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Reader's letter causes grieving family distress

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.

Worksop Guardian
Matt Hibbs, of Ollerton, complained that the newspaper had published a letter from a reader that contained inaccuracies regarding events at his father’s funeral and was misleading about the nature of the travelling community. He was also concerned that the letter’s headline had been both discriminatory and insensitive at a time when he and his family were grieving. (Clause 1).

Resolution: The complaint was resolved when the newspaper published an apology with due prominence in the following terms:

“On 31 October 2008, we published a letter from a reader headlined ‘Leeches on our society’, which commented upon a funeral for a member of the travelling community. We would like to apologise for the distress caused, at a difficult time, to the family by this letter and its headline.”

The Scotsman
George Shand of Airdrie complained that an article reporting on a BBC interview during which Alex Salmond had been asked to divide 24 by zero had claimed that he had replied with the wrong answer. In fact, infinity – which was Mr Salmond’s response – was the correct answer. The headline, which set out that Mr Salmond had been “stumped” by the question, was also inaccurate. (Clause 1).

Resolution: The complaint was resolved by the publication of the following correction, both online and in print:

“Alex Salmond – Correction

“In our story of 18 April headlined ‘Salmond stumped by a mother’s maths question’ we reported that First Minster Alex Salmond had erred on an arithmetic question posed by a member of the public during a BBC webcast.

“Mr Salmond was asked to divide 24 by zero and gave the answer infinity. He was told by the BBC interviewer that the correct answer was zero. Mr Salmond’s answer of infinity was, in fact, correct. We are happy to set the record straight.”

Selby Post
Rodney B Price complained that an article which reported a road traffic accident in which he was involved was inaccurate and misleading. (Clause 1).

Resolution: The complaint was resolved when the newspaper published the following correction and apology:

“Our article of 23 October headlined ‘Lucky escape in caravan crash’ stated that a caravan, which was being towed by a Kia Sorrento, had ‘jack-knifed’ into the path of an oncoming Volkswagen Caravelle.

“We have been asked to make clear that, contrary to our report, Rodney Price, the driver of the Volkswagen, suffered superficial upper body, upper limb and facial injuries in the crash. Mr Price also states that the caravan did not ‘jack-knife’, but was rather lost while being towed. We are sorry for any confusion our original article may have caused.”

Bedfordshire on Sunday
Christine Jones complained that the newspaper had published inaccurate coverage of her trial and sentencing at Bedford Magistrates’ Court. (Clause 1).

Resolution: The complaint was resolved when the newspaper published a clarification in the following terms:

“Last month we reported on the sentencing of Christine Jones at Bedford Magistrates’ Court. Ms Jones complained that the headline ‘Mail Manager pays dearly for racist comments’ would have led readers to believe that she was convicted and fined for a racist crime.

“Ms Jones would like it to be known that this was not the case and she was in fact fined for a Harassment Charge which was not in any way related to racism. We are happy to make this point clear.”

Uttoxeter Advertiser
Carmine Moore complained that the newspaper’s coverage of the tragic death of her son was excessive and had intruded into her family’s grief. (Clause 5).

Resolution: The complaint was resolved when the newspaper sent the complainant a private letter containing an explanation and an apology.