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Crash victim’s dad complains to IPSO over weekly’s use of Facebook tribute

ipso-green-320The father of a motorway crash victim complained to the press watchdog after a weekly newspaper used comments he made on social media in a report about his son’s death.

John McHale complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Milton Keynes Citizen breached Clause 1 (Accuracy), Clause 2 (Privacy), Clause 4 (Intrusion into grief or shock) and Clause 10 (Clandestine devices and subterfuge) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in the piece, which was published in January last year.

Mr McHale said the Citizen had incorrectly reported the date his son had been found, did not report in sufficient detail exactly how his son had died, and misrepresented the nature of the comments. He also said that his name had been misspelled in the article.

He added hat he had been contacted by journalists at what was a very difficult time for him and his family, and expressed concern that the article had both named the business he ran and accessed comments he had made on Facebook without his consent.

The Citizen did not accept that the copy included any significant inaccuracies and said the only contact had been when a journalist had called the complainant and contacted him on social media in order to obtain a tribute to his son.

The newspaper offered to amend the points in the article the complainant was concerned about, and to publish a footnote online recording the changes, and apologising for any upset caused.

IPSO launched an investigation into the matter but, following further correspondence, the Citizen offered to meet with the complainant to discuss his experiences and publishing an article about these.

Mr McHale said that this would resolve the matter to his satisfaction, and so IPSO did not make an adjudication on whether a breach of Code had been made.

The full resolution statement can be read here.


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  • January 19, 2017 at 10:07 am

    Win, win for the Citizen as they get a follow-up story as well as hit the complaint into the long grass.
    But it would have been interesting to see how IPSO would have ruled on the question of lifting people’s comments from Facebook and other social media sites as journalists, myself included, have been doing this for years under the premise that they are in the public domain.

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  • January 19, 2017 at 11:24 am

    This is a classic example of a vexatious claim – I don’t see how you can claim privacy contravention when you have posted the stuff on Facebook yourself. Even more illogical to report it as use of clandestine devices – social media can be many things, but concealed it is not!
    As for intrusion into grief, this clause of the Editor’s Code was never intended to be used against reporters for approaching a family once, but to prevent repeated and unacceptable pestering. To claim we cannot even approach a family for a quote as a one-off, is an unacceptable muzzle on press freedom.
    There may be a question with accuracy, but miss-spelling someone’s name is hardly a matter for the regulator. Also strange to claim that the death had not been reported in sufficient detail, while at the same time claiming intrusion into grief.
    This case has been settled before adjudication, pity that couldn’t have been done without involving IPSO. This rush to regulate is a direct consequence of the Leveson Inquiry. Years ago people just complained to the editor and the matter was often sorted out with no outside intervention. Now every perceived offence is a one-way ticket to IPSO. What a shame.
    Current proposals mean any publisher who doesn’t sign up to state-controlled regulator IMPRESS will have to pay legal fees even if they win. A run of such claims could bankrupt a local paper.
    Time to lay off on the Press folks – unless you want to live in a society where power is not held to account and your hard-earned cash is spent in ways you’d hate but will never know about.
    Amanda Brodie FCIJ
    Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Journalists

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