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Press watchdog upholds complaint from ex-PCSO
12:36pm Thursday 27th September 2012 in Local
MS Rebecca Morris complained that an article headlined “Model pix cop has quit force”, published in the Stourbridge News on 31 May 2012, was inaccurate in breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice.
The complaint was upheld.
The article reported that the complainant had left her employment as a Police Community Support Officer following press reports about photographs of her modelling that had been published online.
The complainant denied the newspaper’s claim she was “carving out a second career as a motor show promotions model”; she had not been paid for the photographs posted online, which had been taken as part of a hobby.
She also considered that the article suggested, inaccurately, that she had left her job because of the publicity surrounding the photographs.
The newspaper took 45 days to provide an initial response to the complaint.
While it noted that the article had been based on an agency report and stated that it therefore could not provide any details about the journalist’s newsgathering methods, it denied having published any inaccuracies.
It did not accept that its article had suggested that the complainant had left her job because of the previous press coverage of the photographs. It maintained that the complainant had promoted herself as a model seeking paid employment in that field.
The complainant had raised a number of significant concerns about the accuracy of the story. The Commission noted that the newspaper stood by its story.
However, it had provided its initial comments on the complaint only after a delay of over six weeks and it had not provided evidence to corroborate the disputed claims, including most substantively that the complainant had been “carving out a second career” as a model, or to demonstrate that it had taken care, as required by Clause 1 (Accuracy), not to publish inaccurate or misleading information.
The Commission was deeply concerned by the newspaper’s handling of the complaint: it had failed to provide a substantive response within a reasonable timeframe and it had suggested in correspondence that it could not comment on the newsgathering methods employed by the agency that had supplied the copy.
The preamble to the Code makes clear that editors must “co-operate swiftly with the PCC in the resolution of complaints” and further that they should take care to ensure that the Code’s terms are “observed rigorously by all editorial staff and external contributors”. The Commission emphasised that this includes agency reporters who supply material to subscribing publications.
The Commission upheld the complaint under Clause 1 and noted that after issuing its decision it would seek confirmation that the newspaper understood its obligation under the Code to assist the Commission’s inquiries promptly and fully.