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Jo C.
Jo C., Barrister
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 69359
Experience:  Over 5 years in practice
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Hi a magazine approached me to write a true story on my family.

Customer Question

Hi a magazine approached me to write a true story on my family. Following written confirmation that I would be able to aprove every word before publication we went ahead with it. It was agreed that the magazine would pay us £1000 for our story which they did. When the story was read to me it was largely false with 19 errors, some of which have had personal and financial consequences for us. I wrote to the press complaints comission sfter getting no where with the magazine. Subseqently the magazine have accepted that they have breached the accuracy code of conduct and have asked us how we would like to proceed. We suggested a letter of apology and financial compensation. The PCC have informed us that the magazine have proposed that they will write a letter of apology and are happy to donate £100 to a charity of our choice. I don't feel comfortable with this as I feel that they are avoiding accepting responsibility for their incompetence. What should I do?
Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  Alex J. replied 3 years ago.
Hi,

Thank you for your question and welcome to Just Answer.

If you want financial compensation are you able to quantify exaclty what losses have been caused to you?

Kind regards

AJ
Customer: replied 3 years ago.
The following is a copy of the email with what I feel 'are my losses' and the editor has replied at the end of my message.


Dear Editor,

I am writing to you with regards XXXXX XXXXX story which was recently published in your magazine and would like to draw your attention to your code of practice, specifically code 1 (accuracy). One of your feature writers, Christina Earle, contacted me and my husband by letter on 2nd August 2012 in regards XXXXX XXXXX a feature on our wedding. The letter stated that; if we chose to engage in this process we would approve 'every single word that's written before it's published'. Still sceptical about engaging with your writer I asked for further clarification to confirm that the story would be true and written in good taste. Following this I received an email from Christina Earle stating "I know you were concerned That's Life would publish your story without your consent, this is not the case and under no circumstances will we do this." Christina Earle contacted me by telephone in August 2012 to take the details of our story from me and assured me that she would contact me by telephone in the next few weeks to read the story back to me, to ensure accuracy prior to publication.

Further to this I received a telephone call from Christina's colleague to discuss the photographs for the article, at this point I enquired as to when Christina would call me to read the story back. I was assured that Christina would contact me very soon although it was explained that this should have already been done. I finally received a call from Christina at the beginning of December 2012 to read the story back to me. The story Christina read had used some basic facts from the true story I had told her and our identities to create a work of fiction, which was inaccurate, insulting and demoralising. I explained that I was not happy with what she had done and would like her to correct the many inaccuracies she had read to me. Christina agreed that she would correct the story and then ring me back with the final story before publication. This did not happen and I was unable to contact Christina following this. On speaking to Christina's colleague 'Kate' who explained that Christina was no longer working for the magazine, I questioned who was following up our story prior to publication, and was told that the story had gone to print and it was too late to change it. I insisted that I still hear the story before I read it in print and although a few changes were made the story remained largely false and included some personal explicit details which were a complete fabrication. Kate did apologise to me and explained there was nothing she could do about the situation.

The following details are a list of some of the inaccuracies published about my family:

1. My children were not with me when I met Edward.

2. My daughter (Caitlin) was not 6 when I met Edward, she was 7 (I was still married to my ex-husband when my daughter was 6 and therefore this holds a separate issue of a legal nature)

3. I barely knew Edward at secondary school and expressed no opinion about how I felt about him.

4. I did not invite Edward in to my family home nor did I introduce him to my children for 2 months after we had met.

5. We did not 'spend all evening snogging on the sofa'. This point also contravenes my own professional code of conduct.

6. The children did not suggest we get married and the issue was never mentioned until Edward proposed to me.

7. My daughter was not obsessed with us getting married and the article is full of quotes suggesting this.

8. I did not go in to labour, I had a planned Cesarean section.

9. My daughter was not silent when she was born, we did not panic or scream and the doctors did not have to revive her.

10. My daughter did not weigh 6lb 3oz and she was not taken away from us.

11. Caitlin did not say 'Christina won't die because she wants to see her mummy and daddy get married'.

12. The doctor did not say we could lose her before the operation, they said we could lose her if she didn't have the operation.

13. The wedding was not discussed when Christina was ill.

14. Caitlin did not say 'Christina needs to be better for the wedding'.

15. We were not 'constantly in and out of hospital', we simply had a few checks and had to wait until Christina was 7 kilos.

16. I did not say that my daughter 'had to make it and that she had to be better for the wedding'.

17. Caitlin and Rhys were not escorted by our family friend Hazel to the BBC, they had an allocated chaperon employed by the BBC.

18. We did not have a horse and carriage at our wedding

19. We did not walk down an aisle to a choir of children.

There are far too many errors in this article to ignore and the implications of some of these errors have caused distress to numerous members of my family and have falsely described the symptoms and medical treatment in relation to my daughter Christina. Point 4 & 5 have also highlighted problems for me as a medical professional and I have also been advised by the PCC to contact my professional body to explain that this is being dealt with. Lastly I believe that the implications for my daughter Caitlin are also a very important issue which should not be overlooked. She is a bright girl and fully understands that she has been falsely quoted and is very upset at how she has been portrayed by your writer.

The focus of our story was meant to be on our wedding, instead it was a false account of our personal life which was years prior to the wedding. I believe that we have been mislead and falsely informed by your employee and that our identities have been used to exploit and humiliate our family. I have honoured Christina Earle's request not to speak to any other magazine and believe I have provided her with a story which was interesting enough not to add such detrimental and unnecessary elements, which were never agreed to for publication in the first place, by myself or my husband. An apology is not adequate and I trust that this complaint will be dealt with according to your professional framework, incorporating the principles you are expected to adhere to, with a view to achieving a more acceptable resolution.

Yours Sincerely,

Mrs Deborah Farrell BSc Hons, MCSP, HCPC

Response from editor..


I have now looked into the matter and I'm sorry to say that I accept there are inaccuracies in the story. I can only attribute this to a change of staff while the story was being written up and edited. The journalist who wrote the original story – Christina Earle – has now left the company.



At this stage, what would XXXXX XXXXXke us to do?


 


Further response..


 


the editor has offered to write a personal letter of apology to you, and to make a charitable donation of £100 to a charity of your choosing.


 


I’d be grateful if you could let me know whether you wish to accept this offer as a resolution to your complaint.


 


I hope somewhere in this message I have answered your question.


 


 



Customer: replied 3 years ago.

The site has just told me that my question has been opened to all experts. Should I wait or will this take a while?


 

Expert:  Jo C. replied 3 years ago.
I see my colleague has opted out.

Is it fair to say that you have not suffered financial loss?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.


I live in a small town and most of my business is by word of mouth. Since the publication I have had a significant reduction in clients and some have not returned. I have never had this before and I know it's nothing to do with my professional ability as I am very good at what I do. There are no other factors which have changed to affect my business in this way, and I know if I were to go to a health care professional I would be reluctant if this type of story was connected with them. I'm just not sure how I could prove this.

Expert:  Jo C. replied 3 years ago.
No, its difficult to quantify this type of damage and even harder to prove it.

On the face of it though, you are not really describing anything that a Court would be likely to think amounts to defamation. It would be different if they had accused you of some form of criminal offence or possibly serious irresponsible parenting.

They may well be in breach of the Code or they may not. Come what may the PPC doesn't fine newspapers or force them to pay compensation. They have no statutory power to do so.

I'm very sorry but the proposal of the magazine is a good one.

Sorry thats probably not the answer you wanted but it is the position that you have and I have a duty to give you truthful and accurate information even though its not what I want to say.

Hope this helps. Please rate my answer OK SERVICE or above and I can answer your related questions.
Jo C., Barrister
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 69359
Experience: Over 5 years in practice
Jo C. and other Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Remus 2004 - Thank you for answering my question.

Expert:  Jo C. replied 3 years ago.
No problem. All the best

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