Tuesday, 10 August 2010

'Our story was based on an item from another newspaper'

The Press Complaints Commission have only just published details of a clarification the Metro ran on 20 July.

It's not clear why there has been this delay, but ideally the PCC should be posting these notices online on the day the apology or clarification is published.

Here's the complaint:

Miss Adele Brand complained to the Press Complaints Commission that an article had inaccurately stated that experts believed urban fox numbers to have quadrupled since 2007. She said that population trends are not a matter of opinion; rather, such information was scientific fact which could only be corroborated by appropriate survey techniques.

She added that the leading scientific experts on the matter at the University of Bristol had conducted research indicating that fox numbers have generally remained constant over the last decade.

And here's the Metro's clarification:

An online article of 11 June stated that experts have warned of a quadrupling of urban fox numbers since 2007.

Such a claim was not supported by the text.

We would make clear that our story was based on an item from another newspaper, which quoted the chairman of the National Pest Technicians Association reporting a rise in the number of calls regarding urban foxes.

We are not aware of the official statistics, but have been asked to point out that there is scientific data showing that fox numbers have remained constant.

In other words: 'we copied it from somewhere else and didn't bother to check it out before publication'.


  1. Furthermore, not only did they quote from another paper without checking but also took the "fact" at face value from someone with a clear interest in inflating the risk and misreporting the actual facts for their own benefit - here it is "the chairman of the National Pest Technicians Association" i.e. people who would benefit from an increase in people's fear of fox attacks so their members get more work killing foxes. Nice and stupid and unfortunately one that was reflected in almost all press reports.

  2. The Metro consists entirely of articles from other newspapers. That is the point of the thing: the journalists have already been paid, so all it takes is someone to paste it all up.

  3. "Metro consists entirely of articles from other newspapers".

    That's not fair, Anonymous. After all, many of its articles are copied direct from press releases...

  4. er..I'm not trying to defend Metro because there is no excuse for cutting and pasting someone else's story, and no excuse for not checking your facts. But um...how do you count foxes?

    If I wanted to find out if urban foxes were on the increase then pest control firms aren't a bad place to start. Their evidence may be anecdotal but does anyone seriously think there is any reliable scientific data on how many urban foxes there are?

    (And in any case the last national census - even if it was accurate -was carried out in the 1980s).

  5. The Daily Mail is currently trying to riddle out of two stories it lifted from other papers.
    Last week it ran a couple of stories about milk and meat from cloned cows being sold in British shops. The story was actually taken from a paper in America but the DM exagerated it to scare readers. After an inquiry found the story was wong because no milk was sold and most of the meat actualy went to Belgium. But instead of admitting they had distorted the story the DM is now running a story about veal being sold in this country could be from a cloned cow.

    The DM also ran a story about a woman being told to get off a bus because she was breastfeeding. The bus company have produced evidence showing the story doesn't stand up so the on-line story has now been changed to ask why she made the story up. If she did make up the story she probably did so because she knew papers like the DM would be more than happy to publish it without checking it out.


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