Resolution Statement – 07950-23 Mainwaring v South Wales Argus

    • Date complaint received

      23rd February 2023

    • Outcome

      Resolved - IPSO mediation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy, 10 Clandestine devices and subterfuge, 14 Confidential sources, 2 Privacy

Resolution Statement – 07950-23 Mainwaring v South Wales Argus

Summary of Complaint

1. Lewis Mainwaring complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the South Wales Argus breached Clause 1 (Accuracy), Clause 2 (Privacy), Clause 10 (Clandestine devices and subterfuge), and Clause 14 (Confidential sources) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Spare copies snapped up”, published on 11 January 2023.

2. The article reported on the Duke of Sussex’s biography during the week it became available for purchase in the UK. The article contained several quotes from booksellers in Newport, including a quote from a “spokesperson for WH Smith”. It also reported that Lewis Mainwaring [the complainant], who also worked at WH Smith, added: “We have sold about 20 copies of the book already; I am reading it and I'm already on chapter two and I love it”.

3. The article also appeared online in substantially the same format under the headline “Prince Harry's memoir flying off the shelves at Gwent book stores”.

4. The complainant said that the behaviour of a journalist working on behalf of the publication breached Clause 10 and Clause 14. He said the journalist had approached him whilst he was working and asked him questions about the book, which led the complainant to believe that she was a customer. He said that, after about three to four minutes of discussion, she stated she was a journalist. The complainant said that, at this point, he stopped the conversation and said he could not speak to the press, and that he would not have answered her questions had she identified herself as a journalist at the start of the conversation. He also said that the quote recorded in the article was a direct quote of what he said, which he considered to be evidence that the journalist had a recording device  - the use of which he had not consented to.

5. The complainant said that he had not consented for his quotes, name or job to be used within the article. He considered this to intrude into his privacy in breach of Clause 2.

6. Finally, the complainant said that the article was inaccurate in breach of Clause 1. He said that the article gave the impression that he was the “spokesperson” quoted – which he said was not the case.  

7. The publication did not accept a breach of the Code. It did not agree with the complainant’s version of events – it said the journalist had identified herself as working for the newspaper at the start of their conversation, and had even asked the complainant his name, which she had said he had spelled out for her. It accepted he had seemed unclear as to whether he was allowed to talk to her, but that – regardless – he had spoken to the journalist about enjoying the book. It said the journalist had not used a recording device, but had made notes on her phone;  it provided a copy of these notes. It said, therefore, Clause 10 was not engaged.

8. The publication also said that, as no agreement was made with the complainant that he would be a confidential source, Clause 14 was also not engaged.

9. The publication noted that the complainant worked in a public-facing role in a shop in which he served thousands of members of the public. It noted that he had given his name and quote freely –, which it said demonstrated he did not consider it to be private information. It also noted that his name, job title, and location were publicly available on LinkedIn.

10. The publication also said that the article was not misleading – it said that the “spokesperson” and the complainant were clearly indicated as different people, as the article reported first the spokesperson’s quote, and then introduced the complainant by stating he “also” worked at the shop.

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.

Clause 2 (Privacy)*

i) Everyone is entitled to respect for their private and family life, home, physical and mental health, and correspondence, including digital communications.

ii) Editors will be expected to justify intrusions into any individual's private life without consent. In considering an individual's reasonable expectation of privacy, account will be taken of the complainant's own public disclosures of information and the extent to which the material complained about is already in the public domain or will become so.

iii) It is unacceptable to photograph individuals, without their consent, in public or private places where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy.

Clause 10 (Clandestine devices and subterfuge)*

i) The press must not seek to obtain or publish material acquired by using hidden cameras or clandestine listening devices; or by intercepting private or mobile telephone calls, messages or emails; or by the unauthorised removal of documents or photographs; or by accessing digitally-held information without consent.

ii) Engaging in misrepresentation or subterfuge, including by agents or intermediaries, can generally be justified only in the public interest and then only when the material cannot be obtained by other means.

Clause 14 (Confidential sources)

Journalists have a moral obligation to protect confidential sources of information.

Mediated Outcome

11. The complaint was not resolved through direct correspondence between the parties. IPSO therefore began an investigation into the matter.

12. During IPSO’s investigation the publication deleted the complainant’s name and quote from the online article, offered to publish the following wording in its print edition:

Prince Harry’s book Spare

On January 11, we published an article about sales of Prince Harry’s autobiography, Spare. In the article, we quoted staff at book stores in the local area.

We have been asked by the manager of WH Smith in Newport to point out that he did not wish for his name or comment to be published in the article. While we acted in good faith, we are happy to clarify this and apologise for this misunderstanding.

13. The publication also offered to add the following wording as a footnote to the online article:

Editor’s note: The original version of this article included a comment from the manager of the Newport WH Smith store. While we acted in good faith, the manager did not want his name and comment published. We have removed it from the article and apologise for this misunderstanding. 

14. The complainant said that this would resolve the matter to his satisfaction.

15.  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: 11/01/2023

Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 08/02/2023