We-ell, it looks like the Sittingbourne Messenger has just removed a rather silly reference to a £45k grs cost in a piece they wrote a couple of months back.
Its not an especially edifying piece, since it is basically about the view that if you are in prison, you ought to be denied your basic rights – and how one local individual has been raising a petition to this end.
Understandable, since the object of their petition had murdered a close family member: but not a piece with much charitable about it.
It still retains a figure of £200 for hormone costs prior to grs – which is another ludicrous figure. However, in the way of these things, it is harder to get that reference removed because it is given as a quote from the petitioner.
So, what happened? This story surfaced through the People. The local press picked up on it. And they quoted two ridiculous figures…£45k for grs and £200 a week for hormone treatment.
Their justification, sort of, was that the petitioner quoted them – though it seems likely that the individual in question only obtained THOSE figures from the People in the first place, since it is doubtful that an ordinary member of the public would have any view on this sort of subject.
I called the paper shortly after they printed these figures and said: no. The grs figure was out-and-out inaccuracy (since they printed, simply, that it DOES cost £45K). The hormone cost might just stick because they were quoting someone.
I gave my own view as an expert in these matters – and also offered to give details of someone senior at Charing Cross who could provide a definitive figure. They were not interested.
I therefore complained to the PCC on two grounds: basic inaccuracy; and that even though an inaccuracy had been drawn to their attention, they couldn’t be bothered to do anything about it.
So now they have scored at least one demerit with the PCC.
What this tells us
As i have written in my submission to Leveson, this and similar, are cast-iron evidence of a sickness in the UK press. First, “accuracy” is no longer measured in terms of whether something is genuinely accurate – only in terms of whether something can be “stood up”.
Second is the contempt that the press has for expertise: no interest in getting to grips with the facts behind a story. It cannot be right, that standard practice – espesh over NHS costs, is to quote any old “vox pop” as though they have expertise on a topic that is actually quite specialist.
And finally, the infuriatingly nit-picking way in which the pres refuse to move unless/until confronted with the somewhat flawed vehicle that is the PCC.
Back to the first point: if the press generally were interested in accuracy, they would treat stories as far more collaborative. They would welcome the input of those with expertise, and be quick to remedy inaccuracy – as opposed to moving instantly into defensive mode.
Sadly, that is not the press we have right now.
ETA: other complaints still in the pipeline, but not, any more the Telegraph, who have apparently also agreed to remove reference to a £60k grs cost. This means i can now start to home in on our old friends over at the Sun and Star. Interestingly, after a chat with the online newsdesk at the Mail, they quite happily amended the grs cost in a recent piece, down from £60k to £10k.