Argus apologises to BBC producer – a note on media transparency

UK local newspaper title the Brighton Argus has published an apology on its website to Martyn Smith, the Bafta-nominated TV director, producer and writer, after wrongly identifying him its story Brighton TV producer escapes jail for “repulsive” child porn collection.

 The Argus has offered an unreserved apology and to its credit published it online at 7:15pm on 22 December – just over 24 hours after the story was published. The original story also appears to have been taken down from the site, though a cached version remains in Google News.

Interestingly the story is (at time of writing) the third most popular story on the paper’s website – good news for the wrongly identified subject?

This, and an excellent post from Andy Dickinson, made me consider how online tools on newspaper websites (such as traffic counts and commenting systems) can be used for transparency in such cases.

Dickinson’s post refers to a recent apology by the Northumberland Gazette – a Johnston Press title that has a pay wall in place on its website. The apology in this case was published behind the pay wall.

Whether this was purposeful or an oversight, it suggests that pay walls will throw up problems for newspapers, transparency and the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) with regards to its recommendations for publishing apologies and corrections, says Dickinson.

If I am going to pay someone for this stuff then one of the things I should want to know is just how accurate their content is and how transparent they are.

I for one would like to see all corrections and clarifications made free and visible on all parts of media orgs websites before the paywall. That way I can make an informed choice.

What other simple tools or processes should online newspapers be using to encourage transparency?

2 thoughts on “Argus apologises to BBC producer – a note on media transparency

  1. simon hb

    More seriously, if the idea is a paywall is being erected to ‘protect’ news and the information, the relationship between website and reader shifts. Let’s say I make a micropayment of 15p to read a piece that turns out to be false – should I not get my 15p back?

    And what if the falsehood is libelous? If, say, The Sun published its Elton John’s dogs stories behind a paywall, directly making money off a libel, what happens then?

  2. localhack

    Just a quick note – as a quick Google shows, The Argus was one of many online newspapers, including the Telegraph and the Mirror, which carried this apology, as the copy came from the Press Association.

    (Interestingly, although the BBC itself reported the story with the same error, no apology seems to have appeared on its site.)

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