The Melbourne, Australia newspaper Herald Sun retracted a front-page story in late June, The Sydney Morning Herald reported. The Herald Sun is owned by News Limited, the Australian arm of News Corp.
The June 27 retraction, "Double parking fines won't rise by more than 500 per cent," corrected the same day's error-filled report which stated, wrongly, that "fines for double parking would increase by more than 500 per cent to $422 from July 1" and that " drivers would be hit with a fine of $422 for a new offence category of blocking a childrens' crossing, marked foot crossing or pedestrian crossing."
A search of the original headline ("Fines for double parking will soar more than 500 per cent") indicates the Herald Sun took down the article in question.
The Australian government issued a statement about the inaccurate story that calls the Herald Sun's report "completely incorrect."
According to that statement, the government told the newspaper in advance that "the basis of the story was false," but the newspaper published the article anyway. The government outlined 12 specific errors in the Herald Sun's report and noted it was calling for the inaccurate article to be unpublished and corrected with "the same prominence as" the original report.
We've written to the Herald Sun asking more about this retraction and the government's claims the newspaper knew the story was wrong in advance. We will update with any response.
The Herald Sun also corrected -- sort of-- another one of its reports, The Sydney Morning Herald noted.
In a June 26 article, "Fruit Treats Avoid Axe," the Herald Sun noted that its earlier story was "incorrect" because it "suggested" the government was going to cut costs by no longer "supplying bottled water and fruit treats for school groups visiting Federal Parliament." The note isn't labeled a correction.
The Herald Sun reported that the government's Treasurer Wayne Swan called the Herald Sun's article "dishonest and grossly inaccurate."
The Herald Sun claimed it erred because it "was unaware that the decision on the hospitality program had been reversed before" it ran its story. See here the original June 24 Herald Sun story, "MPs' cash cuts hit schoolkid visits." The story doesn't carry a correction.
Australia's Media Watch, which detailed "the chain of events," noted that the inaccurate snacks story was also published in the Daily Telegraph, and a follow-up post noting the errors was published June 26. See here the Daily Telegraph's "Taking the Lunch Money" story.
Media Watch reported that the letter that the News Limited story was based its story on "was a draft -- it wasn't signed, and was delivered only to members of the committee, not to all members of the House of Reps." Also, there was later that same day an e-mail that there was a "change of plan," and while "someone leaked the first letter" to the News Limited article's author, Steve Lewis, "nobody told him about the change of plan."
According to Media Watch, the article was also published by fellow News Limited papers the Adelaide Advertiser, the Hobart Mercury, the Melbourne Herald Sun and the Brisbane Courier-Mail. iMediaEthics looked at each of those papers' websites for corrections.
Interestingly on June 25, the Advertiser ran an "exclusive" by Lewis correcting his own report. The article, "Water, fruit still on parliament menu: Exclusive by Steve Lewis," reads:
"PROPOSALS to cut the schools hospitality program in Federal Parliament have been shelved, meaning that school groups will continue to receive bottled water and fruit treats. Despite the need to find $550,000 in annual savings, Clerk of the House of Representatives Bernard Wright reversed an earlier proposal by the Department of House of Representatives to axe the program as part of a raft of identified savings."
The Courier-Mail published the original inaccurate story with no correction, and the follow-up June 26 report saying the earlier story was "incorrect."
The Mercury published the follow-up report noting that its earlier story "was incorrect," but iMediaEthics couldn't find the original story on the Mercury's website.
As with the Herald-Sun's follow-up reporting the original story was wrong, none of these notes are labeled corrections.
We've written to News Limited asking if these follow-up stories were published as corrections, and why the Advertiser ran its corrective story as an "exclusive." We'll update with any response.
We asked the Australian Press Council's Derek Wilding about any complaints over these two stories. Wilding said that "The Press Council has not received any complaints about this matter."