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Daily Mail article causes more than 500 complaints to PCC

Daily Mail article causes more than 500 complaints to PCC

A Richard Littlejohn column in the Daily Mail has provoked 500 complaints to the Press Complaints Commission, the Guardian reported.

The column - explains The Independent - compared Jody McIntyre, a disabled protester who has cerebral palsy, to the comic disable character Andy Pipkin, played by Matt Lucas, in Little Britain.

During last Thursday's student fees demonstration Mr McIntyre was pulled out of his wheelchair by the police, as a video posted on YouTube shows. Police launched an internal investigation into the episode.

In his article, Littlejohn wrote - before imagining a spoof dialogue between McIntyre - as Andy- and David Walliams's Lou - : "If he's looking for sympathy, he's come to the wrong place. A man in a wheelchair is as entitled to demonstrate as anyone else. But he should have kept a safe distance. McIntyre put himself on offer and his brother pushed him onto the front line. It's not as if he didn't know there was going to be trouble".

Protests against Littlejohn's column caused uproar on Twitter, where a link to the the Press Complaints Commission was posted, whose spokesman said they were looking to contact McIntyre asking if he wants to make a formal complaint.

The PCC is an independent body, which handles complaints about the editorial content of UK newspapers and magazines by members of the public who find themselves involved in news stories. It normally accepts complaints only from those who are directly affected by the article, which is why the PCC said it is looking to contact McIntyre directly. All the complaints are investigated under the editors' Code of Practice. The resolutions PCC could gain include the publication of a correction, apology, follow-up pieces, the greatest sanction being issuing a critical adjudication against newspaper or magazine, "the name and shame sanction" as it is called.

As the Guardian noted, also a BBC News channel interview with McIntyre prompted a "considerable" - though not specified - number of complaints from viewers, who said interviewer Ben Brown asked inappropriate and "insensitive" questions.

Roy Greenslade, on his Guardian blog, reflects on the episode. "I have no problem with the PCC's reaction," he said, "it would be damned if it didn't contact McIntyre. But the result, should he complain, is a foregone conclusion. There was no factual inaccuracy. Littlejohn is a columnist. He has a right to be offensive, even obnoxious. That's his job. His piece was not based on a prejudice against McIntyre because of his disability (nor was he exhibiting a prejudice against all disabled people). If so, I would take a different view." Greenslade concludes saying that "In this case, I sincerely hope that McIntyre is sensible enough to ignore any pressure to complain".

Sources: Guardian (1), (2), (3), The Independent, Daily Mail


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Author

Federica Cherubini's picture

Federica Cherubini

Date

2010-12-15 14:58

The World Editors Forum is the organization within the World Association of Newspapers devoted to newspaper editors worldwide. The Editors Weblog (www.editorsweblog.org), launched in January 2004, is a WEF initiative designed to facilitate the diffusion of information relevant to newspapers and their editors.


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