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Ipso upholds accuracy complaint against Herne Bay Gazette

An apology and a clarification

In the original version of this post, I described the Gazette’s response to the IPSO ruling as an “apology”. As the editor of the Gazette has pointed out to me, this was a mistake on my part. I should correctly have described it as a “clarification” – I am reliably informed that the distinction is an important one. Further, the wording of the clarification was drafted by IPSO, not the Gazette, so in all fairness the accusations of grudging terseness (both mine and Prof Greenslade’s) should be directed at IPSO, not the Gazette. My apologies to the Gazette.

At the end of last year, the Gazette published an article about Bethany Mackie which has been found by IPSO to have been misleading – as reported below by The Guardian. I had reproduced the Gazette’s article on HBM, and have now deleted it.

Roy Greenslade of The Guardian describes the Gazette’s apology clarification as “terse and grudging”. I think he has a point. Click HERE to see the full IPSO ruling.

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16-05-2015 12-26-08

The Herne Bay Gazette’s online clarification, as required by Ipso Photograph: Public domain

The Independent Press Standards Organisation (Ipso) has ruled that a weekly newspaper published misleading information in breach of the editors’ code of practice. It decided that the Herne Bay Gazette’s story about an 18-year-old woman, who had found guilty of killing a man by driving while under the influence of drink, was inaccurate.

Joanne Hogbin complained to Ipso about a front page story published in the Gazette’s issue in the final week of December 2014, “Boozy trip just days before teen locked up”. It stated that her daughter, Bethany Mackie, had “enjoyed a booze-fuelled Christmas trip” to London just days before she was due to start her five-year prison sentence for knocking over and killing a cyclist, Christian Smith.

During her trial she had told the court of her “genuine remorse” and that she was “struggling to deal with” causing Smith’s death.

The Gazette’s article was accompanied by a photograph of Mackie, which had been downloaded from her Facebook page. The caption said: “Bethany Mackie poses with a wine glass days before she was jailed”. But Hogbin said her daughter drank only Coca-Cola on the London trip.

The newspaper explained that the article had not claimed Mackie was drinking alcohol, but only that she had “held a full wine glass aloft”. After Hogbin’s complaint, the paper offered to publish a clarification on an inside page cross-referenced from the front page, in which Hogbin would be able to state that Mackie was not drinking alcohol.

Ipso’s complaints committee was unimpressed with the paper’s argument about the juxtaposition of the photograph and the “boozy” reference in the headline. It thought it “clearly suggested” that Mackie had drunk alcohol on the trip.

The paper had failed to seek comments from Mackie or her family before publishing the picture, so the committee contended that the paper’s “decision to accompany the front page headline with the photograph demonstrated a failure to take not to publish misleading information”.

It rejected further claims that the paper had breached Mackie’s privacy, intruded into her grief and that the paper used subterfuge to obtain the story.

The committee ordered the Gazette to publish a clarification on page 3, cross referenced to the front page. It should also be published as a stand-alone item, with a headline indicating its subject, linked for no less than 24 hours from the home page of the newspaper’s website. It should then remain online and be searchable.

The clarification should explain that it was being published following an upheld complaint from Mackie’s mother.

This article was amended on 15 May 2015 to remove an incorrect statement that the article remained on the Herne Bay Gazette website after Ipso’s ruling. The article was in fact hosted by a third party with no connection to KM group.

NB: The Gazette’s original story appears on a site called “Herne Bay Matters” (hence my original mistake, for which I apologise to the KM group). Clearly, it requires Ipso’s attention too.

Guardian 14th May 2015

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One comment

  1. Dick Holness

    I too thought that the KM’s response was terse and certainly not an apology.
    Regrettably the ‘newspaper’ has become a rather nasty paper and it enters my house only because my wife likes to read the Family Announcement column….