Resolution Statement 18462-17 Bracegirdle v Mail Online
1. Russel Bracegirdle complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that Mail Online breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in relation to an article headlined “George Clooney gets in hot water with the yachting set as boat collides with newly-renovated boathouse on his £10m private Berkshire estate”, published on 17 June 2017.
2. The article reported that a motor yacht had “ploughed…at speed” into a boathouse. It claimed that a “loud crunch”, and “hollering” from the passengers on board the yacht could be heard as the incident occurred.
3. The complainant, the owner of the yacht, said that the article had misrepresented the incident. He said that he was on board at the time, and that the yacht proceeded towards the boathouse slowly; it did not make contact with the boathouse; and that the passengers on board had not been “hollering”.
4. The publication did not accept that there had been a breach of the Code. It said that the article was provided by a reputable freelance reporter who had witnessed the incident and it had no reason to doubt the veracity of the account. The publication said that the reporter attempted to contact a member of the motor yacht club, for their comment, but had been unable to do so.
Relevant Code provisions
5. 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.
6. The complaint was not resolved through direct correspondence between the parties. IPSO therefore began an investigation into the matter.
7. Following IPSO’s intervention, the publication offered to amend the text of the article to state that the boat “appeared” to plough into the boathouse, and to amend the headline of the article to read:
“George Clooney gets in hot water with the yachting set as boating ‘collision’ takes place near to newly-renovated boathouse on his £10m private Berkshire estate”.
The publication also offered to add the following clarification as a footnote to the online article:
“An earlier version of this article stated that the Juno Too collided with the boathouse. The skipper of the vessel has asked us to make clear that his motor yacht was being handled by competent and skilled persons and did not hit the boathouse. We are happy to make this clear”.
8. The complainant said that this would resolve the matter to his satisfaction.
9. 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: 13/09/2017
Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 26/10/2017
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