Mr Brian Arnold and the Irish Independent
The Press Ombudsman has decided not to uphold a complaint by Mr Brian Arnold that an article in the Irish Independent was in breach of Principles 1 (Truth and Accuracy), 2 (Distinguishing Fact and Comment), 3 (Fairness and Honesty) and 8 (Prejudice) of the Code of Practice for Newspapers and Magazines.
The article, published on 16 November 2013, was headed “Concerns over discipline at €4K a year girls’ school”, and reported on a WSE (Whole School Evaluation) Report of the school, published by the Department of Education.
Mr Arnold complained that the article in question was distorted in the manner in which the report was presented, that it failed to show what he said was the overarching positive evaluation of the Department of Education, and in doing so appeared to show a prejudice with regard to the school.
The newspaper responded that it had reported accurately and fairly on the concerns expressed by a significant minority of parents to the school inspectors. It added that the inspectors had also reported many positive findings about the school, to which the newspaper had referred in considerable detail. It said that there was no basis for the complainant’s concern that the article appeared to show a prejudice towards the school.
In relation to the complaint under Principle 1 that the article presented a distorted report about the school, it should be noted that the right of a newspaper to publish what it considers to be news, and the right to comment on it, is a cornerstone of the Code of Practice. Decisions on what is newsworthy inevitably involve selection. The selection of facts by a newspaper may give rise to a perception of distortion but, under Principle 1 of the Code, any distortion has to be significant to amount to a breach of the Code.
In the opinion of the Press Ombudsman, the selection of the facts from the Department of Education’s report about this school, which highlighted a perception of some parents about a bullying issue at the school while referring – less prominently - to the fact that the inspectors had also found much to commend, did not distort the article’s presentation of what it considered to be newsworthy to the extent that would be required to uphold a decision that the article had been in breach of Principle 1 of the Code.
There was insufficient evidence that the article’s reference to the school as “one of the country’s most elite girls’ schools”, was a breach of Principle 2, or that it was unfair to a degree that would warrant a decision that it had breached Principle 3. There was no evidence of prejudice against the school on religious grounds that would support a decision under Principle 8.
11 February 2014