· Decision of the Complaints Committee 01456-14 Manson v Daily Express
Summary of complaint
1. Neil Manson complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Daily Express had breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Climate change PROVED to be ‘nothing but a lie’, claims top meteorologist”, published online on 23 October 2014.
2. The article reported that the co-founder of the Weather Channel had claimed that “man-made climate change was no longer scientifically credible”, and discussed a variety of current opinions on global warming and greenhouse gases.
3. The complainant said that it was inaccurate to describe John Coleman, who co-founded the Weather Channel, as a “top meteorologist”, as he is actually a journalist and not scientifically trained.
4. The newspaper said that the terms “weatherman” and “meteorologist” were interchangeable, as both involve the examination of weather patterns. It said that Mr Coleman had dedicated more than 61 years to weather forecasting, and that a weatherman’s job is to forecast the weather based on meteorological observations. However, it amended the headline to read “‘Global warming the greatest scam in history’ claims founder of Weather Channel”; replaced a reference to “one of the world’s leading meteorologists” in the sub-headline with “one of the world’s best known climate change sceptic [sic]”; and appended the following footnote under the heading “Correction”:
“This article originally referred to John Coleman as a top meteorologist; that reference has now been removed. It also claimed that in 2010 a high-level inquiry by the InterAcademy Council found there was ‘little evidence’ to support the IPCC’s claims about global warming. In fact, the InterAcademy Council had not found that. The article has now been amended.”
5. The complainant said that the newspaper’s offers were unsatisfactory, as the footnote should include an apology to readers for misleading them.
Relevant Code Provisions
6. Clause 1 (Accuracy)
i) The press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information, including pictures.
ii) A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion once recognised must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and – where appropriate – an apology published.
Findings of the Committee
7. The article had made clear that Mr Coleman had co-founded the Weather Channel. While it had quoted Mr Coleman’s claim to have “studied climate change seriously for years”, it had not suggested that he had engaged in formal academic research into climate change. Mr Coleman has evidently spent several decades working as a television weatherman, and continues to contribute his views to the fields of weather and climate change. In this context, the newspaper’s characterisation of Mr Coleman as a “top” and “leading” meteorologist had not been significantly misleading. There was no breach of Clause 1.
8. Nonetheless, the Committee welcomed the newspaper’s decision to amend the article as a positive response to the complaint.
9. The complaint was not upheld.
Remedial Action Required
Date complaint received: 23/10/2014
Date decision issued: 20/02/2015Back to ruling listing