Ruling

03619-18 Churchill v Bournemouth Echo

    • Date complaint received

      30th August 2018

    • Outcome

      No breach - after investigation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy

Findings of the Complaints Committee 03619-18 Churchill v Bournemouth Echo

Summary of complaint

1. Sarah Churchill complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Bournemouth Echo breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined, “Complaint over pizza the actions” published  on 25 May 2018.

2. The article reported that parents at a local school were unhappy about the quality of school meals provided by a contracted catering firm. It reported that parents had recently accompanied their children on a school trip, and were concerned to find that the packed lunch consisted of “cold pizza, a jam doughnut and a little pack of raisins.” It stated that the school had put in a complaint to the meal provider, and also included a statement from an unnamed mother, who said that, “the meal choices are extremely poor nutritionally all the time and there are far too many meals served with chips and hardly any vegetables.” The article also claimed that she had been worried about the quality of the meals for some time and included a statement from the Trust who runs the school.

3. The article was also published online with the headline, “Junk food for lunch at St Mary’s First School in West Moors.” The online article was substantially the same as the article that appeared in print.

4. The complainant was the parent quoted in the article. She said that she had approached the newspaper about the story, and had made it clear that her dissatisfaction was with the company who provided the meals, and not the school, which she believed should not have been named in the article. She said that the online headline was misleading and inaccurate, as it suggested that the school had served the junk food, which was not the case. She also said that she had not told the journalist that many of the meals were served without vegetables, or that she had been concerned for some time about the meals provided.

5. The newspaper did not accept that it had breached the Code. It said that the online headline identified the school which the incident had occurred at, which it was entitled to do.  It said it was accurate for the headline to state that junk food had been served at this school, and believed the article made clear the nature of the relationship between the school and the supplier. It said that it was clear to readers that the food was supplied by the outsourced firm and that the article did not suggest the school was at fault.

6. The newspaper also provided a copy of the journalist’s short hand notes and a transcription. It said that the notes showed that the complainant had discussed the ongoing concern she had about the nutrition of the meals regularly served at the school, as well as a specific comment about the lack of vegetables.

Relevant Code Provisions

7. 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.

Findings of the Committee

8. The article reported on the concerns of both parents and the named school in relation to the quality of school meals provided by the outsourced firm. The Committee acknowledged that the newspaper had editorial discretion to present this information as it deemed fit, provided it did so in line with its obligations under the Editors’ Code. The newspaper was entitled to report the name of the school involved, including in the online headline. It did not require the complainant’s consent to do so. The Committee recognised that the headline was capable of carrying two meanings; that the school served its pupils junk food for lunch, and that pupils of the school were served junk food for lunch. However, the article went on to outline, fully, the nature of the parents’ concerns, making clear that the food served by the school was provided by an outsourced firm. In these circumstances, the fact that the headline was also capable of carrying an alternative meaning did not represent a failure to take care over the accuracy of the information, and did not render it misleading. There was no breach of Clause 1 on this point.  

9. The journalist’s notes recorded that the complainant had discussed her concern about the nutritional quality of the school meals in general, and had referred specifically to her concern about the lack of vegetables served. The newspaper had taken care to accurately report the complainant’s comments and there was no breach of Clause 1 on this point.  

Conclusions

10. The complaint was not upheld.

Remedial Action Required

11. N/A

Date complaint received: 25/05/2018

Date decision issued: 13/08/2018