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Anorak | How the Daily Mail turned Lyn-Marie Cunliffe into the ‘mad’ Bronte woman

How the Daily Mail turned Lyn-Marie Cunliffe into the ‘mad’ Bronte woman

by | 12th, March 2012

UNABLE to call upon armed police to correct the journalist’s work, Lyn-Marie Cunliffe was forced to write letters and complain verbally. The Daily Mail, Guardian, Express and Telegraph had reported that Lyn-Marie Cunliffe was a bit unusual.

The Daily Express:

SHE is a 21st-century housewife with a husband and two grown-up children. But Lyn-Marie Cunliffe spends every day dressed as her heroine – Victorian author Charlotte Bronte. She doesn’t wear modern attire even when grabbing a bite in McDonald’s. The 49-year-old harboured a lifelong obsession with the Jane Eyre author’s works before deciding three years ago she wanted to live in a time-warp…

Lyn-Marie estimates she has spent £4,000 making more than 50 period costumes but insists she has the full support of joiner husband John, 50 – “my Mr Rochester” – and children Rebecca, 24, and Matthew, 27.

The Daily Mail:

Do you come Eyre often?

Many of us dream of wearing the beautiful costumes from period dramas like Downton Abbey… however few would go quite as far as donning them every day. But romantic fiction-lover, Lyn-Marie Cunliffe, has taken her obsession with Victorian literature to the extreme – by living her modern life dressed as her heroine Charlotte Bronte. The 49-year-old loves the 19th century author so much that she dresses like her all the time – even on trips to the supermarket.

Daily Telegraph:

Lyn-Marie Cunliffe, 49, loves 19th century author Charlotte Bronte so much she dresses as the famous author all the time – even while doing her supermarket shopping. The mum-of-two dresses in the home-made smocks whilst doing the school run …

Only, it was untrue. The Daily Mail issued an apology.

Lyn-Marie Cunliffe writes:

The Daily Mail has finally admitted that its article “Do you come Eyre often” which claimed I always dressed as Charlotte Bronte is untrue ,its retraction is here To summarise the Mail has conceded it has never spoken to me and merely published under Lauren Paxmans name a story bought from a news agency .

While I suppose I ought to be magnanimous in victory this has been a bitter and hard battle and I feel unable to accord the Mail the credit so clearly due to the Guardian and Telegraph who had corrected their genuine mistake promptly and behaved in every respect with decency and rectitude.

The Mails retraction is by contrast is entirely due to the efforts of the Press complaints commission as prior to their intervention the Daily Mail had refused to answer my emails .

The PCC negotiations where extremely prolonged and the Daily Mail behaved in an appalling manner,,Its replies to emails have at times been extremely distressing .It has trawled , by its own admission my blog ,my flickr profile and my Ebay listings (and its clear from statements made to the PCC it has also been following my facebook page) .It has searched for links it could forward to the PCC to try to support its case.It has suggested that by being forced to sell assets(which was due to decreased business and made no mention of the story) I had “profited” from the story and because a tag on a photo in my flickr profile used “crazy costume Lady “(posted after the Mails story surfaced) I couldn’t complain about their story making me look unbalanced.It also claimed I lied about the nature of my work and would not budge from this statement until forwarded official accounts from my business and a statement from a past client this despite its searching of blog and flickr posts which make it clear I do wide ranging costume work .It claimed in one email to the PCC it had talked to me to explain the story and that I was merely upset by the reaction to it and had actually said everything they claimed but was trying to pretend otherwise .In short it insulted me in every possible way during the negotiations and showed a lack of concern for the truth that is breathtaking .I has shown not the least regard for either common decency or journalistic standards.

When it has finally conceded defeat.It has never expressed any contrition and tried at every turn limit the scope of its retraction and the prominence accorded it.

As this post is attracting attention I thought I would share some of the comments made to the PCC by the Mail in answer to a detail read through of the article and comments they requested

first I thought I would share some of their comments on my blog etc sent to the PCC(I did make clear to the Mail I would make emails public if I felt they merited it)

Mail wrote

6) Finally perhaps in relation to Mrs Cunliffe’s most fervent points, we would say the following.

– Risk of not being able to get future employment. She has quoted the belief she has been branded a ‘mad woman’ and that ‘no schools will want to employ me for the same reason’. Interestingly in October on her own public Flickr account Mrs Cunliffe refers to herself on her account as ‘crazy costume lady’. We have attached evidence of this also. Also Mrs Cunliffe on her own blog states she is doing well selling her Bronte costumes of Ebay since publication: http://abigailsateliers.wordpress.com/2012/01/23/ebay-more-bronte-sales/

(the Mail forgot the mention that the crazy lady comment had been posted after their story and was in reference to it and that likewise the ebay sales were clearly the result of being unable to get certain work due to their article,that the sales were made at a loss and that the actual listings made no mention of the article)

Next the Mail claimed I lied and only retracted their statement to that effect once forwarded accounts,,

Mail writes

– Regarding this passage of complaint I would emphasise that IF Mrs Cunliffe was paid for her work dressing as Bronte it was not often and not on a contract, and she did not officially represent the Parsonage.

Re their now retracted alleged quotes,,the Mail wrote

Lyn-Marie added: ‘My husband has also been very supportive of me – I couldn’t do any of it without him; he is my Mr Rochester.’

This is easiest quote to query .I never said this .I do not like the character of Mr Rochester ,no one who knows me or anyone who has read my blog would ever believe that I would use that term to describe anyone I respected or loved.It was tacked onto an actual comment I made that my husband supported my work and that without his encouragement and help my business would never have succeeded. The mention of work was removed and the Mr Rochester comment tacked onto it.

Again shorthand supports accuracy on our behalf as she does say her husband John is like Mr Rochester. (See Cunliffe2 pdf).

Mail wrote in conclusion,,,

Apologies if this is somewhat extended reply but when faced with such an extended and seemingly undirectional complaint we wanted to try and cover as much as possible. We strive to make sure the subjects of our stories in instances like this are as happy as possible. We cannot account for changes in their outlook after publication or their reaction to online comment or general public discussion of their story, but we do try to warn them of such things.,,I hope this is satisfactory and resolves the matter. Please do let me know if you need anymore. As an agency we stand by our story and the Mail Online’s publication of it, but if a concession is made we would not feel hard done by if the article was removed, however unwarranted, if only to maintain Mrs Cunliffe’s piece of mind.

My comment,,

(,,,, these closing comments which are breathtaking in their hypocrisy and are clearly contradicted by their retraction where they admit to never speaking to me)

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Note on context to explain to everyone who has asked ,,

The Mail story was based on an interview by Caters ,the newsagency mentioned in the retraction.The reporter mentioned was Tammy Hughes.She contacted a past client who I had done work for and they forwarded her email ,as the article seemed to be linked to past work I had done in the local area and be about it I felt duty bound to contact Ms Hughes as I get asked from time to time for details on the area or a a quick summary of my work for inclusion in articles on on radio .I made clear that I was only interested in an interview if the story would benefit the local area ,Ms Hughes took details of local places and business for a photo shoot ,when I was collected by the photographer he said it was “the biggest brief he had ever been given ” yet it did not include any of the local places or businesses with the exception of the Parsonage, the photographer spent the day with me ,took several photos with my family then did a “working day” shoot ,photos in Haworth ,talking to tourists ,then mentioned he had no record of places or business to photograph ,I asked him to include some and we took photos on Main street Haworth ,the final hour or so of the shoot was spent at Mc Donalds where I was photographed queuing and drinking coffee,and ,Sainsburys and in it finished back in our area and was supposed to include me in several other costumes but by then we were both bored so called it a day after one costume change The shoot lasted from late morning to late afternoon around 5 hours ,,Of course only the sensational ones were used .

Ms Hughes spoke to me for around an hour asked about my work for Haworth and the Parsonage and seemed to think I was an employee of the Parsonage ,I made clear I was not anyone employee I was a business woman,costumer and educator ,and we spent most of the hour talking about my work ,the 1940s work with old people ,the tourism work for Haworth the Bronte work for the BBC and the Parsonage , .I spoke to her later and she mentioned the story would “go in magazines” and I may get a small fee if it was published,,I said that was nice to know as normally I didnt get paid for doing media work for the area and it would make up for spending a day in costume with the photographer.

I later discovered Ms Hughes had been told gossip about a woman who walked around in Bronte costume and seems to have contacted me with the crazy lady story in mind and only interviewed me to try to find details that would support it ,a fact that seems born out by her shorthand notes as forwarded to the PCC ,She or the newspapers completely manufactured the quotes and most of the story with the exception of my name and family details,I suspect she only interviewed me in order to get the photo shoot.

I am not sure how I attracted the attention of Caters .Tammy Hughes and the Mail claimed it was gossip by one local who contacted them , I have had reports from Haworth of a woman /reporter asking questions about me in local shops as early as summer,,, though I can’t imagine that to be Hughes as at that time though I was fairly well known locally for my Haworth and theatre work and quite well known online I was pretty much unknown outside of local or costume circles ,as it was before the BBC work or Jane Eyre work .

This retraction leaves only the Daily Express deliberately continuing to run a story known to be untrue ,It does not seem to have realised that with the Mails Admission that it merely used a story bought from Caters the Express is also shown to be merely adding its reporter Paul Jeeves name to a story he obviously had no input in whatsoever.

Footnote

In relpy to everyone who has suggested I over reacted or have no sense of humour.I do have a sense of humour and I can see how the story seemed funny. .

Apart from the principle of not letting the papers tell lies ,this story has been extremely upsetting and caused a great many problems, I have an honours degree 2 diplomas and a bussiness HND but the articles tenor made most people who dont know me look on me as Bronte Barbie and its harmed my bussiness.For example every year since we started we have been booked up for Easter weeks in advance and often with new customers as its our best time for getting new clients to try us out ,,we have two easter bookings so far this year both from old customers .

Such are the facts…

Spotter



Posted: 12th, March 2012 | In: News Comment | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed: RSS 2.0 | TrackBack | Permalink