So, anyway, as the Leveson Inquiry gets underway (the one looking at press ethics, and which so far has managed to utter that phrase on more than one occasion without falling about laughing), i am today submitting another complaint to the pcc about misreported costs of gender re-assignment surgery.
We shall see. Since i opened this can of worms, i have realised just how carefully one needs to tread in order to stay within the bounds of complaining ONLY about factual matters. In this case, however, the piece in the Sittingbourne Messenger appears pretty inaccurate: their response inadequate; and it would be nice if the pcc were prepared to rap at least one arrogant journalist over the knuckles for same.
The point – the truly disappointing point is: what would it hurt the individuals concerned to make a small amend to ensure that the words written represented the best available knowledge on a subject? Very little. Which suggests that the real enemies here are journalistic laziness and individual apathy.
So here goes.
Text of complaint
The Code has been breached in three ways. Within the article is a par which reads, in relation to Emma Page:
“He is due to have gender reassignment surgery in about 18-months, which will cost an additional £45,000, and see him transferred to a female prison.”
The figure of £45,000 is seriously out of step with all current figures for Male to Female gender re-assignment surgery, and as such is seriously misleading in respect of an issue where there is currently some public debate.
It is also questionable as to how the newspaper can know when this will take place, since it depends on a lengthy and uncertain assessment process – and when or whether the individual will be transferred to the female estate.
I rang the paper shortly after this article appeared and spoke to the journalist responsible – Rebecca Hughes. I introduced myself as a journalist and a writer with expertise on these matters. I drew her attention to this inaccuracy and offered either to provide her with direct quotes to balance, or to put her in touch with senior members of the NHS who could substantiate my remarks.
By way of response, she said that the figure was given as part of remarks made by the brother of the victim in this case.
I acknowledged that this was so in respect of an equally inaccurate figure given out for hormone treatment – but in that instance, the fact that this was opinion was made explicit in the article.
I asked her either to correct the figure, if she insisted on stating it as fact, or to make it clear that the figures given are merely opinion.
Ms Hughes has declined to do either.
1 (i) – accuracy
1 (ii) – failure to rectify
1 (iii) – failure to distinguish opinion and fact