Undercover reporting on beautician OK but Mail must correct - iMediaEthics
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Daily Mail clock in 2010 (Alex.muller/Wikipedia)

Late last year, the UK Mail on Sunday published a news investigation about “rogue beauticians” conducting “dangerous and illegal procedures” leading to a “shocking rise in cases of botched treatments.”

The Mail went undercover for its investigation. One of the beauticians the Mail reported on, Danielle Hindley, complained to the UK press regulator, the Independent Press Standards Organisation, over the reporting, claiming the story was inaccurate and that undercover work was an invasion of privacy and harassment. Hindley was also upset not only that the Mail reported on her previous conviction but that the newspaper said she was convicted of a financial crime. (Hindley said “she pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting her former husband who was convicted of being concerned in the management of a company while bankrupt,” IPSO explained.)

Specifically, the Mail reported that its undercover reporter booked a “plasma skin tightening” session with Hindley after a former client of Hindley’s complained about swelling and marks resulted from the treatment. The Mail noted that Hindley denied “wrongdoing” and that the upset client signed a written consent form explaining the  possibility of swelling.

Hindley complained it was unfair and inaccurate to call her a “rogue beautician” or “cosmetic cowboy” and to report on her as a “case study” related to either. Hindley also flagged that the Mail claimed she gave a “skin lightening” treatment to the upset client, when she doesn’t offer that treatment. Further, Hindley complained the article understated her experience and training by saying she only had two days of training for the plasma skin tightening procedure (in reality, she told IPSO she had 30 hours home study and another qualification).

The Mail stood by its reporting as largely accurate and in the public interest, but did admit it erred by saying Hindley performed a “skin lightening” treatment instead of “skin tightening.” That said, the Mail said this was not a significant error and was fixed online. The Mail did offer to post a statement saying Hindley was trained and “legally entitled to carry out the plasma treatment described,” and that she wasn’t a “cosmetic cowboy” or “rogue beautician.”

IPSO ruled mostly in favor of the Mail, deciding the newspaper’s story didn’t specifically say Hindley “acted illegally or had carried out procedures for which she was not qualified.” But, IPSO did find the article had given the “significantly misleading impression” Hindley had “botched” treatments. IPSO said the “skin lightening” error was also “significantly misleading.” As such, IPSO called for the Mail to publish corrections for both of these issues.

In an e-mail to iMediaEthics, Hindley said she is “happy the truth however brief has been published,” but that “I do not think it puts right the wrong that has been done.” She complimented the person who handled her case at IPSO but noted “I do have questions about the IPSO and whether or not it is a completely fair process.” Hindley was upset the correction didn’t get more prominence and said the experience with the UK media “has really opened my eyes.”

IPSO ruled the Mail was “justified” and acted in the public interest in going undercover to assess Hindley’s client’s complaint. “It was reasonable to presume that an open approach to the complainant would not achieve this: an undercover investigation was justified in order to experience the service provided by the complainant in the way that any other client would do,” IPSO said. IPSO noted that the Mail also was “limited” in its actions undercover and reporting based on undercover information.

It was also acceptable to describe Hindley’s conviction as a “financial crime,” and fine to say the training Hindley took for the skin tightening procedure was two days.

iMediaEthics has written to the Mail to ask how many beauticians its reporter visited undercover.

The Mail published this note atop its online article:

“In a previous version of this article we suggested that Danielle Hindley, who administers plasma skin tightening treatment, was a “rogue beautician” and a “cosmetic cowboy”. 

“We have been asked to confirm, that Ms Hindley is a trained beautician who is legally entitled to carry out the plasma treatment described. We did not have a basis to suggest that Ms Hindley had “botched” treatments, as implied by the article. 

“The general references to “cosmetic cowboys”, “rogue beauticians” and “illegal procedures” do not apply to Ms Hindley and we are happy to make that clear.

“We also published a photograph of a former client of Ms Hindley, which said that they had received plasma skin lightening treatment. This was an error. In fact, Ms Hindley does not administer any treatments which lighten the skin.

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Undercover reporting on beautician OK but Mail must correct

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