Call for PCC to take on journalists' complaints

Andrew Gold

 

Former Sunday Mail journalist Andrew Gold, whose complaint to the Press Complaints Commission against Scotland on Sunday failed to get a hearing, has suggested the watchdog should set up a special panel to look at complaints from journalists.

In a letter to PCC chairman Lord Wakeham, Gold said: "I fully understand that the PCC does not wish to get involved in inter-industry disputes.

"However, I believe there should be a small group set up not to examine journalistic complaints but simply to determine fairness and justice is ensured. Can I suggest the setting up of a panel of perhaps three senior members to deal with my type of situation?"

He suggests the panel could examine a probe by a newspaper which left a complainant dissatisfied.

"As a result, a publication might be censured about the fairness of their investigation and asked to examine issues internally once again. I also believe the PCC should give guidelines to papers about the format of these investigations, which I believe should be held under the scrutiny of a suitable professional not employed by the organisation holding the investigation," Gold wrote.

After the PCC said it could not deal with his complaint – the SoS article called him "one of the country’s most notorious dirt-diggers" – Gold wrote to John McGurk, editorial director of Scotsman Publications, who had previously told Press Gazette: "We will investigate what he [Gold] is saying and take the appropriate action. Certainly we will abide by the PCC rules and common sense and fairness." Gold forwarded McGurk’s reply to him to Lord Wakeham. McGurk said: "I have looked into your complaint and spoken at length with those involved in researching and presenting the article which appeared in Scotland on Sunday on 15 May, 2001.

"You will appreciate that I am not at liberty to divulge sources. However, I am satisfied that considerable time and effort was taken to confirm the facts and that, therefore, the article was true and accurate. Repeated attempts were made to ensure that you had every opportunity to reply to the points raised."

Gold told the PCC he thought the seven-line letter "makes a complete mockery of any reasonable system which is intended to ensure fairness to the individual".

He said he felt he was discriminated against by the PCC simply because he was a journalist.

"If I were not, I would have the option of having my complaint examined by my peers. I am more than happy to argue my case in a fair environment, but by allowing any paper to make such a ridiculously inept response to a genuine complaint surely brings any question of fairness into disrepute," said Gold.

By Jean Morgan

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