PCC Complaint. The Daily Mail, 6th May 2011 – NOT UPHELD
“Cannabis-smoking heroin addict almost stabbed millionaire’s wife to death in random attack as she walked her dog”, The Daily Mail, 06-05-11
I wish to make a complaint concerning the above article which is still available online at: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1384329/Cannabis-smoking-heroin-addict-stabbed-millionaires-wife-death-random-attack-walked-dog.html
I make the complaint on my account but also in my capacity as the Leader of Cannabis Law Reform, a political party, of P.O.Box 674, Salfords, RH1 9BN. For the purposes of correspondence, please use my personal address as below.
1. This article breaches the Editors’ Code Of Practice clause 1.i) in that it publishes misleading and distorted information.
2. It also breaches clause 1.iii) in that it fails to distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.
3. The article is presented as a news story, not an opinion piece. It should therefore be concerned only with facts – unless comment or conjecture is clearly distinguished.
4. The article confuses comment and conjecture with fact. It subverts factual reporting by highlighting Nicholas Killen’s cannabis smoking in preference to other facts – which is the expression of an opinion. Although it does mention his heroin addiction, it refers to his cannabis smoking more often. It self-evidently seeks to imply that his cannabis use was in some way connected with his actions. This is conjecture but is not distinguished as such. The article therefore fails to distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact. It also presents facts in a way which is misleading.
I would be grateful if you would deal with this complaint at your earliest convenience. I shall be happy to provide any further information required or to give oral evidence in support.
—– Original Message —–
From: Elizabeth Cobbe
Sent: Wednesday, June 15, 2011 6:17 PM
Subject: PCC Ref 112235
Commission’s decision in the case of
Reynolds v Daily Mail
The complainant was concerned that the newspaper presented an opinion as fact by placing emphasis on Nicholas Killen’s cannabis use, which implied that his use of the substance was connected with his actions.
Under the terms of Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Code, newspapers must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information. Given there was no dispute that Mr Killen used cannabis, the Commission considered – as it had made clear on a previous occasion – that newspapers were entitled to make reference to the individual’s use of the substance. The headline and body of the article made clear that he also used heroin – stating that he was a “long term heroin addict” – and, as such, it did not consider that readers would be misled into understanding that cannabis was the only substance used by the individual. The Commission did not agree that making reference to the individual’s use of cannabis was an assertion of an opinion – it was a statement of fact that he used the drug and, indeed, had been sentenced for possession of it. Furthermore, the Commission did not consider that making reference to his cannabis use equated to a statement of fact that it had been established that the drug was the reason for his actions. In the circumstances, the Commission could not establish that Clause 1 (i) or (iii) of the Editors’ Code of Practice had been breached by the newspaper.