02 March 2006

Code of Conduct explained

Alison Hastings

The dry words of the Journalists’ Code of Conduct were brought to life for Sheffield students in an entertaining lecture by former Press Commissioner Alison Hastings.

Alison, a former editor of the Newcastle Evening Chronicle, enlivened her talk with examples of breaches of the code as well as highlighting occasions when newspapers and magazines have successfully beaten off complaints.



She pointed out that although complaints under section three for the code – privacy – often attracted the most publicity, far more numerous were complaints under section one concerning accuracy.

Her advice to journalists who had made a mistake? “When you’ve got it wrong, put it right,” she said.
“It used to be a badge of honour in many newsrooms to avoid saying sorry and admitting a mistake if they could get away with it. Thankfully times are changing.”

Among the examples of cases brought to the Press Complaints Commission highlighted by Alison were Paul McCartney complaining of photographs taken while he was inside Notre Dame cathedral in Paris (upheld), David Beckham pictured by way of a long lens in his underwear on a hotel balcony (upheld) and Vanessa Feltz, who complained about a “kiss-and-tell” tale based on an interview with a former boyfriend (rejected).

She recommended that all journalists should check the PCC’s website regularly to read the latest adjudications.
Her talk, on Tuesday 28 February 2006, was one of a series put on for the benefit of students and staff within the Department of Journalism Studies at the University of Sheffield. Forthcoming guest speakers include John Willis of the BBC.

Her talk, on Tuesday 28 February 2006, was one of a series put on for the benefit of students and staff within the Department of Journalism Studies at the University of Sheffield. Forthcoming guest speakers include John Willis of the BBC.