MAIL GROUP PAPERS THE WORST OF IPSO-REGULATED PRESS FOR FOURTH YEAR RUNNING

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The Mail Group press – Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday and Mail Online – have topped the chart for IPSO-regulated publications with the most complaints that have required remedial action for the fourth year straight.

Building up a league table-topping dominance on a par with Manchester United in the ’90s/’00s, the Mail pipped close rival The Sun by 15 cases to 14 throughout 2019.

This is some way down on the paper’s 2018 total of 28, when it romped home 10 points clear of runner-up The Times, but enough to serve as a timely reminder of why Wikipedia classified it as an unreliable source back in 2017.

Overall in 2019, there were fewer cases involving the mainstream national press outlets that required action than in 2018. During the past 12 months, there have been 57 IPSO cases resulting in either a breach (IPSO sanction) or resolution statement (where the publication acknowledges wrongdoing and offers remedial action that satisfies the complainant, meaning that the case doesn’t need to be assessed) compared to 90 throughout 2018.

The majority of cases for all publications were related to accuracy of content, although there were a number of other breaches including harassment and invasion of privacy.

After the Mail and The Sun, The Times claimed 3rd spot with 7 sanctions/resolution statements, slipping one place from 2018. The Telegraph was fourth with 6, then the Mirror with 6, the Express with 5 and the Daily Star and the Metro with two each.

Here is a more detailed breakdown of 2019 performance:

THE MAIL 

Publications: Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday, Mail Online 

Well established as the IPSO chart-topper in terms of bad behaviour, the Mail has a disturbing track record that includes actively supporting fascism, association with Adolf Hitler and repeated demonisation of Jewish migrants to the UK pre-WW2. Many would say it hasn’t changed all that much in 80 years. Despite this, it remains the UK’s second best-selling daily paper after The Sun.

Total number of transgressions: 15 (6 breaches, 9 resolution statements)

Breakdown of transgressions: Mail Online (10), Daily Mail (3), Mail on Sunday (2)

Total complaints: 30 (15 dismissed)

Example case: “POWDER KEG PARIS” – a supposed expose of northern suburbs of Paris which the journalist claimed, through apparent first-hand accounts gathered during a 5-day stay, had been turned into Muslim enclaves populated by 300,000 illegal immigrants. The article was found to have multiple errors and the Mail was made to publish a full and lengthy correction, albeit over six months later.

Media Bias Fact Check assessment of the Mail here.

THE SUN 

Publications: The Sun, Sun on Sunday, Scottish Sun

The biggest-selling daily paper in the UK, although sales have declined in recent years and are non-existent in Liverpool after the paper was boycotted by most of the city for its reporting on the Hillsborough tragedy. Its style of journalism is more similar to toilet wall graffiti than respectable reporting and its employees have been caught up in scandals including phone-hacking, paying police for stories and harassing celebrities about their sexuality. Not treated as a serious news source by many but people still buy it – for the sports coverage, we’re told.

Total number of transgressions: 14 (7 breaches, 7 resolution statements)

Breakdown of transgressions: The Sun (13), Scottish Sun (2)

Total complaints: 30 (16 dismissed)

Example case: “£4 BILLION FOREIGN AID TO FIX POTHOLES IN INDIA” – an article claiming that money was being wasted on aid projects overseas. However, contrary to the headline, the money was actually being used on over 50 different transport and infrastructure projects in various parts of the developing world.

Media Bias Fact Check assessment of The Sun here.

THE TIMES 

Publications: The Times, Sunday Times

For a long time viewed as a respectable paper, things have changed in recent years since The Times was bought by the Murdoch empire. Over the past couple of years it has been up there with the Mail and The Sun in the end-of-year poor performance tables and even pipped The Sun to runners-up spot in 2018. Some have speculated that the gradual transformation of the paper is to prepare it to eventually step into The Sun‘s shoes should the top-selling Murdoch tabloid suddenly sink in a News Of The World-style scandal.

Total number of transgressions: 7 (3 breaches, 4 resolution statements)

Breakdown of transgressions: Sunday Times (4), The Times (3)

Total complaints: 15 (8 dismissed)

Example case: “SINKING SUPPORT FOR WATER NATIONALISATION” – an article that claimed the support for nationalisation of the water industry had fallen to 27%. However, the accurate figure was 49%. The 27% figure was drawn from a loaded question that asked if nationalisation would be supported if it led to people’s pensions being devalued.

Media Bias Fact Check assessment of The Times here.

THE TELEGRAPH 

Publications: Daily Telegraph, Sunday Telegraph

Nicknamed the Torygraph, this long-standing Conservative-supporting paper isn’t in the same league as the likes of the Mail and The Sun when it comes to prolific whoppers but you still need to take what it says with a pinch of salt. Its reputation – and league table position – has been heavily affected by its employment of Boris Johnson. The current UK PM was responsible for three of the paper’s sanctions in 2019, very much the Eric Cantona of the season (sticking with the Man Utd ’90s analogies).

Total number of transgressions: 6 (2 breaches, 4 resolution statements)

Breakdown of transgressions: Daily Telegraph (5), Sunday Telegraph (1)

Total complaints: 15 (9 dismissed)

Example case: “MOSQUE WITH EXTREMIST LINKS RUNS SCOUT GROUP” – article that made inaccurate allegations about the Lewisham Islamic Centre, including that it was under police investigation for extremist links.

Media Bias Fact Check assessment of the Telegraph here.

THE MIRROR 

Publications: Daily Mirror, Sunday Mirror

The only noticeably left-wing (i.e. Labour-supporting) mainstream daily paper regulated by IPSO, the Mirror is proof that dirty tabloid tactics and gutter press reporting aren’t the sole preserve of the political right. Although many would argue that it’s not really all that left-wing – after all, Piers Morgan used to be its editor. Most of its erroneous reporting tends to be about celebrity tittle-tattle rather than politics, where it quietly pursues an anti-Tory agenda without much controversy. Under Morgan’s tenure, it became embroiled in the phone-hacking scandal.

Total number of transgressions: 6 (1 breach, 5 resolution statements)

Breakdown of transgressions: Daily Mirror (6)

Total complaints: 11 (5 dismissed)

Example case: “MAN DIES AT CARE HOME WHILE AMBULANCES BLOCKED BY ANGRY NEIGHBOURS IN PARKING ROW” – report that an ambulance had been blocked in a residential area due to a neighbour’s vehicle being deliberately parked in front of it, although there was no confirmation that the ambulance had been blocked or that it had been done deliberately.

Media Bias fact Check assessment of the Mirror here.

THE EXPRESS

Publications: Daily Express, Sunday Express

Although with circulation figures much smaller than the big name tabloids, the Express has successfully out-gunned all opposition in recent years in terms of sensationalism and wacky reporting. For a long time, almost all of its content could be filed into one of five sections – attacks on migrants/refugees, attacks on the EU, stuff on Princess Diana, miracle cures for dementia and, of course, the regular warnings that we’re in for the coldest winter/hottest summer since records began. It was bought out by the Mirror Group just over a year ago and seems to have knocked the anti-immigrant reporting on the head, although shoddy Brexit content remains a daily staple.

Total number of transgressions: 5 (all breaches)

Breakdown of transgressions: Daily Express (5)

Total complaints: 9 (4 dismissed)

Example case: “WHAT BORDER PROBLEMS? MP TWEETS PHOTO OF SWISS BORDER WITH JUST ONE SIGN” – article claiming that the Brexit Irish border problem was easy to fix, as an MP had provided photo evidence of a Swiss-French border that was manned by a single camera. However, the crossing turned out not to be a border between the two countries. Furthermore, the article failed to point out that France and Switzerland are both part of the Schengen area where people can travel between countries without passport checks.

Media Bias Fact Check assessment of the Express here.

THE STAR 

Publications: Daily Star, Daily Star Sunday

Tabloid once owned by the Express group, lower circulation figures than most other tabloids (less than 300,000 a day). The Star doesn’t cover much serious news, preferring to focus on celebrity stories and gossip. It doesn’t have any clear political leaning but has been guilty of publishing inaccurate and sensationalist stories.

Total number of transgressions: 2 (both resolution statements)

Breakdown of transgressions: Daily Star (2)

Total complaints: 4 (2 dismissed)

Example case: “MOMO CHALLENGE’S YOUNGEST EVER VICTIM, 3, TOLD TO HURT HERSELF” – article that inaccurately reported that there had been confirmed suicides linked to an online game called the Momo Challenge.

Media Bias Fact Check assessment of the Star here.

THE METRO

Free weekday publication that is the highest-circulation print newspaper in the UK, largely due to the fact that it is given away free. It is owned by the Daily Mail group but operates as an independent paper. It doesn’t cover news stories in great depth and reports in a more sober fashion than its owner publication, with less of a bias and fewer inaccuracies.

Total number of transgressions: 2 (both resolution statements)

Total complaints: 4 (2 dismissed)

Example case: “PARAMEDIC DRILLED INTO DRUNK’S BONE WITHOUT ANAESTHESIA TO TEACH HIM A LESSON” – article that concerned an incident that had occurred in Tennessee, US, but had given the misleading impression that it had taken place in the UK.

Media Bias Fact Check assessment of the Metro here.

Don’t like what you’re seeing in the press? If you see an article you’re unhappy with, you can email the press regulators at inquiries@ipso.co.uk to voice your concerns. If enough complaints are received, they will have to look into it.

Tabloid Corrections Facebook page: here.

DID THE TELEGRAPH MAKE UP STATISTICS ON THE PEOPLE’S VOTE MARCH ATTENDANCE?

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Last month, the Sunday Telegraph reported that it had received official information regarding the attendance of the People’s Vote march in London last October. Estimates on how many attended the march had varied, with organisers of the event giving figures of close to 700,000. Critics claimed the figure was much lower.

The Sunday Telegraph article aimed to put the subject to bed. Titled “People’s Vote march was attended by a third of number that organisers claimed, official estimate says”, it stated that the Greater London Authority (GLA) had produced a debrief document for Scotland Yard containing an estimated attendance of 250,000.

The article was reported on by a number of right-wing outlets including the Sunday Express and Breitbart who were quick to denounce the campaign for misleading voters and politicians.

Nothing about the Telegraph article seemed too obviously suspicious. It said that the figure had been obtained following a Freedom of Information request to the Metropolitan Police Service. Scotland Yard was quoted confirming the figure, adding that “this is not a Metropolitan Police Service estimate as we have not recorded an estimated attendance figure for the march.”

But this blog has since received confirmation from the Mayor of London office that no such debrief document exists. According to Ian Lister, Information Governance Manager at the GLA: “No debrief document was produced by the GLA and I can confirm that we do not hold any debrief document.”

Which begs the question – where did the Sunday Telegraph draw its statistic from? Has there been some confusion in the information relayed to the paper by Scotland Yard, or has the paper resorted to simply making up the figures?

The Metropolitan Police Service has been contacted for comment. For a balanced analysis on the People’s Vote march attendance, see this Full Fact report.

Don’t like what you’re seeing in the press? If you see an article you’re unhappy with, you can email the press regulators at inquiries@ipso.co.uk to voice your concerns. If enough complaints are received, they will have to look into it.

Tabloid Corrections Facebook page: here.

 

DAILY MAIL TOPS LIST OF IPSO OFFENDERS FOR THIRD YEAR RUNNING

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The Daily Mail has once again won the dubious award of being the most unreliable paper in Britain, having been sanctioned more times by press regulator IPSO than any other title.

The right-wing tabloid is the worst offender for the third year in a row, chalking up 28 offences in 2018. This puts it ten clear of The Times, which moves up three places to 2nd with 18 sanctions. The Sun stays at 3rd with 16, then the Daily Mirror with 10, the Daily Express and the Daily Telegraph with 7 each, and the Daily Star with 4.

Almost all of the offences involved inaccurate reporting. Four of the Mail’s and two of The Sun’s violations didn’t involve accuracy of reporting and were against other clauses of the Editors’ Code of Practice (e.g. invasion of privacy, harassment).

Although the Mail is the worst performer, it has improved on 2017 in terms of number of offences. Last year, the paper broke the rules 50 times. The bad news for the Rothermere-owned publication is that its total for this year would still have placed it first in both 2016 and 2017.

In terms of total number of sanctions, the top seven reached 90 between them across 2018. This is slightly better than 2017’s total of 115, but up on the 62 offences committed in 2016.

Perhaps the most notable thing about this year’s figures beyond the Daily Mail’s hat-trick of titles is the rise of The Times to second spot. Rupert Murdoch’s other big-selling daily is often overshadowed by The Sun when it comes to misreporting and dodgy journalism and is seen by some as a more respectable publication than the more popular tabloids. But the paper seems to have really come into its own as a bad performer over the last twelve months or so.

This has included high profile offences such as misreporting on the Tower Hamlets fostering case as well as a couple of inaccurate articles on transgender issues.

Back in 2016, The Times was only the 7th worst performing IPSO-regulated paper with only 3 sanctions against it. Last year it was up to 5th with 8 sanctions. This means that the paper is more than doubling the number of offences it’s committing year on year. It is the only paper that has grown consistently worse in terms of number of sanctions over the last three years.

This means that, although the Daily Mail tops the charts as an individual offender, the two big Murdoch-owned dailies (The Sun and The Times) combined have now overtaken the Mail with 34 sanctions to 28. Last year, the Mail committed twice as many violations as The Sun and The Times put together (50 to 25).

All in all, these statistics show that Britain’s mainstream press has a long way to go until it can hope to be seen as a trusted news source, having been ranked bottom of 33 European countries in a study on public trust in 2016. They also highlight how IPSO’s sanctions against inaccurate reporting are still not having much of an effect in terms of deterrence. While papers can get away with publishing a small correction notice buried away in the middle of the publication, or sneaked out at midnight on the website, there’s no real impetus for improvement. Perhaps it’s time for the regulator to show some teeth?

Examples of corrections in 2018

DAILY MAIL “ANOTHER HUMAN RIGHTS FIASCO”

Originally published on the front page on 15 December 2017. Following an IPSO ruling, the paper was made to run a corrections article in July 2018 on page 4 with a reference to the correction on the front page.

The paper reported in its front page story that an Iraqi man “caught red-handed with a bomb” had been awarded £33,000 in compensation “because our soldiers kept him in custody for too long”. In fact, the man in question was found not guilty and the reason he was awarded compensation was for unlawful and degrading treatment while in custody (he was beaten by guards) as well as unlawful detention.

THE TIMES “JUDGE RULES CHRISTIAN CHILD MUST LEAVE MUSLIM FOSTER HOME”

Originally published as a front page article on 30 August 2017, following articles on the same case that had been published on 28 and 29 August. Following an IPSO ruling, the paper issued a correction article in April 2018 on page 2 with a short reference to the correction on the front page.

The paper was found to have distorted the facts around a court case to have a foster child placed with her maternal grandmother. The article implied that the judge ruled to remove the Christian child from the Muslim foster carers and place her with her maternal grandmother due to the foster placement (arranged by Tower Hamlets Council) being culturally inappropriate. However, the foster placement was only a temporary arrangement until council assessments on the grandmother had been completed.

THE SUN “BELLFIELD IN PRISON SAUSAGE LAW FIGHT”

Article originally published on 22 April 2018. Correction issued after IPSO mediation on 17 June 2018.

Running with the sub-heading “Fury as prison bosses served non-Halal sausages to Levi Bellfield and other prison lags”, the story claimed that killer Bellfield, who had converted to Islam and changed his name to Yusuf Rahim, had been served pork sausages and was considering taking legal action because of this. But the story was found to be false when prison menu cards revealed that Bellfield had not even ordered sausages.

DAILY MIRROR “ACCENT STUDY BLEW £34K”

Article originally published on 9 September 2018. Correction issued after IPSO mediation.

The article claimed that a study by Havant and South Downs College had spent £34k of a lottery grant on researching into the origins of the Portsmouth accent but had found nothing. In fact, research into the accent origins formed only part of the study. The money was also spent on funding general student research into local history.

DAILY EXPRESS “OXFORD CIRCUS: POLICE RESPONDING LIKE TERROR ATTACK AS OXFORD STREET GUNMAN RUNS AMOK”

Originally published on the express.co.uk website on 24 November 2017. Headline changed after 15 minutes to “London terror: Oxford Street shoppers told ‘stay inside’ as police respond like terror attack”. Following an IPSO investigation, a corrections footnote was added to the article on 23 February 2018.

Following an incident around Oxford Circus in November 2017, the paper published online breaking news coverage stating that a gunman was loose on Oxford Street and that shots had been fired. This was based on unsubstantiated rumours, and 20 minutes later the police issued an official statement saying there was no evidence of any shots being fired.

*The Daily Mail is used here to include the Daily Mail, the Mail on Sunday and the Mail Online. Likewise, the Daily Express is used to include the Daily Express, the Sunday Express and the Express Online, and so on. 

**IPSO rulings include both breaches of the Editors’ Code of Practice, where no agreement between the parties can be reached and IPSO has to intervene, and Resolution Statements, where the publication admits it has breached the code and offers to make a statement/concession that is to the satisfaction of the complainant. 

***IPSO (Independent Press Standards Organisation) is the national press regulator for the majority of the mainstream press publications in the UK. There are some publications (e.g. The Guardian, The Independent) that chose not to sign up when IPSO was created in 2014. 

****All figures were taken on 1 January 2019. 

Don’t like what you’re seeing in the press? If you see an article you’re unhappy with, you can email the press regulators at inquiries@ipso.co.uk to voice your concerns. If enough complaints are received, they will have to look into it.

Tabloid Corrections Facebook page: here.

THE TABLOIDS PRINT DUBIOUS STORY ABOUT TOMMY ROBINSON FAN SUPPOSEDLY THROWN OUT OF COLLEGE CLASS

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The tabloid press has given credence to a highly suspicious story about a student in Crewe who claims she was told to leave a class after she expressed support for Tommy Robinson.

Alissa Cook-Gray, 17, says she was asked to leave and given a “final warning for being too right wing” on her first day attending an arts course at Total People. She decided to quit the course after just over an hour of lessons.

Although she left voluntarily, Alissa then contacted the local press to tell them that she felt she was hounded out of the class for being “too right wing” and was “terrified” to return. The story has since been picked up by the Mirror, the Daily Mail and The Sun. However, there are a couple of holes in the story.

Firstly, she claims that the class teacher said “get out, we don’t want people with your views” after she spoke out in favour of Robinson. But she then remained in the class for a (rather convenient) conversation about who everybody’s favourite person was – where apparently she was the only Tommy Robinson fan among a sea of Corbynites.

She then says that the teacher offered to have a word with the other students after she felt they were ganging up on her. Presumably the same teacher who only moments earlier had rudely shouted at her to get out?

Secondly, it seems rather unlikely that a student would be given a ‘final warning’ less than an hour into the first lesson. Aren’t final warnings reserved for repeat offenders as a last resort before taking action? Surely the process for anyone stepping out of line would be a couple of verbal warnings and then a written warning before any measures were taken.

Yet we are supposed to believe, based purely on the girl’s testimony, that the teacher went straight for the ‘final warning’ as a first step, while kicking her out of the class at the same time.

The papers report that Alissa’s dad Gareth was left “absolutely fuming” about the whole episode. Surprise, surprise, it turns out that he is a “big fan” of Robinson himself, referring to him as a “legend”.

Of course, the story can’t be completely dismissed as untrue for certain but, based as it is on one person’s rather shaky account of proceedings that would involve a very bizarre sequence of events, it doesn’t seem likely. A far more likely scenario is that she was involved in a disagreement over political ideology with her classmates and decided she just didn’t want to continue on a course with people she disagreed with. Given that her dad was also very keen to offer his views in the article, it’s likely that he encouraged her to contact the local press and the two of them decided to spin a story along the lines of “I was kicked out by a lefty teacher”.

This is, of course, conjecture. But remember that Alissa wasn’t actually sanctioned at all. It was entirely her decision to quit the course.

You would think that journalists with any critical thinking skills whatsoever might analyse this girl’s shaky account of what happened and dig a little deeper to get to the bottom of things, rather than just blindly parroting her strange version of events. But it seems that those writing for newspapers, both local and national, are far more interested in creating clickbait content these days.

But what they are actually doing is far more worrying. Not only are they feeding into the great Stephen Yaxley-Lennon PR machine, fuelling his much-loved (and laughable) narrative of being the nation’s biggest and most-silenced victim whose supporters dare not even mention his made-up name. They are also propagating the popular far-right trope that students are brainwashed into left-wing thinking by doctrinaire authoritarian teachers.

The sad fact is that more and more people are starting to believe that this sort of thing is true. This kind of irresponsible reporting will only make things worse.

Don’t like what you’re seeing in the press? If you see an article you’re unhappy with, you can email the press regulators at inquiries@ipso.co.uk to voice your concerns. If enough complaints are received, they will have to look into it.

Tabloid Corrections Facebook page: here.

IPSO UPHOLDS COMPLAINT AGAINST DAILY MAIL ON IRAQ COMPENSATION CLAIMS

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The following is taken from the correction the Daily Mail had to print following the IPSO ruling on its front page article “Another Human Rights Fiasco!” last December. Although the apology appeared on the front page in print, it hasn’t been published on the Mail Online website, so here it is in full. 

Shoaib Khan complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) that the Daily Mail breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice, in an article headlined “Another Human Rights Fiasco”, published on 15 December 2017.

The article reported a High Court judgment, awarding compensation to an Iraqi man for unlawful imprisonment and ill treatment by British soldiers, during the Iraq War. It was the main story on the front page, and continued on page 4. The front page subheadline was: “Iraqi ‘caught red-handed with bomb’ wins £33,000 – because our soldiers kept him in custody for too long”. The first line reported that “taxpayers face massive compensation bills after a suspected Iraqi insurgent won a human rights case against the Ministry of Defence yesterday”.

The complainant said that the judge had found that the claims that this man had been caught “red handed” with a bomb, or that he was an ‘insurgent’, to be false.  He also said that he was not awarded £33,000 for being “kept in custody for too long”. He was awarded £3,300 for unlawful detention, and a further £30,000 for being beaten at the time of his arrest, and inhuman and degrading treatment when in custody.

The newspaper said that it had relied on the court’s press summary of the judgment, which did not include the finding that these claims were false. It said the article did not suggest the man was still suspected of being a terrorist or bomb maker; it fully explained that he had been unlawfully detained, as it could not be proven he was a threat to security. It said that the full explanation of the damages award was included elsewhere in the article, which had to be read as a whole. In response to complaints, the newspaper published two clarifications on these points in its page 2 corrections column. The complainant said that the inaccuracies were significant, that they had appeared on the front page, and that the correction should be published on the front page.

IPSO’s Complaints Committee said that central to the article’s characterisation of the judgment as a “fiasco” was the front-page subheadline’s description of one of the claimants as an “Iraqi ‘caught red-handed with bomb’”, and the reference to it being case where “a suspected Iraqi insurgent” had “won a human rights case”. However, the article never explained that the claim he had been caught with a bomb had been discredited shortly after his detention, or that the judge had found the claim was “pure fiction”, and that there was no evidence that the man had engaged in insurgent activity. These details were in the full judgment, which was available to the newspaper.  The repetition of these serious allegations against the man, with no indication they had been disproven, seriously misrepresented the judgment, and breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code.

The claim that the Iraqi man received “£33,000 – because our soldiers kept him in custody for too long”, was inaccurate. As the newspaper knew, only £3,300 was for unlawful detention; the remaining £30,000 was for ill treatment. The contrast the article drew between the Iraqi man’s damages, and the payments to British soldiers for injuries, was therefore based in part on an inaccuracy. This was a further failure to take care over the accuracy of the article.

Both these errors were serious and significant in the article. The previously published corrections did not directly acknowledge the errors, and were not prominent enough. The Committee required publication of this adjudication as a remedy, with a reference on the front page of the newspaper.

Don’t like what you’re seeing in the press? If you see an article you’re unhappy with, you can email the press regulators at inquiries@ipso.co.uk to voice your concerns. If enough complaints are received, they will have to look into it.

Tabloid Corrections Facebook page: here.

IPSO UPHOLDS CRIME VICTIMS’ COMPLAINT AGAINST DAILY MAIL NEWSPAPER

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*The following is a republishing of a correction in the Daily Mail and on the Mail Online, 25th May 2018. 

Warwickshire Police complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation on behalf of three people that the conduct of a journalist acting on behalf of The Daily Mail breached Clause 2 (Privacy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice. The complaint was upheld, and IPSO has required the Daily Mail to publish this decision as a remedy to the breach.

The complainants represented three individuals who had given evidence as victims in a criminal case concerning allegations of non-recent sex offences.

The complainants alleged that during the course of the trial, the journalist’s enquiries had identified them as victims of sexual assault, and had intruded into their privacy.

The first and second victims said that a reporter had attended their friend’s home in order to ask him about the [perpetrators’] case. The friend said that the journalist had shown him a list of names, and he had recognised their names, as well as the names of their parents. He had then told their parents what had happened. Before this, they had been unaware that they were victims in the case.

The third victim said that the reporter had told their parents that he was seeking a ‘victim’s story’, had referred to the court case, and had asked if they could contact their child. The third victim said that this enquiry identified them as a victim of sexual assault to their parents.

The newspaper said that its freelance journalist contacted the friend of the first and second victims because he had believed that the friend had direct involvement in the case. The friend had said that he would ‘know those involved’, and the journalist had asked whether he knew the second individual, and he had confirmed that he knew victims one and two. At no stage had the journalist deliberately shown him the list of victims connected to the criminal case, which he had in his possession; any disclosure had been inadvertent.

The newspaper did not accept that the journalist had told the parents of victim three that they were seeking a ‘victim’s story’ or that their child was an alleged victim of a sexual offence. The journalist had said that he was hoping to get in touch with their child as he understood that he ‘might have been involved’ in the criminal case, or known those who were.

While the newspaper did not consider that its representatives had breached the Code, it said that it had raised the concerns with those involved and with senior executives. It also offered to write a private letter of apology to the victims, and to make a charitable donation.

The Committee considered that the reporter should have been acutely aware that, in contacting third parties about the complainants, there was a risk that he would identify them as victims. He had identified the well-known, local criminal case he was researching, and said that he was looking for named individuals who had been ‘involved in the case’. Reporting of the case had explained the nature of the crimes, where they had taken place, and the profile of the victims. In this context, to identify the complainants by name as ‘involved in the case’ made clear that they were, or were likely to have been, victims, particularly given that they fitted the general descriptions of the victims that had previously been reported. They had been identified to their parents, as a result of the enquiries.

The fact of their involvement in the case as potential victims was extremely sensitive and personal information about which the three individuals had a reasonable expectation of privacy. This represented a gross intrusion into their private lives in breach of Clause 2. While there was a public interest in carrying out enquiries in order to report on the criminal case, this did not justify disclosing such private information to third parties without consent. The complaint under Clause 2 was upheld.

Don’t like what you’re seeing in the press? If you see an article you’re unhappy with, you can email the press regulators at inquiries@ipso.co.uk to voice your concerns. If enough complaints are received, they will have to look into it.

Tabloid Corrections Facebook page: here.

 

THE TRUTH ABOUT THE DAILY MAIL: TWO-THIRDS OF ASSESSED ARTICLES BREAK THE RULES ON PRESS STANDARDS

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*NEARLY TWO-THIRDS OF DAILY MAIL ARTICLES WERE FOUND TO BREAK IPSO GUIDELINES, ANALYSIS FINDS 

*IN ONE YEAR, 63 PERCENT OF ARTICLES ASSESSED DIDN’T PASS REGULATOR STANDARDS

 

Well, actually, that’s manipulating the data a little bit. What I’m talking about is articles that IPSO received complaints about. Two-thirds of the complaints were upheld.

I’m just using the Daily Mail‘s own sensationalist reporting techniques on the paper itself. On Monday this week, a similar style headline appeared about a report on child refugees (below).

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The headline and the sub-headers are focused only on those who were given age assessments because they looked like they might be over 18 and didn’t have any proof of age. It’s not the percentage of overall child refugees. That figure is around 13 percent (or 402 out of the 2952 applications, to be precise).

But the way that the Daily Mail has included the figure of ‘almost 3,000’ next to the words ‘two-thirds’, without making things clear, will probably have a lot of readers thinking that around 2,000 ‘bogus’ child refugees are coming here every year.

So I’ve been similarly manipulative. My headline relates to 55 complaints made about Daily Mail articles between April 2017 and April 2018. Of those articles, 35 were either ruled as breaching IPSO standards or were settled by a resolution statement before a ruling was given. The remaining 20 were passed as ‘clean’ by the regulators.

But I can see that by reading the headline and the sub-headers, people might think that two-thirds of all Daily Mail articles are breaking the rules.

Perhaps they might feel the urge to share the article on social media and generate faux-outrage based on something that is essentially a gross distortion of the truth.

It’s a bit naughty but I think I can live with it. If I get caught out, I’m more than happy to issue a very low-key correction on the whole thing in about 6 months time.

 

Don’t like what you’re seeing in the press? If you see an article you’re unhappy with, you can email the press regulators at inquiries@ipso.co.uk to voice your concerns. If enough complaints are received, they will have to look into it.

Tabloid Corrections Facebook page: here.

 

 

 

 

 

TABLOIDS LAUNCH ATTACK ON SCHOOLS FOR TRYING TO REDUCE POVERTY

primary school

Britain’s tabloid press piled into Brighton & Hove council over the holiday weekend for adopting an initiative to tackle poverty in schools.

The Mail on Sunday, The Sun, The Sunday Express and the Daily Star all covered the story using the same angle, accusing the council of ‘political correctness’ and focusing on something that’s not even part of the initiative.

The tabloids were covering a scheme called Poverty Proofing The School Day, a programme set up by a charity called Children North East which works with local authorities across the country to remove barriers to learning caused by poverty.

The programme has been running since 2011 and has been successful in improving both attendance and attainment of children from families living in poverty, as well as increasing access to music tuition and school trips, and helping to reduce school costs.

Brighton & Hove council began piloting the programme last year and it has involved 25 primary schools to date. Areas of focus have included keeping school trips affordable, supporting children and families with homework, and making sure that children have access to affordable uniforms.

Nothing particularly outrageous about any of this, you might think.

However, the tabloids have chosen to kick up a storm about one bullet-point from a list of 22 items in an ’emerging areas for consideration’ section of a council report.

This is just a list of things researchers suggested ‘could be seen to negatively impact on children and young people living in poverty’. Things such as not being able to bring in the latest game on the last day of term, or parents struggling to supply raffle prizes for school events.

One thing highlighted in this list was ‘circle time about weekend activities’. Basically, when kids group together in class on a Monday and talk about what they did at the weekend.

It was simply mentioned in one line of this report that some of the schools had given feedback that poorer kids sometimes felt excluded if other kids had been up to exciting activities over the weekend that they couldn’t afford. Therefore it was marked down as an ‘area for consideration’.

Just something to think about. Nothing that actually features anywhere in the actual plan.

This didn’t stop the tabloids from writing as if this was the central idea to the whole project.

‘DON’T TELL THE CLASS WHAT YOU DID AT THE WEEKEND, CHILDREN… BECAUSE IT MIGHT STIGMATISE POORER PUPILS, SAYS BRITAIN’S MOST POLITICALLY CORRECT COUNCIL’, screamed the Daily Mail‘s headline. The paper added that Brighton and Hove council are ‘set to bar children from asking about each other’s weekend’.

The Sun waded in with ‘MP BLASTS COUNCIL’S PC BAN ON ASKING CHILDREN ABOUT THEIR WEEKENDS’. The paper quoted an outraged Tory MP – there always seems to be at least one on hand to talk to the right-wing papers – and lied that ‘teachers have been banned from asking pupils what they did at the weekend.’

Meanwhile the Daily Star – which has been pumping out fact-free articles for a number of years now – proclaimed ‘CHILDREN BANNED FROM TALKING ABOUT THEIR WEEKENDS’, adding that this was the ‘nanny state taken to new heights’.

The Express put its twist on the story with ‘WELL-OFF PUPILS TOLD: DON’T BRAG AS DISADVANTAGED CLASSMATES MIGHT FEEL ASHAMED’ before going on to stick the boot into the council for being ‘politically correct’.

Unfortunately, these papers got so caught up in huffing and puffing about what’s not happening that they failed to mention any of the actual contents of the programme anywhere in their reports.

Who said Britain’s tabloid press likes to get outraged over nothing, eh?

Don’t like what you’re seeing in the press? If you see an article you’re unhappy with, you can email the press regulators at inquiries@ipso.co.uk to voice your concerns. If enough complaints are received, they will have to look into it.

Tabloid Corrections Facebook page: here.

WE NEED A BETTER REGULATED PRESS – HERE ARE A FEW IDEAS

uk press

Press regulation in the UK is a joke. Whereas broadcast media outlets have to follow strict guidelines around the content they put out, print media is given free reign to pretty much publish what it likes, regardless of facts or bias.

If a paper is found publishing something untrue, all it has to do is print a small apology that rarely matches the prominence of the original inaccurate story. Papers have frequently printed sensationalist and misleading front page headlines and then, when caught out, got away with a correction buried away at the foot of one of the inner pages.

This has led us to a situation where the worst offenders flout the rules almost at will. In 2017, the Daily Mail was sanctioned a total of 50 times (amounting to nearly one a week). It’s no wonder that public trust in the press in this country is lower than anywhere else in Europe.

IPSO is the current press regulator, taking over from the Press Complaints Commission in 2014 after the Leveson Inquiry. But many see it as unfit for purpose, unwilling to show any teeth and bring the papers into line, and too cosy in its relationship with the tabloids (the Daily Mail‘s Paul Dacre and The Sun‘s Trevor Kavanagh have held key IPSO positions).

To add to this, the government has just scrapped plans for a second phase of the Leveson Inquiry. So what could be done to improve the current woeful situation? Well, I discussed a few possible suggestions with followers of this blog’s Facebook page…

Force papers to publish more prominent retractions

The most popular suggestion. Making the correction take up the same space as the original fake story seems like an obvious solution.

If a front page story is subsequently found to be false, why should the correction go anywhere other than on the front page? Allowing papers to publish tiny apologies for huge front page or double-page spread headlines is like catching someone stealing £1000 and only making them pay £50 back.

It also means that the original untrue headline is seen by far more people than the correction.

Even if you choose not to buy any newspapers, their front page headlines have an influence on us‘ commented one Facebook follower, Sheila Knight. ‘You cannot avoid them in supermarkets and newsagents. Only retractions on the front page would have any impact.’

Some people came up with more creative suggestions on the same theme. Joe Swindells suggested ‘forcing the editor to run the story again with corrections, in a like for like way‘.

According to Anni Hat: ‘corrections should be published on the front page of all other newspapers‘.

Paul James, perhaps with tongue slightly in cheek and influenced by a recent Oscar-winning film, suggested going as far as ‘forcing papers to print a retraction an a large billboard, in front of which the editor and columnist spend a week in the stocks.

Making the punishment match the crime would surely have an effect. Would papers regularly print sensationalist or shit-stirring rubbish if they knew it might cost them a front page later down the line?

Another idea could be to make papers tweet their corrections. Tory MP Ben Bradley’s recent apology tweet for slurring Jeremy Corbyn was retweeted over 50,000 times, which highlights the power of social media when it comes to spreading the word on misdemeanours.

Impose fines for offences

Another method of bringing the press into line could be to hit them where it hurts – in the pockets. Newspaper owners tend to be ridiculously wealthy sorts but none of them like losing money, as the reaction to the growing success of the Stop Funding Hate campaign has shown.

With the proliferation of online media, traditional press publications have taken a bit of a financial battering in recent years. The threat of a sizeable fine hanging over their heads if they flout the rules might make editors a bit more careful on what content they publish.

Believe it or not, IPSO actually has the power to impose fines under the current rules but it doesn’t seem to want to use this.

Suspensions for repeatedly publishing inaccurate content

A slightly more controversial suggestion (freedom of the press and all that). But, as someone once remarked, with great freedom comes great responsibility. We’re not talking some massively censorious campaign to stop the press publishing anything slightly controversial. But if, for example, a paper is caught publishing untruthful or misleading information on the same topic three times, would it really hurt to see them stopped from writing on that one subject for a temporary period (e.g. 3 months or 6 months)?

If for nothing else, it would undoubtedly see the Daily Express banned from reporting on anything to do with the EU for large parts of the year, which would surely be a good thing.

Temporary bans would also have the effect of being newsworthy themselves, shining a light on the bad behaviour of papers.

It’s a measure that divides opinion. Some fear that it’s venturing just a little too far towards authoritarianism, others see it as a just method of ensuring that the industry retains standards. Adam Beckett suggested that repeat offences should carry more severe punishments, saying ‘Three strikes and the owner should face a lifetime ban from owning, having shares or having any controlling interests in a media company‘.

It would be interesting to see how a certain Mr Murdoch would react to that idea.

Make papers publish how many days it’s been since their last correction

This is an idea someone mentioned in a Facebook discussion a while ago. It’s basically the system often seen in public toilets (‘this toilet was last cleaned 15 hours ago‘) adapted to deal with mopping up a different type of foul-smelling effluence – that of tabloid bullshit.

It would be simple to implement and having a figure stamped in a prominent place (‘this publication last lied to you 5 days ago‘ would be a great improvement to the front pages of many papers, in my opinion) could encourage an improvement in standards.

Another suggestion on a similar theme was put forward by Paul Petty, who said ‘each paper should be forced to publish what percentage of their front pages in the current year didn’t have stories that had to be subsequently retracted’.

Corrections to be announced on other news outlets

A couple of people suggested bringing the broadcast media into it.

‘The BBC and Channel 4 as public broadcasters should announce when corrections have been mandated as part of the news and run the corrected story’ said Robert Wood.

‘Most of the late night news shows have a ‘tomorrow’s front pages’ section’ said Andrew Henshall. ‘This should be preceded by a ‘corrections and retractions’ section with any offenders getting left out of the subsequent section.’

Other suggestions

‘A truth rating would be good, a bit like food hygiene ratings and scored on the number of corrections in a given period’ – John Knight

‘Publish a league table of retractions by media outlet’ – Paul Brownlow

‘Anyone they lie about gets to guest edit the paper for a day’ – Matthew Pond

‘A prominent warning on articles of a subject they have had excessive complaints upheld on, e.g. WARNING, this article may misrepresent facts on immigration’ – Nick Treleaven

So plenty for IPSO to chew on if it ever decides to get serious and actually do something to make the press fit for purpose. Until then, we can all help advertise apologies and corrections ourselves by spreading them on social media. Make sure they get the audience they deserve.

Don’t like what you’re seeing in the press? If you see an article you’re unhappy with, you can email the press regulators at inquiries@ipso.co.uk to voice your concerns. If enough complaints are received, they will have to look into it.

Tabloid Corrections Facebook page: here.

IPSO UPHOLDS COMPLAINT AGAINST THE SUNDAY TIMES BY MOHAMED AHMED

IPSO logo

The below is republished from the corrections section of The Times online as this website has a paywall installed, meaning only those that subscribe or register to the site can access it. 

Following an article published in The Sunday Times on 28 May 2017 headlined “I’m not altruistic, I’m pretty selfish, but I had to do something, so I took in a refugee…”, Mohammed Ahmed complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that The Sunday Times had breached Clause 2 (Privacy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice. The complaint was upheld and IPSO has required The Sunday Times to publish this adjudication.

The article, which included the complainant’s first name and unpixelated photograph, was the journalist’s first-person account of her experience hosting the complainant, at the time an asylum seeker, in her home. The article included various details about the complainant’s background and personal life, and reported the journalist’s recollection of various conversations that she had with the complainant. It also included the text of a letter of apology that the complainant had written to the journalist after they had argued.

The journalist recalled that, while living with her, the complainant had suffered from an illness and the article included details of the illness. She also said that the complainant had left pornographic images on her computer, and she described the content of these images.

The complainant was concerned that his life and experiences had been the focus of a story in a national newspaper, which he considered to be an intrusion into his privacy. He was not a public figure, and had not expected to be the subject of an article. He had not consented to its publication.

The newspaper said that the article was a first-hand piece on a challenging topic written by a widely acclaimed journalist of great experience and integrity. In sharing her story, the journalist was exercising her right to freedom of expression. She was entitled to report her experiences and opinions, and was contributing to a topic of general discussion and debate.

The newspaper did not accept that the article had intruded into the complainant’s privacy. It said that the complainant did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in relation to his behaviour, or conversations with the journalist, while staying at her home. It noted that he was a non-paying guest in the house, and that he had shared most of the information in the article with his host voluntarily, in the knowledge that she was a journalist working for a major newspaper.

IPSO’s Complaints Committee emphasised that first-person journalism has a long history as a means to exercise the right to freedom of expression. Clause 2 of the Code makes clear that everyone is entitled to respect for his or her private and family life, home, health and correspondence. This reflects the enhanced privacy rights that people have in their own homes. The Committee rejected the newspaper’s position that, as the complainant was not paying rent, these rights were forfeited. It also did not accept that, as his host was a journalist, the complainant should have presumed that any information he shared with her might be published without his consent.

The article included extensive information about the complainant, relating to: his family and personal relationships; his domestic arrangements; his financial circumstances; his journey to the UK; his asylum application; his relationships and interactions with the journalist, including an argument they had had, and a letter he had written to her, expressing his feelings about the disagreement; his psychological and physical health; his drug use; and allegations about the possession of private, sexual material. These details were used to create a detailed and intimate portrait of the complainant, and his life.

The complainant was not a public figure, and had not publicly disclosed the information about his experiences contained in the article, or consented to the article’s publication. The extent of this detail, published without his consent, and where no steps were taken to obscure his identity, represented an intrusion into his private life. While the journalist was entitled to publish her story, and the Committee recognised that the matters discussed in the article were of significant public interest, this was not sufficient to justify the extent of the information about the complainant, and the resulting intrusion into his private life; the journalist’s right to freedom of expression did not outweigh the complainant’s right to privacy in this instance. There was a breach of Clause 2.

Don’t like what you’re seeing in the press? If you see an article you’re unhappy with, you can email the press regulators at inquiries@ipso.co.uk to voice your concerns. If enough complaints are received, they will have to look into it.

Tabloid Corrections Facebook page: here.