Ruling

00275-21 Goodger v dailystar.co.uk

    • Date complaint received

      17th June 2021

    • Outcome

      Breach - sanction: publication of correction

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy

Decision of the Complaints Committee – 00275-21 Goodger v dailystar.co.uk

Summary of Complaint

1. Lauren Goodger complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the dailystar.co.uk breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Lauren Goodger says she won't be having Covid vaccine as she likens virus to a 'cold'”, published on 5 January 2021.

2. The article reported on an Instagram livestream held by a reality TV star. The article reported that during the Instagram video the star had shared concerns regarding Covid-19 and the vaccine. The article alleged that the star had “declared she ‘doesn't agree with masks’ and won't be taking the vaccine if it was offered to her” and that she was “’terrified’ of the vaccine” and had said “I am more scared of the vaccine than I am of the virus. I will start imagining that I am dying”. The article also reported that the star had compared Covid-19 to a “cold”, during the video. It said that the star had gone on a “rant” regarding the vaccine, stating: “"I just feel that it hasn't been around long enough and we don't know enough about it […] I don't want to inject myself with something I don't know the longterm effects. I have heard all the different things that are in it and I think I have had Covid already and I have coped with it." The article also reported she had said the following regarding masks: "I don't believe in masks - I am not going to get into the subject. When I have a mask on and I walk I can't wear one as I get into a panic. I do have an exempt card but I don't use it as it is a bit muggy”.

3. The complainant was the reality TV star named in the article. She said that the article was inaccurate in breach of Clause 1 and that she had not said any of the quotes included. She accepted that she had done an Instagram livestream, but that the topics discussed were fake tan, Mr Potato head, that lockdown was boring but essential, and a discussion about how she met someone. She said she did not talk about a fear of the vaccine or her use of masks, and noted that she had been photographed wearing a mask on several occasions.

4. The publication did not accept a breach of the Code. It said that a reporter had watched the livestream and took contemporaneous notes. The Instagram live stream had not been saved locally, nor to IGTV and therefore could not be provided to the Committee for consideration. Instead it provided IPSO with a transcript of these notes which had been taken on computer, however, this document did not include any of the quotes in the article. The publication said that the quotes had been written up contemporaneously, however the reporter had used the cut and paste function to put them into the article, meaning that the notes document did not have the contested quotes in it. The publication supplied two screenshots of viewer comments from the livestream which stated: “why are you scared about the vaccine lauren” and “covid vaccine might be dangerous than having covid how do they now it's not...”. The publication also stated that a breakfast television programme had reiterated what the publication had said was part of the livestream, and noted that the complainant had retweeted someone saying that they would not be getting the vaccine. The publication maintained that the livestream had discussed the Covid-19 vaccine and the wearing of masks and said that the reactions of fans and the breakfast TV reporting supported its position. Regardless, during the complaints process, the publication offered to publish the following as a footnote to the article:

Since this article was published, Lauren Goodger has advised that she no longer holds the views and comments that she stated in her Instagram Live.

5. The complainant noted that the publication had not provided any record of the contested quotes, and also stated that she did not believe that the transcript of notes provided accurately reflected what was said in the livestream, in addition to the quotes in the article under complaint. It also noted that the television show may have been discussing the quotes from the article under complaint, rather than the Instagram livestream itself. The complainant provided an email from the television show which stated that these quotes were taken from an online article.

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

6. There was a disagreement between the complainant and the publication as to whether the complainant had said the quotes which had been attributed to her in the article. As the livestream could not be provided by either party, the Committee was not in a position to definitively make a finding as to the content of this video. However, under the Code, publications are obliged to demonstrate that they have taken care not to publish inaccurate information.

7. The publication had said it had taken contemporaneous notes of the complainant’s livestream, but that the relevant sections relating to the quotes published within the article had been deleted when they were pasted into the article, and therefore it did not have any notes of the quotes under dispute. It had also stated that other sources had commented on the complainant’s Instagram livestream, but was not able to demonstrate that these comments came from viewing the livestream, rather than seeing the article. The publication had also provided screenshots from the livestream. Whilst these comments referred to the vaccine, they did not corroborate all of the quotes included in the article that were under complaint. The Committee noted that proper record keeping is a part of abiding by the Editors’ Code. In this instance, the publication had stated as fact that the complainant had said the quotes in the article; on balance the Committee decided that the absence of contemporaneous notes, or other evidence that demonstrated this to be the case, resulted in a breach of Clause 1(i).  The allegations were significant as they formed the basis of the article, and related to significant claims regarding Covid-19 and public health. Where the publication had failed to demonstrate that it had taken care over the accuracy of the statements, a correction was required in order to satisfy Clause 1(ii). The publication had offered to publish a statement, but this did not constitute a correction or recognise that the publication did not have the notes to support its claims, and there was a further breach of Clause 1(ii).

Conclusions

8. The complaint was upheld under Clause 1.

Remedial Action Required

9. Having upheld a breach of Clause 1, the Committee considered what remedial action should be required. In circumstances where the Committee establishes a breach of the Editors’ Code, it can require the publication of a correction and/or an adjudication, the terms and placement of which is determined by IPSO.

10. The Committee noted the complexities of this complaint, and acknowledged that there was no way to know the definitive position as to what was said in the livestream. However, it considered that the publication had not been able to demonstrate that it had taken sufficient care when reporting what the complainant had said as required under Clause 1. In all the circumstances, the Committee considered that the appropriate remedy was the publication of a correction to put the correct position on record.

11. The Committee then considered the placement of this correction. This correction should be added to the article and appear as a standalone correction in the online corrections and clarifications column. This wording should only include information required to correct the inaccuracy: that the publication had not taken care and could not demonstrate that the complainant had said the quotes published. The wording should also be agreed with IPSO in advance and should make clear that it has been published following an upheld ruling by the Independent Press Standards Organisation. If the publication intends to continue to publish the online article without amendment, the correction on the article should be published beneath the headline. If the article is amended, the correction should be published as a footnote which explains the amendments that have been made.

 

Date complaint received: 06/01/2021

Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 27/05/2021