Well…that’s that.

Mr Neil Sharpson and the Sunday Independent

The Press Ombudsman has decided that the Sunday Independent made an offer of sufficient remedial action to resolve a complaint by Mr Neil Sharpson that an article published on 25 August 2013, reporting certain claims about alternative technologies, was in breach of Principles 1 (Truth and Accuracy) and 2 (Distinguishing Fact and Comment) of the Code of Practice for Newspapers and Magazines.

The article reported on what it said was a groundbreaking new Irish technology that “could be the greatest breakthrough in agriculture since the plough.”

Mr Sharpson complained that the claims made in the article were not justified and that the newspaper had compromised its authority as a source of public information by publishing them. The newspaper responded that the complainant was perfectly entitled to enter into a debate on the merits or otherwise of the claimed breakthrough, and invited him to submit a letter for publication.

The complainant submitted two letters strongly challenging the scientific claims reported in the article and the newspaper’s decision to publish it. Neither of these, however, satisfied the newspaper’s requirements that the response should be a measured one capable of being published in a national newspaper as opposed to on a blog, and left open its offer to consider publishing a more appropriate version of his letter subject to the usual legal and editorial constraints.

It is clear that, in matters of controversy, newspapers provide a service to their readers by making space available to the protagonists of different points of view and this article was, on the face of it, likely to give rise to substantial controversy. At the same time, the newspaper was within its rights in limiting its offer to publish a letter from the complainant to one that would comply with the necessary legal and editorial constraints and, for this reason, the offer constituted an offer of sufficient remedial action to resolve the complaint.

8 comments

  1. Seems fishy to me. They spout off with far fetched nonsense and when someone cries foul, then they want to bring in the tape measure and count millimeters.

    Keep giving them the screws mouse, I’ve got a whetstone to fetch.

  2. Maybe prolonged exposure to American media has left me jaded but . . . yeah, not all that surprised by the response. Don’t get me wrong — I agree with you in that it was a shoddy bit of journalism. I just didn’t have particularly high hopes for them to take responsibility for the shoddy journalism.

    Still sucks, though. 😦

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