IPSO, what’s the difference?

IPSO – the Independent Press Standards Organisation – took over from the Press Complaints Commission today.

How we got here is a matter of record, featuring the phone-hacking scandal; the Leveson Inquiry; prosecutions past, and more to come.

You will find plenty of critics of both IPSO, and the alternative Royal Charter regulation elsewhere. What I will talk about here is the practical impact the new regulator will have on those who have signed up for it.

Firstly, for reporters, the important thing to know is that the Editors’ Code of Practice remains the code of ethical conduct that governs your work. You need to know the code and how it is applied. Importantly, you must adhere to the ‘spirit’ of the code, and to understand this you must make it your business to know how the code has been applied.

It is as important to know your way around the code as it is to understand libel, shorthand, or how to write a decent intro – it is a basic tool of your trade.

In this sense then, not a lot has changed, the code remains the same.

What has changed is the way in which complaints under it are going to be handled. This is a matter that editors, deputies, senior managers and newsdesk execs need to concern themselves with.

From now on, how you handle a complaint is going to be crucial because in some instance you do not have the backstop of the PCC mediating for you.

If IPSO receives a complaint about a story, in the first instance it will refer the complainant to the publication’s complaints handling procedures.

Publishers therefore must have effective procedures in place to handle such complaints.

Staff need to know what to do with a complaint. It must be logged properly, reported to line managers, and dependent on the nature of the complaints elevated to the managers who are able to resolve it properly.

Some complaints, requiring perhaps a simple correction, can be dealt with by a reporter and newsdesk. Other more serious complaints will need the intervention of the editor. You need procedures in place to determine which is which and to act accordingly. All this needs to be done in 28 days.

If the complaint is not resolved in that time, that is what IPSO gets involved.

If the matter has to go to IPSO because of failures in the complaints-handling processes of the publication, that is when they need to be worried.

If they are suspected of a systemic failing to uphold standards, then IPSO can come in to investigate. This could mean interviewing staff, looking at notes and other records and demanding access to newspaper systems. It could be a very uncomfortable process.

Following on from that, if such an investigation finds serious failings to uphold standards, there is the ultimate sanction of a financial penalty.

So, as I said, complaints handling is vital, as is note-keeping, recording of newsdesk advice and decisions; legal advice sought and given; and editorial involvement. There needs to be clear guidance given to all staff about the sort of issue that requires editorial clearance before any action is taken that might be a breach of the code.

No-one wants to be the first publication to fall foul of an IPSO adjudication. if you have not done so already, sort out your complaints procedures now.

And let’s be careful out there.

On departing as an External Examiner

For the past four years I have served as an external examiner at Cardiff University’s Journalism School. I have looked after the law and public admin parts of the MA and postgrad diploma there.

The postgrad diploma is the course I started at Cardiff 27 years ago, which launched me into a career in journalism, after a law degree failed to convince me that the law was for me (though what goes around comes around and the law dragged me back in the end)

It was a magical year for me, I met some fellow students who would go on to be brilliant journalists, and discovered that I might just scratch a living by writing myself. Cardiff remains a beacon of great journalism training.

For the last exam board I added a few departing comments, and for what they are worth, here they are.

“This is my last year as external examiner for my old journalism school and it has been a huge pleasure coming back and seeing that the place, though in a different building, remains the excellent school it was when I attended back in 1987-88.

As ever, journalism looks like it is facing a crisis, assailed by plunging print circulations, combined with the mystery of how anyone can profit from digital.

Add to that that the phone-hacking scandal, the Leveson Inquiry and the trials which we have seen concluded only last week and an outsider would be forgiven for wondering why anyone would want to enter an industry so clearly doomed.

And yet, I am sure, as in my day, places on the Cardiff course remain at a premium. I still meet alumni from years before mine and after, and I am invariably impressed with their achievements after they left Cardiff.

Despite its current troubles, great journalism will continue to thrive, on many platforms, wherever people are interested in stories – so that means everywhere. I have no doubt that at the forefront of that will be the journalism produced by Cardiff graduates.

Thank you for having me as an external. My best wishes to the staff there and all your students for the future.”

Phonehacking Trial, Day 4

WELL, the phonehacking trial continues to deliver, and this is just the opening.

Worth noting, that it is just that, the prosecution opening. It’s a trial, there’s more to follow. It’s scheduled to go on until Easter, there is a lot more to follow from prosecution and defence.

I am being asked a few questions on Twitter about what it is safe to tweet and blog. Not from reporters at court, many of whom are very experienced journalists and well able to produce reports compliant with reporting restrictions, but from bloggers and tweeters who are commenting on the case.

There have been a number of court orders made in this case, primarily to prevent prejudice to this and other cases. I gather that warnings have been issued over some tweets made in the past couple of days. Caution is advised, the current Attorney General, Dominic Grieve QC MP, is keen as mustard when it comes to contempt and has said in the past that he would issue contempt proceedings against an individual blogger or tweeter if the need arose. Fair warning.

When reporting proceedings it is always wise to stick to what has been said in court, in front of the jury, that way you are not revealing to them anything they do not already know.

As a general rule do not make reference to any other proceedings, past or pending, you may know about as that risks prejudicing this trial or any future trials.

Furthermore, do not do anything that vilifies a witness, that might put them off testifying, that could also be a contempt. In the archive of this site you will find a quick guide to avoiding contempt of court which you might find useful.

Anyway, onto the coverage of today.

Daily Telegraph

The Guardian

Daily Mail

The Drum

Daily Mirror

BBC News

Daily Express

The Independent

UPDATE

Here’s The Daily Beast coverage, by @PeterJukes, who has also done a fine job of livetweeting the opening.

And here is the coverage on the HackedOff website.

That’s it early doors, as usual if anything later catches my eye, or is pointed out to me, I’ll add it. Once again, if you’re toiling away behind the paywall of The Sun or The Times and want to send me links for inclusion, please do so.

And if you’re tempted to tweet, in the words of the great Sgt Phil Esterhaus: Let’s be careful out there.