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Daily rapped by IPSO over inaccurate cancer death report

IPSO_logo_newA Scottish daily has been rapped by the press regulator after an inaccurate report on the death of a teenage cancer patient.

The Independent Press Standards Organisation upheld a complaint against the Edinburgh Evening News over its coverage of the death of 14-year-old Ellie Armstrong.

Paul Armstrong complained on behalf of his brother James Armstrong that the Evening News had breached Clause 1 (Accuracy), Clause 3 (Privacy) Clause 4 (Harassment) and Clause 5 (Intrusion into Grief or Shock) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in the report, which incorrectly stated her cause of death.

The story was based on copy by a news agency, much of which was taken from information found on Ellie’s Facebook page.

Mr Armstrong said the Evening News had inaccurately reported that Ellie had died of brain cancer when in fact she had neck cancer, and that she had been treated for the illness for more than a year, when in fact it had lasted for the 10 months before her death.

An advert for a brain cancer charity ran next to the story.

The complainant also claimed various approaches made by the agency’s reporter constituted harassment and that the decision to proceed with the story without the family’s consent was insensitive and intrusive.

The Evening News said that it published the article in good faith, and that it was unaware of any request for the article not to be published. It said that as soon as it was made aware of the family’s concerns, it removed the article from its website.

The newspaper did not dispute the complaint under Clause 1 and offered to publish on its website a correction and apology for the inaccuracies.

It also offered to publish a further apology for the appearance of the advert, which was programmed to appear alongside articles including the phrase “brain tumour”.

In relation to the inaccuracy about Ellie’s illness, the newspaper said that a journalist from the agency had heard about the illness from a child at Ellie’s school, where it was “widely ‘known'” that Ellie suffered from a brain tumour.

This journalist passed this information to the agency reporter who prepared the story, who then found several Twitter posts from someone at the school who had said at one point that Ellie had “died from a brain tumour”.

IPSO upheld the complaint under Clause 1, and the full adjudication can be read here.

However the committee considered the wishes of the complainant, and decided that in the circumstances, the newspaper was not required to publish the correction it had offered.

Similar complaints made by Mr Armstrong against The Herald, Glasgow, and Metro, were dismissed.

Neither paper had referred to the specific type of cancer from which Ellie suffered.


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  • September 18, 2015 at 11:27 am

    “An advert for a brain cancer charity ran next to the story.”

    How sensitive of them.

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  • September 18, 2015 at 3:06 pm

    Not only did they run a cancer ad next to the article but the content had been lifted from a Facebook entry – what a grand piece of journalism! They should be ashamed.

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  • September 21, 2015 at 9:25 am

    The agency’s name? After all, if the story was based on copy supplied by agency reporters who lifted it from Facebook, surely the agency bears some responsibility.

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