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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