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Council loses IPSO complaint over air crash memorial newspaper ban row

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.

Lancing College, where the service was held.

Lancing College, where the service was held.

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.

17 comments

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  • April 26, 2016 at 9:33 am
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    I’m not sure anyone comes out well from this . . . Poor decision on the part of the council, petty self-serving coverage by the Argus.

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  • April 26, 2016 at 10:26 am
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    Good decision but cringe-worthy stuff from Argus. It sells only about 12,000 papers a day. Did most people in Sussex really care that much if it was at the funeral?

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  • April 26, 2016 at 11:01 am
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    Sadly the Argus lost its way on this story very early on, upsetting many families and locals with sensational bad taste headlines, locally this went down very badly, I think this was one of the main reasons they got shunned by WSCC, they even turned up to one very private funeral unannounced and got asked to leave, says it all really!!

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  • April 26, 2016 at 12:04 pm
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    It’s a shame that PJ can’t get his facts right. But then we all know photographer’s captions should never be trusted.
    Far from losing it’s way, The Argus both in print and online led the coverage.
    And while it only sells 13,000 a day it has lots more readers online.
    Many of the families have given interviews with the paper since the disaster and that was why the families felt it was right for them to attended the memorial service.
    This ruling clearly shows that the local authority has far too much time on its hands. Perhaps one of the seven-figure directors will get the axe for wasting time and resources on this frivolous complaint.

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  • April 26, 2016 at 1:06 pm
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    ‘Eddies mate’has definitely got his back up defending the once glorious paper. I would have said PJ is about right, if it had been an IPSO complaint about turning up at a private funeral on private land with no invitation by the family, the IPSO book would have been thrown at the paper…..

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  • April 26, 2016 at 1:12 pm
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    “Perhaps one of the seven-figure directors will get the axe for wasting time and resources on this frivolous complaint.”

    Which of the two organisations are you talking about Eddies mate?

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  • April 26, 2016 at 1:24 pm
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    “….it only sells 13,000 a day it has lots more readers online……”
    “Lots more”
    That just about sums up how worthless and inaccurate online readership figures are.

    Bundle em up and hope no one notices

    Sad times

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  • April 26, 2016 at 2:12 pm
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    The Argus didn’t really lead the coverage on the day – it was hours behind local radio and BBC from what I recall.

    And then it managed to really anger lots of people by publishing a picture of the cars being engulfed by the fireball on the Monday, plates clearly visible, before the IDs of the victims had been released.

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  • April 26, 2016 at 3:29 pm
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    The Argus has lost its way, the last aircrash at Shoteham had the deceased pilots fireball plane on the front page with him in it, locals haven’t forgotten that one.

    The paper hasn’t got a clue what the public wants or need.

    And when something as horrid as this recent crash, the paper wore boxing gloves, not silk ones.

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  • April 26, 2016 at 4:13 pm
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    Eddies mate I guess is still working there, just trying defend the gastly coverage that was churned out at the height of the cost cutting debacle. It was appauling hard nosed coverage that did upset several familes. Not one sensitive piece at all, just as ever driven by the desperate attempt to get more web hits with the bickering lost souls who contribute to the comments section on a hourly/weekly basis.

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  • April 26, 2016 at 6:13 pm
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    Gull (2) appears to have flown in adding to my comment as Gull. But I agree. Newspaper sales matter; they make the money. Mixing them up with web hits (no-one knows how much money they make) is desperate stuff. The Argus appears to be a be a very small insignificant paper trying to act big (which to be fair it was long ago and superb). Make it a weekly and put it out of its misery as a “daily” paper.

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  • April 26, 2016 at 6:48 pm
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    By the looks of these comments, the papers hasn’t got many fans.

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  • April 26, 2016 at 7:29 pm
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    Eddie’s Mate also doesn’t seem to have much respect for photographers either if he/she dismisses all photographer’s captions as inaccurate…

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  • April 27, 2016 at 2:07 pm
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    If the Argus is disliked that much on this platform, it can’t bode well in the real world. How can a local paper be held in such low regard???

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  • April 28, 2016 at 9:43 pm
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    This newspaper is kinda stuck in the 1990’s, it appears not to have moved on, apart from letting all its staff go that is, the new editor was supposed to sweep in with a new brush, never happened, I just can’t understand why he never arrived like a hurricane and sorted it out, figures couldn’t have got any worse, so thus had nothing to lose, he had a very good pedigree, just all it is now is really really poor copy and pictures, not long to live as a daily anyway.

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  • May 3, 2016 at 3:15 pm
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    It’s a shame all of these comments have missed the point completely and would rather take a cheap shot at a newspaper who seems to have chosen fighting for the rights of its readers rather than bowing to the whims of the local authority as so much other press seems to do these days. I wonder how much publicly-funded time and money WSCC wasted on this ridiculous complaint. For the council to claim something was inaccurate when there was an email from them actually admitting what was said is true is absolutely absurd. IPSO should not have even entertained the complaint after that. Of course, it is a very sensitive subject and tricky to write a story about but I can understand why The Argus decided to act on behalf of the aggrieved families. Any paper with any guts should do the same.

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