Below are summaries of the latest complaints involving the regional press which have been resolved between the parties involved, with help from the Press Complaints Commission.
A woman complained that an article about a police search for her daughter gave the misleading impression that she regularly claimed to have been abducted. In fact, this was the first time that the complainant had contacted police for help in finding her daughter who had not previously made such a claim. The complainant was also concerned that the article had misrepresented the time that the police search had lasted and considered that the amount of personal information about her daughter in the article was excessive. (Clause 1).
Resolution: While the newspaper did not accept that its coverage had been inaccurate, the complaint was resolved when it published the following clarification:
“We have been asked to clarify some facts that have emerged further to the article entitled ‘Police forced into action over fake attack’, printed on page 3 of the April 24 edition of the Rugby Advertiser. Officers located the eight-year-old girl just 35 minutes after she was reported missing by her family on April 21. At no time did the family report that she had been abducted. This was the first time the police had been called to search for the girl. The family of the girl were disappointed at the amount of personal information that was reported, which has caused them distress.”
Paul Morgan complained that the newspaper had misleadingly published a photograph of his 15-year-old daughter – without obtaining any parental consent – and two of her friends in the park to illustrate an article about underage drinking. (Clauses 1, 6)
Resolution: The complaint was resolved when the newspaper published the following apology:
“In our edition of February 29, we published a picture showing three children in connection with a story on how underage drinking is not a problem in Henley. We accept we did not get parental consent for the picture to be used and wish to make it clear that the children in the picture were not drinking alcohol. We apologise for this.”
Richard Shepherd complained that his letter for publication on climate change had been edited misleadingly. (Clause 1).
Resolution: The complaint was resolved when the newspaper published the following clarification:
“Richard Shepherd, of Whalecwm House, The Ferry, Cosheston, would like to clarify one point in a letter from him published on March 26, 2008. He would like to point out that his stance on climate change is shared by other sceptics, who, while they accept that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, believe it has a negligible effect on the absorption of that part of the sun’s radiation reflected by the earth as carbon dioxide is less than 1.3 per cent of all greenhouse gases, which are 98 per cent water vapour. Whether a small proportion of such an insignificant percentage of atmospheric carbon dioxide is due to mankind is irrelevant in Mr Shepherd’s opinion.”
A woman complained that an article was inaccurate on two points: first, the suggestion that her son had been arrested at her home address; and second, that her home was the subject of a police raid. (Clause 1).
Resolution: The newspaper offered to publish an apology to the complainant. However, the complainant made clear that she did not wish for anything further to be published in the press which might identify her family. The newspaper therefore wrote a private letter of apology to her undertaking that the material would not be repeated in the future. The complaint was resolved on that basis.
Councillor Susan Woodward complained through Browne Jacobson LLP that an editorial which claimed that she had gone back on an offer to meet with political opponents “any time, any place, anywhere” was inaccurate and misleading as she did not make such comments. (Clause 1).
Resolution: The complaint was resolved when the newspaper published the following correction and apology:
“In an editorial published on 30 October 2007 entitled ‘Councillor left with egg on her face’ we suggested that Councillor Susan Woodward had reneged on her offer to meet with her political opponents “any time, any place, anywhere” by refusing to attend a meeting arranged by RAGE. We are happy to make clear that Councillor Woodward did not make the comments attributed to her and we apologise to Councillor Woodward for any offence caused”.
Rt Hon Keith Vaz MP complained on behalf of his constituents Ashok and Chhaya Chouhan that the newspaper had published a photograph in which they featured (taken when their family won a competition) to illustrate a story which involved only their mother. The complainants said that linking them to the story had led to them being recognised which was particularly distressing at a time when one of the children was studying for her A Levels. (Clause 6).
Resolution: The newspaper sought to explain that the photograph was available in the public domain as it illustrated the family’s competition win. However, the newspaper indicated that it was sorry to hear that the children had been upset by the photograph. The managing editor therefore spoke to the newspaper’s editorial executives and arranged for its archives to be marked to ensure that the photograph showing the children was not used to illustrate any articles in the future. The complaint was resolved on that basis.