AddThis SmartLayers

Regional daily cleared over using child’s comments in story

ipso-green-320A regional daily has been cleared by the press watchdog after publishing a 15-year-old girl’s comments in a story without her guardian’s consent.

Jason Lightfoot complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation on behalf of his step-daughter that the Leicester Mercury breached Clause 2 (Privacy) and Clause 6 (Children) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article reported that a school’s uniform policy on shoes had “caused controversy” at the start of the new term when “dozens of pupils” had “failed to meet the standard” set over wearing the correct type of shoe.

Mr Lightfoot said his 15-year-old stepdaughter, a pupil at the school, had been named in the online article as one of the people who had commented on an online petition opposing the rules.

While Mr Lightfoot accepted that his stepdaughter had commented in her own name on a publicly viewable online petition, he did not expect the newspaper to simply republish the comments without consent and claimed the article gave the impression she had been interviewed.

The Mercury apologised for naming the girl but said she had posted publicly viewable comments on a public website of her own volition. adding she had not been photographed or interviewed, and that it was not, therefore, under an obligation to seek parental consent before naming the child.

The Mercury had removed the pupils’ names from the online article after receiving complaints from another parent.

IPSO said that what constitutes and interview under the terms of Clause 6 was broader than circumstances where a journalist directly solicits comment or information from a child.

It might cover the republication of material solicited by third parties and, depending on the circumstances, it might also cover cases where the comments published in the newspaper were unsolicited.

The Committee found in this case, the complainant’s step-daughter’s comments were innocuous in nature, and were not about her, or any other child. Instead, they were about a uniform policy at her school, which was not a matter that concerned her welfare.

The complaint was not upheld, and the full adjudication can be read here.