Ruling

09535-16 Cooksey v Barnsley Chronicle

    • Date complaint received

      2nd March 2017

    • Outcome

      No breach - after investigation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy

Decision of the Complaints Committee 09535-16 Cooksey v Barnsley Chronicle

Summary of complaint

1. Christine Cooksey complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Barnsley Chronicle breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Nursery turf out tot following Mum’s feedback”, published in print on 19 August 2016, “Mum hits out at town centre nursery”, published online on 19 August 2016.

2. The article reported that a mother was left without childcare when a nursey terminated the contract for the care of her two-year-old son. It said that the child had attended the nursery for 15 months before his mother, worried about a number of issues at the nursery, gave four-weeks notice of her intention to remove him from the nursery. It said that when she provided feedback on request from the nursery about her decision to remove her son, she received an email saying that it was a “conflict of interest” for her son to attend the nursery because of her “negative and hostile comments”. It said that the mother then asked the nursery whether her son’s learning documents could be posted out, or collected by her husband. However, when she did not receive a reply to this request, she contacted Ofsted.

3. The article went on to outline the mother’s other concerns with the nursery, including her son being handed over to her by a new member of staff without checking who she was, having to change his nappy in reception because it was wet, and not being updated on his progress. The article also included a summary of the nursery’s most recent Ofsted inspection, as well as the nursery’s response to the article’s central claim.

4. The online article was an edited version of the article that appeared in print. 

5. The complainant, the co-owner of the nursery with her husband, said that the headline was misleading as the mother had already resigned her son’s place at the nursery. She said that it was inaccurate to report that the mother had been left without childcare as she said the mother had already secured a place for her son at a different nursery. She said that while the reporter from the newspaper had contacted the nursery the day before the article went to print, the reporter had only revealed that she was in possession of the email the nursery had sent to the mother, and did not mention details of any of the other claims the mother was making. She said that the reporter was antagonistic towards her, and because she had no experience of reporters and believed the reporter was trying to “catch her out”, she stopped the conversation and said that she would seek legal advice. She said that because she had not been made aware of the full content of the article, the nursery did not have the opportunity to deny a number of the claims made by the mother in the article, which she said were inaccurate.

6. The newspaper said that it had been contacted by the mother about the decision to stop her son attending the nursery. It said that after contacting the nursery before publishing the article, it received a call back from the complainant which it described as “short” and “abrupt”. It said that the journalist explained that she had spoken to the mother, and seen emails exchanged between her and the nursery. She said that the complainant interrupted to say “you can’t do that”, and said she would be unable to comment because of data protection issues around pupils. It said that the complainant said that she would have to consult her lawyers, and did not at any point ask exactly what the mother had said. It said that, overall, its reporter had made reasonable efforts to put the claims to the complainant, but had been greeted by a “brick wall”. It said that it was not the newspaper’s normal policy to seek responses from parties by email, and that they always tried to make personal contact in such circumstances.

7. The newspaper said that it received a statement later that day from the complainant’s husband which outlined the nursery’s position, and was included in the article. It also disputed that the complainant had no experience of dealing with the press, and provided details of previous articles where she had been interviewed.

Relevant Code Provisions

8. 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

9. While the mother had made the decision to remove her son from the nursery, she had provided four-weeks notice of her intention to do so. However, on receiving the mother’s feedback, the nursery decided to terminate the arrangement with immediate effect, all of which was explained in the article. In the circumstances, it was not inaccurate of the newspaper to characterise this as the nursery ‘turfing out’ the boy. Nor was it inaccurate for the article to report that the mother had been left without childcare when she had expected her childcare to continue at the complainant’s nursery until the end of the four-week-notice period. There was no breach of Clause 1.

10. The complainant had not been asked directly about a number of the mother’s claims reported in the article, including concerns about the high turnover of staff, her son being handed over to her without checks by a new member of staff and having to change her son’s nappy on collecting him from the nursery. The Committee noted the newspaper’s position that it felt unable to put these points to the complainant over the telephone; nonetheless, it expressed some concern that it did not follow up on these points by another means. However, where the complainant was made aware of the article’s central claim that the nursery had ‘turfed out’ the boy, and the nursery’s response to this claim had been published in full in the article, the Committee did not consider, on balance, that the failure to put these claims to the complainant by another means breached Clause 1(i).

Conclusions

11. The complaint was not upheld.

Remedial Action Required 

N/A

Date complaint received: 19/10/2016
Date decision issued: 08/02/2016