Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Making A Fortune Out Of A Crisis

I heard yesterday that some people are suggesting that the disappearance of Shannon Matthews was a ploy to gain financially from people's potential donations. This was seemingly due to the fact that she was "hidden" by a relative and was apparently unhurt.

If you recall there was, after just two weeks of Madeleine McCann's disappearance, a reward of £2.5million for her safe return. With Shannon Matthews, the reward after the same period was somewhere in the region of £25,000. While not as high as the McCann case, it's not an insignificant amount of money. Particularly to a family on a low income, living on a Council estate.

Interestingly, the BBC Editors column has recently been fielding questions from viewers and listeners about the way the two cases have been reported. As I mentioned at the time, it was fascinating just how much coverage the McCann case received and I wondered whether there would have been the same coverage had the child been black and/or working class. Turns out the answer is "no, no it wouldn't".

And in many ways, I'm sure the parents of Shannon Matthews are very pleased about it. Not only have they managed to get their daughter back, but they haven't had quite as many obvious front page tabloid theories that they were involved in her disappearance. Or swingers. Or had killed her. Mind you, it's not entirely obvious how Shannon Matthews's parents could quite as easily be described as negligent in her disappearance to the same extent as those of Madeleine McCann.

Did they leave Shannon in a holiday apartment while dining and drinking away with friends? No. Did they leave two other, younger children alongside her? No. Did they fail to take advantage of a freely available nanny service that would have also checked in on their children? No.

Not that that appears to have stopped the McCann's from taking (and winning) legal action against several newspapers. Oh dearie me, no. From tomorrow, The Daily and Sunday Express, along with the Daily Star and Daily Star Sunday are to pay a "substantial" sum in damages and print front-page apologies.

It is reported that the damages will go directly to the Find Madeleine fund. Which makes it sound like the parents aren't going to directly benefit from all that lovely money. Until you read the following on the "Fund Objectives" section of the website:

"1.1.3 To provide support, including financial assistance, to Madeleine's family."

Quite vague, don't you think? Almost makes you wonder if there are questions being asked about the wrong family benefitting financially from the disappearance of their child.

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