We made correction requests to three national newspapers regarding their coverage of a care case which involved (but was not about) co-sleeping. We have now received a response from all 3 of the newspapers involved. The results are below.
You can read the original post and requests here : Correction request re inaccurate headlines : Mother who let her two boys sleep in her bed has them taken away by judge.
This newspaper were first to respond. Their response was lengthy and robust, citing extracts from the judgment and rebutting our criticisms. They did not accept our complaint at all. They have not responded to a request to publish their response.
The Telegraph are a member of IPSO and we will consider escalating the request to IPSO via their complaints process.
[UPDATE 2 March 2017 : we have complained to IPSO]
[UPDATE 16 March 2017 : IPSO have considered and rejected our complaint]
The Daily Mail
The Daily Mail responded by saying that they had amended the headline of the article from :
Two young sons are put up for adoption after mother who ‘always thinks she knows best’ ignored advice about them sleeping in her bed
They told us that the information in the article was supplied by the Press Association and published in good faith. They had amended the headline. We think the headline amendment is an improvement, but didn’t really understand their reply, and noticed some other unexplained changes to the article which we think actually made things worse : the Mail removed all reference to the fracture sustained by one child. Ironically, this was an important aspect of our complaint to the Independent, which they accepted and changed (see below). We have responded to the Mail as follows :
Thank you for your reply and for amending the headline of your article as requested. However, we noticed that you have also amended the substance of the article at the same time, removing the earlier (correct) reference to a fracture sustained by one of the children, which unfortunately makes the article less informative overall and less of a full reflection of the breadth of concerns in the case. We hope that it is not our intervention which has prompted this alteration and are somewhat puzzled as to why it was necessary (we did not complain about the body of the article).
We are also a little puzzled by your reference to the Press Association, because in our experience Press Association pieces are usually identified as such rather than published under the name of an identified Mail journalist as in this case, and furthermore in our understanding headlines are usually inserted by the newspaper running the piece rather than provided by the Press Association.
Any clarification you can give us on these points would be gratefully received.
We have also asked for permission to publish their full response (although it is very brief and the gist is set out above). We will update this post if we receive any response. The Daily Mail are members of IPSO, and we will consider whether to go down this route depending on the answer we receive from our outstanding queries.
The Independent are not members of IPSO. They have engaged constructively via Will Gore, who has given us permission to publish his response in full.
Dear Ms Reed
Thank you for contacting us via our online form. We are always glad to hear from our readers, whether or not feedback is positive, and I am grateful to you for taking the time to get in touch.
Having looked into our coverage of this case I agree that our report was insufficiently full, and may have blurred the lines between the co-sleeping issue and the more serious instances of harm to the children. I have now amended the article so that the position is clear.
I do appreciate you bringing this matter to my attention and I hope very much you will continue to read and enjoy The Independent. And please do not hesitate to contact me again in the future should cause arise.
With best regards
Deputy Managing Editor
Independent & Evening Standard
The headline has now been amended to read :
(previously Mother who slept in bed with her children has them taken away over fears of ‘rough handling’)
The article itself has been substantially improved, in particular to include reference to the fracture. We neglected in this instance to screengrab the original text before making our complaint (this is our usual practice) so we can’t do a direct word for word comparison.
We replied asking if he would mark the article as having been amended (some newspapers do this routinely including the Daily Mail, whilst others such as The Independent don’t seem to do so) and whether he would add a link to the judgment. The article has now been marked as “amended and expanded” but there is still no link to the judgment.
We have invited all the individuals who responded to our correction requests to the Media Event we are holding on 5 April, although as tickets had sold out before our complaints were made they will have to join an increasingly long waiting list! We hope at least some of them can make it.
We will continue to encourage journalists and editors to link to judgments and to mark amended articles as amended, as good journalistic practice – and we will continue to pursue correction requests where we think they are warranted, in particular in relation to misleading headlines. We do not have the resources to do this every time we see something that needs challenge, but will do so wherever we can. We will also continue to write blog posts that set out a more balanced or legally accurate summary of a case, and which signpost to the primary source material where available (judgments or press statements etc) so that the public are able to access accurate information if they wish. And of course, we will continue to flag examples of good practice where we see them.
Feature pic : Scales by Hittie Evie on Flickr – thanks!