Ethics adjudication on Loving Dalston article

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LOVING DALSTON here publishes the result of an adjudication on a complaint by the subject of a news report published on the site this year.

The article was removed from Loving Dalston while an adjudicator was sought. The Editor of the site later decided not to republish the article.

Loving Dalston has tried since its inception to get a neutral adjudication system in readiness, from either the National Union of Journalists, which publishes the Code of conduct that Loving Dalston requires all who write for it to observe, or the Press Complaints Commission (PCC). 

Neither agreed to adjudicate for a news website. The Editor had to seek adjudication elsewhere.

Stevie Benton, a media executive who works in London for one of the world’s leading online communications companies, agreed to adjudicate, with the caveat that it was made clear the matter had nothing to do with his employment.

He said: “It is worth noting that I should state that you and I have only met once and in a professional capacity. 

“We don’t have an existing relationship and I confirm that you contacted me as someone who works in, and has experience of, the communications industry. 

“It is also worth stating that this is my own view based on the evidence I’ve seen.”

The complainant and a family member, during telephone calls and emails with the Editor, alleged that the article:

* intruded into the complainant’s private life by making links between phases of that life;

* contained distorted information;

* breached the requirement of  item 5 of the NUJ that material be obtained by “honest, straightforward and open means”.

* did not make it clear that all the quotations came from a blog the complainant had published.

The adjudicator’s ruling: 

“After reviewing the blog and the article, it looks pretty clear that most of the information that you based the story on was already public via a blog by the complainant.”

He was, however, not clear about where several details in the Loving Dalston article, by the Editor, came from. A clarification could be useful.

It looked pretty clear that most of the information on which the writer based the story, was already public via the blog.

The article read as though it was based on an interview with the complainant, which it was not. Though it mentioned that one of the complainant’s quotes came from the blog, he thought that it was very clear that the article was based almost entirely on the blog as a source of the information. 

He added: “I would have expected to see a link to the blog, attributing it as the source.” 

“As for the Editors’ Code (PCC), section 1 (i) I don’t believe that the information is ‘inaccurate, misleading or distorted’ because the information appears to be factually correct. 

“I do, though, feel it would be easy to interpret the piece as the result of an interview but this is more to do with presentation of the information than the information itself.” 

“As for section 3 (i) covering respect for private and family life, since as far as I can see the information used in the story is already publicly available, I don’t see an intrusion here.

“In short, I understand the motivation for publishing the piece as a feel-good story relating to the locality, and praising the achievements of the complainant. I also understand  the complainant’s  anxiety, although I don’t think the piece resulted from any intrusion.”

Hamish Scott 010814 

* Emboldened underscored words in most cases indicate a hyperlink, a reader service rare among websites. If a link does not work, it is probably because the site to which the URL refers has not been maintained.

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