Writing on the BBC College of Journalism site, Simon Ford flags up the very questionable descriptions of Raoul Moat used by the Sun to caption images of him as a baby and young boy:
“Ginger top,” mused one underneath what looked like a school photograph, “but at five his eyes already have intense look.”
“Awkward,” concludes another under a photo of, “Moat aged 13 at mum Josephine’s wedding.”
And the most absurd of all: “Cute baby … but two-month-old Moat clenches his fists.”
Adding to the debate about the media’s influence in such events, Ford quotes some of the language used by the newspaper to describe Moat during the time he evaded the police:
On 8 July – day-six of the hunt – the Sun decided to throw everything it had at “THE PSYCHO COMMANDO”.
In five pages devoted to the story, the Sun portrayed Moat as a “self-pitying monster”, a “6ft 3in brute”, a “gun spree hulk” capable of living “wild for weeks”. His campsite, discovered by police on farmland, was described as a “lair”.
The newspaper was criticised in May for using the expression ‘tar baby’ – a term widely considered offensive to African-Americans – to caption an image of a very young boy smoking.