The Sun, Corbyn and Page 1 apologies

First off, there should be credit where it is due. IPSO’s Complaints Committee has now twice in two weeks ordered newspapers to print a front page correction/apology in response to a page 1 inaccuracy.  It is good that the Committee is developing a taste for this approach.

But establishing a principle is not the same as sorting out the issue of prominence. The Editors’ Code is quite clear that “The headline, the placement on the page, and prominence including font size, ……must be agreed in advance. “ It seems that IPSO is not yet ready to move on from accepting the trade-off of a miniscule reference on the front page with a full adjudication on page 2.

When I recently gave two cheers for the newly revised editors’ Code, I called for more action on page 1 errors.  The Sun’s “apology” to Jeremy Corbyn (see image, bottom left corner) is so mealy-mouthed it is no apology at all in any meaningful sense.  It has been rightly and widely criticised and could prove to be something of an own-goal.


In my experience, newspaper editors hate not being in control. And the thing they hate more than anything else is not being in control of their own front page.  That is why a page 1 response, in the form of coverage of the same sort that contained the original error,   is absolutely appropriate.  If you think something is so important to splash it all over your front page, then if you’ve got it wrong, it should be just as big a deal.

It is clearly not just me that thinks in this way. The  stink  about what The Sun has  done this week  suggests that this  is an issue where  the IPSO Complaints  Committee, not to mention  the ‘paper itself, may  be tellingly out of step  with  public opinion (and by the way,  just because this  time it is The Sun doesn’t mean that  it is only this  ‘paper that has had a problem).

I do believe that as the  principle of  front page corrective  statements  becomes embedded in  the industry’s comfort zone,  an appropriate   view  on prominence   will surely  follow. If you will, a bit like the principle and practice of health warnings on cigarette packs. But, of course, if there were no page 1 errors to start with, this wouldn’t be a problem at all, would it?

The full text of IPSO’s ruling is at http://bit.ly/1YAYMXB

IPSO’s other “page 1” adjudication was against the Daily Express and can be found at http://bit.ly/1QX0TUT

Full disclosure: I was a Press Complaints Commissioner from 2008  to 2014. And I accept that some errors are inevitable.

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