The idea that Rockstar Games was making "Grand Theft Auto: Rothbury" - whether or not a ghastly crime was committed there - was so sensationally ridiculous that when The Daily Star alleged such a plan, I ignored it. Rockstar didn't.
The studio has now extracted a remarkable apology from the U.K. tabloid, which last week spotted some kind of parody Photoshop on the web (pictured) and took that for confirmation that the games maker was capitalising on the notoriety of a shooting spree and manhunt in northeast England earlier this year. Worse, the paper went and contacted victims of that crime for comment, representing as fact Rockstar's plans to make such a game - but made no attempt to get a statement from the studio before publishing.
Rockstar went on a counteroffensive, and The Daily Star today published a self-flagellating retraction and has promised "a substantial amount in damages" will be paid to Rockstar, to be donated to charity.
Here is The Star, served a banquet of crow:
ON 21 July we published an article claiming that the video games company Rockstar Games were planning to release a version of their popular Grand Theft Auto video games series titled "Grand Theft Auto Rothbury".
We also published what we claimed would be the cover of this game, solicited comments from a family member impacted by the recent tragedy and criticised Rockstar Games for their alleged plans.
We made no attempt to check the accuracy of the story before publication and did not contact Rockstar Games prior to publishing the story. We also did not question why a best selling and critically acclaimed fictional games series would choose to base one of their most popular games on this horrifying real crime event.
It is now accepted that there were never any plans by Rockstar Games to publish such a game and that the story was false. We apologise for publishing the story using a mock-up of the game cover, our own comments on the matter and soliciting critical comments from a grieving family member.
We unreservedly apologise to Rockstar Games and we have undertaken not to repeat the claims again. We have also agreed to pay them a substantial amount in damages which they are donating to charity.
It's staggeringly idiotic that any person - much less a news reporter or editor - would lack even the thimbleful of scepticism necessary to see this begins with an Internet fake. I have no idea what the penalty is but I hope it is painfully large. And participating in the writing, reporting, editing and publishing of this story - even at The Sun - should be a firing offence.
Rockstar Games - Grand Theft Auto - An Apology [The Sun via Rock Paper Shotgun]