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Sleuth 14/03/2008

No right to reply at MEN over Michael Todd? Plus epic eating, model fun, and an 'exciting bank'

Published on March 14th 2008.

Sleuth 14/03/2008

No right to reply
Confidential has been approached informally by Greater Manchester Police staff claiming their comments have been removed off the Manchester Evening News website. This was an email from a senior source: ‘I know that several people posted comments on the website pointing out the contradiction between the earlier MEN pieces and what they decided to do to Mr Todd today [Thursday and the affair], but mysteriously they haven't appeared.’

The allegation is that these comments have been removed (or intercepted)if they were critical of the paper and its revelations about Michael Todd’s personal life. Many police seem to feel that the paper's coverage has moved from editorial hagiography to character dissection.

Of course, the MEN could argue, validly, that this is the nature of the newspaper industry, and as the stories were uncovered, no matter how closely the paper knew the individuals or what they thought of them, then they had to publish. That’s what they do and it goes beyond personal loyalties: it’s the covenant between newspaper and reader.

There is also, of course, that not altogether convincing argument of ‘public interest’ – which usually translates as an excuse to publish any fact which simply may ‘interest’ the public, whether it refers to professional competence or not.

People have come to accept this position even if they don't like it. The main complaint here lies with excessively moderating the website. If comments have been removed simply because they were critical of editorial policy or of the angle taken, then this destroys the notion of interactivity which is the hallmark of websites – a quality which Manchester Online promotes as a key feature of the site.

One of the aspects of the web which has made it a powerful tool for democracy (or total bedlam, take your pick) is the capacity for non-journalists, other professionals, the general public and so on to agree, disagree, be outraged or delighted by opinions and issues. These actions have stamped all over that.

For the record Manchester Confidential will remove comments which are excessively rude and defamatory. In other words personal comments about individuals – we’ve ditched possibly four such comments in the last twelve months. We have never removed any criticism of the site, or any opinions about third party issues.

Gordo breaks world record
Confidential’s gourmand Gordo bumped into Sleuth on Wednesday claiming to be suffering from a "food hangover". “A what?” asked Sleuth. Turns out the Emperor of Excess was at the taster lunch at Abode Hotel the previous afternoon from 12.30pm, and forgot he was supposed to be checking the new menu at Room Restaurant from 3pm. Not being a shirker he fulfilled all his duties. So that’d be seven courses in the first venue and twenty four in the second. For the mathematically challenged that would be thirty-one courses. “I could only manage a bowl of corn flakes for supper,” he gently moaned, lacking only a toga to complete the picture of Roman decadence.

In the market for death
Sleuth was at the Irish market last Sunday: this was part of the St Patrick’s Day celebrations and parade – even though that takes place this Monday, more than a week later, can’t work that one out. In the Albert Square market there was a stall selling Irish music, one selling over-sized comedy leprechaun hats and another with traditional Irish bottled foods(?). And of course Hans had managed to get the usual German bratwurst concession as well. Then there was the stall which really puzzled Sleuth. This was a table filled with funeral plaques and little carved memorials to family dead. Yer what? Indeed, a bit of slate engraved with: ‘To our dearly beloved...’ The Irish Festival of Death then? Sleuth says, keep the music/beer tent in the square, keep the parade, but please get rid of that market, visitors might see it, it’s embarassing.

Sleuth’s book of the week
Sleuth was in Chetham’s Library, close to Urbis, the other day. This is a fine place and Sleuth demands you all go – a library of the 1650s in a building of the 1420s. They still collect books too, with recent acquisitions placed on a desk in the Reading Room. This time there was 'Dusty Bob: a cultural history of dustmen, 1780-1870' from Manchester University Press. All 240 pages of it. Sleuth loved it, he can’t wait for the next ninety years of fascinating dustman fun to be revealed.

Sleuth’s Coogan tip
Sleuth hears on the grapevine that Steve Coogan is doing three nights at the Apollo from Mon 3-Wed 5 November. £32.50, the tickets go on sale tomorrow. Evidently Mr Coogan is getting a little peeved by a certain degree of typecasting. The name of the tour? ‘Steve Coogan is Alan Partridge and Other Less Successful Characters’. Cheer up Steve, we love you whatever you do. Well almost, that Portuguese singer-gigolo character – Tony Ferrino - was a bit shit.

Model fun
Sleuth adores playing with Playmobil. Dinosaur Design in Manchester once made a very humorous model of High Street in the Northern Quarter (see below) out of Playmobil when they moved office. Now Playmobil’s love of real life scenes seems to have gone too far with this product. Yes a cute little diorama of airport scanners (also pictured below). Oh the lost innocence of youth. Next season’s range, Sleuth hears, will include figures involved in breast enlargement surgery and also ‘Friday night in Doncaster’ with realistic scenes of binge drinking.

Small and extreme
Much of Manchester has been at the world property bash MIPIM in Cannes this week. Crain’s Manchester Business had this interesting little snippet. Apparently Manchester’s Chief Executive Sir Howard Bernstein told delegates that opposition to the Transport Innovation Fund (TIF, aka Congestion Charging) was “small” and “extreme”. This was during a seminar titled Manchester’s Approach to Regeneration. Sir Howard said: “Partnership is about how we shape the future of this city. I don’t want the pages of local newspapers to be occupied by what, I think, is a very, very small extreme view in Manchester.” Sleuth likes TIF but isn’t sure the opposition is so small given that three councils, Trafford, Bury and Stockport don't seem to want it.

St Ann’s graveyard
As St Ann's Square slowly becomes a desert of dull catering and financial services Sleuth was delighted to see the sign on the old Dillons/Waterstones shop. It read: ‘Another new exciting HSBC bank opening soon’. Ooh, an exciting bank. Sleuth thinks he preferred Aquascutum further along the square – after all they did some lovely macs and Sleuth loves those. Also the 'exciting' bank here means in July that one of the most exciting buildings in Manchester, Edwin Lutyens' King Street bank, formerly the Midland Bank, now HSBC, will become empty.

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28 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

EditorialMarch 14th 2008.

Sleuth did write in the article above that excessively rude and defamatory comments of a personal nature have been cut out four times in the last year. Here comes the fifth. Part of that first comment from 'Sack Horrocks' above falls into the 'excessive' category. So we've cut several sentences out.

ellaMarch 14th 2008.

The reports on the death of Michael Todd in this week's MEN have been excessive and distasteful. There is really no need for it, have a little dignity MEN, you are an embarrassment.

AnonymousMarch 14th 2008.

The Manchester Evening News has become more and more like a gossip magazine since it was taken over by the Guardian Group.My own personal opinion is that no matter what went on in MR Todds' private life he was a damn good police officer.The MEN has to give away free copies of it's newspaper in the town centre now to boost readership due to dropping numbers - I don't think that is any coincidence.

jerry the catMarch 14th 2008.

A throughly decent man has been tabloided I know there is no such word but it descibes what happens to people who have a private life like the rest of us who would like their love life front page we have all done things we shouldent but who are we too judge anyone else I feel sorry for his family and all the people who like me really dont care about his private life just that he was a really good leader

Kev PMarch 14th 2008.

I don't understand why anyone is surprised. The MEN is a newspaper - Newspapers (for the most part), print salacious and scandalous stories - It's how they get people to read them.Not saying I agree with them printing it but come on, no one can have a go about it. It's like being shocked at the Daily Mail headlining with a story about 17 billion terrorist asylum seekers stealing all your jobs!

NoelMarch 14th 2008.

Great police officer who made our city a safe and better place , let us remember him this way . RIP Mr Todd

sorryforfamilyMarch 14th 2008.

MEN hang your heads in shame

JamesMarch 14th 2008.

Nobody who has defended the MEN here has attended to the main point of the article above, that negative comments by police officers were taken off Manchester Online. The old MEN slogan was 'a friend dropping in'. Clearly they meant a bullying friend who wouldn't let you have your own opinions and cut you short when you tried to speak.

JinkiesMarch 14th 2008.

The Manchester Evening Tattle has shown it's true colours this week. It's tabloid crap through and through - I'd rather read the Mirror. It's not even good enough to wrap chips up in anymore for gods sake, every chippy in town prefers to PAY for blank paper instead!

CatMarch 14th 2008.

I was both surprised and disappointed, that having described himself as a 'friend' of Michael Todd, the Editor of the MEN has chosen to publish, and continue to report on, intimate details of Mr Todd's private life, in such a sensationalist way, this week. Compassion towards Mr Todd and his family at this very difficult time, and recognition of his wonderful efforts for GMP and contributions to the GM area, would surely have been a much more appropriate way to report than the trashy, gossip-style reporting, that has ensued during the last couple of days. Maybe Mr Horrocks should consider the loyalty and care, being a true friend involves, before labelling himself so freely as one, in the future. As a member of the public, I am greatly saddened at the loss of someone, obviously so highly thought of and so committed to his public service - I have no interest in the lives of either him, or those he knew in his private life.

AnonymousMarch 14th 2008.

It may or may not be our business, however I feel that if someone in such a high public position is found dead, then of course people are going to wonder why. And the affair is a possible reason. Apparently his wife had just found out 3 weeks prior. Thats my understanding of the situation anyway. I don't think the MEN were in the wrong reporting the story. It is a newspaper. If you don't like the reporting don't read it. Very simple. I do however disagree with the censoring of comments on their website.

BillMarch 14th 2008.

I once had an affair with some Dorset Cereals Really Nutty Muesli. It was all over the papers. Now I've settled down with Coco Pops under an assumed name.

henryMarch 14th 2008.

Hmmm, pot, kettle. I've had comments removed from here when I've pointed out how you pass off advertorials as editorials. I've had comments removed when I mentioned a write-up about your own accountants bizarrely being a main story. I've had comments removed about how many staff clearly post on Manc Conf under pseudonyms and now you complain about a rival stopping posts critical of them. Jesus. Let's see how long this stays up, eh

Sack HorrocksMarch 14th 2008.

The Editor of the MEN has this week disgraced himself. Please explain to me where it is in my (I am after all a member of the public) interest to tell me of an affair between Michael Todd and Angie Robinson. Did Michael Todd kill himself? We may never know. Do the honourable thing Horrocks, resign. You have been instrumental in destroying the MEN’s working relationship with Greater Manchester Police. The force thinks the paper is a rubbing rag now. They are wrong, it’s you.

CatherineMarch 14th 2008.

Yes maybe it was the reason he committed suicide anonymous, but then maybe it wasn't? We'll probably never know the exact circumstances around his death and nor should we desire to, because it's nobody's business except the family involved. That article was salacious and muck raking, designed for maximum impact on the news stand. It wasn't published to uncover the truth for the public at large; it was intended to prop up the flagging circulation of an ailing newspaper that they can’t even give away free on the corner of Deansgate.

AnonymousMarch 14th 2008.

I'm currently eating a bowl of Dorset Cereals Really Nutty muesli so all thoughts of work can bugger orf! But yes, we shall agree to disagree. They are my final words on the subject!

AnonymousMarch 14th 2008.

In response to Catherine regarding my sliding scale of relevance = I think if any person had been found dead in that situation, in Snowdonia with alcohol and letters to family, and the verdict was suicide it would be reported. I also think if it had come out after the death that the deceased was having an affair, this affair had been revealed to their spouse this would also had been reported. Maybe not on such a large scale admittedly but it still would have got some inches. The difference is that Mike Todd was a public figure and whether he courted the publicity or not people will have an interest in the details, which as it turns out reveals he was having a three year long affair and had a history of depression. Its a very sad story but MEN are only doing what newspapers tend to do - report on events.

CliveMarch 14th 2008.

Dear Anonymous journalist, what does it matter to 'the public' what his state of mind was when (if) he committed suicide? Nothing. Prove that he was involved with crime in some way and that that might have contributed to his suicide and that's a different matter. If his affair caused the suicide then that is a personal tragedy and is nothing to do with the public in any way whatsoever. The problem with journalists like yourself is that you've created a bubble world in which, because it interests you in your desperation to find new stories, you think everything is fair game. Essentially you've lost you're moral barometer of what is and isn't acceptable. The only public interest that should be permissible is evidence of incompetence or wrong-doing in public office. The MEN could have taken a ethical lead with this and not published details of the affair but instead it desperately sought out comments from unattributed sources to add 'colour' and that is shaming.

JamesMarch 14th 2008.

Simply this. The affair doesn't tell us whether he committed suicide. We didn't need to know about that. The press loses all credibility because it cannot, refuses rather, to let a story such as this drop. There have been probably fifteen or so pages in the MEN repeating everything that's been said and mulling it over and turning it over. If Todd had been revealed to have been the beneificiary of a protection scam or had taken over back-handers that would be valid under the public interest argument because it would show he betrayed the public. But the man having an affair is neither here nor there, it's unimportant. It's also a tragedy for the couple involved.

AnonymousMarch 14th 2008.

I thought that revealing the affair was justified as it was possibly one of the reasons he committed suicide in the first place.

AnonymousMarch 14th 2008.

Anyone who reckons the background to the death of Michael Todd is not in the public interest is deluded. Paul Horrocks would have had to resign if he hadn't run this story and stopped referring to himself as a journalist. It begs all sorts of questions about use of council tax payers money and the way in which deals are done that affect our city. Secondly all these people waxing lyrical about Todd being a great cop. Was he? I would beg to differ judging by the crime rates in this city. Yes it's sad but lets keep a sense of perspective. To finish I would add that anyone expecting to find decent journalism at any level in the MEN is similarly deluded. They can't do serious news or tabloid style scandal. It's sad to see what has become of the MEN.

CatherineMarch 14th 2008.

Anonymous; you and I are really going to have to get some real work done today. But to conclude, I think we’ll have to agree to disagree on this matter. The Evening News didn't HAVE to report the affair they CHOSE to. Let’s get something straight; it's for the coroner at an inquest to look at the circumstances around a death, not Paul Horrocks and co. And I'm quite sure that the inquest won't file their report in quite the same salacious and lurid tones that the MEN did. Chances are they'll just stick to the facts and deal with it sensitively and in the best interests of his family.

Tabloid JohnMarch 14th 2008.

It sounds a little 6th Form debating Soc. - with sincere apologies to REAL 6th Formers - but this is the reason I don't read newspapers. the next copy of MEN I'd get is when they hand over a fiver with the free copy.Once newspapers would report news but now they have to compete with HalloTVChatQuickBreakWeeklyCoffeeBreakCelebRubbish and print add-on faction with the news. Plus, 20 supplememts at the weekend, telling me how to live my life or what Mark out of Take That did last weekend or what to wear with wellingtons in summer - well, isn't that a little excessive?

WayneMarch 14th 2008.

I'm no fan of the MEN but that's harsh on their editor, Sack Horrocks person. As the Sleuth peice said there was nothing he could really do about it as a newspaper man. It must have torn him apart. News is news afterall even though in this case its trivial tittle tattle.

PaulMarch 14th 2008.

Now this morning in the MEN they have a couple of pictures of Todd's widow. The captions read after a careful picture selection on the first how she 'is clearly showing the strain'. On the second they caption it 'Todd's widow, Carolyn - with her gold wedding band clearly visible - at their home'. This isn't news its gutter tabloid crap. What point are they trying to make with their gold wedding band visible comment?

CatherineMarch 14th 2008.

Imagine your father has just died in tragic and uncertain circumstances. Besides the grief, confusion and pain that you're feeling at the loss of a beloved parent, you're also desperately trying to support your mum and a sibling who’s Worlds are also falling apart. Compound this pain with the fact that your Dad was a public figure in a high profile job and the grieving that you want to do privately and at your own pace is being hijacked by the British media. Then just to put a lid on it, a man who has the staggering gall to call himself a "friend" of your father exposes him as a philanderer less than 48 hours after his tragic death. Paul Horrocks should hang his head in shame. It was a filthy, rotten story to publish and before he starts bleating on about it being in the public interest we should consider this; Mike Todd was an excellent Policeman. He served GMP with a passion and commitment that did him, his family and the communities he served proud. And that's the end of that. Those few facts are the only thing that is in the public interest and his personal life should have remained nobody’s business but his own. He didn't court publicity for personal gain during his life and he certainly shouldn't be subjected to tawdry exposes in death. Do the decent thing and resign Mr Horrocks, because any esteem you may have been held in must surely now have been decimated by the disgraceful way you've treated this family.

CatherineMarch 14th 2008.

I don't agree with you anonymous. As I mentioned earlier he didn't court publicity for personal gain or live his life in the media glare. Any publicity he was involved in was linked directly to his work in the force and he wasn't famous for his private life or his personal relationships. I think that if you are a celebrity who uses the Media to your own ends and are happy to sell your wedding/baby pictures/soul to the highest bidder then to a certain extent you have got it coming. If you dance with the devil etc etc…. But if you lived your life discreetly and privately, then the only people you should be accountable to in death is your nearest and dearest. This should be the very least dignity that we afford someone. The only time something should be in the public domain is when the behaviour of the person involved impinged directly on their work and I think we can safely say that this wasn’t the case here. Just to test your theory further; do you have a sliding scale of when it's appropriate to expose someone? What if the Sergeant down your local station dies having had an affair; should he be exposed and his family subjected to hurt and ridicule? Or do we reserve that fate for those in an elevated position? I just hope Mike Todd isn't defined by this and that he's remembered for the tremendous work and effort he put into making our City a safer place to live.

AnonymousMarch 14th 2008.

I can scarcely believe there are people posting here who believe that the background to the death - suicide or not - of one of Britain's most senior police officers is not a matter of public interest. Yes, the MEN's coverage has gone from fulsome tribute to something rather more critical of Michael Todd. That's the nature of a developing story. I don't think there is a hack on the paper who would wish it to have been that way (and I write as one). All who knew Todd,as I did, had enormous respect for him. But circumstances have taken us down this path. Is anyone seriously suggesting that the city's newspaper should have ignored or suppressed the fact that the lately-departed chief constable was having an affair with another significant Manchester figure - an affair which may have had some critical bearing on the state of his mind at the time of his death?

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