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Weekly launches ‘fact-check’ service for readers’ letters containing errors

Jeremy CondliffeA weekly newspaper has introduced a fact-checking service underneath readers’ letters which contains factual errors.

The Congleton Chronicle says the service has proved “quite popular” as an alternative to withholding letters which contain inaccuracies.

The Chronicle revealed the launch of the innovation in its annual report to the Independent Press Standards Organisation, which has been published along with reports from the watchdog’s other major publisher.

Last year IPSO ruled following a complaint about a letter published in the Maidenhead Advertiser that editors should not be expected to verify all facts featured in readers’ letters, although the Yorkshire Post subsequently challenged the regulator to stand by this ruling after Virgin Trains made a complaint about a letter it had published which the rail operator said contained inaccuracies.

The Leeds-based Post offered to publish a clarification before IPSO was required to make a ruling on that complaint.

In its annual report, the Chronicle said IPSO’s influence had caused it to become “more rigourous” in fact-checking letters.

In the report editor Jeremy Condliffe, pictured, wrote: “Rather than withhold letters that contain factual errors we run a factcheck underneath letters.

“This has proved quite popular and entertaining (it entertains us). People now ask for letters to be fact-checked.

“It is ironic that the facts we check include the blatant lies told by certain politicians, who do not have a code of conduct to which they must adhere.

“We point out that factually accurate letters would not be factchecked, although some people are disappointed not to be factchecked.”

Jeremy stated in the report that the Chronicle printed between four and eight pages of opinion each week, adding the paper was “very tolerant of outspoken views and comments”.

He added: “Freedom of speech is only free when it offends. The highest number of factual corrections over the past 12 months have concerned Brexit, whereas last year it was migration and Islam.

“The fact-check is only used when there are one or two factual errors – usually these errors are beliefs that are widespread to some degree, so it is important to flag them as false and not simply delete them. If there are a number of errors, we will edit them out.”

HTFP’s round-up of other IPSO member publishers’ reports can be found here.

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