Sheffield graduate vindicated in election 'fake news' storm

'Boy on hospital floor' journalist returns to University for guest lecture


Daniel Sheridan giving his guest lectureA Sheffield journalism graduate found himself at the centre of one of the biggest stories during the UK's general election campaign – and then returned to the University to share his experience with current students.

The widely read story of the four-year-old patient who had to lie on the floor of Leeds General Infirmary was broken by Daniel Sheridan, who completed his BA Journalism Studies degree at Sheffield in 2016 and is currently a reporter with the Yorkshire Evening Post.

After the story made national news, it led to an awkward moment for Boris Johnson on the campaign trail. Another reporter showed the prime minister a picture of Jack on his mobile phone to ask for a response, only for Mr Johnson to take the phone and place it in his pocket.

Misinformation

Then a shadowy misinformation campaign attempted to undermine the story. A false claim that the photo was staged emerged from anonymous social media accounts and gained exposure when shared by some media figures.

Daniel and his editor James Mitchinson found their methods questioned, but were entirely vindicated when the hospital confirmed the story.

James, a member of the Journalism Studies Advisory Board, was praised widely for a subsequent editorial and letter to a reader explaining why properly verified journalism is always more trustworthy than social media hearsay, conspiracy theory and organised propaganda.

The fallout spread widely, with media as far afield as the Washington Post reporting the incident in a piece about "dishonesty and dirty tactics" in the election campaign.

Great insight

In the aftermath Daniel returned to the Department of Journalism Studies to give a guest lecture to students – who were thrilled to hear a first-hand account of the incident from one of their recent predecessors.

First-year undergraduate Adam Dickinson tweeted: "Brilliant guest lecture from @DSheridanYEP, the journalist behind the 'boy on the hospital floor' story. Great insight into how the story broke, the backlash from it and how the @yorkshirepost responded to that. Thanks very much Dan and @sheffjournalism".

"Makes you realise why you're going into journalism in the first place," added MA Journalism student Rhi Storer.

As Twitter users continued to discuss the lecture, Daniel declared himself "honoured to have been asked to return", while his erstwhile tutor Lisa Bradley pointed out: "Danny has broken the record of the turnaround for student to guest lecturer".

The final word went to James, who, with an eye on future recruitment for the Post, requested: "First dibs on any more like him, Lisa!"

Photo: Alistair Brook