Northern Echo called birthday party 'booze-fuelled orgy' - iMediaEthics
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The Northern Echo wrongly claimed a woman’s 40th birthday party dinner in Saltburn-by-the-Sea was a “booze-fuelled orgy with sex toys and candlesticks.”

One of the party attendees complained to the UK press regulator the Independent Press Standards Organisation over the Northern Echo‘s September 2017 report, “Women’s boozy hotel sex party.”

You may be wondering why the Echo published a story on a random woman’s birthday party. The Echo‘s story was a follow-up to another story about food poisoning at the hotel where the women partied. The women had become sick at the hotel, but Public Health England’s investigation of the food poisoning found no “wrongdoing” or “obvious defect” with the chicken liver parfait the women ate, the article reported.

The Echo‘s story reported on the birthday party, citing CCTV (security) footage of the event, but the woman complained the story exaggerated what happened at the party, and argued the video was irrelevant. Further, the woman said the party was in a private room of the hotel, and that it was an invasion of privacy for the newspaper to report on and view the CCTV footage.

The woman, who IPSO didn’t name, denied there was an orgy, sex toy, sex or nudity.  “The complainant noted that two members of the group had imitated a sex scene with a candelabra and one member had used a unicorn horn, which was a party prop, to imitate a sexual pose, but said that these individuals had been fully clothed throughout,” IPSO reported.

On the other hand, the Echo stood by its story, according to IPSO, which reported the newspaper “suggested that the party-goers’ drinking and behaviour may have been relevant to the way they handled, consumed and reacted to the food, as well as how they recollected the events of the night.” The Echo claimed the story was in the public interest.

The Echo also stood by its characterization of the party as an orgy, using the definition “a wild party characterised by excessive drinking and indiscriminate sexual activity” and alleged evidence of dancing, drinking and imitating sex acts. The Echo said the hotel showed its reporter the unpixelated, full video of the party and called the room in question visible to the public.

IPSO disagreed that the event was an “orgy,” ruling it was misleading to call “sexualised posing” an orgy or sexual activity. It was fine, however, to characterize the room as public since it was in the hotel building and staff entered.

IPSO did not find it was an invasion of privacy to report on the actions in the hotel though because of the public health interest. IPSO flagged that the ruling considered “in a significant way” that the women weren’t identified or identifiable in the report.

The Echo must publish a portion of the ruling on its front page and the rest on its second page.

The Echo pointed iMediaEthics to its statements in the IPSO complaint.

UPDATED: 10:08 AM EST

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Northern Echo called birthday party ‘booze-fuelled orgy’

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