May 7, 2014

The Guardian

Apologies from the Daily Mail are usually entertaining, a little puzzling, maybe alarming and sometimes not really apologies at all. It issued another on Wednesday, running an apology to J.K. Rowling on the bottom of page 2, Roy Greenslade reported in The Guardian. The newspaper admitted liability in January for a 2013 story pitting the “Harry Potter” author against fellow church members.

“Our September 28, 2013 article ‘How JK’s sob story about her single mother past surprised and confused the church members who cared for her’ suggested that JK Rowling made a knowingly false and inexcusable claim in an article for the Gingerbread charity that people at her church had stigmatised her and cruelly taunted her for being a single mother.

In fact Mrs Rowling recounted only one incident where a visitor to the church sitgmatised and taunted her on a particular day. We accept that Ms Rowling’s article did not contain any false claims and apologise for any contrary suggestion and have agreed to pay substantial damages to Ms Rowling, which she is donating to charity, and a contribution to her legal costs.”

Rowling, flanked by Death Eaters, in 2010. (AP Photo/Joel Ryan)

Usually these are polite and formal while basically apologizing for absurdities, said Craig Silverman, a Poynter adjunct faculty member and founder of Regret the Error, in a phone interview.

“They repeat every single outrageous accusation that they made and then end it by saying none of those things were true and they’re sorry.”

In some of these apologies, Silverman said, Britain’s Press Complaints Commission is likely involved, and lawyers probably have added their lawyer voice to the apologies, as well.

“I think they have a style of how they do these,” Silverman said, “and of course other apologies from U.K. papers will sometimes read like this as well.”

Here are a few of Silverman’s favorite apologies:

From The Sun, July 2007

FOLLOWING our article on Princess Eugenie’s birthday celebrations, we have been asked to point out the party was closely monitored by adults throughout and while a small amount of mess was cleared away at the end of the evening, there was no damage to furniture, no revellers dived into bedrooms in search of drunken romps and to describe the house as being trashed was incorrect.
We are happy to make this clear and regret any distress our report caused.

From The Independent in 2007

“Following the portrait of Tony and Cherie Blair published on 21 April in the Independent Saturday magazine, Ms Blair’s representatives have told us that she was friendly with but never had a relationship with Carole Caplin of the type suggested in the article. They want to make it clear, which we are happy to do, that Ms Blair “has never shared a shower with Ms Caplin, was not introduced to spirit guides or primal wrestling by Ms Caplin (or anyone else), and did not have her diary masterminded by Ms Caplin.”

Sometimes the apologies are funny non-apologies, such as this one that Silverman wrote about for Poynter in 2013. It’s from The Sun.

In an article on Saturday headlined ‘Flying saucers over British Scientology HQ’, we stated “two flat silver discs” were seen “above the Church of Scientology HQ”.
Following a letter from lawyers for the Church, we apologise to any alien lifeforms for linking them to Scientologists.

Papers in the U.K. have their own way with these, but in April, Silverman wrote about newspapers in India and the U.S. that have offered pseudo corrections. Still, the U.K. does them so well. Here’s another from The Sun:

RECENT articles in this column may have given the impression that Mr Sven Goran Eriksson was a greedy, useless, incompetent fool. This was a misunderstanding. Mr Eriksson is in fact a footballing genius. We are happy to make this clear.

And here are a few more examples of classic Daily Mail apologies:

January 2014

An article on June 1 reported that a father had been jailed in a secret court hearing for breaching a court order by wishing his grown up son happy birthday on Facebook. We accept that although no press were present and there were no public listings of the hearing, it was not meant to be secret and the father was actually jailed for failing to abide by court orders requiring him to remove particular references to his children from the internet. We apologise for suggesting otherwise.

March 2012

Regarding Live magazine’s article last Sunday, ‘The Russian who’s lording it up’, we would like to make clear that Katia Elizarova is not, and has not been, engaged in an affair with Leon Max. She is a fashion model and actress contracted to represent Mr Max’s clothing business.

Another from March 2012

A spokesman for Prince Harry has asked to point out that the Prince was not drunk at the street party in Belize pictured last weekend, as may have been suggested by our headline. The Prince sampled local rum, a cocktail and fruit wine but did not drink five beers as suggested.

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Kristen Hare teaches local journalists the critical skills they need to serve and cover their communities as Poynter's local news faculty member. Before joining faculty…
Kristen Hare

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