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
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!