On Tuesday last week they came under fire again when the Southend Echo reported the case of a couple who had been refused permission to adopt their granddaughter.
The splash treatment was stark, but the text by Christine Sexton was written straight, making clear from the outset that the story was being written based on information from the couple rather than an independent source:
The couple, from Shoebury, started looking after the three-year-old girl when her mother was hospitalised with depression.
The doting grandparents were first told to give the girl up for fostering, but now, just six months after her mother was taken ill, Southend Council's social services department has put the girl up for adoption.
The devastated grandparents claim they were told it was because they are too old to look after her.
The Mail picked up on the story and splashed with it the next day. In its eyes there was no doubt why the grandparents' application had been refused:
The Mail also quoted the council spokeswoman saying that age was not the deciding factor.
The council clearly felt aggrieved by the media interest because that afternoon it tweeted a link to an edited version of the judgment issued on June 17, which had just been published by the family court in Chelmsford.
The child then spent three days with the grandparents before being moved into foster care because the mother objected to her being with her parents. The little girl had been in foster care ever since. Her mother had been discharged from hospital, but was readmitted in May and had accepted that she could not care for her daughter. They had a "goodbye" meeting on June 5 and the mother had expected a final care order to be made at the June 17 hearing - which she did not attend.
According to the judgment, the grandparents had chosen that hearing to make their application to care for the child - even though they had been in possession of the social services' assessment of their unsuitability since March - and they refused the judge's offer of an adjournment to allow them to prepare formal statements. They had no legal representation, but told him that they wanted the matter dealt with that day and the grandfather gave evidence under oath.
In that evidence, he said that they had previously been asked to care for the child, but they had not done so because his wife was ill and his daughter did not want the little girl to go to them. He spoke of conflicts between his wife and daughter, the difficulty in keeping the peace at home, and how his wife's problems with their daughter brought on her depression. He had been to many meetings in relation to his daughter as she grew up, but that his wife had not attended because of her depression.
The social worker's assessment said that the mother had had an unhappy and dysfunctional childhood and the judge noted that she had on various occasions said that she was abused physically by her parents. He concluded:
The impression conveyed by the edited judgment released to the public is of a woman in her early 30s who has had a troubled childhood - the viability assessment refers to "extensive professional involvement" - and who is not now able to look after the daughter she loves. She has said goodbye to the child - a scene the judge said she described in "heartrending" terms - and wants her to live with a stable "forever" family rather than her own parents.
The Telegraph, on the other hand, pitched in on Saturday with a page lead headlined Full story of grandparents 'too old to adopt'.
Except it isn't.
The judgment in this case was delivered in private and its release to the public two days after the case hit the newspapers cannot be coincidence.
The grandparents' case seems hopeless when you read the ruling, yet there was enough in it for a solicitor to come forward and offer to represent them without payment. And the point the MPs picked up on - that the mother signed away her rights to her daughter while being treated in a mental health unit and without an legal representation - remains unanswered.
The Mail's first story notes that the social workers' assessment of the grandparents is not available to the public - quite rightly so - but the judge says the couple had been in possession of a copy since March 24. Why didn't Christine Sexton of the Echo or Andrew Levy and Rosie Taylor of the Mail ask to see it? And if they did, and were denied access to the document that supposedly corroborated the grandparents' claim about ageism, then shouldn't they have smelt a rat? They should certainly not have taken the couple's story at face value.
There is little doubt from all the material available that both mother and grandparents love the little girl at the centre of this case. What we don't know is whether the decisions made along the way will make it more or less likely that she will live happily ever after.
It is seven years now since Camilla Cavendish started writing in The Times about the need for greater openness from family courts - a campaign that earned her the Paul Foot award and led to some changes in the privacy rules. Yet we still cannot be sure that families are seeing justice.
The only reason this case from Shoeburyness reached the public consciousness was because someone mentioned age. That turns out to have been a side issue, and we shall probably never know the full story. That may be right and proper, a family's private traumas should not be aired for public entertainment.
But if women are being coerced into signing away the right to look after their children when they are not mentally fit, in order that councils can meet adoption targets - as the grandparents' lawyer and MPs suggest,- then we need to know.
The journalists covering this story have fallen for the clickbait angle and missed the real issue.