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Fiona Bruce (pictured above)'s father isn't dead, but the Daily Mail said he was. (Credit: FionaBruce.mp, screenshot)

When a newspaper mistakenly reports the death of a person who is still alive, a prominent correction, at the very least, would seem to be called for. But the Daily Mail determined that its own wrong reporting that a politician’s father had died didn’t warrant a correction on the online version of the report.

When iMediaEthics questioned the Daily Mail about the fact that no correction was made on its online article, we were told it was not a “significant inaccuracy” — just a “simple misunderstanding.”

Would you agree?

As iMediaEthics wrote earlier this month, the Mail, which boasts “over 90 million unique” visitors monthly to its website, revealed in a correction on its online correction page that it wrongly reported UK Parliament member Fiona Bruce‘s father had died.  iMediaEthics asked the Daily Mail about how it handled the error but received less than satisfying responses.

While a “legal adviser” for Daily Mail publisher Associated Newspapers Limited, Hilary Kingsley, told iMediaEthics the Mail did publish a correction in print and online, she said the Mail won’t add a correction on the actual article, “Ministers order an inquiry into the care pathways that saw hospitals receive millions to implement controversial system.”

“The online version of the article was amended. Our library has marked the newspaper article to ensure that if it is read subsequently the mistake is not repeated,” Kingsley wrote.

The corrections page doesn’t link to the original story. When iMediaEthics finally found the original story that contained the error, it had been scrubbed. The Mail replaced the error with the accurate information — but no correction was listed on the article’s page. Since the Mail didn’t post any notice to readers letting them know the story had been changed, readers have no idea it made an error.

If a casual reader stumbled upon the original article, he or she would have no idea the newspaper, on paper and on the web, accidentally killed a man. The Nov. 26 article does have an “updated” timestamp, though, suggesting something was removed or added, or both, about 20 hours after publication.

The correction that does exist lives only on the Mail’s corrections page, which as iMediaEthics wrote was started about a year ago and is a separate page on the Mail’s website listing corrections and clarifications made by the site and newspaper.

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The Mail describes its “Clarifications & corrections” column is “an opportunity to correct those errors quickly and prominently.”

In a follow-up email in response to iMediaEthics’ inquiry about placing a transparent correction notice on the article, Kinsley said:

“No, this was not a significant inaccuracy but a simple misunderstanding by the journalist. To add a notice to the online article seems pointless, possibly confusing to the reader and unnecessary since the article was swiftly amended and, for transparency’s sake, a Correction appears on the site.”

iMediaEthics has asked Bruce if she agrees that the Mail’s wrongly reporting her father was dead was insignificant and will update with any response.

For the record, the online correction, posted only on the corrections page, reads:

“An article in Tuesday’s paper said that the parents of Tory MP Fiona Bruce had both died after being placed on the Liverpool Care Pathway.

“In fact, Ms Bruce informs us that, while this was true of her mother, her father is still alive six months after she refused permission for him to be put on to the controversial system.”

iMediaEthics wrote earlier this year when the Mail and two other UK newspapers apologized for wrongly reporting a man “had frozen to death” when he “died of natural causes.”

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Daily Mail Wrongly Says Man Dead, Calls it a ‘Simple Misunderstanding’

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