Impress has found The Canary to have breached its standards code in an article wrongly claiming BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg was to speak at this year’s Conservative Party conference.
The article was published at midday on 27 September with the headline: “We need to talk about Laura Kuenssberg. She’s listed as a speaker at the Tory Party conference.”
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It included a flyer for a conference fringe event hosted by the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), a think tank established by former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith MP, which listed Kuenssberg as an invited speaker.
The Canary said: “BBC Political Editor Laura Kuenssberg is listed as an ‘invited speaker’ at the Conservative Party conference. And the news raises questions about the impartiality of the journalist and her organisation. Again.”
The BBC later issued a statement clarifying that Kuenssberg was not set to speak at the event, which was also confirmed by the CSJ.
In a ruling published today, four months after The Canary joined Impress, the regulator said: “In misrepresenting those facts and in failing to take all reasonable steps to ensure accuracy prior to publication, The Canary breached the Impress Standards Code.”
A correction that was added to the Canary article on the same day it was published that included the BBC’s position was also found to have breached the code because “it did not correct this significant inaccuracy with due prominence”, according to Impress.
The breach fell under clauses 1.2 and 1.4 of the Impress Standards Code covering accuracy.
The Canary denied breaching the code during the complaints procedure, telling Impress: “The original headline was factually accurate as evidenced by our response to the original complaint. The original headline did not imply that Laura Kuenssberg was invited by the Conservative Party.
“The updated article was released in exactly the same way as the original, giving it equal prominence. The objection that a reader would only see the full clarification by reading the updated article isn’t valid because it was published with equal prominence to the original article.”
The Canary said the complainant’s objection that there were fewer retweets of the corrected article compared to the original article wasn’t “valid” becuase it had “no control over how many times our readers choose to retweet an article”.
It added: “We updated the article in a timely and responsible manner, and in accordance with Impress and internal procedures. The Canary clarified the article with equal prominence at the earliest opportunity.
“Therefore, there was no breach of Clause 1.2. At no time did we misrepresent or distort the facts. Therefore, there was no breach of Clause 1.4.”
The Canary has been ordered by Impress to publish a correction on the top of its homepage for 48 hours, in the same-sized font as the original article, and to release the correction on the same social media channels as the original article.
It said the article should also include the correction for as long as it continues to be published on The Canary (it is still online at the time of writing).
The correction reads as follows: “In the headline of an article first published at noon on 27 September 2017 The Canary stated ‘We need to talk about Laura Kuenssberg. She’s listed as a speaker at the Tory Party conference’.
“In fact, as the remainder of the article made clear, Laura Kuenssberg had only been invited to speak at a fringe event. In misrepresenting those facts and in failing to take all reasonable steps to ensure accuracy prior to publication, The Canary breached the Impress Standards Code.
“An updated version of the article, that was released at 16:50 on 27 September 2017, also breached the Code because it did not correct this significant inaccuracy with due prominence.”
Impress received 52 complaints about the article, all of which were initially dealt with by the publisher themselves, in line with Impress’s procedures. One person escalated their complaint to Impress, prompting the investigation that has resulted in today’s adjudication.
Impress said The Canary had “co-operated fully” with its investigation.