Ruling

10346-22 Greco v somersetlive.co.uk

    • Date complaint received

      3rd November 2022

    • Outcome

      Breach - sanction: action as offered by publication

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy

Decision of the Complaints Committee – 10346-22 Greco v somersetlive.co.uk

Summary of Complaint

1. Silvana Greco complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that somersetlive.co.uk breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “'Excellent' Bath barbershop closing down after 30 years' trade”, published on 3 July 2022.

2. The article, which appeared online only, reported on a barbershop that had been put on the market. The headline of the article stated that the barbershop was “closing down after 30 years' trade”. The article went on to state that “Trimmers on Barton Street has served the city for three decades […] [h]owever, all good things must come to an end, and now the premises is up for sale”.

3. The complainant said the article was inaccurate in breach of Clause 1 because the business was for sale rather than closing down.

4. The complainant also complained under Clause 1 because the publication initially approached her for comment about a different subject, and she had made clear that she did not want the publication to cover the sale of the business.

5. The publication accepted that the headline was inaccurate. However, it said that the complainant had not notified the publication that it was inaccurate to report that the barbershop was “closing down” during initial correspondence after the publication of the article. It was not until the IPSO complaint that the publication learned this was inaccurate, but once it was made aware of the complainant’s position, it amended the online article with a correction appended to the top of the article.

6. The publication changed the headline on 1 August to state: “'Excellent' Bath barber shop on the market after 30 years' trade”. It also added the following wording as a correction to the top of the online article: “A previous version of this story stated that Trimmers was closing. This is not the case, and the business is merely up for sale.”

7. Later during the complaints process, the complainant raised concerns that the same amendment to the headline did not appear on the version of the article that had been posted on Facebook.

8. Once the publication was notified of the inaccuracy in the Facebook post, it amended the post, so it reflected the changed headline. It also offered to add the following correction to the Facebook post:

A previous headline of our article ''Excellent' Bath barber shop on the market after 30 years' trade' reported that the business 'Trimmers' was 'closing down'. This was incorrect. In fact, the business was up for sale. We are happy to clarify this.

9. The publication did not accept that the complainant having initially been contacted about a different subject nor the fact that she did not wish for the story about the sale of her business to be published represented a breach of the Code. The publication also noted that the content of the article was taken from information available publicly on a real estate listings website, and given the information was in the public domain, the complainant’s consent was not required in order to publish the information.

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.

Findings of the Committee

10. The publication had not asked the complainant for her comment on the claim that the business was closing down before publication, and the complainant had not said that it was – the pre-publication exchange specifically related to the business being sold, not being closed down. Where the publication had not provided any basis for its claim that the business was closing down, it had failed to take sufficient care over the accuracy of the claim. This raised a breach of Clause 1 (i) of the Code.

11. The Committee considered there to be a significant difference between a business closing down and being sold, where trade could be negatively affected if customers inaccurately believed the business was going to close, and therefore found there to be a significant inaccuracy requiring correction. Therefore, the newspaper was obliged, in accordance with the terms of Clause 1(ii), to correct this information promptly and with due prominence.

12. The Committee then turned to the question of whether the action undertaken by the publication was sufficient to avoid a further breach of Clause 1 (ii). During direct correspondence with the complainant during the IPSO process, the publication had amended the headline and appended a correction regarding the shop “closing down”. The Committee considered that both the correction to the headline and the note at the top of the article identified the inaccuracy and put the correct position on record, which the Committee considered sufficient to correct the inaccuracy. It also considered the correction had been offered promptly, with the publication offering the amendment during direct correspondence with the complainant before IPSO commenced its investigation.

13. Turning to the prominence of the proposed correction, the Committee was satisfied that the headline of the article, in combination with the note at the top of the article, was duly prominent.

14. The Committee was also satisfied that the Facebook correction (offered during investigation) which clearly stated the inaccuracy, acknowledged the publication’s error, and put the correct position on record, satisfied the requirements of Clause (ii).

15. The Committee turned next to the alleged breach of the Code arising from the newspaper approaching the complainant for comment about a different subject. The Committee noted that under the Editors’ Code, there is no obligation for publications to inform the subjects of their articles exactly what the article will be about in advance of publication and this was not an issue which engaged the terms of the Code. Similarly, the publication was not obliged to seek permission from the complaint to cover the story. The fact her request that the story not be covered was not heeded by the publication did not engage the terms of the Code. As such there was no breach of the Code on either of these points.

Conclusion(s)

15. The complaint was upheld under Clause 1(i).

Remedial Action Required

16. The published correction put the correct position on record, was offered promptly and with due prominence. No further action was required regarding the correction directly to the article. The correction to the Facebook post should be actioned.


Date complaint received: 03/07/2022

Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 17/10/2022