Everyone makes mistakes. But some of us make mistakes more than others. You have to wonder, if someone makes the same kind of mistake again and again, whether it's down to sheer incompetence or not giving a flying one about the consequences. Consequences which in the case of the Pathetically Craven Commission mean a very nasty finger-wagging if you do something like ruining someone's life or completely misrepresenting them; or even a much sterner tut-tutting if you drive someone to suicide or destroy a dead person's memory.
Look at the Scottish Daily Express, which memorably slagged off Dunblane survivors for no reason whatsoever. The PCC said they were very naughty and they should do something about it. They haven't. The PCC has done nothing else, because it can do nothing else. Essentially, you can ignore its decisions entirely, and get away with it.
Ah, how reassuring that the PCC is there to upbraid the press when they get things wrong again, and again, and again, and again...
Over at Mailwatch I recently talked about an amazing transparent headrest which had appeared in a Mail article about Prince Harry and Caroline Flack off the telly. Someone complained that it wasn't accurate. The result?
The complaint was resolved when the newspaper – which believed that readers would have recognised that the photograph was a composite of the two images – separated the two photographs on the online version of the piece to make the distinction clearer, as it had done in the print version of the article.
Do you like the way that the paper gets a sarky little pompous dig at the complainant in as well? Oh surely everyone could tell! What, you mean like with this photo?
Yes, easy enough to just splice two images together to make them one. I mean, it's not as if you ever intend them to be the same image, is it?
I mean, everyone can see that, can't they?
It's so obvious they aren't the same image!
Relatedly, you will recall that the Mail put up an image of a peaceful Muslim protest in Luton to illustrate a rowdy anti-Army protest in Luton. Understandable oopsy, given that the details of the photograph were clearly visible in the electronic caption (see comments)? How did the PCC clamp down on this atrocious misrepresentation?
The complaint was resolved when the newspaper agreed to remove the picture from the online article and to publish online the following correction:
On May 25, 2009, we published an article ‘Nine arrested after masked mob’s march against Muslim extremists turns violent’, in which we inadvertently included an archive photograph of a peaceful unconnected parade held in Luton some weeks earlier. We are happy to clarify that this march had in fact passed without incident and regret our error in wrongly captioning the photograph.
Oh so that's all right then. And how prominent is this article - as prominent as the original one was? No. Of course it isn't. But then that's fine, according to the PCC. The damage can be done as large as you like, so long as the apology is tucked neatly away, then that's the matter 'resolved', isn't it? I love the way the PCC describes things as resolved. Perhaps if you went round their house and did a shit on their front lawn you could 'resolve' the matter by putting an atom-sized apology next to it? I think they'd be fine with that.
Medway NHS Foundation Trust complained that an article inaccurately reported the treatment of a man who had died at Medway Maritime Hospital. The Trust also complained about an article which alleged that staff had posed for a charity calendar when they should have been working. In fact, the calendar was produced by staff in their own time.
The matter was resolved when the newspaper published the following letter from the Trust’s chief executive, Andrew Horne:
Staff at Medway Maritime Hospital who took part in creating a fundraising calendar (Mail) made use of hospital facilities but did so entirely in their own time. The Trust is currently investigating the tragic death of Stewart Fleming in December.
Yes, we may have written utter shit about staff at this workplace but we have allowed you to write in a fucking letter to correct the matter, which we got entirely and completely wrong, so that makes it all right, doesn't it?
Mr David Johnson complained on behalf of his son Haydn that a comment piece about the tragic death of his friend, fellow student Rachel Ward, in Val d’Isere contained inaccuracies. Specifically, the complainant made clear that his son had not received an answerphone message from Miss Ward saying that she was lost on the night of her death. In addition, the complainant disagreed with the columnist’s view that his son had failed in his duty of care, had “abandoned” Miss Ward and acted in an unchivalrous manner.
The complaint was resolved when the newspaper made a note of the complainant’s points on its internal records for future reference in addition to removing the article from its website.
But no apology, obviously. Yes, this man has gone through a terrible ordeal and lost someone very close to him, and been wrongly and incorrectly slagged off by some pompous bastard columnist who doesn't give a shit about people's feelings, and his father has quite rightly stood up for his son, but it's all right, because they've removed the article. No apology. No saying sorry for getting it so catastrophically wrong and smearing a bereaved person all over the papers. No. They've removed the article, so it's 'resolved'.
Mr James Cole expressed concern that the headline “Scientists discover the brain’s ‘God spot’ and show that faith helps human survival” was inaccurate as it did not reflect the statements made by the scientists concerned. He said the existence of a “God spot” had been denied by those who undertook the research and, contrary to what was stated in the headline, the research had not shown that faith helped human survival.
The complaint was resolved when the newspaper changed the headline of the online article to read “Research into brain’s ‘God spot’ reveals areas of brain involved in religious belief”.
Yes, so the Mail may have entirely misrepresented the work of these scientists, but they can simply change the online headline, and that makes everything all right, doesn't it? I mean it's not as if they've misled loads of readers in the meantime, is it?
Mr Maurice Greenham, the National AIDS Trust and the Children’s HIV Association complained that an article about foster parents not being informed of the possible HIV status of their foster children contained a number of inaccuracies.
The complaint was resolved when the newspaper published the following correction on the matter:
Following comments in an article on 23 February about foster parents not being informed of the possible HIV status of their foster children, we would like to make clear that it is highly unlikely that a child born to an HIV positive mother would develop HIV where appropriate drugs have been administered during delivery. There has never been a recorded case of a family caring for an HIV positive infant being infected. It takes three months – not eighteen – to ascertain the HIV status of a child born to an HIV positive mother.
Oh at last, a correction. Wonder if it was as prominent as the article that misled so many readers in the first place? What do you reckon? I think I have a pretty fair idea.
So there we have it. The Mail gets it wrong again, and again, and again, and again. They're not the only newspaper to do so, but they do pop up in the PCC adjudications time and time again. Sometimes it's not too serious, merely entirely misrepresenting a scientific study for example; sometimes it's really serious and unpleasant, for example making peaceful Muslims out to be rowdy protesters, or smearing the good name of someone who has recently been through a terrible tragedy. The PCC says this is all perfectly fine so long as they make tiny amends afterwards, and then everything's tickety-boo, isn't it? And there you have it. This is the redress available to those who can't hire the top legal lawyers. A tiny correction shoved away in the middle of nowhere, and no apology at all.
Those people at the PCC must be really proud of themselves.