The truth behind the headlines

The morning before Janet was due to make her debut performance on this year’s X Factor, a knock came to the Devlin door.
It was a Saturday and at the time Janet was singing for survival at the competition’s boot camp stage; she had already received the requisite number of ‘yeses’ because the auditions had been recorded earlier in the year.
Janet’s mum answered the door and introducing himself on the doorstep was a reporter from a reputable newspaper, the Irish Mail on Sunday. The man explained that the hype surrounding the 16-year-old’s performance had been ramped up to boiling point and as such, he was hoping for a few comments for a complimentary feature he was planning on writing for the following day’s paper.
Janet’s mum Patricia apologised and said there was no comment they would or could make; at that time Janet was still embroiled in the early stages of the competition, the audition hadn’t even been broadcast and they were conscious of the fact that nothing had been made public – just yet. More than that, she didn’t want to jinx anything before it had even started.
She added that all being well, in the days and weeks to come, the family would be more than happy to give the reporter any information or comment he wanted.
As a throw-away remark, Patricia added, “Sure, you probably know more about it than we do anyway.” Meaning: The fact that the man was standing on their doorstep on a Summer’s morning, showed he had some handle at least, presumably from the singing competition’s PR machine, on how Janet might be progressing.
The next day the same reporter ran with the head-line, ‘X Factor bosses keep parents in the dark’.
Impossible, you might think but I assure you, this really happened.
This journalist (not me, the man on the doorstep) obviously came from the Mark Twain school of reporting (never let the facts get in the way of a good story), but unbeknownst to him, he was shooting himself in the foot. He was never to know Janet would return as the show favourite but in exaggerating and twisting an off-handed remark he was ruling himself out of the Devlin good books.
As Janet’s cousin and a reporter to boot, I have come to realise that the press are a determined bunch. I have also come to appreciate they are not averse to running with a story despite not having either the right details or for that matter, a decent story.


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