A UK Times opinion piece about suicide wasn’t discriminatory, the UK press regulator the Independent Press Standards Organisation ruled.
The Oct. 2018 column by Janice Turner, “Suicide should never be a political weapon,” discussed comments by trans activist Helen Belcher about reporting on transgender issues, transgender suicides and her criticism of the Times for publishing “transphobic” stories. The Times declined to comment, saying the “ruling speaks for itself.”
Belcher told iMediaEthics by e-mail, “I had little faith that IPSO would uphold my entire complaint, but thought there was at least one point they couldn’t disagree on.”
“The impact of their ruling is enormous, as it means that journalists can now invent quotes with impunity – an objective test of ‘did this person say X’ has been replaced with a subjective test of ‘is X close enough to what this person might have said’. Not so long ago journalists used to get sacked for inventing quotes. Last year IPSO ruled that the press didn’t have to correct inaccuracies as long as the press had a reason for thinking that the inaccurate statement was true. No-one can now trust anything in the British press, at least the parts regulated by IPSO, because there is now no recourse to correct it. This should concern everyone, not least those who find themselves the subject of press attention.”
Belcher complained about the article, alleging it mischaracterized her comments and falsely claimed she said the columnist, Turner, was “solely responsible for the suicides of transgender children,” according to IPSO. Instead, Belcher said she was worried about media reporting on transgender issues and that Turner was “one of many sources of this perceived hostile coverage,” according to IPSO. She also thought that the column was an attempt to “single her out” and criticize her because she is transgender.
The Times stood by its reporting as a fair report of Belcher’s comments and other reporting, but offered to post a clarification about whether Turner specifically was targeted, reading:
“Following the publication of our article “Suicides should never be a political weapon” Helen Belcher has contacted us to confirm that she did not intend to suggest that Janice Turner’s work was directly responsible for child suicides. We are happy to make her position clear.”
IPSO agreed with the Times that the column included accurate characterizations and clearly labeled opinion, though, so it dismissed the complaint.
Hat Tip: Press Gazette