Posts tagged pcc

The press is back to its usual tricks: what changed?

It is pleasing – very! – to be able to report today that some weeks after publishing a disgracefully inaccurate and disrespectful piece on trans and intersex police, the Sunday People is to issue a partial correction in line with representations made by the Press Complaints Commission.

Much less pleasing to read their response and realise that even as Leveson continues his merry way, very little seems to have changed regarding their attitudes for accuracy or even respect for minorities. Read the rest of this entry »

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Only in the Mail? Why the pcc must not allow textual criticism as excuse

Bullying is bad. A bit less bullying at school would be a good idea. Schools that put in place policies and approaches that reduce the incidence of bullying – often based around perceived difference on the part of minorities – should be praised.

All pretty unexceptional ideas. But not, apparently, if you write for the Daily Mail. Read the rest of this entry »

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The day it changes…

T-day. Transition day. The day it all changes. After today nothing will be the same. Even if, on the surface, all is still the same.

Because today is the day when the UK’s press and media will finally, forcefully, be asked to face up to their awful responsibility for the hate and bigotry they foment on a daily basis. Read the rest of this entry »

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Minor Victory

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.

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Working with the pcc

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.

Clauses breached

1 (i) – accuracy
1 (ii) – failure to rectify
1 (iii) – failure to distinguish opinion and fact


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The only way is (without) Ethics

I get the feeling that today is going to make me cross. Very. And i will probably end up getting in trouble with my fellow journo’s again.

However, am i the only person starting to get seriously sick of this vindictive and, in the end, pointless obsession by the family of a homicide victim?

Simple story. Back in 2000, Robert Page killed Clive White in the course of a bungled burglary. The killing was particularly vicious – and there can be little sympathy for the perpetrator. Initially convicted of murder and sentenced to life in 2001, Page’s crime was marked down to manslaughter on appeal two years later.

Not clear what the tariff was at that point – though technically it could be longer than the original.

Even then, there were rumblings about the possibility that Page was (repressed) trans of some form – and in the years since, that fact has bloomed, to the point where Page is now taking hormones, called Emma and en route to grs. Possibly. As all of those who have gone thru the system know: there is no certainty of that until it is pretty much done.

Family outrage

In between times, the victim’s family claim to have been told that Page would never be allowed to transition. That’s bad. No professional psych would breach confidence in that way: whereas if police or probation officers were saying that, one really has to question their judgment…pronouncing on mental health issues in which they have no expertise and no direct involvement.

Clive’s brother is up in arms, having been alerted recently to Page’s progress thru the system by a well-balanced story in the People (er…that was sarcasm!).

Apart from just wanting Page to hang – which would be a novel development for manslaughter – they are also jumping on the bandwagon of prisoners not being allowed treatments “like this”.

Not too clear like what: presumably prisoners should get SOME medical attention. But for all i sympathise with the individuals concerned, they are a graphic example of why victims and their relatives should be involved in the judicial process – but that involvement does not give them expertise in the law or other specialised matters.

Yellow Press

Well, the family outrage is understandable, though perhaps becoming just a bit shrill.

Less forgiveable is the press response. I’ve been tracking the cost figure in the story since it appeared (£45k for grs: £200 per week for hormones) and, when i can, sticking an oar in and asking for it to be changed.

It is very clear that the press does not have any reason to print that – beyond the fact that the People put that figure up in the first place and therefore that allows some of the cleverer journo’s to write that Clive’s brother “has been informed the op will cost £45k” (you see what they did there: not technically inaccurate, even if the end result is).

But overall, the more i grapple with this cost issue, the more disgusted i am with the newspapers. Its the defensiveness that gets me.

It is absolutely clear that 9 out of 10 papers have not done any hard research on this figure. Each one is following the previous, slavishly. So, if journalism was genuinely about the truth, you’d think they’d be happy to put the facts straight.

But no: call after call is leading to nit-picking defence based around the phrasing used. IN some cases, if one is utterly literal, it is clear that no inaccuracy has been printed: but the impression given is plainly inaccurate.

ANd what is beginning to grate, and why i am going to be losing my rag later today is: they mostly don’t care. Mostly they prefer to defend what they have done, than admit…concede even that they might, just, possibly have got things wrong.


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PCC again

Just whizzed in three complaints to the pcc in respect of the £60,000 figure quoted by national papers. Sadly neither the STar nor the Express are now subject to the pcc, so little to be done about those apart from contacting them directly and suggesting they correct inaccuracies.

And will be sending in complaints in respect of every story quoting the £60k figure i can find. And no reason for others not to do same.

However, you need to understand very clearly what the pcc can accept. If you are the subject of a story, you have quite extensive rights when it comes to complaining, including objecting to malice and stories that appear to be discriminatory.

Otherwise, however, about your only ground is “inaccuracy”, which appears in clause 1 of the editor’s code of conduct: and you need to be very clear as to how the statement you complain about is inaccurate.

If the paper can show a source for their inaccuracy, and there are ANY grounds for suggesting that source might have standing on the topic, then the paper is off the hook. So… “trannies eat babies” would almost certainly get done for inaccuracy (though given how the press wrigle, i really wonder).

However, “Phillip ExpensesClaim, MP, says: ‘trannies eat babies'” is unassailable – unless you know for a fact he never said it.

The in-between option – “man in pub says, etc.” – is a tricky one.

In this case, papers giving £60,000 as a cost for a procedure that most of us know full well costs a fraction of that seems to be a material inaccuracy and should be changed.

I gave the nationals a day or so to get their arses into gear, though maybe shouldn’t even have done that.

There is a strong case for complaining about each and every story in this figure appears. Why? Well, first off, every single story where this figure appears is an instance of a lazy journalist not checking a fact, but instead just going to the cutting files and taking the highest figure last quoted.

So if the Sun gets it wrong ten times, that is ten mistakes, ten inaccuracies…not one…and i shall strenuously resist any attempts to reduce it to a single count.

Second, a pcc complaint has two outcomes at the paper complained of: first, its a load of bureaucracy for the journalists concerned. Am i upset by that? Nah. Given the upset that some journos cause to the trans community, no qualms whatsoever about making some of them put in a couple of horus extra to answer for their slapdashness.

Also, though, it notches up a count and moves the paper up a league table of “most-complained about”. If it is the case (as i suspect it is) that the Sun has used this figure six to ten times over the last couple of years, then i am very much hoping to see them add a tally of 6 to 10 to their total of upheld complaints.

That does their reputation no good at all…and is at one level quite satisfying for the rest of the community.


P.S. Anyone wishing to make a complaint, just hie themselves over to the pcc site and read the code…basically, par 1

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