The Jewish Chronicle has said it “will never be cowed by attempts to bully us into silence” as press regulator IPSO responded to a new call for a standards investigation into the newspaper.
The Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO), which regulates the Jewish Chronicle, said it has “engaged positively” with the newspaper and did not suggest it was preparing to launch an investigation into its editorial standards.
A group of 15 people who have won IPSO complaints or libel settlements against the Jewish Chronicle since 2018 have written to the regulator asking for the second time for it to launch a standards investigation in response to what they alleged to be “bad journalism and bad editorial conduct”.
A Jewish Chronicle spokesperson told Press Gazette in response: “During the pandemic, the Jewish Chronicle, the world’s oldest Jewish newspaper, was almost forced to close. Happily, it was bought by a new consortium which went on to provide much-needed investment.
“We have since rebuilt our team under a new editor and, with input from IPSO, have introduced robust systems for dealing with complaints and avoiding inaccuracies. We are proud of our investigative journalism, which has a huge impact, with many stories followed up by other national publications.
“In a climate of rising antisemitism, we will never be cowed by attempts to bully us into silence.”
And IPSO said: “We have engaged positively with the Jewish Chronicle in recent months. We continue to monitor editorial standards at the publication. The decision on whether to launch a formal standards investigation would be made by the IPSO board.”
Update on 2 October: IPSO chairman Lord Faulks has now responded in a letter to the group of complainants, saying it has “continued to monitor the editorial standards at the Jewish Chronicle over recent months – including the complaints that are active against the publication, and those that have been upheld by the Complaints Committee.
“We are very much alive to the standards issues at the Jewish Chronicle and the effect editorial failings at the publication have had. When we have identified editorial standards concerns at the Jewish Chronicle – or any other publication we regulate – we move swiftly to address them. An important part of our approach is to work proactively to support editors and journalists to meet our standards. We will continue to act proportionately and flexibly to address editorial standards issues and tailor our approach to the context.”
The group of complainants first wrote to IPSO calling for an investigation in August 2021, citing four libel payouts and nine complaints upheld at least in part between July 2018 and July 2021. The regulator ultimately decided it would not be “proportionate” to launch a formal probe before the effects of recent training it had carried out with the Jewish Chronicle’s journalists could be assessed.
IPSO chairman Lord Faulks also pointed in this decision to the newspaper’s change in ownership in 2020 and change in editorship at the end of 2021 as Stephen Pollard stepped down as editor after 13 years, with his deputy Jake Wallis Simons taking charge.
Since December 2021, there have been three upheld IPSO complaints around accuracy made against the Jewish Chronicle. One article in September 2022, in which the newspaper inaccurately reported a Rabbi had said “the figures for how many people who died in the Holocaust are exaggerated”, resulted in IPSO’s complaints committee sharing concerns with its standards team, which in turn raised them with the IPSO board.
The concerns raised included that the newspaper was made aware before publication both online and in print that a retraction of the claim had previously been published, and that the Rabbi disputed the online version but the inaccuracy still went to print. The publication verbally apologised to the Rabbi, removed the disputed claim from the online article and published a clarification, but IPSO said the apology should be printed and a correction should have been offered more promptly.
That ruling said: “The Committee expressed significant concerns about the newspaper’s conduct prior to publication and the absence of a published apology as part of the remedial action which had been taken. The Committee considered that the publication’s conduct was unacceptable, and their concerns were drawn to the attention of IPSO’s Standards department.”
In April, an external review of IPSO said the regulator had successfully improved standards at the Jewish Chronicle “through guidance and training” and that this result showed that the likelihood of it launching any standards investigation in future was “remote”.
But the complainants argued in the new letter that the most recently upheld complaints showed “IPSO is getting nowhere with the Jewish Chronicle and that a stronger response is needed”.
In April 2020 the Jewish Chronicle was taken over by a consortium of business and media figures led by former Number 10 communications director Sir Robbie Gibb after the former owner, the Kessler Foundation, put it into liquidation.
A charitable trust was created to oversee the newspaper, with trustees appointed who “command the respect of the community”, and then-editor Pollard said the new backers were “committed to investing in journalism and to making the JC and thejc.com even better and more essential reads”.
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