Ruling

15390-23 Archer v Barnsley Chronicle

    • Date complaint received

      28th September 2023

    • Outcome

      Breach - sanction: action as offered by publication

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy

Decision of the Complaints Committee 15390-23 Archer v Barnsley Chronicle


Summary of Complaint

1. Raymond Archer complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that Barnsley Chronicle breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Probe into disrupted bus services launched”, published on 14 March 2022.

2. The online article reported on a joint initiative by the Barnsley North East Neighbourhood Policing Team (NPT), Stagecoach and Barnsley Council to tackle anti-social behaviour. The article quoted from a named individual from “Grimethorpe Residents’ Group” (GRG), detailing their concerns about how antisocial behaviour and bus cancellations were impacting local residents and the steps they had taken to help resolve the issue.

3. The article was accompanied by an image which showed the quoted individual standing at a bus stop.

4. A similar version of this article also appeared in print, under the headline “Partnership created to tackle bus issue”. However, as it was published in March 2022 and the complaint was not received within four month of its publication, it was outside of IPSO’s remit and therefore not considered part of this complaint.

5. The complainant, the then Chair of the GRG, said the article was inaccurate and misleading, in breach of Clause 1, to report that the quoted individual was a member of, and speaking on behalf of, the GRG – a local, non-political resident-led organisation. He noted that the article sat within the context of a forthcoming local election, in which the individual was standing, and which concerned an issue of local importance: tackling anti-social behaviour.

6. The publication accepted that its article was inaccurate on this point. However, it strongly denied any suggestion of bias and political motivation for the error; it was an honest mistake by a relatively inexperienced reporter.

7. At the start of IPSO’s investigation, and in an effort to resolve the complaint, the publication offered to update the online article accordingly and to publish the following correction – in print and online:

“An article published in the Barnsley Chronicle on March 11, 2022 headlined: ‘Partnership created to tackle bus issues’ quoted [named individual] and stated that he was a member of Grimethorpe Residents’ Group. We are happy to clarify that [Named individual] was not a member of the group and was speaking in a personal capacity. We apologise for any misunderstanding.”

8. The complainant did not accept this as a resolution to his complaint. The matter was therefore passed to the Complaints Committee for adjudication.

Relevant Clause 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

9. It was accepted by both parties that the article incorrectly reported that the quoted individual was a member of, and speaking on behalf of, the GRG. The article suggested that this individual was acting on behalf of residents rather than in a personal capacity on an issue of local importance: tackling anti-social behaviour. As such, the Committee considered that the publication had taken insufficient care not to publish inaccurate information, in breach of Clause 1 (i). In circumstances where the article misrepresented the position of this individual, who was reportedly standing for local election at the time of the article’s publication, this was considered significant and as such required correction under Clause 1 (ii).

10. The Committee next considered whether the remedial action taken by the publication was sufficient to meet the terms of Clause 1 (ii). At the start of IPSO’s investigation, the publication had offered to amend the online article and to publish a footnote correction. This correction identified the inaccuracy and made clear the correct position. This was offered sufficiently promptly – once the publication became fully aware of the correct position – and its location at the foot of the online article was considered sufficiently prominent. There was no breach of Clause 1 (ii). The Committee welcomed the publication’s offer to also publish this correction in print.

Conclusion

11. The complaint was upheld in part under Clause 1.

Remedial action required

12. The correction which was offered clearly put the correct position on record, and was offered promptly and with due prominence, and should now be published.


Date complaint received: 06/04/2023

Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 03/08/2023


Independent Complaints Reviewer

The complainant complained to the Independent Complaints Reviewer about the process followed by IPSO in handling this complaint. The Independent Complaints Reviewer decided that the process was not flawed and did not uphold the request for review.