Loose use of the term “scuba diving” has caused a UK regional daily newspaper to come under investigation by the press watchdog.
After the Oxford Mail used the words to describe the death of a snorkeller when reporting on his inquest last October, his widow lodged a complaint with the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO).
Mark Thomson-Tur, 60, had been found unconscious while snorkelling from a yacht off Praslin in the Seychelles on 1 April. The crew had performed CPR as he was taken ashore, but his death had been confirmed on arrival at hospital. At the inquest the coroner had returned a verdict of accidental death by drowning.
The Oxford Mail took the inquest report from a news agency, but ran it under the headline “Scuba Horror: Dream Holiday Becomes a Nightmare as Man Drowns While Diving”. The victim’s widow Fiona complained to IPSO that the headline breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice.
The article had reported that her husband got into difficulties when his new mask “sprang a leak”, and that he had joked to his wife that he had experienced a similar problem on a previous holiday. It went on to say that she had seen her husband “thrashing about and realised he was in serious trouble” and that he had been found floating face-up in the water.
Fiona Thomson-Tur argued that the article was an inaccurate account of what had been said at the inquest. Her husband had been snorkelling, not diving, she said, and the leak in his mask had not happened before, and was not linked to his death.
She also denied having been aware of her husband struggling in the water, and said that he had been floating face-down.
The Oxford Mail accepted that the reference to scuba diving in the headline had been inaccurate, but said this had been changed as soon the complaint was received. However, it maintained that the rest of the article was an accurate report of what had been heard at the inquest, received from a reputable news agency.
Because of the impasse IPSO had launched an investigation. The Oxford Mail later offered to take down the article, and Fiona Thomson-Tur had accepted this as resolving the matter.
IPSO made no determination on whether there had been a breach of its code, and closed the investigation some 10 weeks after the complaint had been lodged.