A few months ago, the Daily Telegraph upset readers when it falsely claimed Cambridge University student Lola Olufemi called for the university’s English department to replace white authors on reading lists with black authors. Not only was the Telegraph‘s article incorrect, but the newspaper singled out Olufemi, who is black, and published a large front-page photograph of her.
In reality, Olufemi was one of many students who signed the open letter, which simply advocated for more diversity in the English department–not the wholesale jettisoning of white authors. Regardless, the Telegraph headline, above Olufemi’s photograph, wrongly reported, “Student forces Cambridge to drop white authors.”
As iMediaEthics reported, Cambridge University immediately pushed back against the Telegraph‘s story with 100 academic staff members signing a letter in support of Olufemi and critical of the “distorted coverage.” The Telegraph published a note the day after publication admitting it “incorrectly” reported that the university was “forced to replace white authors with black writers,” admitting that their letter contained only “recommendations.”
Now, three months later, the story is back in the news because Cambridge University complained to the UK press regulator, the Independent Press Standards Organisation, on Olufemi’s behalf over the Telegraph‘s reporting, arguing it was both inaccurate and discriminatory. The university said the Telegraph tried to make it look like Olufemi “was the sole source of the campaign” by using a photo that highlighted her race and used an old article she wrote out of context in the effort.
IPSO has now published a resolution report on the complaint. In it, the regulator laid out the positions of both sides and then explained that the two parties have come to an agreement. Tamsir Starr, a spokesperson for the university told iMediaEthics by e-mail, “The University acted in the best interest of a student who had not only been subjected to misreporting, but online abuse of a disgusting and unacceptable nature following the publication of inaccurate articles about her.”
The Telegraph continued to deny its article was discriminatory, and pointed to the correction it published the day after publication amending its errors. However, the university’s complaint to IPSO could only be resolved if the Telegraph published an apology to Olufemi and agreed to publish a response piece by her.
The page 2 apology text reads:
“A 25 Oct article incorrectly stated that Lola Olufemi had written an open letter on ‘Decolonising’ the English Faculty in which she and co-signatories called for Cambridge University to replace white authors with black writers on course reading lists. In fact, the letter called only for black authors to be included, not for white writers to be replaced. We are sorry for this error.”
iMediaEthics has contacted the Telegraph to ask when the apology was or will be published. We’ve asked Olufemi if she is satisfied and if she has submitted her letter for publication by the Telegraph.
Because the Telegraph and Cambridge University resolved the complaint, IPSO didn’t rule if the newspaper broke accuracy and discrimination clauses. We’ve written to the Telegraph, the university and Olufemi to ask if they are all, in fact, satisfied with the resolution.