The UK Echo, Metro and Mail Online reported on a man who, after a decade-long legal fight, had “proved” that he was the biological father of a child who is the heir to £1 billion. However, the mother of the child complained that he had not proven this and the three outlets unpublished their stories.
The mother of the child, the man claiming to be the father, and the child aren’t named by the Independent Press Standards Organisation, the press regulator in the UK to which the mother complained. However, the man was identified in the Mail Online‘s headline as Steve Marston.
The woman denied the man’s claims that he had been proven in court as the father of her child and that he was denied visitation rights to see his child. According to IPSO, the woman said the court hasn’t issued a final ruling on the child’s paternity.
The Metro and Mail Online defended their stories as factual reporting on the man’s claims. Similarly, the Echo said its story only reported on the man’s claims, it couldn’t fact check his claims “without privileged legal access,” and the story didn’t name or provide information that could negatively affect the child or his mother. IPSO didn’t end up ruling on who was right – -the news outlets’ reports on the man’s claims, or the child’s mother’s claims, though. Why? Because the three outlets offered to delete their articles and post corrections. As a result, the mother of the child agreed that would resolve her complaints.
The Metro published an apology reading:
“An article on 22 March (‘Man proves he’s the father of heir to a £1,000,000,000 fortune’) made a number of allegations against a mother and her family. In publishing the article, we relied on [the man’s] account of the proceedings and failed to reflect that these allegations are strongly denied by the mother and her family. We apologise to the mother, her minor child and her family for failing to reflect their position, and for any distress caused. We have removed the article from our site and agreed to send a written apology to the individuals concerned.”
The Echo‘s apology read:
“Correction. An article on 21 March (‘Father wins decade-long fight to prove he fathered the heir to £1bn fortune – making himself homeless in the process) made a number of claims and allegations against the mother and her family in relation to a paternity case. We would like to make clear that the mother and her family strongly deny the claims, and our article did not reflect this. We apologise to the mother and her family for failing to contact them prior to publication and for any distress caused. We have now removed the article from our website as a gesture of goodwill, and in order to resolve their complaint.”
The Mail Online published a correction reading:
“Two articles on 21 March (‘Steve Marston and his £1 billion inheritance battle’) and 28 March (‘My fiancée brought a fake child to DNA test’) made a number of allegations against a mother and her family. In publishing these articles, we relied solely on Mr Marston’s account of the proceedings and failed to reflect that these allegations are strongly denied by the mother and her family, in particular the allegation of a “fake child” being presented for DNA testing and we now retract this claim. The article dated 28 March also included pixelated photographs of a woman which were incorrectly said to be of the mother. We apologise to the mother, her child and her family for failing to reflect their position, and for any distress caused. We have removed the articles from our site and agreed to send a written apology to the individuals concerned.”
iMediaEthics has written to all three outlets to ask if they have heard from the man in question since they agreed to correct and unpublish.
Hat Tip: Press Gazette