Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Newspapers apologise for calling innocent man a paedophile

Just before Christmas, several newspapers wrote about the conviction of a Mr Martyn Smith, found guilty of possessing 1,410 'repulsive child porn images'.

Unfortunately, they all identified the wrong Martyn Smith.

The Mirror published the following apology:

Yesterday, due to an error in copy supplied to us, we identified the wrong Martyn Smith in an article entitled "BBC paedo let off jail".

We mistakenly stated that the BBC producer behind Dragons' Den had been convicted of having 1,410 repulsive child porn images.

He had not and we apologise to him for the distress and embarrassment caused by this mistake.

The Martyn Smith who was convicted is a former BBC producer.

But this apology no longer appears to be on the Mirror's website, nor does the Telegraph's, although it's not clear why either has been removed.

The Mail, Belfast Telegraph and Brighton Argus all still have their apologies to Mr Smith online. But if you Google Smith's name and the allegation, there are still results visible which repeat the error (even if the articles have indeed been removed) so none of the clarifications should have been taken down.

The false claim appears to have started with the Press Association, who have also unreservedly apologised.

But shouldn't all these other news outlets have checked their sources before mindlessly copying-and-pasting such a serious mistake?


  1. And none of these news providers had a reporter in court!

  2. This is corporate ownership.

    Nick Davies devotes an entire section of 'Flat Earth News' to court reporting.

    Prior to orporate ownership it was a fundamental principle that newspapers would have reporters in courts up and down the country. Where the newspapers couldn't reach, the agencies would.

    Due to corporate owners constantly firing reporters in cost-cutting exercises and increasing the sizes of newspapers in order to sell more adverts, there are fewer journalists doing more work.

    Nobody has the time to go to court and report anymore - and this is what happens as a consequence.

  3. I actually have the inside track on this and I used to know the very journalist who wrote the offending piece. While it is a terrible mistake, it is one of those 'there but for the grace of god' in some respects. The chances of there being two senior BBC television producers with that name are slim but of course it was not checked out. In the era of 'instant news'by low paid hacks, sloppiness will inevitably creep in but it must be terrible for the guy whose been wronged. Also if the right age and other background was put in, it should have been apparent that there was a mistake and he should not suffer much averse reaction from it.


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