And the PCC’s decision is in on the Dunblane splash…

Press Complaints Commission, Adjudication: Ms Mullan, Mr Weir & Ms Campbell v Scottish Sunday Express:

Ms Elizabeth Mullan, Mr Robert Weir & Ms Morag Campbell complained to the Press Complaints Commission that an article headlined “Anniversary shame of Dunblane survivors”, published in the Scottish Sunday Express on 8 March 2009, intruded into their sons’ private lives in breach of Clause 3 (Privacy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice.

The complaint was upheld. […]

[The boys] had done nothing to warrant media scrutiny, and the images appeared to have been taken out of context and presented in a way that was designed to humiliate or embarrass them. Even if the images were available freely online, the way they were used – when there was no particular reason for the boys to be in the news – represented a fundamental failure to respect their private lives. Publication represented a serious error of judgement on the part of the newspaper.

Although the editor had taken steps to resolve the complaint, and rightly published an apology, the breach of the Code was so serious that no apology could remedy it.

And that’s where the judgement ends, because that’s where the PCC’s powers end. But then, we already knew that press self-regulation doesn’t work: if judgements like these had any value, newspapers would avoid them by not publishing cheap, intrusive, salacious pieces in the first place. The PCC is right at least that an apology can’t remedy the damage already done. It’s also highly unlikely to dissuade future journalists from commiting more damage of the same kind.

(I originally blogged here on the Express’ Dunblane story and the reaction to it.)

© Sarah Ditum 2009.

5 thoughts on “And the PCC’s decision is in on the Dunblane splash…

  1. Here here. Amen and hallelujah.

    Your completely right, though, that the PCC ultimately shows itself to be a toothless, impotent tsk-tsker, when real action — punishment and, preferably, deterrent — is what is really required.

    And so here is where we leave Reason and think of horrible things we can do to both the ‘reporter’ and the editor, involving rusted, antique dental implements.

    None of this I would have known about, incidentally, if it hadn’t been for your excellent blogging on it. The mainstream press, I guess, likes to cover each others’ backs. Thanks for all the info!

  2. Yes, I’d agree that the PCC is pretty toothless. I have faint hopes that someone will one day take note of groups such as the Media Standards Trust and their suggestions for reform. I sent some suggestions to their director (Martin Moore) back in March regarding reform of the PCC. I *think* the MST are conducting a review at the moment and are/were asking for comments, experiences, and suggestions.

  3. There is a letter in the current edition of the NUJ magazine defending the reporter who wrote this story.
    I guess everyone who had a hand in this travesty of an article needs to take a long look at themselves and we shouldn’t scapegoat individuals.
    But defending the reporter kinda misses the point about who the victims are here.

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