Ruling

03643-18 Blakemore v Richmond & Twickenham Times

    • Date complaint received

      27th September 2018

    • Outcome

      Breach - sanction: action as offered by publication

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy

Decision of the Complaints Committee 03643-18 Blakemore v Richmond & Twickenham Times

1. Lisa Blakemore complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Richmond & Twickenham Times breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined, “Mayor's last event before handing over her chain of office to successor” published on 25 May 2018.

2. The article reported on a fundraising event organised by the complainant, who, on the date of publication, was the Mayor of Richmond upon Thames. The article claimed that the complainant “used to be councillor for North Richmond”, but was “ousted in the May 5 election which was won by the Liberal Democrats”. The article reported that the “new Mayor of Richmond upon Thames was announced at the annual full council meeting on May 22”.

3. The article was also published in substantially the same form online under the headline “Mayor says goodbye at last-ever charity fundraiser”, published on 21 May.

4. The complainant said that the use of the word “ousted” had inaccurately implied that she had stood for election in May 2018, and had lost. In fact, she had not run for re-election. She expressed concern that this inaccuracy had occurred, despite the fact that the names of the candidates had been publicly available, and the election results had set out the names of those who stood in every Ward, and the votes each person had received.

5. The newspaper said that the article was a positive report of the Mayor’s final event before handing over her chain of office, which made reference to her chosen charities; however it accepted that it was inaccurate to report that the complainant had been “ousted” in the election.

6. The complainant initially complained to the newspaper directly, and in response to her concerns, the newspaper removed the reference to “ousted” from the online article. It said that a correction was published at the earliest opportunity, in a prominent position on page 3 of the newspaper on 1 June 2018. It noted that the original report had been published on page 12.

In an issue of the Richmond and Twickenham Times printed May 25, an article by Sophie Jones on page 10 said the ex-mayor of Richmond, Lisa Blakemore, had been ‘ousted’ in the May 5 local election. Lisa Blakemore in fact didn’t stand in the election. We apologise for the inconvenience and are happy to clarify the inaccuracy.

7. During the course of IPSO’s investigation, the newspaper also offered to publish the following wording as a standalone correction on its homepage:

In an article headlined “Mayor says goodbye at last-ever charity fundraiser”, published on 21 May, we reported that the Former Mayor of Richmond, Lisa Blakemore, had been ‘ousted’ in the May 5 local election. Lisa Blakemore in fact didn’t stand in the election. We apologise for the inconvenience and are happy to clarify the inaccuracy.

8. The complainant raised concern at the wording of the print correction. She said that she should have been referred to by her proper title, the “Former Mayor” of Richmond.

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.

Findings of the Committee

10. It was accepted that the word “ousted” had inaccurately implied that the complainant had run for the May 2018 election, and had lost. While it appeared that the inclusion of this word was a human error, it represented a failure to take care over the accuracy of the article, in breach of Clause 1(i). The claim that the complainant had been “ousted” in the election was a significant inaccuracy because it had suggested that her mayoral position had not come to an end by choice, but rather, it had come to an end following a majority vote against her. This was a claim which required correction under the terms of Clause 1(ii).

11. The correction published by the newspaper had made clear the correct position; it was offered promptly and with due prominence, on page 3. The online article had been amended to remove the word “ousted” shortly after the complainant had raised her concerns to the newspaper directly, and following IPSO’s investigation into the matter, the newspaper had promptly offered a correction to appear online. The publication of this wording on the publication’s homepage, in conjunction with the removal of the word “ousted”, represented due prominence. There was no breach of Clause 1 (ii).

Conclusion

12. The complaint was upheld.

Remedial action required

13. Having upheld the complaint, the Committee considered what remedial action should be required.

14. The newspaper had promptly published a correction in print which corrected the inaccuracy. It had offered an online correction which identified the inaccuracy and made the correct position clear. The Committee found that this correction was sufficient to meet the requirements of Clause 1 (ii). The online correction should now be published.

Date complaint received: 27/05/2018

Date decision issued: 06/09/2018