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Studland United Nudists - Beach report form



Article littered with inaccuracies (March 1998)
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Pink Paper 'Nudists Face Court Action' article inaccurate

On March 27th 1998 the Pink Paper, a national weekly newspaper for the gay community, published on its page 3, under the prominent headline Nudists face court action, the following article:

A group of gay nudists in Dorset have been threatened with legal proceedings for continuing to use parts of a nudist beach after the council re-designated an area as non-nudist after complaints about public sex.

Purbeck District Council is threatening to take out a High Court injunction against members of the gay Studland United Nudists Group who regularly use the Studland Nudist beach near the Dorset holiday resort of Swanage. The area is owned by the National Trust.

But members of the group are defying council officials and continuing to use part of the beach located near a recently installed nature trail.

"We are the subject of bigotry and intolerance because of the moral laxity of other beach users - particularly those men and women who use the beach for public sexual intercourse" said Studland United Nudists chairman Mark Nisbet. 'We have stated repeatedly that we condemn public sex and have pointed out that most of the offensive activity is carried out by men and women who are not nudists.'

But last month Purbeck Council re-designated an area of sand dunes near the Heather Walk as non-nudist and installed red boundary posts to mark the area where nudism is permitted.

"We have received a number of complaints about sexual activity in the nudist beach area, and have responded by likelihood of members of the public observing activities of those using the nudist beach,' said a council spokesman. The National Trust was not available for comment.

Needless to say, the Board leapt into action. While our Chairman, Mark Nisbet (who is not gay) fired off a correction by fax, the Secretary was busy writing to Purbeck DC and the National Trust. Both of these replied by return of post, denying any knowledge; PDC were particularly keen to stress that they had not interfered in the running of Studland and had no plans to do so, and were at a loss to explain the attribution of comments to them, since only a limited number of council officers are authorised to speak to the Press and none of these had done so. The National Trust, in the person of Wessex Public Affairs Manager Celia Mead, refuted any suggestion that the Trust had a hand in it; Celia told us that the Pink Paper had rung her office after she had left on the day prior to publication, and that although she had tried to contact the reporter concerned the following morning, he had not returned her call.

To our surprise, there was no mention in the following week's issue of the Pink Paper of our rebuttal, so the Secretary sent a further lengthy letter, enclosing copies of the letters from Purbeck DC and the National Trust. Reasonably expecting that this would result in the paper publishing a retraction, we were amazed when the next issue again contained no reference to the matter. We therefore sent all the details to the Press Complaints Commission, recording a complaint under clauses 1(i), 1(u), 1(iii) and 2 of the Code of Practice. The Commission accepted our complaint on 23 April.

On 1 May, the Pink Paper published the following on page 6, at the foot of the letters column and under a small capitals headline "Studland Nudists":

There were a number of inaccuracies in a story, 'Nudists Face Court Action' (Pink Paper, 3 March): Purbeck District Council has no plans to take out injunctions against Studland United Nudists (SUN); SUN is not a solely gay group; it was the National Trust (National Trust) - not the local council - who have erected a cordon sanitaire of red posts behind the nudist beach; the National Trust's attempts to restrict nudism there began three years ago, not 'last month'; SUN members emphasise they are not breaking the law, nor do they condone law-breaking.

The observant among you will note that in this grudging correction they could not even get the date of their original report right, but we let that go. You will observe also that there was no apology, either to us, to Purbeck DC or the National Trust for the false and potentially damaging report, not any hint of remorse for having failed to check the facts. We wrote again to the PCC, asking them to continue with their adjudication on the grounds that the "correction" was inadequate, did not match the original report either in size or prominence, and contained no apology. This, I am afraid, the PCC declined to do, taking the view (in a letter dated 27 May) that the editor's action "had provided a reasonable remedy under the Code". So that's it.

SUN members will recognise the quotation (in the original article) attributed to Mark as a verbatim transcript of part of the March Bulletin - a copy of which was sent, as a courtesy, to the editor of BN magazine. The deeply flawed historical and geographical references bear the hallmark of someone not familiar with Studland. The owner of a certain so-called naturist club is believed to harbour similar misconceptions.

The editor of the Pink Paper, Tim Teeman, according to the Guardian of 8 June, is shortly leaving the paper and 'moving into radio'. Listeners, you have been warned!