The new government-approved press regulator has sprung into action by opening an investigation into the Canary after the left-wing news website ran a piece about BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg.
The Canary published the story, titled "We need to talk about Laura Kuenssberg. She's listed as a speaker at the Tory Party conference", in September. It implied there were questions over the BBC political editor's political impartiality, starting with the suggestion that she was speaking at the Conservative party conference.
The BBC was quick to shoot down the story, making clear Kuenssberg wasn't speaking at the party conference, and prominent media figures and politicians jumped to the award-winning journalist's defence.
It came just days after it was revealed Kuenssberg had used a bodyguard at the Labour party conference following online abuse and threats.
After dozens of complaints were made against the Canary on various grounds, including some claiming that the story represented harassment against Kuenssberg, BuzzFeed News can now reveal Impress has begun an investigation into the website on the grounds of "accuracy".
Just over a year ago, Impress became the first ever state-approved press regulator, with more than 60 publications — mostly local newspapers and new media websites— now signing up to be regulated.
In that time, according to its website, it has conducted one arbitration and investigated one accuracy complaint that was later dismissed.
"Impress has received one escalated complaint about an article ... which was published by The Canary on 27 September 2017," an Impress spokesperson told BuzzFeed News in a statement.
"The complaint has now been accepted for investigation under clauses 1 (Accuracy) of the Impress Standards Code and we aim to complete our investigation within 42 days."
The Canary's director of operations Drew Rose told BuzzFeed News that the website would sometimes make mistakes and it was taking the complaint seriously.
"We try our best to get each story right. But like any media outlet, occasionally we will make mistakes," Rose said.
“We take complaints seriously at The Canary. As a regulated outlet we would expect that sometimes Impress will be prompted to review clarifications we have made. They will determine whether proper process has been followed."
According to Rose, the Canary is "open" when there is an "error in our reporting".
“Our readers can rely on us to be open; when we make an error in our reporting, we don’t just update the article as other mainstream outlets do. We are committed to making our corrections at, at least, the same volume we make our mistakes. So we repost the updated article and pin a correction to the top of our Facebook page for at least 24 hours.”
The Canary made multiple changes to its anti-Kuenssberg article since it was first published, without detailed clarifications for the audience.
One example is the headline.
Here's the original headline of the piece:
We need to talk about Laura Kuenssberg. She’s listed as a speaker at the Tory Party conference
After online blowback against the article, the headline was changed to the more technically correct:
We need to talk about Laura Kuenssberg. She’s listed as an ‘invited’ speaker at the Tory Party conference
The Canary went on to publish several new comments from the BBC and the think tank that had invited Kuenssberg in the story, along with the following update:
This article was updated at 4.50pm on Wednesday 27 September after the BBC informed us that Kuenssberg would not be speaking at the CSJ event, and the CSJ confirmed this. This article did not state that Kuenssberg would be speaking at the event, merely that she had been invited and if she were to accept that it would raise concerns about the impartiality of the BBC.
All eyes will now be on how Impress deals with the investigation into the pro-Corbyn website after allegations of bias from several of its executives were leveled at the regulator.
Mark Di Stefano is a media and politics correspondent for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Mark Di Stefano at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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