, get changed, and told it was inappropriate.
"But being splashed across the front page of the Sun is extreme, the girls in Chester who dressed as the Twin Towers and were in the Sun got death threats."
Johns said he was not prepared to identify the reporter involved, saying he did not want to "throw stones in glass houses", but said the reporter in question had previously been a member of one of the student newspapers that was contacted.
But he added, "it will be interesting to see if they got any photos from any other student journalists".
University of Manchester Students' Union general secretary Charlotte Cook said: "We have a zero-tolerance approach towards offensive outfits at the Union to ensure we are maintaining a safe space for all our members.
“However, undoubtedly somewhere across the country people will choose to wear inappropriate costumes. For the Sun to purposefully have students out witch-hunting for this minority in order to completely misrepresent students as a whole is disgraceful.”
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