The pro-Brexit Sun wrongly wrote in a front-page splash a month before the referendum that “4 in 5 jobs” go to foreigners. The tabloid has now corrected its error. But its correction is tiny, appears on page 2 of the paper and took nearly six months to appear.
The Sun published its article entitled “BRITS NOT FAIR!”, taking up the bulk of its front page, on May 19. It published a similar article online. InFacts pointed out to the Sun its mistake on the same day, writing an article detailing the errors. After the tabloid refused to correct the error, we complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO).
This was just one of a series of distorted stories on migration that the Sun and other pro-Brexit papers such as the Express, Mail and Telegraph published during the referendum. Oxford University’s Migration Observatory recorded in a report published today a sharp increase in newspaper coverage of migration since 2010.
The Sun’s offending article reported on statistics from Office for National Statistics (ONS), which showed how much employment had increased in the year to end-March. The Sun’s main mistake was to view the increase in employment – which is a “net” figure taking account of the number of people entering employment minus the number leaving – as the number of new jobs created over the period.
This was despite the fact that the ONS said: “The number of people entering or leaving employment are larger than the net changes. The estimates therefore do not relate to ‘new jobs’ and cannot be used to estimate the proportion of new jobs that have been filled by UK and non-UK workers.”
The Sun spent months trying to dispute the fact that it had made an error. Eventually IPSOfound in InFacts’ favour on October 14 – concluding that the tabloid had failed to take care not to publish inaccurate information. The Sun finally published the following correction last Saturday, on November 5. It also published corrections to the headline, sub-head and first three paragraphs of its online article.
Correction not prominent
InFacts had asked for the correction to be published on the Sun’s front page. We gave three reasons:
- The original article appeared on the front page.
- The article was an inflammatory piece of reporting published in the midst of the referendum campaign that was clearly designed to persuade voters to vote Leave. Some readers may have been influenced to vote Leave on the basis of this inaccurate report. They would be more likely to notice the correction if it appeared on the front page.
- This is not the first time IPSO (and before it the Press Complaints Commission) has had to rule on a similar inaccuracy. Last December, the Express had to correct a headline which had stated: “three out of four British jobs go to EU MIGRANTS”.The Sun’s failure to learn from these previous rulings suggests a particular failure to take care. A front page correction would increase the likelihood that similar errors were not made in future.
IPSO, however, agreed with the Sun that a page 2 correction was “sufficiently prominent” on the grounds that the ONS’ statistics could “have been used to support the claim that 80% of the net employment rise was accounted for by foreign-born workers” and that “the table that referred to ‘new jobs’ did not appear on the front page.”
We leave it to readers to judge whether the watchdog has made the correct decision.