Resolution Statement 06689-18 Murray v The Daily Telegraph
Summary of Complaint
1. Steve Murray complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that The Daily Telegraph breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “College spends thousands trying to decode the Pompey accent” published on 9 September 2018.
2. The article reported the outcome of a grant given to a college. It said that this money was given to “researchers” to find the source of the Pompey accent, but that this had not been achieved. The article also included quotes from the complainant which said that “The project hasn’t really unearthed anything to explain the origins of the accent- there are lots of theories but they are just that and not really provable” and “Instead, it’s developed into more of a celebration of the accent and dialect and the way it links to people’s identity and self-worth. So there are no concrete answers as such.”
3. The article also appeared online in substantially the same form with the headline “College fails to ‘unearth anything’ after spending £34,000 investigating Portsmouth accent”.
4. The complainant said that the article gave the misleading impression that the study was an empirical academic research project aimed at finding the source of the Pompey accent, and in not doing so, the project had failed and had wasted its funding. He said that this was a school project, and it never aimed to find the source of the Pompey accent- the project’s consequent cultural activities meant that it fulfilled all of its aims and official Approved Purposes.
5. The complainant said that he did not say that the project had failed, and that his quotes had been taken out of context to give this misleading impression.
6. The newspaper said that there was no failure to take care over the accuracy of the article in breach of Clause 1, as the article was based on the college’s own statements, and any misleading impression which was created was the result of these statements being insufficiently clear.
7. The newspaper pointed out that the project’s Approved Purposes contained no less than three mentions of research into the local accent, and that the project’s own press release said that it would “…investigate the origins of the Pompey accent…”. In addition, the college’s PR officer said that “Last year we were granted a £34,000 heritage lottery grant for a research project into the origins of the Pompey accent." The newspaper said therefore that it was clear that the project sought to find the source of the Pompey accent. In addition, the newspaper noted that the complainant had been contacted for comment on the project’s outcome, and his reply made clear that it had not found the source of the Pompey accent.
8. The newspaper said that it was not significantly misleading to refer to the students as “researchers” as the project had a strong research element which was the basis for its funding.
Relevant Code Provisions
9. 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.
v) A publication must report fairly and accurately the outcome of an action for defamation to which it has been a party, unless an agreed settlement states otherwise, or an agreed statement is published.
10. The complaint was not resolved through direct correspondence between the parties. IPSO therefore began an investigation into the matter.
11. During IPSO’s investigation, the newspaper offered to remove the online article, and to publish the following clarification in their Corrections and Clarifications column on page 2:
“Pompey accent research
A 9 Oct article reported that Havant and South Downs College had found 'nothing to discover' after accepting a £34,000 Lottery grant for research into the Portsmouth accent. The grant was not in fact conditional upon research into the accent, as the college's publicity material suggested, but was intended to support a project designed to help students find out more about local history. We are happy to clarify.”
12. The complainant said that this would resolve the matter to his satisfaction.
13. As the complaint was successfully mediated, the Complaints Committee did not make a determination as to whether there had been any breach of the Code.
Date complaint received: 11/10/2018
Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 05/11/2018Back to ruling listing