Not long ago, Andrew Norfolk of the Murdoch Times was at the top of his game, the toast of his profession. His fellow Times writer David Brown explained “It was journalist (Andrew Norfolk) speaking to victims which uncovered the national scandal of these grooming gangs, not police”. Norfolk had broken the story of grooming gang in Rotherham. He also called out South Yorkshire Police for effectively conspiring to protect the culprits.
The BBC’s Sangita Myska suggested Norfolk should receive a Pulitzer, although the story not being about anything Stateside might be thought a problem, and the Times’ chief sports writer Matt Dickinson concluded “Thank goodness the world has journalists of the calibre of the Times' Andrew Norfolk”. Even campaigning group Hacked Off praised Norfolk, despite his opposition to Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act.
How Norfolk would love to return to those days right now. Because now his reputation lies in tatters, with not even sham press non-regulator IPSO prepared to give him a free pass over the story that destroyed his reputation, as Zelo Street regulars will recall.
Norfolk was the name on the by-line that gave the stamp of authenticity to the Times’ front page splash “Christian child forced into Muslim foster care”. The story, it now transpires, was single-sourced, from the child’s mother. Someone had forgotten what happened to the Telegraph’s Christopher Booker when he did the same thing in late 2013.
Booker was slowly but inexorably busted by a series of revelations that showed his story to be a slanted and dishonest mess, a seriously flawed piece of journalism. So it was with Norfolk. As Zelo Street told soon after the story was broken, an anonymised version of a hearing convened to discuss the case took the points Norfolk had made and effectively dismissed every last one of them. Much of what he had claimed was just not true.
Norfolk did try to brazen it out, but it didn’t work. He did, though, get the customary arse-wiping from IPSO, but that was to reckon without a complaint from Tower Hamlets Council, who had been smeared by not only the Times articles, but a characteristically aggressive follow-up by the Daily Mail. And it is that complaint which has finished Norfolk.
The Guardian has duly reported “Complaint upheld over Times story about girl fostered by Muslims … Council wins ruling from press watchdog over claims in story also picked up by Daily Mail”. Norfolk’s slanted reportage was laid bare.
“In August last year, the Times reported that a ‘white Christian child’ had been left distressed after being placed with two Muslim households in Tower Hamlets over a period of six months. However, the initial claims soon proved to be a one-sided account, as further details emerged, including that the girl’s grandmother - with whom she was ultimately to be placed - was a Muslim and did not speak English”.
The Times, and Mail, had pitched the grandparent placement as some kind of victory - after telling readers that the foster carers did not speak English (not true), they talked up the placement with someone who really didn’t speak English. Oh dear!
Today’s news confirms that Andrew Norfolk is another whose reputation has been sacrificed on the altar of Murdoch Islamophobia. Sad, really.