Decision of the Complaints Committee 06303-19 Hoy v Wisbech Standard
Summary of Complaint
1. Samantha Hoy complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that Wisbech Standard breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Sunday car boot in Wisbech market place under fire - a ‘dustbin scenario’ says former councillor - but council leader says its boost trade”, published online on 22 August 2019.
2. The article, which appeared only online, reported on various comments which had been made about the car boot sale held on Sundays in Wisbech. The comments, which were critical of the car boot sale for being a mess, had been prompted by a photograph that had been posted on social media. The criticisms of the car boot sale were included in the article, as well as quotes from the complainant, the leader of the town council, who said she “would be talking to council staff to ensure the rules are abided by and car booters are informed”. The article reproduced a copy of the photograph which had appeared on social media and reported that it had been taken at the car boot sale held on Sunday 18 August.
3. The complainant said that the article was inaccurate in breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy) as the published photograph had not been taken on Sunday 18 August, but was a photograph which had been taken several months before. She also said that the car boot sale had not been a mess on 18 August. She said her quotations had been taken from twitter after the publication had invited her to comment on the photograph.
4. The publication accepted that the photograph had been taken at a previous car boot sale and not on 18 August. However, it said that there had not been a breach of Clause 1(i) as the photograph had appeared on a community Facebook page, with comments which suggested that the market had been in that state on 18 August. Prior to publication, the administrator of the Facebook page was contacted to obtain permission to use the photograph and confirmation of the date on which it had been was sought; the publication was told that the photograph had been taken recently. During IPSO’s investigation, the publication again contacted the administrator who confirmed this sequence of events. The publication argued that complainant’s comments indicated that she was also under the impression that the photograph had been taken on 18 August.
5. Shortly after the article was published, the publication became aware that the photograph had, in fact, been taken a number of months earlier, in April. Upon receiving this information, the publication deleted the original article, and replaced it with a second article headlined: “Photograph of car booters in Wisbech breaking the rules was taken in April not August - an apology”. This article explained that the original article had reported that the photograph had been taken in August when, in fact, it had been taken in April, and gave a full account of the true position. It also apologised to the complainant and included a lengthy quote in which she provided her further comments.
6. During the referral period, the publication offered to delete the second article as a gesture of goodwill. This was accepted by the complainant.
7. During IPSO’s investigation the publication, having regard to its Code obligations, offered the following correction to be published online for 24 hours:
Councillor Hoy – an apology
On August 26th the Wisbech Standard published a photograph showing that the car boot rules were being broken in the market place with items strewn across the floor.
In the article, town council leader Samantha Hoy promised action to stop any abuse of policy regarding the car boot sale.
However it has since emerged that the photograph of the items – which we stated had been taken on Sunday August 18 – had in fact been taken in April and at one of the Thursday car boots.
Editor John Elworthy said: “I apologise to Cllr Hoy for our error in stating the date of when the photograph was taken. The photograph was published in good faith and although it showed a clear breach of the rules for trading, it was not taken on the day we stated.”
Relevant Code Provisions
8. 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
9. The Committee noted that local residents and the complainant herself were under the impression that the photograph had been taken on 18 August when commenting on the original Facebook post. It also noted that the publication had taken care to contact the administrator of the group and the photographer in order to confirm that the photograph had been taken in August. On this basis, there was no breach of Clause 1(i). However, reporting that the car boot sale had been a mess in August, when this was not the position, did represent a significant inaccuracy and a correction was required in order to avoid a breach of Clause 1(ii).
10. The publication accepted that the article was inaccurate and had deleted the article as soon as it became aware that the published photograph did not depict the state of the car boot sale on 18 August. A new article was published on 26 August which explained the inaccuracies in the earlier article and this was deleted in an attempt to resolve the complaint, which the complainant had accepted. During IPSO’s investigation, the publication offered to publish a further correction. The Committee considered that the second article had identified the inaccuracy, set out the correct position and noted that it had included an apology; this was offered promptly, the day after the complainant made the correct position known. Further, the Committee considered that a standalone article on the publication’s website represented due prominence. Given that the second article had since been deleted, the Committee welcomed the offer made by the publication to publish a further correction and this should now be published in order to avoid a breach of Clause 1(ii).
11. The complaint was not upheld.
Date complaint received: 25/08/2019
Date decision issued: 29/01/2020Back to ruling listing