I have written the following email to email@example.com (and copied in other interested parties including firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org):
I wrote last Wednesday (15th June) to complain about an article published in The Guardian on Monday 13th June entitled ‘The inside track on osteopathy’ (linked below).
I believe the article was inaccurate (for reasons discussed in my previous email) and therefore also complained to the PCC. I am concerned about the article because I believe it lends undeserved credibility to the use of osteopathy in the treatment of asthma and pneumonia, which can both be life threatening conditions. I also believe printing articles such as this is damaging to the image of the Guardian as a reputable newspaper.
While I was in the process of writing my complaint, Martin Robbins was writing a very good follow-up article (‘Osteopathy for asthma? The results may take your breath away’, linked below) which I believe clarified things – explaining that there is no credible evidence for the use of osteopathy in the treatment of asthma or pneumonia. He also echoed my feelings by writing ‘when it comes to conditions as serious as asthma journalists have a responsibility to at least try to get it right’ and that ‘I hope the readers’ complaints coming in are taken seriously.’
In my view, an acceptable way of responding to the complaints (made my me and at least two other members of the public), would have been to print this article alongside a correction and clarification. In addition to this, the Guardian could have replied to complainants such as myself, with an apology and an assurance that in future greater care will be taken (in the words of the PCC) ‘not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information’.
In contrast, the article is still online and the only response from the Guardian so far has been the following comment by Tim Lusher (under Martin’s follow-up article):
“I’m the deputy editor of G2, the print section in which this piece originally appeared.
I agree that a more helpful piece about asthma would carry comment from a body such as Asthma UK, as @Clairehp5 suggests. Unfortunately, this column (The Inside Track) has a first-person voice so it inevitably only takes one view. This column was cleared billed as about osteopathy, not asthma.
Ben Katz claims osteopathy “can help” asthma – he doesn’t say “treat” or “cure”. Readers would thus be perfectly justified in taking the same view of its merits as @carlalanesbats does at the top of these comments. The Guardian is not suggesting asthma sufferers only consult osteopaths for advice and treatment.
Two weeks ago ago, this column was about how to paddle safely (wear flip-flops to avoid treading on poisonous weever fish). It is not intended to be a complete guide to health issues.”
This response attracted plenty of criticism as subsequent comments (linked below) illustrate.
As I said in my own comment (‘JosephineJones’), I believe that just because it wasn’t a detailed health piece, it doesn’t mean it’s OK to print misleading unsubstantiated nonsense. It is still not accurate to say osteopathy can ‘help’ asthma and the piece does imply it can ‘treat’. Furthermore, I believe a ‘first person’ piece such as this (without any critical questioning) equates to advertising and should be flagged as such so that it can be dealt with by the ASA.
I hope for an urgent clarification and correction to the original article as well as an apology for the way I personally have been treated by the Guardian.
I expect this to be resolved to my satisfaction by this time next week (Wednesday 29th June). If this is not the case, I will pass my complaints on to the editor of the Guardian.
I would be happy for you to print this or indeed any of my previous emails.
As I was in the process of putting this on the blog, I have already had a reply from the office of the Readers’ Editor to say that ‘when a complaint has gone to the PCC all correspondence takes place between the PCC and the managing editor — the readers’ editor’s office is not involved’. I wonder why they didn’t tell me this last week?
I am hoping that they are now taking the complaints seriously and will of course blog any further developments.