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Businessman’s complaint over daily’s cannabis farm story photo upheld

IPSO_logo_newA businessman quizzed by customers on cannabis growing claims after his warehouse featured in a regional daily’s story has had his complaint to the press regulator upheld.

Phill Walters complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation under Clause 1 (Accuracy) about an article in the Coventry Telegraph, entitled “City’s biggest Cannabis farmers jailed”, published on 10 September 2014.

The piece featured a picture of a row of warehouses, including the complainant’s former offices, close to units which had housed a cannabis farm raided by police.

As a result, he had had to field calls from customers about whether he or his employees had been growing the drug.

The Telegraph accepted the photograph had been used in error, but added the story had made clear the names of those convicted.

However it offered to print a clarification on page two of a future edition, which the complainant felt was not comparable to the prominence of the original photograph.

IPSO did not accept the newspaper’s defence that the article had been clear Mr Walters and his business had not been involved in the crime, as the piece had noted the two men convicted had likely been instructed by others.

It found the Telegraph had failed to take care not to publish an inaccurate photograph, in breach of Clause 1 of the Editors’ Code of Practice.

The Committee said the Telegraph’s offer to print a clarification on page two was satisfactory, adding this should be published promptly.

The full adjudication can be read here.

Other recent IPSO cases involving regional newspapers include:

McMillan v Dumfries and Galloway Standard

Elaine McMillan complained to IPSO under Clause 1 (Accuracy) and Clause 5 (Intrusion into grief or shock) over an article regarding the murder of her sister-in-law Angel Laskey in the USA.

She had been telephoned by a journalist from the Standard who, after introducing herself, asked the complainant if she felt “numb with shock” at what had happened.

The complainant responded “yes”, and claimed she was then asked if she was “sitting by the phone waiting for news”, to which she gave the same response.

The newspaper disputed this, claiming her response to the initial question was: “Yes. We are sitting by the phone waiting for news.”

The sub-headline of the resulting article stated “Family ‘numb with shock'” and went on to report that “Angela’s brother Paul and his wife Elaine… said the news of her death had left the family ‘numb with shock'”, quoting her as saying “we are sitting by the phone waiting for news”.

The complainant said the representation of these as direct quotes had been inaccurate, with the newspaper offering to remove them from its online article.

IPSO found the complainant had confirmed the statements were an accurate summary of her feelings, and there was “no particular significance” attached to the fact they were represented as direct quotes, thus there was no breach of Clause 1.

The Committee’s decision, which was not upheld and can be read in full here, also found no breach of Clause 5.

Baird v Motherwell Times & Bellshill Speaker

Councillor’s wife Linda Baird complained to IPSO under Clause 1 (Accuracy) and Clause 3 (Privacy) over an article about a security light installed in her home.

She was quoted as having agreed the light was “annoying” following a complaint from an elderly neighbour.

The complainant said the newspaper had “put words in her mouth”, but did not confirm or deny she had told her neighbour the light was “annoying”.

She added the article had intruded into her privacy, as her husband’s identity and her address was private information.

The newspaper said the quotation was accurate and it had put the neighbour’s complaint to the complainant’s husband, who did not deny his wife would have made such a comment.

It acknowledged it should have put the quotation to the complainant though, and offerered to pblish an apology on this basis.

The complaint, which can be read in full here, was not upheld on either count.

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  • April 11, 2015 at 7:14 am

    The Coventry Telegraph story shows the farce Ipso is rapidly becoming. The paper makes a mistake – it happens to us all – and offers promptly to correct it.
    Ipso then drags the paper through a time-consuming complaints process, upholds it … and then says the Telegraph’s original offer to publish a correction was ample remedy. What a waste of everyone’s time.
    Pre-Ipso the standard, sensible approach was to say at the outset that the offending title has offered sufficient remedial action and to publish the proposed correction. That ensures stories are corrected while they are still fresh in readers’ minds.
    Now, despite the stated aim of encouraging publishers to resolve complaints themselves within the initial 28 days of them being made, Ipso seems determined to adjudicate on them regardless.
    Given the outcome – a correction – is the same in both scenarios, the only possible reason for that is so the regulator can say at the end of its first year that it has upheld a greater volume of complaints than the PCC. What a joke.

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