It is now two months, or 60 days, since Full Fact requested the Daily Express correct their front page article referring to rises in the FTSE 100. Full Fact has decided to abandon its pursuit of the correction, but nevertheless we hope an important point has been made.
Since its publication, we have sent nine emails and two phone calls to the newspaper, several of which were to the journalist who wrote the article. We have, without exception, received no response from the newspaper throughout this time.
Our experience of dealing with the newspaper has been draining, with no formal corrections procedure and no obvious point of contact. After we were eventually directed to consult the specific journalist, it was clear that time constraints due to other commitments prevented this person from adequately dealing with the issue.
It is all the more disappointing that this should happen after the Express’ Editor, Hugh Whittow, said in his statement to the Leveson Inquiry:
“I believe that ethics play a big role in the Daily Express and in print media I abide by strong moral values. I always want everything correct and proper and encourage my staff to follow this principle. We all adhere to the Editors Code of Practice. We behave and act responsibly and never cut corners”
There are important lessons to take out of this experience.
There is the obvious problem of the Express not being a part of the Press Complaints Commission (PCC), and despite the inadequacies of this organisation, it at least provided Full Fact and members of the public a means to set a complaint in motion against a newspaper. This demonstrates the pressing need for an improved and comprehensive formal system of complaints and corrections.
In addition, Full Fact’s evidence to the Leveson Inquiry emphasised that, even within the existing PCC, the ‘burden of proof’ when a case for correction is in progress falls upon the complainant rather than the publication. This means an often draining process where the complainant has to persevere to achieve anything close to an adequate redress for their concerns.
Finally it is worth bearing in mind that, where the Daily Express has fallen well short, other newspapers have begun to show genuine signs of good faith when it comes to corrections. The Sun, for instance, recently set up a ‘Readers’ Champion’ to deal with corrections, and the Daily Mail last year set up a dedicated corrections column.
All positive signs, but we still await the outcome of the Leveson Inquiry to learn exactly what the near future holds for press regulation and keeping all major newspapers, without exception, on board.