News apologies over priest photo blunder

NWN: pictured wrong priest (obscured by Press Gazette)

Every paper’s nightmare happened to the Newbury Weekly News last week.

The newspaper has apologised after a front-page blunder in which the wrong picture of a curate was used to illustrate a story about a priest facing child pornography charges.

The picture appeared alongside a large headline saying: “Priest faces eight charges involving child pornography”. It referred to the Rev John Masters, who had been charged with eight offences.

But instead of a photograph of Masters, the paper used a three-column picture of the Rev Anthony Howe. The mistake happened because both men were connected with the same church, St John’s the Evangelist. Howe is the curate.

Masters left the Church in November after he was arrested for four counts of possessing indecent photographs of children and a further four charges of making indecent photographs of children.

Part of the print run of the Weekly News was recalled and a statement, agreed between the newspaper and Howe, was published widely in the News’ companion free newspapers, the Advertiser and Thatcham News. The statement included an unreserved apology for the embarrassment the use of the wrong photograph has caused him.

Howe was given leave from the parish in the wake of the incident.

Group editor Brien Beharrell told Press Gazette: “This was a regrettable mistake which, in part, arose from the publication of two innocent photographs of the Rev Howe and another priest (who now faces charges involving pornographic images of children) published in the Newbury Weekly News more than a year ago when the two men were taking part in a fund-raising event.

“We were entirely unaware that the captions published then were inaccurate and we remained so until the photograph of Rev Howe was published last week.”

Any inaccuracies are always very carefully noted in the newspaper’s library and archive “to avoid problems such as this”, said Beharrell, adding: “However, the newspaper was unaware that the caption was incorrect on this occasion.”

Once the problem was known, she said, the Weekly News responded promptly to set the record straight.

“Father Howe was happy to be photographed again by the Newbury Weekly News on Sunday when the newspaper was invited to cover a special event in the parish where he works,” she concluded.

By Marco Giannangeli and Jean Morgan

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