Shelagh Fogarty on the lessons she learned from reporting on Hillsborough disaster

·4 min read
Nicky Campbell and Shelagh Fogarty at the Sony Radio Academy Awards 2007 (Getty Images)
Nicky Campbell and Shelagh Fogarty at the Sony Radio Academy Awards 2007 (Getty Images)

LBC's Shelagh Fogarty said the whole country was 'gaslit' over the Hillsborough disaster, and that covering the story at first as a young journalist taught her the importance of getting to the truth.

The 56-year-old, who was a BBC radio presenter before joining LBC in 2014, said she had gone in to Radio Merseyside on the day of the disaster in April 1989, in which 97 Liverpool football fans were killed.

She also told Kate Thornton, on the White Wine Question Time podcast, that covering the trauma in the story had prepared her for covering the coronavirus pandemic.

Fogarty said she had gone into the station having heard something about the disaster when she was out in Liverpool on the afternoon it happened and ended up taking phone calls, telling Thornton: "I was behind reception. And that's when the whole thing just grew and grew and grew and grew, before our eyes."

WATCH: Shelagh Fogarty on her experience of the Hillsborough disaster

She said covering the whole story taught her 'an awful lot about listening' and that she didn't go home on the first night of the story breaking as more and more people came to and called the station to tell their stories.

The tragedy has been surrounded by controversies, with press coverage after the event blaming Liverpool fans for the crush at the stadium, and The Sun newspaper running an infamous headline that read 'The Truth' and accused fans of kicking and urinating on police at the stadium.

Kenny Dalglish at the Hillsborough Disaster  (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/EMPICS via Getty Images)
Kenny Dalglish at the Hillsborough Disaster (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/EMPICS via Getty Images)

Then editor of The Sun, Kelvin MacKenzie, later apologised for the false accusations made under the headline.

Thornton said in three decades of covering the story, Fogarty had become a 'megaphone' for the families that had suffered both the loss of a loved one and the mis-representation in the media.

Listen to the full episode to hear Shelagh talk about being one of seven children, the time her family forgot to pick her up from nursery in a house move, and the best lessons she learned from her parents

She added: "You've never stopped telling that story, and you've done it in such a considered and smart fashion. I applaud you for that, because it's 30 years of constantly keeping the volume turned up on it."

In 2012, after a report into the tragedy, then prime minister David Cameron apologised on behalf of the government for the failings in the case.

Fan in despair after the Hillsborough Disaster  (Photo by Phil O'Brien/EMPICS via Getty Images)
Fan in despair after the Hillsborough Disaster (Photo by Phil O'Brien/EMPICS via Getty Images)

Fogarty praised the families who had continued to fight to uncover the truth through multiple inquests and inquiries, and that they had always used the 'law and institutions that had failed them to try and put it right'.

"They never put a foot wrong and and they kept that discipline up," she said. "I can't say for sure that I wouldn't have been putting bricks through people's windows by that point."

A day or so after the dreadful tragedy, floral tributes Anfield in memory of the 96 people who died at Hillsborough Stadium on 15th April 1989. (Photo by Liverpool FC via Getty Images)
A day or so after the dreadful tragedy, floral tributes Anfield in memory of the 96 people who died at Hillsborough Stadium on 15th April 1989. (Liverpool FC via Getty Images)

Saying on first seeing people gathering round a radio on a grocer's stall in Liverpool, she had gone over to see what was happening, being 'nosy' and a 'natural journalist'.

Read more: Shelagh Fogarty condemns Question Time rant

Fogarty also told the story of reuniting a man in his 70s with a younger man who had thrown him over the fence to help him get out of the crush in the stand, having heard a phone in to the radio station just ten minutes before which described the same scene.

Supporters are crushed against the barrier as disaster strikes before the FA Cup semi-final match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest played at the Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield, England. (David  Cannon/Allsport)
Disaster strikes before the FA Cup semi-final match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest played at the Hillsborough Stadium, 1989. (David Cannon/Allsport)

She said: "I got his number, rang him. And I said: 'I think I might have this man that you helped with me.' And he said: 'I'm coming down, I'm coming down.'"

On hearing about the reunion, Thornton became emotional. Fogarty said: "I know you're crying, don't make me cry."

WATCH: Shelagh Fogarty on LBC, not wanting to be a 'shock jock', and learning from Hillsborough

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