For the Daily Mail Sorry really seems to be the hardest word

The Daily Mail today published a correction to an article published on 12 December 2011:

AN ARTICLE on 12 December 2011 suggested that Ned RocknRoll was still married to his wife Eliza when he met Kate Winslet. In fact, the marriage had already ended in divorce. We apologise for any contrary impression given.

The Daily Mail apologises for the ‘suggestion’ or ‘impression’ that Ned RocknRoll was still married to his wife when he met Kate Winslet. When you look at the original article this looks like a very slyly-worded apology indeed:

[After Kate Winslet started dating him] Abel Smith, who eccentrically changed his name by deed poll some years ago to Ned RocknRoll, subsequently informed his wife, Eliza Pearson, 23, the sweet-natured daughter of multi-millionaire Viscount Cowdray, that he had fallen for the Titantic star. While Eliza took it on the chin and decided to divorce him, Louis is still struggling with what happened.

The Daily Mail’s apology, therefore, seriously implies that the original article merely ‘suggested’ or gave the ‘impression’ that the couple were still together at the time. What it actually does is clearly state that after meeting Kate Winslet he ‘subsequently informed his wife’ who ‘took it on the chin and decided to divorce him’.

This half-hearted, weasel-worded ‘apology’ is made by the Daily Mail in the week in which its Editor-in-chief Paul Dacre has had to appear twice before the Leveson inquiry. Dacre was – as ever – bullish about press standards – especially when concerning his beloved Daily Mail – and he argued that press standards had improved greatly in recent years (how bad must it have been before?) and that statutory regulation was not needed.

Since the inquiry started Paul Dacre has taken great pleasure in repeating that the Daily Mail has taken the trouble to offer prompt apologies / corrections on page 2 of its print edition.

However, the reality is that apologies are not prompt or sincere and don’t even attempt to admit or acknowledge the true gravity of the original error. They are in many ways absolutely representative of the culture, attitude and ethics that pervades a press that like a stubborn and naughty child isn’t used – or even prepared – to say sorry properly.

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