Ruling

Resolution Statement – 18604-23 Illingworth v mirror.co.uk

    • Date complaint received

      10th August 2023

    • Outcome

      Resolved - IPSO mediation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy

Resolution Statement 18604-23 Illingworth v mirror.co.uk


Summary of Complaint

1. Nickie Illingworth complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that mirror.co.uk breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Seaside resort now a rat-infested 'ghost town' with empty homes falling into sea”, published on 30 May 2023.

2. The article - which appeared online only - reported on the seaside town of Skipsea in North Yorkshire. It said that “the former seaside tourist hotspot once enjoyed by families from around the country is now a ghost town at risk of falling into the sea.” The article included images of houses with structural damage. The first image was captioned “Skipsea has been almost completely lost thanks to erosion". Another image was captioned: “The sad village has been evacuated”. The third image was captioned: “Several of the abandoned homes are at risk of falling into the sea”.

3. The complainant said that the article was inaccurate in breach of Clause 1 as Skipsea was not “rat-infested” or a “ghost-town” as reported in the headline. She said it was a busy, clean and respectable village. While she accepted that there had been some coastal erosion in Skipsea, she said that the article overstated its impact on the village. Further, while she accepted that people were selling their homes, these were for different reasons as stated in the article. The complainant said the article was damaging to the village’s reputation.

4. The complainant also said the images were inaccurate in breach of Clause 1 as they were at least ten years old, and one of the houses pictured no longer existed. The complainant requested a published apology.

5. The publication said the characterisation of “rat-infested” had come from a story published in 2022 about a rat-infestation in a Skipsea caravan park. On 22 June 2023, in an attempt to resolve the complaint, the publication removed the reference to “rat-infested” in the headline and the historic photographs. It further published the following correction beneath the headline:

A previous headline of this article referred to Skipsea as 'rat-infested'. In fact, the 'rat-infestation' was in relation to a 2022 story regarding Skipsea Sands Caravan Park. The article also included two photographs of a collapsed building and roadside from 2007 and 2011. The article has since been amended and removed reference to these as they are historic images.

6. The complainant said this did not resolve her complaint and said the apology should be printed in the newspaper and requested an explanation of why the article was written. She also requested the publication publish an additional article which highlighted the positive aspects of Skipsea and that it was a “thriving popular holiday destination”.

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.

Mediated Outcome

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

8. In an effort to resolve the complaint, on 13 July 2023 and during IPSO’s investigation, the publication offered to remove the article. On 14 July 2023, it also offered to publish the following standalone correction:

SKIPSEA- A CORRECTION

On 30 May 2023 we published an online article entitled “Seaside resort now rat-infested ‘ghost town’ with empty homes falling into sea.” The article described the village of Skipsea in East Yorkshire as a “ghost town” and was illustrated by photographs, one of which showed the condition of an abandoned building and the other a roadside affected by sea erosion. We accept that the article was inaccurate and misleading. Two of the photographs used to support the claim that Skipsea was a ghost town were from 2007 and 2011. The empty homes were not falling into the sea, although buildings were and continue to be at risk from coastal erosion. The reported rat infestation only affected the area of Skipsea Sands Caravan Park which occurred and was dealt with in 2022. We apologise for these errors, and are happy to take this opportunity to set the record straight.

9. The complainant said that this would resolve the matter.

10. 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:  01/06/2023 

Date complaint concluded by IPSO:  25/07/2023