Thursday, 21 June 2012

Mail on Sunday apologises to Stephanie O'Keeffe

On 1 April 2012, the Mail on Sunday ran an article about Stephanie O'Keeffe, a freelance reporter, who had done some work for BBC 5Live:

Last night Ms O’Keeffe accepted that the shifts in January had not gone as well as expected.

She said: ‘I worked for 5Live for a couple of weeks as a freelance and read the sports bulletin on two occasions. I did training shifts but I don’t think I was what they wanted.

‘Nobody complained but I think they felt I just wasn’t ready for it. These things happen when you are a freelance.’

The English Literature graduate has also worked for BBC London, Channel 4 News and Al Jazeera.

The paper claimed

Colleagues said she struggled to read from carefully prepared scripts

But also said:

She appears proud of her time at 5Live and has placed one of her bulletins online

So someone tries out for a job and it doesn't quite work out. It might have been because it was the BBC, or because O'Keeffe is - in Chris Hastings' words - 'young' and 'glamorous', but it was not quite clear why the paper thought this so newsworthy.

Hastings added:

Ms O’Keeffe – whose CV includes skills as a model, lists her chest and waist measurements as 32in and 23in and even specifies that she is willing to perform nude – lasted only two shifts at radio station 5Live....

Her online CV, which features pictures of herself, has been circulated among staff after some of them downloaded it.

On Sunday, there was an apology:

On April 1 we said, incorrectly, that the freelance reporter and presenter Stephanie O’Keeffe struggled to read her scripts when working at BBC Radio 5 Live.

We now accept that this was not the case.

Our report could also have been taken to suggest that Ms O’Keeffe obtained her BBC work by submitting a CV that contained her vital statistics and expressed a willingness to work nude.

That was not our intention and we are sorry for any misunderstanding or embarrassment these errors may have caused.


  1. The original article would have been vile even if every word in had been true. As the apology makes very clear, it was a pack of lies from start to finish. So misogynistic. Chris Hastings disgusts me, his stories are all the same - he usually has an agenda, his favourite gag is to seize on some irrelevant fact that's entirely unrelated to the story he's supposed to be writing about and insert it high up in the story to make it seem relevant. This story was classic Hastings. Did he actually say that this poor woman told the BBC she was willing to work in the nude, no he didn't. Is that how readers interpreted the story, overwhelmingly, yes, as was crystal clear from the online posts. It was a reprehensible farrago of insinuation, implication, and smutty suggestion. It's all very well Leveson banging on about phone-tapping, fascinating though it is, but it's hatchet job stories like this one that he should be addressing. Because they are so so common in the tabloid press, and the Mail is the worst of the lot. I would love to know how she got them to apologise.

  2. Studied the Stephanie O'Keeffe story at Uni , topic, representation of women in media. Now I've seen the apology, I feel ashamed, and shocked, and very stupid. I don't think anyone on our course likes the Mail, we were all sneery and superior about it all year long because it's always twisting the facts. But - it just didn't occur to us, any of us, that the facts in this story weren't true, because, they were there in black-and-white. I feel
    stupid because the story said she messed up her bulletin, we all listened to the bulletin she had put online - which she read very well and which should have alerted us that the rest of the story might not have been
    true either. But it didn't. I am starting a journalism attachment in two weeks time, I would like an experienced journalist to explain to me how come Chris Hastings was allowed to write that she messed up even though he obviously listened to the same bulletin we did so he knew when he wrote it that it wasn't true.

    1. This is a story that just keeps on giving, it raises so many issues. Cannot locate my 1983 copy of McNair's Essential Law, however if memory serves me - writing that someone is incapable of doing the job they are paid to do without a shred of evidence to support the allegation is a civil libel. Writing that someone is incapable of doing the job they are paid to do despite being in possession of the relevant evidence that proves the precise opposite is a malicious defamation, therefore, a (rare)criminal libel. O'Keeffe should sue Hastings and the Mail - RB, Catford, London.


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