By Alyson Fixter
Women’s weekly Pick Me Up has been rapped by the Press Complaints Commission after the star of one of its true life tales claimed the magazine’s account of her affair with a vicar was “misleading”.
The story, entitled “Sins of the Cloth” and published on February 17 last year, told of the reader’s illicit relationship with a cleric who conducted her son’s funeral. She contacted the PCC claiming the story was inaccurate in several places and that it wrongly suggested she had started the affair before the death of her estranged husband.
The reader had heard the story over the phone before it was published, but claimed the version read back to her by staff was not the one which eventually appeared in the magazine. She also said the IPC title had published pictures of her family without her permission and failed to pixellate out her face as promised in pictures she had posed for.
But the magazine said the reader had willingly posed for pictures and handed over snaps of her family, and that she had never been told her face would be pixellated. It also handed over a reporter’s notebook claiming it backed up their version of the story.
The PCC’s adjudication said: “The magazine provided copies of its reporter’s notes and argued that the published story was told in the same order as the complainant’s verbal account.
“While they broadly confirmed the gist of the story, they did not entirely support the magazine’s position.
“In particular, the notes made no reference to the complainant starting a relationship with the vicar before her estranged husband had died. “The problem appeared to have arisen because the magazine had substantially condensed the time-scale during which the events took place.
“While this approach to editing real life stories would not normally lead to a breach of the Code, in this case the result was that a significant inaccuracy had been published.”
However, the watchdog did not uphold the reader’s complaints about photos, saying it had no way of knowing whether the magazine had made any promises to the reader, and said there was no breach of the PCC code in publishing her family photos as she had given them willingly.
Pick Me Up published the PCC’s full adjudication in this week’s issue of the magazine, but did not make any published apology to the reader.
Pick Me Up editor June Smith-Sheppard said: “We go to great lengths to ensure that all the stories we publish are accurate and regret that on this occasion we did not meet our own high standards.”