'obtained from a news agency in good faith'

From the Press Complaints Commission’s ‘resolved’ case list today:

Jennifer Stevenson complained to the Press Complaints Commission that the newspaper’s coverage of a fatal horse riding accident was inaccurate. The complainant was among the first people at the scene and, contrary to what had been reported, there was no indication that the rider’s injuries were the result of becoming impaled on a fence post. The complainant was particularly concerned as her teenage daughter had also witnessed the aftermath of the incident and, in her view, the piece was both sensationalist and upsetting for her and members of the deceased’s family (who had given their consent for the complainant to pursue the matter on their behalf).

The Daily Mail response:

The newspaper accepted that there were inaccuracies in the copy which was obtained from a news agency in good faith.

As usual though, this is not the whole story, as the PCC make clear:

The complainant felt strongly that newspaper should have taken greater care when relying on agency copy and could have acted quicker to address the concerns raised.

The complainant probably did not realise until now that this is standard practice for newspapers, simply taking news agency copy at face value. As for the complaint that the Daily Mail could have acted quicker, this is a common complaint against a newspaper that does as much as possible to avoid taking any kind of responsibility for its actions. The resolution continues:

She asked that a correction appear at the start of the online article and rejected the newspaper’s explanation that its house style would not allow for this.

Again, the Mail Online is notorious for burying corrections in its US section and they always insist on putting corrections at the end of their articles. This is only an ‘house style’ issue inasmuch as it is standard practice to bury any truth at the bottom of a Mail article. In the end the persistence of the complainant led to the following actions:

it republished the corrected article with the complainant’s comments included in the readers’ comments section; it provided private letters of apology for the complainant and members of the deceased’s family; it removed the phrase “freak accident” from the headline and URL; and it appended a correction and apology to the online piece.

The original article appeared on the Mail Website on the 5th June 2011. It has taken nearly four months for the Daily Mail to acknowledge that it made distressing mistakes that sensationalised a tragic accident. It has obviously taken a lot of persistence and effort from the complainant to pursue the complaint to this ‘resolution’, a resolution that could have been arrived at as soon as the Daily Mail realised the agency copy was inaccurate – why not simply correct the article and add the apology immediately? However, they stalled, ignored or flat out refused to do the decent thing even though they were so clearly in the wrong.

To further compound matters the PCC have once again demonstrated – through the back-and-forth gentle requests sent to the Mail and forwarded back to the complainant – that their slogan – ‘Free, fast, fair’ – is as sick a joke as the industry it supposedly regulates.

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