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January 10, 2019updated 30 Sep 2022 7:07am

Left-wing website The Canary most complained about Impress-regulated publication of 2017/18

By Charlotte Tobitt

The Canary was the most complained about Impress member of 2017/18, according to the alternative press regulator’s annual report.

A total of 58 people contacted Impress to complain about The Canary, which joined Impress in August 2017. The left-wing website was contacted directly by 29 people over 24 articles. Two complaints were upheld against it.

Among the Canary stories complained about was one falsely claiming BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg was due to speak at the 2017 Conservative Party Conference, and an article wrongly claiming a fracking company had been caught using “false information” to sway a council vote in its favour.

Scroll down for table of complaints to Impress in 2017/18

Drew Rose, managing director at The Canary, said: “We are pleased to be regulated by Impress and have enjoyed an excellent partnership with them in dealing with two escalated complaints.

“The number of complaints received should be viewed in context of the number of articles we publish – over 9,000 since our launch in 2015. Our rate of publication is far higher than most of the outlets regulated by Impress so it is difficult to make a meaningful comparison based on absolute numbers.

“We continue to deal with complaints and corrections in a timely and transparent manner. Our corrections are made public, being pinned to the top of our Facebook page for at least 24 hours.”

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Impress upheld three complaints against Skwawkbox in the year up to 31 March 2018, the most of any member over the period. The same number of complaints were dismissed.

The left-wing website, a rival to the Canary, only joined Impress part-way through the period in October 2017.

Skwawkbox editor Steve Walker said the website had published almost 3,000 articles in the last two years.

Of the three upheld complaints, Walker said one had been partially upheld, while Impress agreed the website had taken “reasonable steps to ensure accuracy” in another, and in the third “agreed that all the facts were stated correctly but subjectively disagreed with the way they were presented”.

“Of the six complaints [escalated to Impress], five came from a single individual, who makes no secret of being a supporter of the Conservative party,” he said.

“The Skwawkbox focuses on areas that are highly likely to be highly politicised and contentious. The blog holds power to account, which is inconvenient to many…

“Impress’ adjudications are not perfect and sometimes err on the side of upholding complaints even while the detail of the adjudication acknowledges an article’s accuracy or the reasonable efforts made to ensure accuracy.

“However, it remains the UK’s only effective, independent regulator. Two complaints upheld and one partial, in two years across 3,000 articles, speaks volumes about the Skwawkbox’s rigour and accuracy.”

Independent crowdfunded website Byline also had 29 complaints sent to it directly, relating to seven articles, but only nine people contacted Impress with complaints about the website.

Impress upheld one complaint against Byline during the 2017/18 period, dismissing three others.

The alternative regulator found that Byline breached accuracy standards in a story about a police investigation into child sex abuse allegations against former Prime Minister Sir Edward Heath.

Byline Media director Peter Jukes told Press Gazette: “Byline continues its tradition of fearless independent journalism for a third year.

“Any news organisation which tells the stories the powerful don’t want you to hear will face complaints.

“Though our crowdfunded writers publish autonomously, Byline always responds swiftly to complaints and tries to seek a resolution. Journalism is the first draft of history so mistakes and corrections are inevitable.

“When it comes to our in-house investigations team, which has exposed major abuses of press power, we have fought off a legal threat from Paul Dacre and our record of articles on remains unblemished. ”

Skwawkbox, The Canary and Byline were the only three publications to have complaints upheld against them by Impress during the period concerned. Impress regulated 64 publishers of 109 titles at the time of writing the annual report.

In total, Impress was contacted by 95 complainants during 2017 to 2018, with 18 complaints about 17 articles escalated to an investigation.

Impress chairman Walter Merricks said the regulator has “begun to demonstrate our regulatory independent and effectiveness” through its investigations, which resulted in five front page corrections.

In September, rival regulator the Independent Press Standards Organisation revealed that the Sun was the most complained about daily newspaper in 2017 with 4,847 complaints – more than half of which related to one story.

Mail Online was the news website which received the most complaints (3,536) while The Mail on Sunday was the most complained about Sunday newspaper with 1,452 complaints in 2017.

IPSO pointed out an “unsurprising” correlation between the newspapers with the largest circulations and those with the most complaints.

Read Impress’s full annual report for 2017/18.

All the publications about which complainants contacted Impress in the year to 31 March 2018:

Publication Complaints made to publisher Articles complained about to publisher Complainants contacting Impress Complaints escalated to Impress Articles complained about escalated to Impress Complaints upheld Complaints dismissed
The Canary 29 24 58 3 2 2 0
Skwawkbox 7 7 9 6 6 3 3
Byline 29 7 7 4 4 1 3
Evolve Politics 4 4 7 0 0 0 0
Llanelli Online 4 4 4 3 3 0 3
The Lincolnite 2 2 3 0 0 0 0
Your Thurrock 1 1 2 1 1 0 1
Derby News 1 1 2 0 0 0 0
Caerphilly Observer (no longer regulated by Impress) N/A N/A 1 1 1 0 1
Hastings Online Times 0 0 1 0 0 0 0
On The Wight News 0 0 1 0 0 0 0

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