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Times Journalist Tony Barrett Praised For Brave Tweets Amid Hillsborough Front Page Row

'To everyone who's been let down I'm so sorry'.

27/04/2016 12:00 | Updated 27 April 2016

A journalist from The Times has seemingly condemned his paper's failure to put the Hillsborough inquest verdicts on the front page, something the paper has now admitted was a "mistake".

The Times, which styles itself the paper of record, joined its News UK stablemate, the Sun, in ignoring the verdicts on its front page that said the 96 people killed in the 1989 disaster had been unlawfully killed.

The inquest findings are a huge embarrassment for the Sun, which infamously accused hooligans of causing the disaster, just four days after it happened, under the headline: "The Truth."

But when The Times' first edition front page last night made no mention of the verdicts, Tony Barrett, a Liverpudlian football writer for the paper who covered the verdicts, bravely tweeted: "Unbelievable."

After the paper then added two references to the tragedy in a subsequent edition's front page, he tweeted again this morning: "To everyone who's been let down I am so sorry."

The paper has said in a statement: "The Times led with Hillsborough coverage on all our digital editions throughout the day.

"This morning we have covered it extensively in the paper with two spreads, the back page, a top leader and an interactive on the victims.

"We made a mistake with the front page of the first edition and we fixed it for the second edition."

Though Barrett's tweets did not specifically refer to the Hillsborough coverage, there were universally understood to be condemnation of the paper's editorial decisions.

Barrett's first tweet was retweeted more than 2,200 times. His second was met with an outpouring of support.

Oliver Kay, the paper's chief football correspondent, said he was "pleased" the paper had called the first edition a mistake and said it did not tally with the papers past coverage.

 

The Sun and The Times were alone in not mentioning the Hillsborough inquest verdicts, with every other national paper splashing on the news or at least mentioning it prominently.

Oliver Kay, the paper's chief football correspondent, said the lack of front page coverage "surprised me to say the least".

He said it was "in no way consistent" with the paper's previous coverage of Hillsborough and said he was "pleased" it had called the first edition a mistake.

The first edition triggered an online backlash, which, people speculated, prompted the decision to add Hillsborough references to the second edition.

Papers put out multiple editions overnight but changes usually take account of breaking news or last-minute developments. The Hillsborough verdicts were announced on Tuesday at 11am and the news had enormous coverage throughout the day.

Martin Belam, The Guardian's Social And New Formats Editor, wrote that The Times' failure to put it on the front page meant it had "let its readers down".

In a blog on Medium, Belam said: "Nobody expected The Sun to cover themselves with glory today. I’ve got some sympathy with the people in their office. Like throwing 'Hurrah for the Black Shirts' references at people who work for the Mail in 2016, there can barely be anyone at The Sun who was also working at the paper in 1989.

"But this first edition? From paper of record The Times?" 

He noted that the brand new paper New Day had placed it on the front page and asked: "How do you think Times readers feel when they see that The New Day has more closely followed the news agenda of the day than their regular, respected newspaper?"

The Sun's coverage of Hillsborough triggered outrage in Liverpool, where it is still widely boycotted.

In 2012, the paper ran a front page apology after the Hillsborough Independent Panel exonerated fans and and concluded there had been a large-scale cover-up by the South Yorkshire Police. The inquest came to the same conclusion on Tuesday.

The Sun
A front page of the Sun from 2012 apologising for its infamous 1989 story

On Sky News, The Sun’s Political Editor Tom Newton-Dunn said the 1989 front page was the “worst thing we ever did as a newspaper”. 

He but was questioned about the decision not to put the story on the front.

He said: “I think we can discuss editorial judgements about what should and shouldn’t be on the front page.

“Yet another story ‘No apology from the Sun’ - I don’t think it should all be about the Sun - it was not us who committed Hillsborough.”

On Sky News, The Sun’s Political Editor Tom Newton-Dunn said the 1989 front page was the “worst thing we ever did as a newspaper”.

He but was questioned about the decision not to put the story on the front.

He said: “I think we can discuss editorial judgements about what should and shouldn’t be on the front page.

“Yet another story ‘No apology from the Sun’ - I don’t think it should all be about the Sun - it was not us who committed Hillsborough.”

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