Derby Telegraph editor Neil White has admitted the paper “got it wrong” in its front-page story on the death of a young mother – and told readers he was “mortified” at the family’s distress over its coverage.
Earlier this week the paper splashed on the inquest into mother-of-two Zoe Bird, who collapsed and died after a heart attack while on a family holiday to Majorca with her partner and young children.
White has now conceded that his decision to use a photograph of Miss Bird that appeared in a death notice on its website was wrong, telling readers that “from now on, we will obtain permission from families before publication of any photographs of deceased people”.
White published his apology after a meeting at the Telegraph’s office with Miss Bird’s partner Daniel Annable, who felt the paper’s coverage was “unfeeling”.
“For the seven years I have been at the paper I have been proud that we have been a part of the community, not apart from it,” said White,
“We do not intentionally sensationalise stories just to sell newspapers.
“Thus, I have to say I found my heart going out to Mr Annable and his family.”
He added: “I am sorry that he was not clear that the inquest report would appear in the paper.
“During inquests the coroner and his deputies always tell the bereaved of the importance of the press in reporting such matters.
“However, it appears that when Mr Annable was approached after the hearing by a reporter, it was not made clear that an article would definitely appear, as it does with all inquests.”
White went on to say that his decision to put the story on the front page was also “wrong”: “I did think the case was in the public interest because Miss Bird's death may have sparked others to have tests for potential heart disease and it would have made people realise that a tingling in the arm can be a forewarning of a heart attack.
“However, we should have given greater understanding to Mr Annable's sensitivities and the article should have been carried less prominently.
“In the future, I pledge that we shall listen more carefully to the concerns of families in inquest cases.”
His apology concluded:
Let me reiterate, the decisions surrounding publication of this story were mine.
The reporter was merely doing their job and actually described covering the inquest as the most difficult task in their young career.
I am a father whose children are not much younger than Miss Bird when she died.
I am not in Mr Annable's position but can imagine what I would feel like in the event of something so dreadful happening to my son or daughter.
Thus, I am mortified that Mr Annable and Miss Bird's families and friends should be so distressed by our coverage. My heart goes out to them.
I understand that they are now raising funds for heart charities and, if they want our support, I can pledge that the Telegraph will be behind their efforts.
In the meantime, I reiterate my condolences and repeat that I am very sorry.