Anorak | How The Media Turned Shannon Matthews Into A Madeleine McCann

How The Media Turned Shannon Matthews Into A Madeleine McCann

by | 5th, December 2008

MADDIE WATCH Anorak’s at-a-glance guide to press coverage of Madeleine McCann and Shannon Matthews.

Karen Matthews has been found guilty of kidnapping her child Shannon Matthews and perverting the course of justice. Karen Matthews is PURE EVIL ”. As Evil as Baby P’s killers?

Lest readers not understand that Karen Matthews is PURE EVIL ”, the papers remind them of the fact on their front pages:

THE SUN : PURE EVIL Family even tied to scam Maddie fund”
DAILY STAR: PURE EVIL Shannon’s mum had sex and food orgies as kids starved”
DAILY MIRROR: MOTHER OF PURE EVIL In the rush to damn, the Mirror seems to be calling Shannon Matthews PURE EVIL ”. And that’s harsh.

Family friend Petra Jamieson adds: “She’s the ideal daughter who behaves well. We want everyone to remember Shannon, like they do Madeleine McCann.”

Our Shannie

When Shannon Matthews became the newspaper’s pet cause, the Sun embraced the drama more than any other paper, posting a reward for her safe return and printing a poster with a picture of the missing child, a cash sum and its logo.

When a child suffers or goes missing the Sun’s marketing team set about building the brand. Shannon is “Our Shannon”. As for Shannon being the new Maddie, the Sun was only too happy to help that game along announcing: McCanns: We pray for Shan .

The Sun was not alone in this shrill game of Tabloid Bingo, screaming out the names of the missing. The tabloid Telegraph joined in.

Craig Meehan spoke of the McCanns’ celebrity:

Mr Meehan, 22, went on: “To me, they [the McCanns] are like celebrities in other people’s eyes. They’ve got money, they know celebrities and all that, so they can afford to do everything they do, everything they can.
“We’re trying to do what we can with the money we’ve got, with the resources we’ve got.

The Times went all in.

Sarah Payne, smiling in her school uniform; Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman, in their Manchester United shirts; Madeleine McCann, staring inquisitively with her distinctive bleeding iris . . .The names and faces of these girls who have disappeared are etched into the public’s collective memory.


The Mirror’s Sue Carroll told us:

Shannon is as precious to her family as Madeleine McCann, missing for 300 days, is to hers. But where are the front-page pictures, campaigns, the furore? Would this be different if she was the daughter of two middle-class, mediasavvy parents? Not a working-class child from up North.

He cohort Paul Routledge waded in:

It pays to be middle-class when your daughter vanishes.

Yeah, lucky them. But still the Mirror wore its yellow ribbon for Maddie, whatever her parents’ wealth a child was missing and it would not miss out of the contest to care the most.

Deborah Orr provided context:

There may have been no great rush to sanctify Karen Matthews, whose anguish over the loss of her daughter is not questioned. But there has been little attempt to accuse her either. People feel sorrow, but not as much surprise. The less comfortable an existence you have, the more likely it is that you will undergo awful life experiences. That isn’t class prejudice, but a sad fact of life in a remarkably unequal society.

Roy Greenslade was taken in:

But what distinguishes the Craig article is the way in which she paints a poignant portrait of Mrs Matthews’s obvious anguish. Three weeks on from the day her daughter failed to arrive home, it is one of the most sympathetic description of Shannon’s mother to appear in print.

Eyes down for Tabloid Bingo!

The columnists fodder. Tick.

T-shirts. Tick.

The candlelit vigil . Tick.

The balloons .Tick.

The celebrity endorsement .

The child’s friend .

Megan Aldridge wants her friend Shannon back. “I sat on the bench at school today on my own at break time because I had no one to play with. I just want my friend back. She was the bestest friend in the world.” Mawkish sentiment. A child appealing for another missing child to be allowed to go by whoever has taken her. The Mirror jumping on bandwagon and showing how much it cares. Look at the child. Look at her pain.


All elements in the panoply of the tabloid cause. Our Maddie the benchmark for missing children.

The Media Duped

Shannon was found alive and in decent shape.

All eyes trained on oddball Michael Donovan, aka Paul Drake.

He of the kinky sex . He of the vile uniform sex . He of the allegations of perving at Shannon.

And still Our Maddie was involved.

Amanda Platell slid her pen between her hands and prayed:

Yet even as we celebrate, we should spare a thought for Gerry and Kate McCann, for whom Shannon’s discovery, wonderful as it is, will be a fresh reminder of their own terrible loss. The return of one lost girl is a marvel. The return of two . . . now that’s a miracle worth praying for.

But let’s not let the miracle cloud our judgement. The Mirror’s Lucy Thornton was at the scene:

I sat with Karen Matthews’ as she struggled to put her anguish into words. Her tears told the true story.

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Posted: 5th, December 2008 | In: Key Posts, Madeleine McCann, News Comments (183) | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed: RSS 2.0 | TrackBack | Permalink