THE Australian Press Council has upheld a complaint by Douglas Baggaley against The Northern Star over an article arising from the funeral of his mother.
The December 30 article, headed Baggaleys miss Byron funeral of grandmother, reported her two grandsons who were in jail did not attend. Half the article detailed the convictions of the grandsons for crimes committed in 2007.
Mr Baggaley said the article belittled his family at a time of deep loss and had outraged and insulted the family, their friends and the community. He demanded an apology from the newspaper.
In response the newspaper said it had privately apologised to Mr Baggaley’s 91-year-old father and had published some of the letters to the editor it had received critical of the article. It was the newspaper’s policy only to print apologies when it had published material that was incorrect.
The Council’s principles state news and comment should be presented honestly and fairly with respect for the privacy and sensibilities of individuals. This right should not be interpreted to prevent publication of matters of public record or significant public interest.
Mrs Baggaley’s grandsons certainly had attracted local and national publicity at the time of their convictions.
However, the Council believes the newspaper erred in gratuitously highlighting the grandsons and their criminal records at such length and in such detail that the article was clearly unbalanced and, as a result, unduly offensive to the family in a time of grief.
The newspaper’s failure to print any public expression of regret exacerbated the family’s grief.