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Hillsborough Disaster As Reported By U.S. Newspaper

palm beach post hillsborough Hillsborough Disaster As Reported By U.S. Newspaper

In the aftermath of the Hillsborough Disaster, many of us saw the headlines that adorned the front covers of English newspapers. But what was the coverage like in America, and how did the newspapers report the news?

In 1989, my local newspaper was The Palm Beach Post. On Saturday, April 15 1989, I listened to Sportsweek on BBC World Service using my shortwave radio. I remember my cousin and I hearing about the incidents from Hillsborough and that the game had been abandoned, but it was difficult to fathom exactly what happened. It wasn’t until later that night when I watched the national CBS Evening News where the lead story was the Hillsborough Stadium disaster.

The following morning, the true scope of the tragedy hit home when I opened up The Palm Beach Post and saw the cover story alongside the horrifying main photograph on the page. I’ve mentioned this before but that image has horrified me for 20 years.

This past Sunday, I made a special trip to my local library to take a look again at that newspaper edition that I hadn’t seen in 20 years. After finding the microfilm in the archives section, I sat in front of the machine and quickly found the April 16, 1989 edition. There, right before my eyes was the same image that had haunted me all those years.

It was exactly as I remembered it, a sickening image that I’m sure most local newspapers in the United States would have declined to use and would have selected a less gruesome picture to adorn their Sunday morning newspaper cover.

To me, the image sends the message of how cruel and terrifying the death of the 96 victims must have been. I decided to snap a few pictures of the image as well as the accompanying article to share with you, the readers.

WARNING: Some people may find the images distressing, and should be only viewed by adults, not children. We are particularly keen that survivors be aware that scenes of the crowd in the pens might trigger flashbacks. Personal discretion is advised.

  • View the slideshow of The Palm Beach Post‘s coverage of the Hillsborough Disaster. Or view the set, which includes added notes and additional information.

The thoughts that run through my head when I look at the image of the three people from Hillsborough are: (1) Did any of these three survive? (2) Did any of them know each other or were they complete strangers? (3) Was the woman a mother or a sister or a relative of the two young boys? (4) Was the young man with his eyes closed already dead? (5) If any of these three people are still alive today, how did they survive? (6) How close was the photographer to the fence and could he have done anything to help save the supporters instead of doing his job? (7) At what time was the picture taken?

So many questions just from one photograph.

Concerning the article in the newspaper, the cause of the Hillsborough Disaster was linked to ticketless Liverpool supporters surging into the back of the Leppings Lane end and causing the crush. In hindsight, we now know that these were lies that were fed to the media by the police. You can read the text of the newspaper article by viewing the images above on EPL Talk’s Flickr stream.

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About Christopher Harris

Founder and publisher of World Soccer Talk, Christopher Harris is the managing editor of the site. He has been interviewed by The New York Times, The Guardian and several other publications. Plus he has made appearances on NPR, BBC World, CBC, BBC Five Live, talkSPORT and beIN SPORT. Harris, who has lived in Florida since 1984, has supported Swansea City since 1979. He's also an expert on soccer in South Florida, and got engaged during half-time of a MLS game. Harris launched EPL Talk in 2005, which was rebranded as World Soccer Talk in 2013.
View all posts by Christopher Harris →

18 Responses to Hillsborough Disaster As Reported By U.S. Newspaper

  1. casual observer says:

    hey gaffer — you wouldn’t be exploiting the hillsborough disaster to drive traffic to your website, would you? it’s *really* starting to seem that way.

  2. The Gaffer says:

    Casual observer, not at all. If it seems that way, I apologize. With it being the 20th anniversary, the topic is timely and I’m sharing my perspective regarding the events that have happened.

    Cheers,
    The Gaffer

  3. fsquid says:

    I believe this is a timely topic. 1989 was before even the US had gotten back to the World Cup, so the coverage in the US was poor and quick to blame Hooligans which is what Americans (my parents included) associated with soccer. It wasn’t until we lived in the UK in 1993-94 that it changed my parents mind.

    Frankly, I find the Bradford City fire to be just as bad as this one if not worse, but there is no controversy about that one plus it was just a Division 2 or 3 game.

  4. Jason Freeman says:

    Christopher Harris,

    Sorry but I’m calling your bluff on this one. Timely would have been discussing this subject last week instead of waiting until Monday to attack. The media has already gotten away from the 20 year coverage. So if discussing something that the media has already stopped discussing, then you have a very sick definition of timely.

    Casual Observer is 100 percent right. I bet you Christopher have seen a massive decline in your site numbers since you fired your best writer for no reasons whatsoever. So you picked the easiest target a week after the fact and then put the fingers to work.

    The site has declined to a worse quality than the celebrity tabloids…worse than those in the UK. Then again, direction reflects that at the top and you Christopher have never had any standards.

    I applaud Steven Cohen for openly challenging you to come on his show to discuss all of this. Knowing your thug hooligan mentality however, you are probably cowering behind your keyboard once you delete this comment. I hope Cohen wipes the floor with you either when you show up on his airwaves or when he shows up on Kartik’s whateverhisnameis podcast Thursday.

  5. The Gaffer says:

    Jason, thanks for your comment. By the way, both this site and the sister site MLS Talk ran tributes last week regarding Hillsborough. The one at EPL Talk can be found here:

    http://epltalk.com/where-were-you-on-april-15-1989/5883

    and here:

    http://epltalk.com/why-justice-needs-to-be-served-for-hillsborough-families/5822

    I’ll be more than happy to come on World Soccer Daily — but only after Cohen apologizes to his listeners and retracts his statements about Hillsborough that were incorrect.

    Cheers,
    The Gaffer

    PS – My site traffic is up — as can be evidenced on my post about the topic at:
    http://epltalk.com/3000-posts-and-counting/5723

  6. casual observer says:

    uh. yeah. nice to hear you’re keeping up with your traffic, gaffer.

    please drop the patronizing attitude towards US fans. we can see you and cohen for what you are: businessmen. we’re not all stupid.

    that said, i really enjoy your site (this episode aside). i especially like the info re: US TV rights. i wouldn’t know where else to look for info. keep up the good work on that front.

  7. Jason Freeman says:

    were plenty enough. What you have done this week will see you end up out of business. As for not showing up on World Soccer Daily, it figures. You don’t have the balls to take him on one v one over this issue because you know you won’t win it. It really shows how much of a wimp you really are. As for the site traffic, I don’t believe those numbers one bit. Anyone can do a little picture magic. Now I’m off to find the only writer that ever made this site worth a damn. Even if I do find the writer I am not sure you even deserve him back so go ahead and keep going if you are able for I do know a couple former New York Times that need a job

  8. LORENZO GRIMALDI says:

    hi Gaffer, is incredible, but you did exactly the same question I’ve always done to myself!! was you able to give an answer to those questions?
    ) Did any of these three survive? (2) Did any of them know each other or were they complete strangers? (3) Was the woman a mother or a sister or a relative of the two young boys? (4) Was the young man with his eyes closed already dead? (5) If any of these three people are still alive today, how did they survive? (6) How close was the photographer to the fence and could he have done anything to help save the supporters instead of doing his job? (7) At what time was the picture taken?

    • The Gaffer says:

      Lorenzo, good questions but I don’t have the answers to any of them. It’s a mystery. If anyone can shine some light on the sensitive topic, I’d greatly appreciate it.

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

  9. Lorenzo Grimaldi says:

    Hi gaffer on facebook I found one of the survivors, i watched a lot of pictures of her and is really a miracle that she survived….
    I asked her for a testimony, but she refused! probably she is still shocked….

  10. Mason says:

    Justice for the 96

    I wrote a paper recently for my Mass Media History class about sports coverage in the Toledo Blade (I’m from the area) and i can confirm that this horrific photo ran alongside an Associated Press story about Hillsborough on the front page. The continuation of the article on the inside ran another photo, this one of a fan lying on an advertising hoarding on the pitch with the caption: “A British soccer fan lies dead on a makeshift stretcher.” Incidentally, my research showed that the Blade ran precisely 3 stories about soccer longer than about 6 lines buried in the bowels of the boxscores during the 1980s; the days after the Bradford fire, Heysel and Hillsborough. Heck, even Time Magazine featured photos of the dead at Heysel on its cover under the title of “Soccer’s Secret Shame.” When this is all the press coverage that the Beautiful Game used to receive here in the states, it is almost no wonder that certain people – Jim Rome, for example – see the game as nothing more than an “excuse to riot,” an unsafe atmosphere good for nothing more than creating urban unrest. No mention of Maradona’s exploits at Mexico ’86 or anything from 1982 or any cup final or anything, just death and disaster. Kind of sad, isn’t it?

    • The Gaffer says:

      Mason, it’s sad but true. Coverage of soccer in US newspapers during the 80s and early 90s was absolutely trash filled with so many factual mistakes and very little coverage. It’s amazing how much we’ve progressed. At the same time, many of those same US newspapers are still in the dark ages in terms of sports coverage and don’t give much exposure to soccer.

      In my part of the country, soccer is limited to a column every Sunday in the Sun-Sentinel newspaper (Fort Lauderdale) and no regular coverage in The Palm Beach Post, which is my local newspaper.

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

  11. Morag Donnelly says:

    Hi gaffer about the topic on the hillsborough disaster. The 2 lads you see in the newspaper survived the disaster along with the women, infact they were the lucky ones. The Daily Mirror captured the full picture. Many though it was impossible for these people to survive but they were mostly rescued by fellow fans. The 2 lads were captured on the many video recordings on that day, pulling themselves up the fence then being pulled over by police officers.

    • The Gaffer says:

      Morag, thank you SO much for letting me know that. The photographed has haunted me for 21 years and I often wonder what happened to the woman along with the two lads next to her. Thank god they were able to escape over the fence. Bless you for telling me.

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

  12. vincent harlin says:

    I am the boy 2nd from the right,finding this time very difficult but i did survive…

    • The Gaffer says:

      Vincent, god bless you. I’m so glad to know that you’re alive.

      Like I said in the article, that photo haunted me for more than 20 years. I’m so thankful to hear that you survived.

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

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