My faith in the media (partially) restored.
08 November 2012
My letter to the Observer/Guardian readers' editor on 4th Nov, 2012.
The debate about Scottish independence has been ramping up since the SNP was re-elected with a majority in 2011, and will continue to do so until the referendum in 2014.
Many national (UK) papers have shown little interest, and are sadly misinformed on the subject. I'd say that the Guardian has bucked that trend to some extent - for instance the guides to Scottish independence you've produced have been fair and factually correct in the main, including this one by Severin Carrell.
However, an article by Daniel Boffey published yesterday failed to live up to this standard.
Over the last fortnight the debate has focussed on an independent Scotland's position with regards to the EU, along with a sideshow around whether Alex Salmond lied over whether he had received legal advice from his law officers on the subject.
"EU tells Alex Salmond to think again in Scottish independence row"
enters this debate. It starts
"The president of the European council has intervened in the Scottish independence debate"
and continues a few lines later with
"was asked his views on Scottish independence during a recent Q&A session broadcast on YouTube."
I find it impossible to believe that the reporter involved has unearthed this statement/video without realising it was uploaded to YouTube on the 30th June, 2011, over 16 months ago. Characterising it as a recent intervention therefore must be intended to misrepresent the situation, either to promote a political point of view, or as a desperate attempt to meet a deadline with some sort of article to show for it.
That's the meat of my complaint, and I'd appreciate your thoughts on it.
The article also wrongly claims that Alex Salmond "erroneously claimed to have had EU legal advice on the issue" which is incorrect in two ways, but that issue is complex and the errors are understandable.
Dear Garve Scott Lodge,
Thank you for your email.
You are, of course, absolutely right that the video was made in June 2011. Most regrettably, the reporter failed to notice this when he wrote the story. His error was compounded whan a subeditor introduced the word "recent" into the sentence about the video.
It's not The Observer's finest hour. Apologies.
I have spoken to all concerned and had the story rewritten, adding a footnote explaining what we have done. I will also run a correction and apology in the paper on Sunday.
Here's a link to the new story