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The Guardian apologized and issued a correction Nov. 25 to a Nov. 19 front-page story for its headline, which it called “seriously misleading.”

The story reported on the Independent Police Complaints Commission’s investigation into the Aug. 4 death of Mark Duggan, a man who was shot and killed by the police.

The original headline read: “Revealed: Man whose shooting triggered riots was not armed.”  According to the Guardian’s correction, the headline was incorrect because even though the man in question, Mark Duggan, reportedly didn’t have a gun on his body, “it is wrong to infer that Duggan was unarmed.”  Further, the Guardian noted it also corrected a subheading “to reflect that any findings were part of an ongoing investigation rather than final conclusions.”

The new headline reads: “New questions raised over Duggan shooting: Investigators find no forensic evidence that man whose death triggered riots was holding gun.”

The Guardian’s readers editor, Chris Elliott, weighed in on the correction and concluded that the newspaper “took too long” to issue the corrections.   Elliott wrote:

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“Headlines and subheadings are there to attract and lead a reader into a story, but they should never mislead about what is in the text. The Guardian broke that rule in an acutely sensitive area of reporting about the investigation into the death of Mark Duggan, whose shooting by police on 4 August 2011 triggered riots in London and across the rest of England.”

According to Elliott, the IPCC complained to the Guardian ‘shortly after it was published on the website” about the misleading headline and subheadline.  While Guardian editors “agreed to change” the subheadline, “they didn’t accept that the headline was misleading.”

Elliott wrote that since the IPCC’s “investigation was ongoing,” it was limited it what it could say about the Guardian’s report, but it “felt that action had to be taken on the headline.”

“Both organisations felt it was entirely wrong to infer that Duggan was unarmed because he wasn’t found with a gun on him,” according to Elliott.

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Guardian Corrects Headline, Readers’ Editor Says Newspaper was too Slow to Address Complaint

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