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UK press watchdog reprimands blog for first time

The press watchdog in the UK has ruled that journalistic blogs have to meet the same standards as content appearing in print.

The Press Complaints Commission upheld a complaint against a 92-word blog post by Rod Liddle published on The Spectator’s website.

In the entry, Liddle claimed that “the overwhelming majority of street crime, knife crime, gun crime, robbery and crimes of sexual violence in London is carried out by young men from the African-Caribbean community”.

The PCC ruled that the entry “contained inaccurate information in breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice”.

The Spectator had argued that blogging was a conversational medium in which readers were able to disagree with the writer’s opinion immediately. It sought to persuade the PCC that it should consider the comments, as well as the entry itself.

The press watchdog acknowledged that blog posts are often provocative and conducive to discussion. But it said that the magazine still had a responsibility to accuracy, even though people could comment and dispute Liddle’s assertion on the post itself.

It also insisted that the assertion could not be considered Liddle’s opinion, but rather a statement of fact.

PCC director Stephen Abell, said:

This is a significant ruling because it shows that the PCC expects the same standards in newspaper and magazine blogs that it would expect in comment pieces that appear in print editions. There is plenty of room for robust opinions, views and commentary but statements of fact must still be substantiated if and when they are disputed. And if substantiation isn’t possible, there should be proper correction by the newspaper or magazine in question.

The ruling is  a clear signal to the media in the UK that the same rules apply in journalistic blogs as in other published material.  Blogs are not an excuse for sloppy journalism, but rather a medium that allows for a more personal, informal and at times opinionated form of journalism.

(Via Journalism.co.uk)

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