The transcripts of the official inquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the press. More…

It came about through human error and overzealousness. There were three mistakes we made. The first one other people made as well, which was they misunderstood a verdict being delivered in Italian and basically got it round their necks and got it back to front. As you say, we weren't the only people who did that, other news organisations did it as well.

The second error, though, that compounded it was the fact that we had prepared what in newspaper parlance is called a set and hold, which is when you're expecting a verdict late at night, in newspaper days when the paper was near edition, you'd have copy ready to roll, so you wouldn't have to sit down and write it from scratch and save time, which was sent out at the same time as the verdict. Now, that shouldn't have happened, because -- obviously it shouldn't have gone out because the verdict was wrong anyway, but it shouldn't have gone out full stop until it had been checked against what had actually happened and amended. So that should never have been published.

And the third error was, because bear in mind this story was live for about a minute and 30 seconds, once we'd killed the story, because we realised very quickly we'd made a mistake, once we'd killed the story, we should have done something technical called flashing the cash, which would have erased the story from the Internet very quickly rather than leaving it sitting around for half an hour or so.

So there were three errors made, all of which basically boil down to human error.

I would say the one that made me personally -- I hate -- you know editors -- it seems to happen a lot with editors, but I wasn't in the office that day, the thing that made me angriest was that there was no need for it. It's a bit of a fiction that Internet sites and TV stations -- well I can't speak for TV stations, I can only speak for myself, I guess -- they are desperate to get a story out ten seconds before the competition. I have no interest in that whatever. There's no benefit to it whatsoever.

First of all, Google News for instance isn't that important to us in terms of traffic. Secondly, even if you are the first person up there, the chances are you'll be knocked off the top spot by whoever files in five minutes' time, so my people are under no pressure to be 30 seconds ahead of the competition, so there's no need not to sit back and wait literally a minute until it was obvious what the verdict really was. We had a thorough inquiry, as you can tell, advice was issued, firm advice, to people, and I'll be very displeased if any of those things happen again. But we are dealing with humans, I'm afraid.

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