Two Newsquest titles which have been rapped by the Independent Press Standards Organisation have blamed an inaccuracy on a sub-editor “not reading the story properly” before writing the headline.
An online headline published on the Oxford Mail on 22 February read: “Controversial Carterton mayor Lynn Little forced to hand over chains.”
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The story said the mayor was due to “conclude five years in office following months of council infighting” and that, following a unanimous vote by councillors, another councillor would take on the role in May.
It reported that Little had recently suffered an “onslaught of criticism” from fellow councillors who had accused her of “misappropriating funds”, and that a motion had been carried to establish whether she would face legal action if she failed to return £4,835 paid out of the “Mayor’s Allowance Account” to “non charitable activities” between 2015 and 2017.
The story was published in print on 28 February under the headline: “Mayor set to hand over chains after months of controversy.”
The story was also published online and in print by sister weekly title the Witney Gazette.
Little complained to IPSO that the online headline was a breach of Clause 1 (accuracy) under the Editors’ Code of Practice because she was not “forced” to hand over her chains.
She told IPSO that her mayoral term was coming to an end, she had voluntarily made the decision not to run again, and that it was always her intention to complete her term this year.
The newspapers accepted that the online headline was inaccurate, telling IPSO: “This was a result of a sub-editor not reading the story properly before inserting the headline.”
The titles removed the word “forced” from the online headline and offered to publish a correction.
IPSO said the inaccuracy was “significant” because it “suggested that the complainant was involuntarily made to resign as mayor, as a result of the issues discussed in the article, which was not the case”.
The regulator accepted the newspapers’ offer of a resolution and ordered them to publish a correction which said: “While the story itself was accurate, it was wrong to say in the headline Cllr Mrs Lynn Little was forced to stand down from her position. In fact, she did so when her term came to a natural end.”
Little also complained about a number of other aspects of the articles –and another story published in each newspaper in May – which IPSO concluded were not breaches of the Editors’ Code.
The regulator said the online headline was entitled to describe Little as a “controversial” mayor, and that the article itself had accurately described the events around the end of her term.