Exclusive: Mirror journalist justifies Alton Towers sensationalism

It’s becoming a widespread issue in national media; every minor incident at Alton Towers is being dissected, exaggerated and thrown out by the national press.

It ranges from the slightly over-the-top to the downright inaccurate. The Mirror Tweeted that riders were “stranded upside down” on Air, alongside an image of riders not being upside down:

The Inquisitr reported on the same story; describing riders being stuck “upside down” (going as far to say the accident happened “while it was travelling upside down”) on – not Air – but The Smiler (which remains closed and under investigation by the Health and Safety Executive.

Screenshot 2015-07-03 at 13.30.13
EMBARRASSING: Riddled with inaccuracies, exaggerations and falsehoods (http://www.inquisitr.com/)

The Independent managed to avoid such blatant exaggerations and inaccuracies, but still made mistakes in their coverage, referring to the affected ride as “The Air Monorail” – mistakenly blending two separate rides.

WHICH RIDE? The Independent combines two different rides.
WHICH RIDE? The Independent combines two different rides.

The Mirror also reported heavily on a collision between two cars on the Sonic Spinball attraction. The collision occurred on the break run where the cars move at a very slow pace – yet The Mirror quoted a single eyewitness (not on the ride) who claimed the cars contacted at “full pace”.

Indeed, it seems The Mirror is one of the biggest culprits here. They also reported that Alton Towers was haunted by ghosts – the claims of one ‘psychic’ who seems to have made a career from selling stories to tabloids.

REALLY? The Mirror attributes the recent incidents to haunted spirits.
REALLY? The Mirror attributes the recent incidents to haunted spirits.

We’re not sure about ghostbusting – but there is certainly a witch-hunt from the national press.

Airgates has spoken to Paul from The Mirror online team – who addressed and justified some of these concerns.

Sonic Spinball Collision 

This story was based almost entirely on the claims of one eyewitness: Danny Robinson, a young man from Liverpool. His comments were consistently refuted and, in some cases, factually inaccurate (claiming the cars contacted at “full pace”, on a section of track where they move at walking pace). Despite this, The Mirror opted to trust his comments and base the bulk of the story on them. Paul explained:

“The eyewitness says one thing and Alton Towers have said the other”
“Both feature prominently in the story.”, he claims.

Asked if it was reasonable to base a story on a single statement, Paul responded:

“Well we have spoken, obviously, to the health service who [confirmed that] someone has been taken to hospital”
“The story is about one person being taken to hospital and three other people being taken to the scene. So, you’re welcome to ring the – I don’t know which health service – if you disbelieve our reporting.”

Considering Paul’s claim that the story’s angle was one person being taken to hospital, there is only one reference to this: a quote from the eyewitness: “Afterwards one of them started throwing up everywhere and ended up going to hospital.” If The Mirror has confirmed this claim, they do not present this in the article.

Paul added: “Obviously we all know that rides break down now and again – obviously it’s more prominent after the incident involving the Smiler. What may class as minor stories are more in the spotlight now.”

Paul stated that Danny Robinson did not receive payment for his comments.

Alton Towers ‘Haunted’ Story

In response to questions about this story, Paul laughed and said:

“Well it clearly isn’t [haunted] but people like ghost stories, don’t they.”

“I’ve not read that story myself but I hope we’ve written it with a fair degree of scepticism because I’m fairly sure ghosts don’t exist and if they did then … they’re not to blame for any incidents.”

“I’m hoping it’s written with a fair amount of scepticism. That should be the tone. If we’ve given any credibility to [her] comments then that isn’t appropriate and I’d probably need to have a look at the story in this case.”

On Air Breaking Down

Despite their Tweet that the ride left riders “stranded upside down”, Paul admits:

“I don’t think it’s accurate to say they were upside down, they were sort of lying at an angle, I’ve seen the pictures on that.”

“Again, these types of incidents happen every day at every theme park but the spotlight is on Alton Towers at the moment and people are concerned and take pictures of rides that break down and things like that. I’m sure it will calm down in the days and weeks to come.”

When asked if these articles were written with expert input, he replied:

“No, that’s just a hunch from me that it happens quite a lot … You know rides do … break down occasionally – I don’t think it’s uncommon.”
“I’ve not written any of the stories myself but I’m sure we’ve quoted various people in the stories. We’ve done a lot of stories on Alton Towers, so I’m sure there are experts that we’ve spoken to.”