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Air traffic controller blogger drops press complaint following Irish Mail on Sunday apology

In January we reported how blogger Melanie Schregardus, an air traffic controller in Shannon, lodged a complaint and sought legal advice when the Irish Mail on Sunday reported, alongside her photograph, that she had ‘lifted the lid’ on a ‘den of male chauvinists’ in her workplace; a story she strongly disputed.

In a lengthy statement in January the newspaper defended its treatment of the story without apology.

But after Schregardus took the matter to the Irish Press Council, the newspaper agreed to print an apology. On Sunday February 21, it published this, on page 4:

In our edition of January 24, we published an article based on the contents of a blog written by Melanie Schregardus, an air traffic controller in Shannon.

The Irish Mail on Sunday was critical of the behaviour of her male colleagues, as described by Ms Schregardus in her blog, and labelled this behaviour as ‘sexist’.

Ms Schregardus has asked us to point out that our interpretation of her remarks does not reflect her personal views.

While the Irish Mail on Sunday did contact Ms Schregardus prior to publication to ask for an interview in relation to the controllers’ industrial action of the previous week, it was not made clear to her during those contacts that there was a proposed article that would focus on the contents of her blog. This error was a breach of our own policy and is deeply regretted.

Thus while the Irish Mail on Sunday stands over its story, we would nevertheless like to apologise to Ms Schregardus for not informing her in advance that we planned to report on her blog.

Ms Schregardus has asked us to point out that she is very happy and fulfilled in her job, and that her colleagues, both male and female, are of the highest calibre as fellow workers and personal friends.

Schregardus has written more about the process on her blog.

While she says she is unhappy that she did not see the final version of the apology before it was printed, she will now drop her complaint:

After some further discussion and reflection, my family and I decided to accept this clarification as the end of the matter. After all, the Mail had been forced to apologise and clarify, warned about its conduct, and the journalist in question had been disciplined.

She also commends her readers’ support following the article, and the influence of online users in challenging mainstream media reports:

As many people read my original blogpost as actually buy the Mail on Sunday every weekend, and that’s thanks to all of you who helped get my side of the story out there. I’m not one for big reflections on the world, but it seems to me that we are reaching a point where – thanks to the power of the internet – the media have to think twice before pursuing an ordinary person, and that’s a good thing.

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  • Brian

    How nice to see the Irish Mail on Sunday use a word like “Apologise” – and so many times over the past few weeks! But they do say practice makes perfect, though they have not quite mastered the art just yet. Here, they apologise for not contacting Ms Schregardus in advance to inform her they were about to take selected comments from her humorous Blog, put their own spin on them and report them as her secret opinions of friends and fellow workers – all the while pretending to her that they were looking for “an interview in relation to the controllers’ industrial action of the previous week”. Even Journalism.co.uk were misled – witness their well-intentioned report above, which opens with the sentence “But after Schregardus took the matter to the Irish Press Council, the newspaper agreed to print an apology”. No, after Ms Schregardus produced the actual Tweets from the Mail’s reporter specifically requesting “…to interview an ATC (Air Traffic Controller) for a piece I’m doing re strikes” and “Has there been an agreement? I’m finding it difficult to get ATC side of argument affecting the balance of my research”. Ms Schregardus, quite rightly, referred the reporter, Luke Byrne, to her union for information – which presumably did nothing to improve his mood. The production of the actual Tweets (her only communication from the reporter) completely deflated the pompous rebuttal of Mail Managing Editor Paul Drury who is on record as saying “Mr Byrne came across your Blog in the course of his normal journalistic research (!) and attempted to contact you with a view to doing a full interview about your experiences and about the opinions you had expressed about your male colleagues”. And Mail Editor Sebastian Hamilton jumped onboard the sinking ship of Mail credibility regarding her Blog with “It is simply untrue to say that the paper did not contact Mrs Schregardus before publication. Luke Byrne attempted to contact Ms Schregardus and asked her for an interview”.
    Now, apart from its newfound fondness for the use of the word “apologise”, the Mail is infatuated with their signature four-letter-word “Liar”. They can’t get enough of it – 144pt, 288pt it just makes bigger headlines everyday. So, given the “empirical” (thank you Mr Drury) statements made by the Editor and Managing Editor, should we be using the word as liberally? Should we be screaming “Liar Editor” or “Drury, You Liar”? Well, no, where we learned our trade journalists did not resort to such infantile name-calling. And where does that Ace Reporter, Luke Byrne, fresh from his scavenging of the Blogs and Bins of the sparkling VIPs and the humble ATCs, where does he fit in to all of this line-up of – a word beginning with “L” and rhyming with pork pie-ers…? Did he lie to the great Sebastian and the eminent Drury, leaving them open to ridicule by their betters? Unthinkable. Experienced journalists like Messrs Drury and Hamilton would check their sources before committing themselves so vociferously in public – wouldn’t they…? Shouldn’t they? After all, they howled in derision at the notion of an non-professional Blogger expecting her amateur’s jottings NOT to be held up for their dissection and reinterpretation – despite her inclusion of numerous ‘Smileys’ to indicate she was being playful. Byrne, the hapless scourer of Blogs, Bins and Bits, has – the Irish Press Society are assured – been “disciplined”. But doesn’t the responsibility for everything appearing in a newspaper ultimately rest with the Editor? And isn’t the Editor (and Managing Editor) supposed to check their sources before going in to bat for their publication? Could that mean there soon will be two large bodies falling on their ceremonial fountain pens in the Mail offices, leaving two very large empty seats to be filled by, well, watch-out for recruitment notices at your local bingo hall very soon…!

  • Thanks for your comment Brian, but I don’t accept that Journalism.co.uk was “misled”. The apology was offered following Melanie Schregardus’ complaint to the PC. According to her own blog, she says:

    “The Mail’s original response to my complaint resulted in a reply from Paul Drury (Managing Editor) stating .. ‘I do not accept that there is anything for us to retract or that we have done anything we should apologise for’. At this stage we lodged a complaint with the Press Council.”

    “After the PC received our complaint, they obviously contacted the Mail on Sunday, and within a very short period, they responded to us with this:

    ‘Mr Drury is anxious to resolve your complaint to your satisfaction, and in this regard has offered to publish an agreed apology and clarification about the article published on 24 January…'”

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