A local authority which banned regional journalists from a memorial service for victims of the Shoreham air disaster has lost a complaint over the newspaper’s coverage of the row.
West Sussex County Council complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation after Brighton daily The Argus has revealed its reporters had been excluded from the service in November, despite pleas from families of some of the victims for the newspaper to be present.
The air crash during last August’s Shoreham Air Show claimed the lives of 11 people after a plane smashed onto the A27.
Organisers of the service held at Lancing College near the disaster scene decided that coverage would be provided on a pooled basis by BBC Sussex and the Press Association.
At the time, The Argus reported that some relatives who had contacted the newspaper about the service had been “surprised and saddened” to be told it was not allowed to attend.
But in its complaint to IPSO, the council said it was inaccurate to report that the media arrangements for the service had not been agreed with the families of those killed, who had been consulted by the organising committee.
Contrary to claims in the article, it said family members had not contacted the council to request that The Argus be permitted to attend the service, and none had chosen not to attend.
The council had explained to the newspaper that some families objected to its being present, and so it had arranged for an agency reporter to cover the service in an attempt to offer a compromise.
However The Argus defended the accuracy of its coverage, saying its reporter had telephoned the council’s press office when the date of the service was announced to enquire about media arrangements and was asked to write to the council, explaining why it should attend.
It said that after the arrangements were announced, the reporter had raised the issue of some individuals wanting The Argus present in an email to the council’s head of communications, who had responded “yes, we’ve had that feedback too”.
IPSO found the Argus story had not claimed that all families were dissatisfied with the arrangements, and the newspaper was entitled to report criticism expressed by some relatives.
The complaint, under Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice, was not upheld, and the full adjudication can be read here.