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Hull Daily Mail defends splash headline about mum telling children Santa 'not real' after outrage from parents

The Hull Daily Mail has defended its choice of front-page headline – “I had to tell my kids Santa is not real” – after criticism that it sent out the wrong message on newsstands just days before Christmas.

The newspaper said its Friday splash, about a family struggling on Universal Credit, does not claim Santa isn’t real, but simply reports what one “desperate” mother felt she had to tell her children.

In pictures shared on a Facebook group for residents of the East Yorkshire port city, one local Tesco store appears to have flipped over copies of the paper so only the back page faces customers.

A HDM reader and dad-of-one told Press Gazette: “Has any thought been put into this headline whatsoever? They should hang their heads in shame.

“There’s going to be so many parents who may well be shopping with their kids, getting things in for Christmas, who will have difficult conversations with them as a result.”

On the One Hull of A City Facebook group, residents have been sharing pictures of the newspaper’s front page and warning others – namely those with children – to watch out for it.

A group member and mum-of-one said: “Heads up to parents and carers of children who still ‘believe’… apparently HDM didn’t bother to think about how many children will see this headline plastered all over Hull shops.

“Tesco have turned all the papers round, hopefully other shops will follow suit. It might seem silly to some, but as a parent of an inquisitive nine-year-old… I really don’t know how I’d explain this one.”

Others have pointed out the irony that the front page also carries an advert encouraging families to “come and see Santa” at a local shopping centre.

The Hull Daily Mail is owned by Reach. It has a paid-for circulation of 21,800 according to the latest ABC figures.

In a statement, the paper said: “Today’s front page is a very sad story written to highlight the problems that people less fortunate than most are suffering with Universal Credit.

“The story showed how one mum was so desperate as Christmas approached that she felt she had to tell her children that Santa did not exist as she could not afford to buy them presents.

“That is where the headline came from – one mother at the end of her tether telling her own children that story, which she says they accepted.

“The headline doesn’t say that Santa is not real, it says that one mother has chosen to tell her children that he isn’t because of the desperate situation she faces.

“This article was viewed more than 20,000 times online and we received no criticism. The front page, however, has attracted some reaction that is not what we wanted.

“The message is that Universal Credit is not working and that is not a message we wanted to lose, particularly in a city that has a higher percentage of people on Universal Credit than most.

“Sadly, we have even had one person today who said they don’t care about this family and others who are struggling this Christmas, they just care about their kids believing in Santa.

“Others have commended us for highlighting this issue and making people understand that this a very real and serious problem facing some families right now.

“When the story is read and the headline is given its full context, it is clear that it is about Universal Credit and the very damaging impact it is having on the people in Hull. It is not about Santa.”

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