UK newspaper admits 'childish' exchange with subject of story, erred in report - iMediaEthics

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A local UK newspaper published an article that claimed the parents of a student thought a teacher was “unprofessional” and, because of that, they would not allow their daughter on a school trip. But, in fact, the residential center the school was planning to visit on the trip barred the student from its premises due to its sickness policy.

Because of that error, the UK press regulator the Independent Press Standards Organisation ruled that the Rotherham Advertiser broke guidelines for accuracy.

The teacher, Joe Brian, complained to IPSO over the Sept. 2019 article, telling IPSO he explained to the paper before publication that its story was wrong and that the residential center sent a letter saying the student couldn’t attend. The Advertiser argued that since Brian was the messenger who informed the family of the center’s decision, they thought it was fine to say he was the one who stopped the child.

iMediaEthics has written to Brian.

Brian also complained about the way the paper’s staff interacted with him, and the Advertiser provided its e-mails, admitting some of the exchange had been “childish.” Editor Andrew Mosley told iMediaEthics, “The exchanges were between the complainant and the reporter, then the complainant and a member of newsdesk, and finally the complainant and myself.”

Mosley added:

“After he asked if my staff were qualified professionals I asked him if he, as the head of a school with academy status, was a qualified teacher (heads of academies in England sometimes aren’t) and that was what tipped the balance towards it becoming childish. The exchanges continued in a similar manner. I regretted any of us becoming involved in an exchange we were provoked into and IPSO did agree for the correction to be modified in view of Mr Brian’s approach and attitude to dealing with our inquiries.”

The paper argued its report was fine because Brian only denied the report was accurate and didn’t “provide evidence.” However, IPSO rejected the defense, noting that Brian said the family had the letter from the residential center.

“Given that the newspaper was aware that the complainant denied the claim and that he had identified documentary evidence which he said supported his position, to report that the complainant had ‘stopped’ the child attending the trip, without making it clear that this was the view of the child’s parent, represented a failure to take care over the accuracy of the information,” IPSO reported, calling the error a “significant inaccuracy.”

While IPSO found the Advertiser’s emails with Brian “did not meet the standards of professionalism expected,” they did not constitute harassment since Brian responded and didn’t ask them to stop contacting him.

IPSO ordered the Advertiser to publish a correction that “made clear that the complainant had not stopped the child attending the trip.”

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UK newspaper admits ‘childish’ exchange with subject of story, erred in report

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