A weekly newspaper has apologised and said it will review how reporters are trained to deal with sensitive stories after a complaint over a tribute piece.
Teresa Kendal complained to the Press Complaints Commission after an article was published in the Braintree and Witham Times in April about the death of her nephew in a motorbike accident.
She said the article was both inaccurate and insensitive, in breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy) and Clause 5 (Intrusion into grief or shock) of the Editors’ Code of Practice.
The complaint was resolved when the editor of the paper wrote privately to Ms Kendal and published a correction, which stated it would review its procedures and training for reporters in dealing with such stories.
The correction said: “We would like to make it clear that Ryan Gibbons tragically died at the scene of a motorbike accident in Tye Green on April 16 and not in hospital, as was stated in the article, Son with passion for motorbikes mourned, published in the April 18 issue of the Braintree and Witham Times.
“The inaccuracy was as the result of incorrect information being supplied to us by the East of Anglian Ambulance Service. We would like to apologise for the error and for the distress it caused Ryan’s family.
“We are also reviewing our procedures and training of reporters for dealing with sensitive stories, and will take any action necessary.”
Other recent PCC cases involving regional newspapers include:
McArdle v Rochdale Observer
Mrs Shelley McArdle complained that an article which reported her nephew’s recent court case in which he was charged with fraud breached the terms of Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice. She was particularly concerned by the claim that her parents had secretly raised Mr Travis as their own son.
The newspaper responded stating that it had been in correspondence with the complainant prior to her complaint to the PCC, and it had already published a clarification statement.
Following further correspondence between the parties, the complainant indicated that she was happy to resolve the matter on the basis of the previous published wording.
Saunders v Western Gazette
Mrs Elly Saunders complained under Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Code that an article reporting on her estranged husband’s assault conviction had misled readers as to the seriousness of the offence, wrongly portraying the assault as a trivial incident.
The matter was resolved when the editor wrote privately to the complainant.
Slater v Nelson Leader
Mrs Sue Slater complained that a reader’s letter contained inaccurate information regarding her remuneration package from her employer, Pendle Leisure Trust, in breach of Clauses 1 (Accuracy) and 3 (Privacy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice.
While the newspaper accepted that the information regarding the complainant’s remuneration was incorrect, it denied that the letter was capable of raising a breach of Clause 3.
The complaint was resolved when the PCC negotiated the publication of the following clarification and apology:
“A letter headed ‘Inquiry needed’ that was published in Leader Times newspapers inferred that Pendle Leisure Trust operations manager Sue Slater was paid ‘big bucks and had a top-of-the-range company car’.
“We would like to point out that the reference to her remuneration was factually incorrect and apologise for any embarrassment or distress caused to Sue Slater and her family.”