UK newspaper the Thurrock Independent published a video that showed a woman’s banking and insurance documents. The video was part of reporting about trash dumped where it shouldn’t be; the woman’s documents were shown in the trash.
The woman, Jenna Cosentino, complained to UK press regulator the Independent Press Standards Organisation over three articles from July 2018 – one published online, and the other two in print only. Cosentino told the paper she had “used a waste disposal person in good faith and it is not my fault they dumped it.”
Cosentino argued that the articles invaded her privacy, and published identifying information including her name, address and banking information. Because she complained after the first article about her identification, she said she believed the newspaper’s continued naming of her in its follow-up stories constituted harassment. The Thurrock Independent, however, stood by its reports as being in the public interest and defended not blurring out the paperwork. The newspaper said the documents were old, in public because they were trash and couldn’t be blurred because it could “affect [the report’s] authenticity,” IPSO said.
IPSO stood with Cosentino, agreeing that the first article was an invasion of privacy to publish her private information, such as her bank details. It was OK to name her, though. “The other two articles had identified the complainant as someone who had used an unauthorised waste disposal service,” IPSO said. “This was not information about which the complainant had an expectation of privacy; it formed part of the newspaper’s coverage of a story of legitimate public interest.”
IPSO agreed with the Thurrock Independent that the continued coverage wasn’t harassment but in the public interest. However, IPSO did say it had “serious concern” about how the paper handled her initial complaint. IPSO ordered the paper to publish its ruling against it.
Neil Speight, the Thurrock Independent‘s editor, told iMediaEthics by e-mail the paper doesn’t agree with the ruling but accepts the findings. “IPSO made a decision based on the information placed before it and while we do not agree with the decision because in our view had we not done what we did Mrs Cosentino would never have been brought to account for her actions, we subscribe to the principle of accepting the panel’s verdict and have reported its findings.”
Speight did note he was concerned that the matter even went to the panel since Cosentino didn’t make a formal complaint through the newspaper before going to IPSO.
iMediaEthics has written to an e-mail address listed for Cosentino to get her response to the ruling.
Hat Tip: Press Gazette
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