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Daily editor savages IPSO for investigating ‘completely spurious’ claims

MurrayFoote-e1476285292978A daily editor has criticised the press watchdog for investigating “completely spurious” complaints – and making journalists “jump through hoops” to disprove them.

Murray Foote, left, who edits the Daily Record, also claimed that rulings against his newspaper have ranged from “unduly harsh to downright unfair”.

Murray spoke out during a roadshow event hosted by the Independent Press Standards Organisation in Glasgow, where the paper is based.

Addressing the roadshow, Murray described himself as a “big advocate” of IPSO and its Editor’s Code of Conduct – but went on to question whether “everything in the IPSO garden is rosy”.

Murray told the event: “There have been IPSO rulings against us where we have found the findings against us ranging from unduly harsh to downright unfair. On one occasion, IPSO found against us by holding us to a more exacting standard than Scots Law demands of us.

“But, as IPSO point out, the Code of Conduct was drawn up by newspaper editors, it is regularly reviewed by newspaper editors, and IPSO are simply interpreting our own code. And that’s true, but I do reserve the right to moan about it.”

Murray claimed there had been days when he had more staff dedicated to answering complaints about previously published stories than had been working on new stories for the next day’s paper.

“In an industry where journalists are becoming increasingly thin on the ground, the workload can be burdensome. There are some complaints that I believe are completely spurious yet IPSO insist that we jump through hoops to prove we are correct,” he added.

“I accept there are good reasons for this, primarily IPSO’s wish to be seen to deal with all complaints equitably rather than being accused of sweeping some under the carpet. And that was one of the allegations regularly levelled at the PCC by its critics. But often the time our staff spend contesting complaints makes life difficult.”

However, Murray concluded: “The newspaper industry needs a robust watchdog and I believe IPSO is such an animal. It might not be perfect, but it’s ours, and the alternative really does not bear thinking about.”

Graeme Smith, editor of rival Glasgow-based daily The Herald, told the roadshow the majority of complaints to IPSO about his paper involved court stories, which he “found rather odd given that it is an extremely controlled environment where a narrative is given and, as long as that is reported accurately, there should be no cause for complaint”.

Graeme added: “Accused persons, however, often disagree with that narrative, but if it is what was said in court by the Crown or in evidence then perhaps it should be of little surprise that their complaints to Ipso rarely succeed.

“On the subject of court stories, it’s worth pointing out that neither The Herald nor any other national newspaper in Scotland has its own designated court reporters any more. We all use the same freelance agencies which cover the main courts in Glasgow or Edinburgh or individual freelances covering sheriff courts further afield.

“That means we all get the same service but it does also mean that on the rare occasions these experienced court freelancers get it wrong, everyone who has used their copy is affected.”

Ben McConville, head of the Department of Social Sciences, Media and Journalism at Glasgow Caledonian University, also spoke at the event,

A round-up of the event on IPSO’s website reads: “The quality of debate and questions was first rate and the introductions from each of our guests were extraordinarily good – so much so that I twisted their arms to let us have them in full so we could publish them. As you’ll see from the content of the three contributions even those who we regulate sometimes get a little peeved with us.

“Having said that, the nature of a voluntary system underpinned by legally binding contract is that editor’s accept IPSO’s judgement even if, as Murray said: ‘There have been IPSO rulings against us where we have found the findings against us ranging from unduly harsh to downright unfair.’

“Graeme meanwhile pointed out that even in cases where he has had advice that, whilst legally sound, a story could potentially be in breach of the Editors’ Code, he has made the editorial decision not to publish, or to amend the story to remove any elements which may have led to a breach of the Code.”

It adds: “The audience was a great mixture of newspaper readers, students, PR practitioners and academics and the questions fired at the three guest speakers and Sir Alan [Moses, IPSO chairman] covered a wide range of topics, including the future of local newspapers, whether newspapers are run by an elite and how more women can become editors.”


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  • September 28, 2017 at 9:00 am

    Mr Smith’s remarks about complaints on court stories are particularly noteworthy, and I endorse his observation that complaints are being received about stories which are completely watertight from a legal point of view. My experience has been that offenders and their families and friends who ring up to moan are often dumbfounded and enraged that their crimes should receive any publicity at all. I can’t prove it, but I have a strong suspicion that the reduction in court coverage which has accompanied cuts in budgets and staffing means the public simply doesn’t expect any longer to read about court cases, either in print or online, and when it does happen defendants feel they’ve been unfairly singled out. Certainly the downpage court stories and nibs which used to fill every spare inch in my local paper are long gone. Justice, if you like, is still being done, but increasingly is no longer seen to be done. Perhaps if the stories were reworked to suit the digital audience – under headlines such as Seventeen Things You Didn’t Know About Arson, perhaps, or What This Alleged Rapist Did Next Will Shock You – the trend might be reversed. One can but hope.

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  • September 28, 2017 at 9:08 am

    100% correct.

    In the last 15 months I have personally had to deal with 4 complaints about court copy (that I or one of my reporters wrote) from people* claiming it was not accurate. *It is often family members upset at reading what their son really did rather than the lies he’s told them when he was charged.

    In three of these cases the complainant was not in court for case.

    The process is very time consuming and IPSO puts the pressure on you to prove your innocence not the complainant to prove your guilt.

    It is basically you saying to IPSO “It was said in court”

    IPSO “Can you prove it?”

    Me: “Can they prove it wasn’t??”

    In the end they are all dismissed but it takes ages and involves a lot of time and paperwork.

    There should be some thought used by IPSO to weed out complaints that are going nowhere.

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  • September 28, 2017 at 9:47 am

    I’d have had more sympathy if it wasn’t the Daily Record saying this. Having stopped being a hack and gone over to PR (a good few years ago now, admittedly) I had cause to complain to IPSO’s predecessor about the Record. I worked for a fairly “issues rich” organisation (ie one that got a lot of press, much of it quite robust) and had a lot of stories, in many newspapers, which I then wanted to take issue with, to varying degrees. Most of them were happy to run a follow up, or a letter, or, on very rare occasions when it was a genuine error (rather than just spin and what I saw as unbalanced reporting on their part) an actual correction. Most of them were very happy to do this informally without me ever needing to go to the regulator. Not the Record. They ignored me, then claimed I had given them a quote verifying their error (as if), then refused to take any further calls or emails from me, and then, when I complained to the regulator, ran the correction I’d been asking for promptly.

    In fairness, this was a good few years now. But I think IPSO does a good job of getting newspapers’ attention, and it’s especially important with newspapers that can’t be bothered to take complaints seriously otherwise.

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  • September 28, 2017 at 10:22 am

    I can recall being asked some years ago, when I was part-time freelance, being asked to cover a case at Scarborough Magistrates Court involving alleged breaches of the hunting ban. I used to cover the court regularly and had got to know the staff/solicitors etc reasonably well. When I walked in on this particular occasion there was a “gasp” from those who recognised and greeted me and one said: “We can’t remember the last time we saw a journalist here.” Papers will argue they have not got the staff/time to cover courts but, in my view, all life is there and the less that courts are covered the more it allows criminals and others to think they have “got away with it” because publicity can often be more of a punishment to those involved although people are so much more brazen these days and, sometimes, they almost think it a badge of honour to have been hauled before a court where, all too often, they get away with relatively lenient punishment.

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  • September 28, 2017 at 10:25 am

    “On the subject of court stories, it’s worth pointing out that neither The Herald nor any other national newspaper in Scotland has its own designated court reporters any more.”

    What a shocking state of affairs.

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  • September 28, 2017 at 1:30 pm

    Not quite a regional daily, it’s the Daily Mirror Scottish edition. Which has cost the company over £35m for the hacking scandal. Maybe that’s the reason the IPSO are being tough?

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  • September 28, 2017 at 7:41 pm

    Look at the bright side. At least it’s not Impress.

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