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March 29 2010

21:46

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)


17:09

PCC upholds complaint over Rod Liddle’s Spectator post; first ever blog censure

Just in from the Press Complaints Commission: its first ever magazine/newspaper blog censure – for Rod Liddle’s 92 word Spectator post on 5 December 2009, that claimed an “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”. A reader’s complaint of inaccuracy was upheld.

“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,” said PCC director, Stephen Abell.

“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.”

Here’s the PCC’s statement:

The Press Complaints Commission has upheld a complaint about an entry by Rod Liddle in his blog for the Spectator.  This is the first time that the PCC has censured a newspaper or magazine over the content of a journalistic blog.

The piece in question was published on 5 December 2009 and 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”.  A reader complained that the statement was incorrect.

In concluding that the article was indeed in breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice, the PCC recognised the magazine’s argument that the nature of a blog post is often provocative and conducive to discussion.  It was certainly true in this case, for example, that a number of readers had taken issue with Mr Liddle’s claim and had commented on the blog.

However, the Commission did not agree that the magazine could rely on publishing critical reaction as a way of abrogating its responsibilities under the Code.  While it had provided some evidence to back up Mr Liddle’s position, it had not been able to demonstrate that the ‘overwhelming majority’ of crime in all the stated categories had been carried out by members of the African-Caribbean community.

Nor could it successfully argue that the claim was purely the columnist’s opinion – rather, it was a statement of fact.  As such, the Commission believed that ”the onus was on the magazine to ensure that it was corrected authoritatively online”.  In the absence of such remedial action the Commission upheld the complaint.

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