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Yorkshire weekly censured over ‘I’m dying’ headline

The press watchdog has censured a Yorkshire weekly over an ‘insensitive’ report on a man’s incurable medical condition.

Businessman Nick Crossley complained to the Press Complaints Commission over an article in the Halifax Courier headlined:  “Crossley tycoon: I’m dying.”

Mr Crossley was suffering from the asbestos-related illness malignant mesothelioma and had been told his condition was terminal.

The story reported that Mr Crossley was suing his former employer for failing to protect him from exposure to asbestos and argued that the headline was an accurate summary of his legal position.

However Mr Crossley said the headline inaccurately suggested he had used the phrase ‘I’m dying’ when he had not done so either to the newspaper or in his legal claim.

He said the piece had been hurtful and distressing to the complainant and his family, and had led to the departure of an employee from his business.

The PCC upheld the complaint under Clause 5 of the Editor’s Code of Practice which covers intrusion into grief or shock.

However it did not uphold the complaint under Clause 1 (Accuracy), finding that readers would not have been misled as to the factual position by the article taken as a whole.

Charlotte Dewar, the commission’s head of complaints and pre-publication services said: “As the Commission noted in its adjudication, this was a particularly hard case.

“The newspaper was undoubtedly entitled to report on the legal claim, and the Commission accepted that it had not intended to cause distress to the complainant, but it ultimately decided that the headline did not meet the Code’s standard that in such cases publication must be “handled sensitively”.

“This ruling exemplifies the need for editors to take particular care when reporting stories of this nature, including over headlines”.