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Watchdog rules story syndication ‘not in its remit’ after complaint

Wales OnlineA widow’s complaint about a story that was syndicated has been dismissed by the press watchdog.

The Independent Press Standards Organisation has confirmed the syndication of stories does not fall within its remit after rejecting a complaint about Wales Online.

Louise Hough, pictured, had complained to IPSO after a story about her which she agreed to give to Wales Online also appeared in several other newspapers without her consent.

However, IPSO ruled these were not issues that in themselves fell within the remit of the Editors’ Code of Practice.

Wales Online’s story reported Mrs Hough’s late husband had died by suicide after the strain of “running their private care home when the pandemic hit”, featuring an interview with her and explaining she was “demanding a Welsh specific inquiry in to [sic] coronavirus”.

Versions of the story also appeared in Wales Online’s Reach plc sister titles the Daily Mirror and Daily Post, and Mrs Hough’s complaints about their coverage were also rejected by IPSO.

Complaining under Clause 1 (Accuracy), Clause 2 (Privacy), Clause 4 (Intrusion into grief or shock) and Clause 5 (Reporting suicide) of the Code about the Wales Online piece, Mrs Hough said she she had agreed to give her story to a journalist along with multiple other people in the context of a story reporting on a group campaign to establish a Wales-only inquiry into the handling of the pandemic.

She therefore claimed the site had published information over which she had a reasonable expectation of privacy without her consent because the piece was substantially different from the context in which she had consented for her story to be published.

Mrs Hough added the story had been syndicated to several other newspapers, which she had not consented to, and she was concerned the publication may have profited from syndicating the story.

She further claimed the journalist and editor had acted in a cavalier manner and had not apologised or acknowledged that the story had breached the Code in subsequent contact, nor did they give an explanation as to why or how the story had been published by other newspapers.

Wales Online apologised for the distress caused and removed the story during direct correspondence with Mrs Hough’s representative, but denied any breach of Code.

The information contained in the story was in the public domain and had been covered by other news sources previously, and therefore it did not consider that it was intrusive to tell her story again.

Wales Online said all approaches to Mrs Hough when writing the story had been made with sympathy and that publication was handled sensitively.

It said it was common for information to be shared within the publishing group it belonged to, and that it had no control over public editorial content being published by other newspapers.

It said that, in any case, syndication was not a matter that fell under the Editors’ Code.

IPSO acknowledged Mrs Hough’s concerns, but ruled syndication was not an issue which in itself fell within the Code and therefore not something on which the Committee could make a ruling. It found no other breaches of Code.

The complaint was not upheld, and the full adjudication can be read here.