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Weekly says sorry to former mayor after story claimed she was dead

NewIPSOA weekly newspaper apologised to a former mayor after she was mistaken for another woman of the same name who had died.

Hemel Today, the website of the Hemel Hempstead Gazette & Express, said sorry to Gillian Chapman, a former mayor of Dacorum Borough Council, in Hertfordshire.

The apology was prompted by a complaint from Ms Chapman to the Independent Press Standards Organisation, after a story was published online which reported that an inquest had heard that “a former Mayor of Dacorum took her own life after struggling for years with the effects of the menopause”.

Hemel Today named this individual as ‘Gillian Chapman’, and said that she was “mayor from 2011 to 2012, as well as a councillor… from 2007-15, after moving to the area in 1994″, adding the woman was found dead by her daughter.

Complaining under Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice, Ms Chapman said the inquest had related to another woman of the same name.

Hemel Today accepted that it was inaccurate to identify the deceased woman as the former mayor, and apologised to her.

It said that the article had been submitted by an established news agency, and published in good faith, adding it had removed the article from its website as soon as it became aware of the issue.

Hemel Today’s offer resolved the matter to her satisfaction, and IPSO did not make an adjudication on whether there had been a breach of Code.

The full resolution statement can be found here.

7 comments

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  • September 3, 2018 at 10:16 am
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    Here we go again. Check, and double check your facts before committing anything to paper. Don’t newspapers teach their staff the simple basics any more?

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  • September 3, 2018 at 11:30 am
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    Surprised the local reporter or someone on subs desk did not know the former mayor was still alive as she would have been a fairly high profile figure.

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  • September 3, 2018 at 11:39 am
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    Trouble is, paperboy, it’s probably not subbed anywhere near Hemel Hempstead…

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  • September 3, 2018 at 1:27 pm
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    This perfectly illustrates the false economy of bean-counters’ two-pronged, cost-cutting strategy of exclusively hiring junior reporters with no experience or proper contacts on the patch, and farming all subbing out to people miles away who also know nothing about the area the paper covers.

    This cock-up, and IPSO verdict, are utterly humiliating – but they are just lucky the former mayor didn’t also sue for defamation and/or distress caused by the inaccurate report.

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  • September 3, 2018 at 2:33 pm
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    @paperboy Subs desk? They were consigned to history long ago

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  • September 3, 2018 at 11:35 pm
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    I despair. One simple phone call to the mayor’s family or the council to check the facts would have solved the issue. And papers wonder why they are going under. No-one is perfect but my first chief reporter who taught me so much about checking facts would be turning in his grave. His phrase which still rings in my ears 50 years since I started was: “If in doubt, find out, can’t find out, leave out.” Check, check, check.

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