1567/2023 - A Man and the Limerick Post
The Press Ombudsman has decided not to uphold a complaint against the Limerick Post online (limerickpost.ie).
The complainant, who has requested that his name should not be used, stated that an article, the headline of which named him and stated that he “thought he would end up in jail” had breached Principle 1 (Truth and Accuracy) of the Code of Practice.
Principle 1.1 states that the press shall strive at all times for truth and accuracy, and Principle1.2, highlighted by the complainant, states that when “a significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distorted report” is published, it shall be “corrected promptly and with due prominence.” The complainant also sought an apology. This is provided for, if found to be appropriate, in Principle 1.3.
The article, published in March 2023, was based on comments the complainant made on a sports podcast. The report stated that after he was prevented from assisting players in a particular way during a game because of a rule, he said this was “absolutely ridiculous”. It reported him as saying: “I genuinely thought I was going to be escorted over to Mulgrave Street (Limerick Prison)” if he assisted the players. It reported him saying that he had been told “in no uncertain terms” about how the rule operated and that he thought it was “a disgrace”.
The complainant said the article had used his name and photograph along with a headline “which was not even a remote reflection of the article itself”. He said this had caused concern, worry and embarrassment to himself, his family, and his friends. He asked for a formal written apology from the Limerick Post. The article was only published on the website. In correspondence the complainant said the publication had used the headline “for clickbait purposes at the detriment to my name”.
The publication denied any breach of the Code. It said the article, and its headline, highlighted issues raised by the complainant in the podcast. It said the headline was a direct reference to what he had said, on the record, in the podcast. It said there was no significant inaccuracy or misleading statement and that the article contained no malice or prejudice.
It said the morning after the article was published online, the complainant had contacted the publication to express anger at the headline and to request it be changed. It said editors then discussed his displeasure and that while they did not believe any correction was needed they decided “in good faith” to remove the article from the website. The publication texted the complainant to inform him that given his feedback and his feelings, the article would be removed “without prejudice”. It said this was done within two hours of the complainant contacting the publication.
The Press Ombudsman is satisfied that the article strove for truth and accuracy in reporting on the comments made by the complainant during the podcast. The article conveys the complainant’s strong feelings about the issues he is addressing. It does not imply anything detrimental about him, and in fact the accompanying photograph is one that shows him at a moment of high popularity and achievement.
She is also satisfied that the headline fairly and without distortion represents the complainant’s meaning when he stated that he “genuinely thought” he was to be escorted to prison if he broke the rule. She notes that the opening line of the article contextualises the headline.
The Press Ombudsman finds no breach of Principle 1 and therefore no requirement for the publication to take any remedial action. Nevertheless, the Limerick Post removed the article promptly once the complainant informed it of his feelings.
26 May 2023