Decision of the Complaints Committee – 03742-21 Chambers v Daily Star
Summary of Complaint
1. Christine Chambers complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that Daily Star breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “RACING MOURNS LOSS OF LAURA”, published on 20 April 2021.
2. The frontpage headline directed readers to a tribute on page 21 to Lorna Brooke, a jockey who had died after falling from her horse in a race. A photograph of Ms Brooke appeared alongside the headline on the front page. The main article in the body of the newspaper appeared under the headline “McCOY HEARTACHE FOR FALLEN JOCKEY”, followed by the sub-heading “Tributes to tragic rider Lorna, 37”.
3. The complainant, a member of the public who also knew Ms Brooke and her family, said that the frontpage headline had incorrectly referred to Lorna Brooke as “Laura”. She said that this demonstrated a lack of respect and decency, and amounted to a breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy).
4. The newspaper said that when it was notified of this error, it had published a correction on 24 April in its established Corrections and Clarifications column on page 2. This read:
“The first edition of our front page on Tuesday, April 20, paid tribute to Lorna Brookes and we regrettably spelt her name wrong by calling her Laura Brookes. We sincerely apologise for this error”.
5. It subsequently published a further apology, after the publication was made aware that the initial correction had spelt Lorna Brooke’s surname incorrectly. The standalone apology and correction was published on 5 May, on page 2, under the headline “LORNA BROOKE”:
“ON Tuesday, April 20, in a tribute to amateur jockey Lorna Brooke, who had tragically died after a fall, we spelled her first name incorrectly on the front page of an early edition of the Daily Star. We published a correction, but spelled her surname incorrectly. We are sincerely sorry for these errors and apologise to Lorna’s family and friends.”
6. The publication maintained that it had taken sufficient steps to address both errors. It said it was deeply embarrassed by these errors and that it was a matter of regret that they had caused distress to the friends and family of Lorna Brooke.
7. The complainant, however, did not consider that the steps taken by the newspaper were sufficient.
Relevant Code Provisions
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.
iii) A fair opportunity to reply to significant inaccuracies should be given, when reasonably called for.
iv) The Press, while free to editorialise and campaign, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.
Findings of the Committee
8. The Committee first wished to express its condolences to the family and friends of Lorna Brooke.
9. The Editors’ Code makes clear that publications must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information. This is particularly salient in the reporting of deaths and tributes to the deceased, where the utmost care should be taken to avoid making mistakes. The Committee emphasised that in many circumstances typographical errors, including misspellings of a person’s name, would not constitute a failure to take care over the accuracy of an article. In this instance, however, the misspelling had been in a front-page reference breaking the news of Ms Brooke’s death. In this highly sensitive context, the Committee found that the misidentification of Ms Brooke as “Laura” represented a failure to take care over the accuracy of the article, resulting in a breach of Clause 1 (i) of the Code. Similarly, in the context of a story about Ms Brooke’s death, the misspelling of her name was significant and required correction under Clause 1 (ii).
10. As soon as the newspaper became aware of this inaccuracy, it had published a correction. This correction, however, misspelt Lorna Brooke’s surname, referring to her as “Brookes”. Given the context of the error, this represented a further failure to take sufficient care, in breach of Clause 1 (i).
11. The newspaper had then published a second correction, which had appeared on page 2 a fortnight after the article’s publication. This identified both the original error over Ms Brooke’s first name and the subsequent misspelling of her surname, correctly identified her, and apologised to Ms Brooke’s family and friends for the inaccuracies. In the view of the Committee, the final correction was sufficient to correct the original headline inaccuracy, and the subsequent error within the first correction. It was also appropriate that it had included an apology, given the nature of the original error and the inaccuracy in the first correction. The Committee was satisfied that it had been published promptly and with due prominence. There was no breach of Clause 1 (ii).
12. The complaint was upheld under Clause 1 (i).
Remedial Action Required
13. The second correction put the correct position on record, apologised for the error and was offered promptly and with due prominence. No further action was required.
Date complaint received: 20/04/2021
Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 18/08/2021
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