News outlets don’t have to fact check “every fact” in a letter to the editor, the UK press regulator the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) ruled. That said, if there is a “significant” error in a letter to the editor, news outlets should post a correction or clarify, or publish a letter to the editor that responds to the viewpoint.
“It was neither reasonable nor desirable to expect editors to verify every fact contained in published letters,” IPSO said.
The explanation from IPSO came after a man named Sandeep Mander complained over a letter to the editor to the Maidenhead Advertiser that addressed his and his wife’s lawsuit against an adoption agency alleging discrimination. The couple, whose parents are from Punjab, said they were told not to try to adopt because the children were white.
The letter to the editor claimed there were “3,000 Asian/British Asian kids waiting to be adopted” and that the couple should just adopt one of those children. But, Mander complained that was inaccurate because about 3,000 children total were up for adoption in 2015,that the Adoption Register currently only has about 1,100 children up for adoption, and that those figures represent all children up to 18.
The Maidenhead Advertiser responded that the figures cited by its reader could be correct because there were about 3,000 Asian or British Asian children being “looked after” or “in care,” so potentially in need of adoption. Because IPSO agreed that the number could be interpreted as in need of adoption, it wasn’t considered an error. And since the letter wasn’t “at face value, implausible” and “clearly presented as the views of a correspondent, and placed on a letters page,” it wasn’t an inaccuracy. As such, IPSO dismissed the complaint. “In these circumstances the 3,000 claim did not represent a significant inaccuracy such as would require correction,” IPSO said.
UPDATED: 5/8/2018 1:12 AM
Hat Tip: Hold the Front Page