The press watchdog has rapped a regional daily after it wrongly reported that a woman had received an invite to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding reception.
The Independent Press Standards Organisation has upheld a complaint against Dundee daily The Courier, after one of its reporters assumed a “royal event” referred to during an employment tribunal he was covering had meant the couple’s nuptials.
In fact the woman, Wilma Swankie, who brought the tribunal case after being sacked by a local charity, had received an invitation to an event held to mark the 70th birthday of the Prince of Wales.
The claim regarding the royal wedding was made in two stories run by The Courier, and the watchdog deemed the newspaper had broken Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in its reporting of the case.
Part of Mrs Swankie’s case at the tribunal was that she had missed out on an invitation to the ‘royal event’ in question because one of her former managers at the charity, Arbroath Town Mission, had failed to pass the invitation on until after the deadline given to respond.
The Courier’s initial report on the case stated that the Mission’s new manager, Moira Milton, had “denied any wrongdoing after a sacked former employee missed out on an invitation to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding reception.”
The newspaper also reported that Mrs Swankie’s solicitor had asked Mrs Milton about her actions in passing on the invitation to the woman, and specifically whether she had intended for Mrs Swankie to miss the event.
The second story repeated the first’s claim that Mrs Swankie “missed out on attending Prince Harry’s wedding to Meghan Markle because an invitation, sent to her at [the Mission] was not passed on in time”.
In her complaint to IPSO under Clause 1, Mrs Milton said the invitation referred to at the tribunal had been to an evening reception at Buckingham Palace to honour inspirational leaders on the occasion of the 70th birthday of Prince Charles, adding no mention of an invitation to the royal wedding had been made at the tribunal and that Buckingham Palace had been referred to as the location of the event in question.
She said that the letter had been issued more than eight months after Mrs Swankie’s dismissal, was posted on to her promptly as a gesture of goodwill and it had nothing to do with her dismissal.
It was her understanding that Mrs Swankie had been able to attend the event in question irrespective of this, but felt that reporting this inaccurate information, alongside the line of questioning used by the woman’s solicitor, gave a distorted and damaging impression of her actions.
Accepting the articles required clarification, The Courier said that the error had arisen from a misunderstanding because the reporter had reason to believe that the royal wedding would be brought up in evidence at the tribunal, and when the tribunal began debating a “royal event” he assumed this was the wedding.
It said that the article had nevertheless reported the dispute surrounding the letter accurately, and had included Mrs Milton’s response to the claim that she’d delayed passing on the letter in full.
The Courier published a correction within three weeks of the articles’ publication, but Mrs Milton claimed this was inadequate because it did not make clear that the invitation had nothing to do with the royal wedding and no apology had been given for the error.
The newspaper did not consider that an apology to the complainant was required, or that the correction should have mentioned her because it had reported the substance of the dispute relating to the letter accurately.
IPSO found the claim to have missed out on an invitation to the royal wedding was likely to be interpreted by readers as more significant than missing out on a much less prominent reception, and this would affect the interpretation of the allegations against Mrs Milton.
The complaint was upheld, and the full adjudication can be read here.