Vindication for Catholic college after ‘fake news’ slur about body shaming

Vindication for Catholic college after ‘fake news’ slur about body shaming

Attacks on a Carlow Catholic school by politicians, journalists and commentators were “entirely unfair” based on “fake news” and caused teachers “enormous stress” The Irish Catholic has been told.

The Press Ombudsman found this week that a report about alleged ‘body shaming’ in Presentation College Carlow by a local newspaper had been entirely false.

Local priest Fr Tom Little hailed the decision as a vindication.

He said the furore “caused enormous stress and worry for teachers who were condemned for things they never said or never thought.

“I’m certainly relieved for the teachers and the school, that they have been vindicated. I think those that rushed to judge and make false allegations, without checking out the facts, need to apologise,” Fr Little said.

The paper claimed that female students at the Catholic school were told not to wear tight clothing as it made male teachers “uncomfortable”. The story was quickly taken up on social media and many politicians and journalists jumped to condemn what they saw as ‘body shaming’.

However, at the weekend the press watchdog said that The Nationalist breached journalistic principles on truth and accuracy since the story was without foundation.

“People need to learn that when information on social media is based on facts it’s a good thing but when it’s based on hearsay it can be lethal. It can be very detrimental to people’s career and integrity. I just hope that people learn from their mistakes,” the PP of Askea and Bennekerry, where the school is located, said.

Senator Malcolm Byrne, Fianna Fáil spokesperson for Higher Education also condemned the rush to judgement insisting that Presentation College “is an excellent school” and the “social media pile-on was wrong”.

“It was damaging to the reputation of the school and to the teachers. There was a willingness to jump on the school and criticise the school completely unfairly,” he said.

“I think some of those politicians and journalists who did jump on the bandwagon should now publicly apologise to the school and acknowledge the reputation of Presentation College, Carlow as a very good school,” the senator said.

Mr Byrne insisted that while it should be noted “that some journalists have apologised…it damages the reputation of the media when they report what is effectively ‘fake news’ and while I accept that anyone can make a mistake, if you get something wrong you should apologise and it is a bit concerning that some individuals were willing to attack the reputation of this school but when they were found to be wrong, weren’t willing to apologise.”

The Board of Management of Presentation College Carlow welcomed the decisions of the Press Ombudsman and the Press Council of Ireland, saying in a statement it “would like to sincerely thank all those who stood by our school community during this difficult time – for the support we received from within our school community, local community and further afield”.

It was determined that The Nationalist breached Principle 1 (truth and accuracy) and Principle 2 (distinguishing fact and comment) of the Code of Practice of the Press Council of Ireland for its reporting of the comment falsely claimed to have been made at school assemblies last November.