Friday 23 July 2010

Spot the front page apology

On 21 April 2010, the Daily Star ran this front page.

It came just as UK airspace was reopening after the shutdown cause by the volcanic ash cloud.

But the 'terror' and 'dramatic pictures' as 'plane hits ash cloud' were, it was only revealed deep into the story, from a television documentary about an incident from 1982.

To pretend this was some dramatic new event was desperate scaremongering and deliberately dishonest.

It led to this edition of the paper being removed from newsagent shelves at Gatwick and Manchester airports, on the grounds it was 'inappropriate'.

And several people complained to the Press Complaints Commission.

Originally, the Star offered to publish this clarification:

On April 21 2010, on our front page, we published a photograph about a British Airways jumbo jet flying into a cloud of volcanic ash. Our story which followed on page 6 made it clear that the image was part of a dramatic reconstruction of a near disaster when BA flight 009 flew into volcanic dust in 1982, due to be shown that night on Five, and not an image of any event that had taken place in the preceding days following the eruption of the volcano in Iceland.

However, this was deemed unacceptable by the complainants - and rightly so - and so on 17 July, the Star published this instead:

Our article of April 21 2010 headlined “Terror as plane hits ash cloud” – published on the day all UK airports opened their airspace following the volcanic ash disruption – featured a photograph said to show the “moment a British Airways jumbo jet hit a cloud of volcanic ash at 37,000ft”.

This may have wrongly suggested to readers that the photograph depicted a recent event.

As the story subsequently indicated, the image was part of a reconstruction of a near disaster when BA flight 009 flew into volcanic dust in 1982, due to be shown that night on Five.

We apologise to readers for any misunderstanding which may have been caused by the use of the image.

This clearly goes further than the Star initially wanted to go, but the 'apology to readers' is good. And the Star did actually give it a fairly prominent position on page two:

It's certainly an improvement on the very small page two apology mentioned here, although the nature of the story means it is easier to reprint the original.

But is it good enough given the original was the front page lead? Not really.

The Star seemed to recognise this, and so, for once, mentioned the apology on the front page as well:

Did you see it? Probably not because, as Media Monkey points out, it is in the:

bottom what must surely be the tiniest font ever used in a print publication.


So the size of the page two apology is fine. Although the Star should have been more upfront in their initial wording of the clarification, the final apology is reasonable.

And a mention of that apology on the front page is progress of a sort.

But when people ask that front page mistakes are clarified by front page apologies, this feeble effort isn't what they have in mind.


  1. I like how it's even smaller than the T&Cs of their scam... sorry, holiday offer, and they still had to make it sound defensive. Not "We apologise" or anything, but "We set the record straight".

  2. That takes the piss. So much for "due prominence"!


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