Madeleine v The Telegraph

This an article by Gordon Rayner, Chief Reporter, and is currently dated 29 April 2016. It is like a pinned piece or a sticky. It gets updated when there is any significant development in the Madeleine McCann case. As it has not been updated since April, it is reasonable to assume there hasn’t been a major development for months.

From memory, that is correct. Operation Grange had already been downsized to 4 officers and DCI Nicola Wall had returned to multi-investigation work as per her role before being appointed to lead the Madeleine McCann case.


There have been minor scraps of news since then. These include Operation Grange pursuing a single line of enquiry (Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe), or a small number of lines of enquiry (Detective Chief Superintendent Mick Duthie), and further funding for 6 months to April 2017. These are hardly major stories requiring an update to the Telegraph report.

I know that a version of this article pre-dates April 2016, and I believe by a considerable amount. Unfortunately, the format of the article’s URL, with a date embedded in it, makes it difficult to trace previous variants of this report. I do have a version dating back to 5 Sep 2014, but I believe the origin to be much older. However, I also know that one piece of information was published in The Telegraph in 2007, in an article by Gordon Rayner, Chief Reporter, and the same misinformation is in the TimesOnline, dated 9 Sep 2007.

My working assumption of how these types of articles are maintained is based on seeing a similar pattern across several newspapers. I don’t know whether TV and radio stations operate in a similar manner though BBC news articles seem to evolve in this manner.

There is presumably a file or files on the Madeleine case in each organisation, and some of these files contain stock text and stock photos. When there is something newsworthy, the first port of call is one of these filed reports, which is then tweaked to include the new development.

This means new news can be reported very quickly, with little effort, so it is efficient re time and cost. However, once an error enters the base story, it has a tendency to get recycled and republished time and time again. It takes a considerable degree of effort and extensive expertise to debug such errors.

I want to look at the Telegraph article to see how many errors can be identified, and establish if these are significant. I haven’t tried this yet so I cannot say at the moment whether there will be a few errors or many, but I already know it is not zero.

I am not being critical of Gordon Rayner or The Telegraph. The Crimewatch programme of Oct 2013 has been picked apart by at least one person with considerable experience of the Madeleine McCann case, and errors identified, so this attribute applies to documentary makers and Operation Grange alike. And I know I have made some errors on my blog in my time.

I have seen the tabloids recycle errors and it normally leaves me unmoved. I don’t use the tabloids as a source of information.

One can reasonably expect better quality newspapers to have a higher standard of reporting, but what will we find in reality? Find out after the break!


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