Editors 'were wrong' to run pupil's video

A local newspaper was wrong to use footage filmed by a pupil showing her unruly classmates and post it on its website without protecting their identities.

The Hamilton Advertiser also printed stills of the footage in its offline edition showing the rowdy class, which a 16-year-old pupil captured with her mobile phone.

Before it ran both editions of the story, online and in its newspaper, the Hamilton Advertiser failed to seek permission from the school to use the images.

Although two other newspapers reportedly picked up the story and used the same images, they blurred the identities of the classmates, unlike the Hamilton Advertiser.

Because of not getting permission and neglecting to protect the pupils’ identities, the paper’s coverage, online and offline, “amounted to an unnecessary intrusion into the pupils’ time at school.”

Such is the verdict of the Press Complaints Commission.

Their decision, which states the paper broke Clause 6 of the PCC code, is significant because it represents the first time the watchdog has acted on its wider remit of being able to rule on editorial audio-visual material.

It also acts as warning to editors that material filmed by the public – or ‘citizen journalists’ must be reproduced with due editorial care and safeguards, whether online or in print.

Yet the PCC’s wider remit only extends to websites operated by newspapers and magazines, meaning ‘web-only’ publications are beyond its scope and enjoy more freedom.

However the watchdog told a Sunday newspaper that far from disadvantaging print brands online, it can potentially place them ‘head and shoulders’ above the competition.

A PCC spokesman told the Independent on Sunday: “The PCC offers newspapers and magazines what is effectively a quality Kitemark. It assures readers that the material they are viewing can be checked for accuracy as well as for unwanted intrusion.”


19th August 2007

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