Findings of the Complaints Committee 03619-18 Churchill v Bournemouth Echo
Summary of complaint
1. Sarah Churchill complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Bournemouth Echo breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined, “Complaint over pizza the actions” published on 25 May 2018.
2. The article
reported that parents at a local school were unhappy about the quality of
school meals provided by a contracted catering firm. It reported that parents
had recently accompanied their children on a school trip, and were concerned to
find that the packed lunch consisted of “cold pizza, a jam doughnut and a
little pack of raisins.” It stated that the school had put in a complaint to
the meal provider, and also included a statement from an unnamed mother, who
said that, “the meal choices are extremely poor nutritionally all the time and
there are far too many meals served with chips and hardly any vegetables.” The
article also claimed that she had been worried about the quality of the meals
for some time and included a statement from the Trust who runs the school.
3. The article was
also published online with the headline, “Junk food for lunch at St Mary’s
First School in West Moors.” The online article was substantially the same as
the article that appeared in print.
4. The complainant
was the parent quoted in the article. She said that she had approached the
newspaper about the story, and had made it clear that her dissatisfaction was
with the company who provided the meals, and not the school, which she believed
should not have been named in the article. She said that the online headline
was misleading and inaccurate, as it suggested that the school had served the
junk food, which was not the case. She also said that she had not told the
journalist that many of the meals were served without vegetables, or that she
had been concerned for some time about the meals provided.
5. The newspaper
did not accept that it had breached the Code. It said that the online headline
identified the school which the incident had occurred at, which it was entitled
to do. It said it was accurate for the
headline to state that junk food had been served at this school, and believed
the article made clear the nature of the relationship between the school and
the supplier. It said that it was clear to readers that the food was supplied
by the outsourced firm and that the article did not suggest the school was at
6. The newspaper
also provided a copy of the journalist’s short hand notes and a transcription.
It said that the notes showed that the complainant had discussed the ongoing
concern she had about the nutrition of the meals regularly served at the
school, as well as a specific comment about the lack of vegetables.
Relevant Code Provisions
7. Clause 1 (Accuracy)
i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information or images, including headlines not supported by the text.
ii) A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and – where appropriate – an apology published. In cases involving IPSO, due prominence should be as required by the regulator.
Findings of the Committee
8. The article reported on the concerns of both parents and the named school in relation to the quality of school meals provided by the outsourced firm. The Committee acknowledged that the newspaper had editorial discretion to present this information as it deemed fit, provided it did so in line with its obligations under the Editors’ Code. The newspaper was entitled to report the name of the school involved, including in the online headline. It did not require the complainant’s consent to do so. The Committee recognised that the headline was capable of carrying two meanings; that the school served its pupils junk food for lunch, and that pupils of the school were served junk food for lunch. However, the article went on to outline, fully, the nature of the parents’ concerns, making clear that the food served by the school was provided by an outsourced firm. In these circumstances, the fact that the headline was also capable of carrying an alternative meaning did not represent a failure to take care over the accuracy of the information, and did not render it misleading. There was no breach of Clause 1 on this point.
9. The journalist’s
notes recorded that the complainant had discussed her concern about the
nutritional quality of the school meals in general, and had referred
specifically to her concern about the lack of vegetables served. The newspaper
had taken care to accurately report the complainant’s comments and there was no
breach of Clause 1 on this point.
10. The complaint was not upheld.
Remedial Action Required
Date complaint received: 25/05/2018
Date decision issued: 13/08/2018Back to ruling listing