IPSO rejects complaint over Liz Jones column in Mail on Sunday - but censures Mail Online for web version - Press Gazette

IPSO rejects complaint over Liz Jones column in Mail on Sunday - but censures Mail Online for web version

The Independent Press Standards Organisation has upheld a complaint against Mail Online but rejected it against The Mail on Sunday over the same article.

The Mail on Sunday asked that the complaints, over a Liz Jones article from 19 October 2014 headlined "The disabled make good staff – unlike baldies with beer bellies", be handled separately. It pointed out the two titles are under separate editorial control.

In the comment piece Jones revealed that she had four "hearing dogs".

The Mail Online version of the article included a photograph of a dog wearing a "Hearing Dogs for Deaf People" vest, captioned “Home help: ‘I have four hearing dogs that are trained to create a commotion if my fire alarm goes off’”.

Faith Clark complained on behalf of the charity Hearing Dogs for Deaf People that the article gave the inaccurate impression that the columnist has four specially-trained assistance dogs.

She said the implication that the charity would supply four dogs to one owner was damaging as it suggested the charity was wasting resources.

She also said the dogs are not trained to "cause a commotion", as the article said, but to convey information by touch.

She said that Jones had been contacted by the charity in 2013 and asked not to describe her dogs as "hearing dogs".

She was also concerned that picture remained for “several days” after the story had been published.

Mail Online said that Jones's dogs were trained by canine behaviour experts and said the term "hearing dog" was a generic description.

It said that the article did not state that the dogs had been provided by a charity and that the photograph provided was a generic one.

Once it had received the complaint, Mail Online changed the caption of the photograph to: “A dog highly trained by the charity Hearing Dogs for Deaf People. Liz Jones’s dogs are not ‘qualified’ in the same way".

And it added a footnote that stated: “We are happy to make clear that when Liz Jones referred to her four dogs as ‘hearing dogs’ she did not intend to imply that the dogs had been trained and supplied by the charity Hearing Dogs for Deaf People”. The photograph was later removed altogether.

 The IPSO complaints committee found that the use of the image and accompanying caption gave the" significantly misleading impression" that the dogs had been provided by the charity.

 Having upheld the complaint, the committee said that the removal of the photo and the addition of the footnote was sufficient remedial action.

The complaint against The Mail on Sunday, which did not use the same photo as Mail Online, was rejected.

IPSO said it was not misleading for Jones describe her animals as "hearing dogs".



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Author: Dominic Ponsford

Dominic Ponsford is the editor of Press Gazette