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Cumberland News journalists lose accuracy complaint against their own newspaper

Journalists have lost a complaint against their own newspaper over its coverage of strike action that they themselves had planned.

Members of the National Union of Journalists filed an accuracy complaint with the UK’s main press regulator about a story published by the Cumberland News, both in print and online, in December last year.

It marked the first time the NUJ has complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation.

The article reported that journalists at a number of local Newsquest titles – including the News – had “decided to take industrial action in a dispute over pay”, in the form of a one-day strike

NUJ members claimed this “distorted the nature of the industrial action” and that a description of it as a “dispute over pay” did not identify the real reason for the strike, which had been the result of a “variety of factors”.

They added journalists did not merely “decide” to take industrial action, but “careful attempts to settle the dispute had taken place over a number of months”.

The NUJ said the failure of the newspaper to carry a comment from the union, when an “extensive” statement from Newsquest was included, meant the piece “lacked balance and was misleading”.

The newspaper denied breaching the Editors’ Code of Practice, the guidelines by which all IPSO members must abide. It said the article was a “short piece which accurately summarised the reason for the strike action”.

It said it would be clear to an “ordinary reasonable reader of the story” that a decision to strike was taken by means of a vote and that the editors’ code did not require a publication to seek a response from the subjects of articles, nor did such an omission mean the article was inaccurate.

IPSO’s Complaints Committee said “no misleading impression was given as to how the decision had been taken” and the newspaper’s characterisation of the strike action “did not represent a failure to take care over the accuracy of the article in those circumstances”.

The committee added: “The article was an accurate summary of the overarching reason for the strike action.”

The complaint was not upheld.

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