The Mail and intrusion into grief: an isolated incident? – Martin Moore

5 10 2013

Daily_Mail_clock,_closeupPCCWhen a Mail on Sunday journalist intruded on a private memorial service for Ed Miliband’s uncle the editor of the Mail on Sunday, Geordie Grieg, apologised and suspended two journalists. It was a ‘terrible lapse of judgment’ he wrote, and said that it was ‘completely contrary to the values and editorial standards of the Mail on Sunday’.

There was speculation, however, that his editor-in-chief, Paul Dacre, tried to stop Grieg apologising (‘Mail on Sunday apologises to Miliband after reporter turns up at memorial‘).

This may be because, unlike the Mail on Sunday, it would be more difficult for Paul Dacre to claim that such actions were completely contrary to the values and editorial standards of the Daily Mail.

Why? Because based on the evidence of formal complaints made to the Press Complaints Commission, the Daily Mail has a track record when it comes to intruding into grief.

Even during the Leveson Inquiry itself, from November 2011 to December 2012, the Daily Mail found itself having to apologise and publish corrections for intruding into grief on nine separate occasions. This is three times more than any other national newspaper during this period.

In most cases the Daily Mail resolved the issues privately through a letter, a donation to charity, and removal of the offending article from its website. But then, a month or so later, it did a similar thing again.

Here is a list of the nine cases, with brief summaries attached – most taken directly from the PCC website (with links).

Formal complaints to the Press Complaints Commission about intrusion into grief between November 2011 and December 2012*

(does not include complaints resolved directly with the newspaper or coverage/intrustion where no formal complaint was made, and does not include complaints made about other breaches of the code)

December 2012: the father of 17-year-old Edmund Smith, who tragically committed suicide, received a private letter from the Daily Mail and a contribution from the paper to charity after he made a complaint under Clauses 1 (Accuracy), 3 (Privacy), 4 (Harassment), 5 (Intrusion into grief or shock), 6 (Children) and 10 (Clandestine devices and subterfuge).
PCC link: http://www.pcc.org.uk/news/index.html?article=ODE2Mw==

November 2012: The Diarrassouba family complained to the Press Complaints Commission that the newspaper had published an article following the death of her brother [sic] which, in addition to being intrusive and insensitive in breach of Clause 5 (Intrusion into grief or shock), wrongly reported that he had been shop-lifting at the time of his death in breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy). The Daily Mail sent a private letter of apology to the complainant, altered the online article, and published an apology on its website.
PCC link: http://www.pcc.org.uk/news/index.html?article=ODA5Nw==

October 2012: the Daily Mail falsely suggested a link between substance abuse and the tragic death of 15-year-old Harry Harling, in addition to other inaccuracies. A complaint was made on behalf of Harry Harling’s parents to the PCC that the Mail had breached the terms of Clauses 1 (Accuracy), 3 (Privacy), 5 (Intrusion into grief or shock) and 6 (Children). The Daily Mail removed the online article, sent a private letter of apology, made a charitable donation and published an apology on page 2 apology of the paper.
http://www.pcc.org.uk/news/index.html?article=ODAyOA==

September 2012: the family of Rosie Whitaker, who died tragically, complained to the Press Complaints Commission that the newspaper had published an article in breach of Clauses 1 (Accuracy), 3 (Privacy), and 5 (Intrusion into grief and shock). The Daily Mail changed the article online, removed photographs of Rosie Whittaker and made a donation to the Rosie Whitaker Memorial Fund.
http://www.pcc.org.uk/news/index.html?article=ODAyNA==

August 2012: a complaint was made to the PCC about the Daily Mail’s reporting of the death of 9-year-old, Kaian Burford under Clauses 3 (Privacy) and 5 (Intrusion into grief or shock). The Daily Mail removed the photographs from the article.
http://www.pcc.org.uk/news/index.html?article=Nzk1OA==

June 2012: Ms Lindsay Greenway complained to the Press Complaints Commission that an article in the Daily Mail, which reported the death of her sister, had breached the terms of Clauses 1 (Accuracy), 3 (Privacy) and 5 (Intrusion into grief or shock). The Daily Mail removed the online article.
http://www.pcc.org.uk/news/index.html?article=Nzg5Mw==

March 2012: A man (who wished to remain anonymous) complained to the Press Complaints Commission that the newspaper had intruded into his grief and his privacy by publishing an article following his mother’s death, which named her and included photographs of their house. The Daily Mail removed the online article.
http://www.pcc.org.uk/news/index.html?article=Nzc1NA==

February 2012: Nathalie Dye complained to the Press Complaints Commission that the newspaper had published inaccurate and insensitive information in several articles on its website about her late husband, Michael Dye, shortly after his death, in breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy) and Clause 5 (Intrusion into grief or shock). The Daily Mail sent a private letter of regret, removed several articles from its website, and appended a correction and apology to four articles about the complainant’s husband.
http://www.pcc.org.uk/news/index.html?article=NzY2Mg==

November 2011: Mrs Maria Blamires, mother of Suzanne Blamires, complained to the Press Complaints Commission that the newspaper had breached Clause 5 (Intrusion into grief or shock) of the Editors’ Code by publishing stills taken from the CCTV footage of her daughter’s murder by serial killer Stephen Griffiths. The pictures showed her daughter shortly before her death and her killer after the murder. The matter was resolved privately between the parties.
http://www.pcc.org.uk/news/index.html?article=NzQ4Ng==

Shortly before the Leveson Inquiry, in an incident with echoes of the Miliband memorial service, the Daily Mail visited the house of Mrs Vicky Cattell following her daughter’s funeral and only left after being repeatedly asked (PCC record here).

* these are the dates the complaints were resolved by the PCC. It is not clear exactly when each complaint was made or the articles to which they refer published.

You can see all 438 PCC published cases of intrusion into grief from 1997 to the end of 2012 at www.presscomplaints.org.

Martin Moore is the Director of the Media Standards Trust.  This post was originally published on the Media Standards Trust website.

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One response

6 10 2013
Tim Gopsill

It’s not clear me why the PCC should have ruled against some of these. There are obviously details that can’t be included in these summaries but on the face of it most do not involve intrusion into grief at all, but publishing material that a grieving family didn’t like, which is not the same thing. The Cattell case does involve blatant intrusion but how is this “echoed” in the new MoS case? A memorial service, even a “private” one, is not a private home. It is an event where someone’s life is celebrated. How can having a reporter attend be an intrusion into anyone’s grief?
So, 3 points: (1) A lot of generally unsavoury behaviours seem to become subsumed into “intrusion into grief” (and privacy for that matter) which has become a taboo. There is nothing wrong with going to a memorial service provided the reporter is polite (but his or her conduct is then a separate matter) nor in what the Mail apparently did in about half of these cases … but (2) the paper “settled” with innocuous concessions just to get the complainers off their back because the taboo makes it impossible to defend rationally, and (3) decisions on such matter are determined by political rather than professional considerations. Greig and Rothermere made their apology because it was politically expedient and had the side effect of further isolating Dacre, whom both want to get rid of but can’t because he’s too damn successful.

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