Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Media ignores £792,000 unfair dismissal payout by News of the World to former reporter

It's not been a good week for the News of the World.

On Monday the Press Complaints Commission actually upheld a complaint (no, really) against the paper:

A man from Aberdeen complained to the Press Complaints Commission that an article headlined "Terrorised by knife thug, 7", published in the Scottish News of the World on 10 August 2008, contained inaccuracies in breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy) and included a photograph of his son taken without consent in breach of Clause 6 (Children) of the editors' Code of Practice.

The complaint was upheld.

One thing stands out: the article was published 15 months ago. The full adjudication implies a lengthy process of evidence gathering has gone on by both sides, but that remains an incredibly long time for the article to have gone uncorrected.

The PCC ruled:

the most serious claims about the boy's behaviour - the allegations of violence and the assertion he had been expelled from a string of schools - could not be substantiated...

The Commission was also persuaded that there was sufficient information in the article and pixellated photograph to identify the complainant's son to those in the community. In the context of unsubstantiated assertions about his behaviour, the justification for publication of the photograph was insufficient.

And the penalty? Publishing that adjudication somewhere where no one will take any notice of it.

Given all the time the family have clearly spent trying to clear their son's name, is that really sufficient?

Then today, former News of the World journalist Matt Driscoll was awarded £792,736 by an employment tribunal in Stratford for unfair dismissal and disability discrimination. According to MediaGuardian, Driscoll

suffered from a culture of bullying led by former editor Andy Coulson.

Coulson, of course, was in charge of the paper when it was illegally hacking into phones and is now David Cameron's head of communications. A bullying communications supremo - who'd have thought?

As Roy Greenslade points out, the source of Coulson's hatred towards Driscoll was unbelievably insignificant:

In August 2005, Matt Driscoll was asked to stand up a tip that Arsenal were planning to play in purple shirts. He failed to do so and - horror of horrors - that very story then appeared in The Sun. From thereon Driscoll was a marked man within the office.

The tribunal judgement explains:

"The original source of the hostility towards the claimant [Driscoll] was Mr Coulson, the editor; although other senior managers either took their lead from Mr Coulson and continued with his motivation after Mr Coulson's departure; or shared his views themselves. Mr Coulson did not attend the tribunal to explain why he wanted the claimant dismissed."

Following on from his resignation, the Nick Davies articles, and Coulson's Select Committee appearance where he conveniently forgot the publication of a story in his newspaper while he was editor that appears to have come from phone hack, there may be some questions for his new employers, who have spoken out about bullying recently.

Except, who is going to ask these questions? According to Google News, apart from the Guardian and the Press Gazette, no other mainstream media outlet has reported on this payout. This despite the Guardian claiming it is the highest of its kind in the media.

Is this a kind of media omerta, where other newspapers don't cover such stories so their own transgressions are not publicised either?


  1. Just emailed David Cameron to ask him if he is standing by Mr Coulson!

  2. The reason could be, as Nick Davies points out in Flat Earth News, that the usual rule is "Dog doesn't eat dog".

    So other newspapers, generally, won't rush to comment, or even report, on this kind of thing.


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