Thursday, August 13, 2009

That gollum correction: the Big Brother connection

Why is the Sun's Julian Brooker apology from four years ago suddenly zooming round the net again? People seem to be quoting it everywhere.*

Here's a story I wrote about it in August 2006, with an interesting extra detail people might find interesting. It didn't make it into Private Eye because... oh, I don't know. Maybe Ian Hislop wasn't watching Big Brother that year.

BB Has Saved My Life: Tourette’s Pete tells of year from hell” shrieked the headline in the Sun over a double-page spread documenting how Big Brother winner Pete Bennett had claimed to have gone “mad, pretty bananas completely at the end of my tether with life because something bad happened” prior to his appearance on the reality show. “Yesterday mum Anne Stephenson told how Pete’s best pal Julian died in a railway accident after Pete tried to save him,” the paper helpfully explained.

The paper was unable to find space to recall how it reported Julian Brooker’s death at the time – perhaps unsurprisingly, given that their January 27, 2005 report on his inquest was a work of fiction so spectacular that it required not one but two corrections in subsequent months. In March the paper was obliged to point out that Brooker – whose body Bennett dragged from a live rail, injuring himself in the process – was “neither thrown in the air, nor was there a fireball when he was electrocuted while doing an impression of Gollum. He had also not been drinking on the beach; his friend Natasha was not with him at the time; he was not obsessed with the number 23; and did not go out drinking every month on that date.” A month later the Sun added a couple of further amendments: “his mother did not say, during or after the inquest, her son often got on all fours creeping around their house pretending to be Gollum. Also, quotes from a witness should have been attributed to Gemma Costin not Eva Natasha. We apologise for the distress this has caused his family and friends.”

Unsurprisingly, Bennett declined to sell his exclusive tale of his Big Brother victory to the Sun.

* Oh. It's something to do with the young people on their Twitter device, apparently...

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