The police have given up trying to establish how Thomas Mair, the man who killed MP Jo Cox four years ago, obtained his firearm. The weapon was reported stolen from a farmer’s vehicle about a year before the murder but where it was before finding its way into Mair’s hands remains a mystery.
A lesser mystery but nonetheless a perplexing one is working out quite what is happening to the editorial standards of one of our most respected newspapers, The Daily Telegraph. For whilst the shooting community has long since given up expecting anything other than ignorance and hostility from the tabloids it has taken succour from the fact that even where it may not be in support of shooting sports, the Telegraph could be relied upon to get the basics right. Not so with this latest story. Headlined ‘Inquiry shelved into how Jo Cox’ killer obtained his sawn-off shotgun’ one third of the way through the Telegraph’s coverage readers learned that the shotgun in question was in fact a Weihrauch .22w rifle. Quite a different thing all together and a difference that given the description of the weapon, left us wondering if in fact it was sawn off at all.
The wider question is whether we should expect a journalist, never mind the sub-editor who will have checked the story (assuming that sub-editors do still check copy) to know the difference between a shotgun and a rifle? And does it matter that apparently, they don’t? The answer to that is that it does matter very much. Not perhaps because the shooting sports or wider country pursuits sector might suffer damage as a result of this or other poorly written stories, but because in a world where fake news has become commonplace the importance that attaches to traditional media getting it right becomes much more pronounced. The devil is in the detail and if serious journalists are not able to master it we are all in trouble.