The cynical manipulation of Claire Squires death
CLAIRE Squires died at the London Marathon. She was running to achieve a personal goal and to raise money for The Samaritans, a group her mother has helped for 24 years. Money is pouring in to Claire Squires’ Just Giving page on the internet, and the tabloids want a slice of the action.
Following yesterday’s Daily Mail report which gave readers an insight into what Squires was thinking and her motives for running – andno, it never spoke with her – the Sun leads with ” Tragic Claire: Make it £1m.”
Claire Squires name and story seems to be raising money pretty well without the Sun’s patronage. Undoubtedly media reports on her death have triggered people to pledge cash. At the time of writing £592,559.08 has been raised from 52,103 donations.
But the Sun is here to co-brand Claire Squires, just as it did with Madeleine McCanns (albeit in the guise of its dead alter ego The News of the World) and Jo Yeates, slapping up reward and wanted posters for each woman with its company logo high and handsome over their heads.
Today the Sun’s Lucy Carne writes:
THE Sun today calls on its army of generous readers to help tragic London Marathon girl Claire Squires’ charity appeal reach £1MILLION.
It will be the Sun Wot Dunnit. It leads the way:
The Sun last night gave £5,000 to caring hairdresser Claire’s internet charity page.
The paper calls “Samaritans chief” Catherine Johnstone to praise the Sun, quoting her thus:
“We are overwhelmed by the support of your readers.”
“Don’t stop giving — just like her. It’s what she would have wanted.”
Claire’s “grief-stricken dad Paul” said:
“Words cannot explain what an incredible, inspirational, beautiful and driven person she was. She was loved by so many and is dearly missed by all of us. We are stunned. She was as fit as a fiddle and went to the gym every day. We have no idea how it could have happened and can’t believe she’s just gone.”
Justgiving.com have reacted well. The profit-making company has waived its usual charge of around 5% on all donations. It charges charities £15 a month membership. As the Times notes: “In October, the company behind the site Giving.com made a profit of £2.4 million on turnover of £10.2 million.”
It issues a statement:
“Out of respect for Claire’s memory, we will be donating our fees back to the Samaritans. Yesterday the JustGiving site saw a record number of visits, with over 10,000 people donating together at any given time. This huge wave of sympathy continues today.”
JustGiving’s chief executive, Anne-Marie Huby, tells the Times:
“It’s been driven by social media. Donations are pouring in from virtually every country in the world. A lot of people all over the world have been touched by what would be any family’s worst nightmare — she’s captured people’s hearts.”
So. Not the Sun. The tabloids and dead-tree press have not driven this story. But they want to.
It’s cynical stuff from the tabloids.
Only, Claire Squires did not die for a cause – did not sacrifice her life – as the Mail claimed she had. She died suddenly and without warning on what should have been a rewarding and satisfying day out. Her parents and loved one never got a chance to prepare for her death nor say goodbye. That is cruel. Her story has touched hearts and triggered donations. It needs no embellishing.
As for the donating to a good cause, then good. Giving helps people who need help. It will be interesting to see if the surge of support for the Samaritans is reflected in a rise in donations given to all charities – 15,000 of them.
Grandstanding can help. But the Sun’s opportunism may be detrimental. As Rachel Rawlins writes in the Guardian:
Nobody is exhorting anyone to give money to the charity Squires supported. This may, in fact, be an important factor for quite a number of the people who now are doing so.
Give if you want to. And give to a charity you support. When the Sun (cover price: 30p) tells you what to do and exhorts you to dig deep in your pockets – and this a paper owned by a billionaire – it’s like being accosted by a chugger, one of those charity muggers who press gang you on the street to give.
And there is no sign that Claire Squires ever wanted that…