Ruling

00847-14 A Man v Edinburgh Evening News

    • Date complaint received

      8th December 2014

    • Outcome

      Breach - sanction: action as offered by publication

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy

Decision of the Complaints Committee 00847-14 A Man v Edinburgh Evening News

Summary of complaint 

1. A man complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation on behalf of himself and his family that the Edinburgh Evening News had breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in publishing a front page teaser image with the caption “Who lives in a house like this?” on 13 September 2014. 

2. The newspaper had published a photograph of the complainant’s house on the front page, referring readers to pages 4 & 5 for the full story. These pages featured an entirely unrelated article about a man convicted of sexual offences, with the story about the complainant’s house appearing on pages 6 and 7. 

3. The complainant said that the error inaccurately suggested that a sex offender lived in his home. 

4.  The newspaper apologised for the error, offered to write a private letter of apology to the complainant, and published the following clarification on its corrections page in print on page 2 and online: 

An item on our front page on September 13 2014, featured a picture of [the complainant]’s house displaying a giant Yes banner alongside the headline “Who lives in a house like this?” Readers were incorrectly referred to pages four and five for the full story, where there was a report about a sex offender, rather than to pages six and seven where the report about [the complainant] actually appeared. We are very sorry for the error and any embarrassment caused. 

5. The newspaper also offered to make a donation of £50 to a local charity, at the request of the complainant. 

6. The complainant was concerned that the correction linked his name with the offences; at his request, it was removed. He did not consider a £50 donation to be sufficient, nor did he feel that a letter of apology would address the damage caused by the original article and picture. 

Relevant Code Provisions

7. Clause 1 (Accuracy) 

i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information, including pictures. 

ii) A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion once recognised must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and – where appropriate – an apology published. 

Findings of the Committee

8. The newspaper had failed to take care not to publish inaccurate information on its front page. The newspaper should have checked on which pages the article about the complainant’s house would appear, and made sure that the front page accurately reflected this. In failing to do so, it had breached Clause 1 (i). The inaccuracy was a significant one, as it could suggest to a casual reader that the inhabitants of the house pictured were linked to the offences described on pages 4 and 5. A correction was therefore necessary to comply with the terms of Clause 1 (ii). 

Conclusions

9. The complaint was upheld. 

Remedial Action Required

10. Having upheld the complaint, the Committee considered what remedial action should be required. The Committee has the power to require the publication of a correction and/or adjudication; the nature, extent and placement is to be determined by IPSO. It may inform the publication that further remedial action is required to ensure that the requirements of the Editors’ Code are met. 

11. The correction published by the newspaper had identified the original inaccuracy, made clear the true position, and had included an apology, which was necessary to comply with the terms of Clause 1 (ii). The newspaper had offered to correct the error promptly, as soon as it had been brought to its attention. The Committee also noted that the front page teaser photograph had been used prominently on pages 6 and 7, where the article about the complainant appeared, making clear to readers that the front page image was associated with the story on those pages, rather than that on pages 4 and 5. Given that the original front page had not suggested a link between the complainant and the sex offences, and that this would only have been made by readers who turned to pages 4 and 5, the positioning of the correction on page 2 was appropriate. The newspaper’s offer was therefore a sufficient remedy under the terms of Clause 1 (ii). The Committee understood the complainant’s objection to the correction, as it linked his name with the offences. It was unfortunate that the complainant had been on holiday at the time at which the correction was published, and so had not been able to approve it. The Committee welcomed the newspaper’s willingness to remove it from its website at the request of the complainant. 

Date of complaint: 01/10/2014

Date decision issued: 08/12/2014