For four years I’ve driven back and forth across the M62 on an almost daily basis, passing the temporary yellow signs that point the way to Warrington and ongoing Hillsborough inquests. Although I’ve been in Liverpool almost 20 years it doesn’t seem as if there have been too many days when I’ve not been aware of it.
In the Liverpool Guild of Students a memorial to students who never returned; a friend who designed and built the Band of Life memorial sculpture; serialising John Pilger’s Hidden Agendas book, specifically the chapter detailing the genesis of the Sun’s notorious front page; the stickers across the city concerning a newspaper that has been largely absent from Liverpool for over 25 years.
I have written about Hillsborough on occasion. Back in 1998 the student newspaper I edited at Liverpool University questioned Norman Bettison’s appointment as Chief Constable of Merseyside Police and pondered his role in the Hillsborough cover-up. Interviewing Jimmy McGovern and covering council meetings where families of the victims spoke of their desire for justice. Reviewing a wonderful exhibition of the Liverpool Echo’s coverage a few years back. I hope today’s verdict gives the families and friend some of the answers and sense of closure they’ve been looking for.
One aspect of the story that has always fascinated me is the ongoing refusal of some of those involved in what is now recognised as a pitiful and self-serving cover-up to engage with the truth of the matter. Kelvin MacKenzie, as he did in 2012, again managed to sound mealy-mouthed today when questioned about his role in The Sun’s front page – and I wondered all day how The Sun would greet today’s news from Warrington on its front page.
The answer was that it didn’t. It may not quite have been intended as such, but it came across as one last insult, flung out from the capital a million miles away from Warrington, Sheffield and Liverpool.
In some ways it shouldn’t come as a surprise that The Sun and its stablemate The Times make no mention of Hillsborough on their front pages. They may have rationalised that it was best to keep a respectful distance, especially as a previous mea culpa from The Sun was received with scepticism.
But not to mention it all also risks looking like a deliberate slight. Perhaps they believed they were damned either way, but surely better to acknowledge a story with enormous ramifications for police forces, politics and journalism at the highest levels.
Of the rest it’s notable that The Independent – covers the Hillsborough verdict on its front page when it doesn’t even exist. The Metro skilfully pastiches The Sun’s notorious headline from 1989 and The Daily Mirror has a photo of the entrance to the tunnel that leads to the Leppings Lane pens. The sight of it still disturbs me and it makes for a powerful front page.
The New Day
Local and regional papers
Virtually every local or regional front page that I could find refers to Hillsborough, even if it’s a strapline or above the masthead. The only one I couldn’t find was a tiny regional with a story about a dog.
Scottish Daily Mail
London Evening Standard
Prominent coverage of the Hillsborough verdict on the international version of the New York Times.
International New York Times
The Times’ Merseyside football writer appears bemused by something, around the same time that the next day’s front pages were circulated.