Ruling

Resolution Statement – 09438-22 Ogden v The Bolton News

    • Date complaint received

      11th August 2022

    • Outcome

      Resolved - IPSO mediation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy, 4 Intrusion into grief or shock

Resolution Statement – 09438-22 Ogden v The Bolton News

Summary of Complaint

1. The family of Christopher Paxford complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that The Bolton News breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) and Clause 4 (Intrusion into grief or shock) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Man, 37, was dead in a skip”, published on 16 May 2022.

2. The article was a court report which reported on an inquest into the death of a named individual. The article stated: “A BOLTON man was found dead in a derelict skip, an inquest has heard” and “The inquest heard he was found in a derelict skip off Bank Street.”

3. The article also appeared online in substantially the same format under the headline “Bolton man found dead in skip, inquest hears”.

4. The complainant said that the article was inaccurate in breach of Clause 1 as the man was found dead in a derelict mill, not a derelict skip. The complainant said that it was heard at the inquest that the individual was found in a derelict mill and provided a recording of the inquest to support his position. The recording did not contain the word “skip”.

5. The complainant also said the article was in breach of Clause 4 as it had caused severe distress to the deceased’s family. He said the claim that the man was “found dead in a derelict skip” suggested he had been “thrown away”. The complainant considered the article to be sensationalist and that it had not reported on the subject sensitively. He also said that when he had contacted The Bolton News to make them aware of the inaccuracy, the staff were facetious, condescending and unwilling to concede that a mistake had been made.

6. During direct correspondence with the publication as part of the IPSO process, the complainant had also noted that the publication had made an error when referring to a family member’s relationship to the man who died.

7. During direct correspondence with the complainant, the publication accepted the article was inaccurate after receiving the recording of the inquest from IPSO. The newspaper said the reference to the “derelict skip” was due to human error in the reporter’s shorthand and apologised for its mistake. The publication said the article was not an attempt to sensationalise the man's death in any way.

8. The publication corrected the online article and published a correction on 9 June 2022. It printed an apology and clarification in its print edition on 10 June 2022. The publication also removed the story from its Facebook page.

9. The print correction stated:

“Apology over Mr Paxford article

IN an article on May 16 we incorrectly printed that Christopher Paxford was found dead in a derelict skip. The Bolton News apologises for this error and can clarify Mr Paxford was found dead in a derelict mill”

10. The online correction stated:

“Correction: The original version of this article incorrectly stated Christopher Paxford was found dead in a derelict skip. The Bolton News apologises for this error and can clarify Mr Paxford was found dead in a derelict mill.”

11. The complainant said the family was upset by the repetition of the reference to “derelict skip” in the correction and did not consider the correction to be offered promptly as the article had originally appeared on the homepage of the website all weekend from 14 May 2022. When the complainant had contacted the newspaper that weekend, he hadn’t been able to speak to anyone. The complainant managed to speak to someone the following Monday who advised him it was the Editor who could decide if the article was changed.

12. The complainant did not consider the correction addressed everything he believed went wrong during the handling of his complaint or how the original error occurred. The complainant also said that removing the article from Facebook and online meant that no one would see the apology.

13. The newspaper explained that the newspaper operated a skeleton staff over the weekend and therefore did not have someone in the office, nor did it have as much content to post on the website. The newspaper said it had conducted an internal review and has since spoken to the reporter about the importance of accuracy. The publication said that it had included the incorrect phrase in its apology because it felt it was important to be transparent about the error it had made and placed the apology in a prominent position in the paper for the same reason. The newspaper clarified that the article was still online.

14. The newspaper offered to liaise with search engines in order to request other news sites which had reposted the article, to remove it. The newspaper offered to add a further apology about how the mistake happened and offered to remove the article from the website entirely.

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 4 (Intrusion into grief or shock)

In cases involving personal grief or shock, enquiries and approaches must be made with sympathy and discretion and publication handled sensitively. These provisions should not restrict the right to report legal proceedings.

Mediated Outcome

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

16. During IPSO’s investigation, the complainant said that if the publication published an apology with an explanation of how the mistake happened in print, online and via a Facebook post on a Saturday, as well as making a donation to the man who died’s favourite charity, Bolton Urban Outreach, he would consider the matter resolved.

17. The publication agreed to donate to the charity and publish an apology and correction in print, online and on Facebook over the weekend. On 16 July 2022, the newspaper published a print correction which said:

Christopher Paxford – an apology

ON May 14 this year, The Bolton News reported on an inquest opening surrounding the death of Christopher Paxford. The article incorrectly stated that Mr Paxford had been found dead in a derelict skip, when in fact he had been found deceased in a derelict mill. The error came about as a result of a reporter mishearing what was said at Bolton Coroner’s Court and incorrectly noting down the wrong word in shorthand. This mistake then led the reporter to transcribe the word “skip” rather than “mill”. The Bolton News unreservedly apologises to the family and friends of Mr Paxford for the upset this error caused and accepts that we did not meet the high standards expected of us.

18. The Facebook post said “An apology regarding an article published on May 14” and linked to the online apology and correction, which stated:

Christopher Paxford – an apology

On May 14 this year, The Bolton News reported on an inquest opening surrounding the death of Christopher Paxford.

The article incorrectly stated that Mr Paxford had been found dead in a derelict skip, when in fact he had been found deceased in a derelict mill.

The error came about as a result of a reporter mishearing what was said at Bolton Coroner’s Court and incorrectly noting down the wrong word in shorthand. This mistake then led the reporter to transcribe the word "skip" rather than "mill”.

The Bolton News unreservedly apologises to the family and friends of Mr Paxford for the upset this error caused and accepts that we did not meet the high standards expected of us.

19. 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: 16/05/2022

Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 13/07/2022