Guardian CEO: Beating ourselves up over the Jeremy Corbyn 'traingate' story shows we don't need an external watchdog

Jeremy Corbyn Virgin trainTwitter / @richardbransonCCTV footage shows Jeremy Corbyn walking past empty seats on the Virgin Trains service, undermining the account given in The Guardian story.

Guardian chief executive David Pemsel has argued that the newspaper’s handling of the Jeremy Corbyn “traingate” story shows it does not need an external regulator.

The newspaper’s piece about Corbyn failing to find a seat on a crowded Virgin Trains service quickly unravelled in August.

The information in the article was challenged by readers who found CCTV footage showing the Labour leader walking past several empty seats. Meanwhile, the report’s author, “Charles B Anthony”, was exposed as a pseudonym for Corbyn supporter Anthony Casey.

It was investigated by reader editor Paul Chadwick, who acts as an internal regulator of The Guardian’s output. He published a lengthy mea culpa on the Corbyn video earlier this month, in which he said it was written by a “partisan” pro-Labour activist, that it contained “flaws,” and it functioned to “mislead readers.”

Pemsel admitted “it’s not great to have a working example that’s only come up recently,” but said the case underlines that The Guardian system of self-regulation works.

“Paul Chadwick demonstrated his muscle over the Corbyn video where he was very clear about some of the things we might have not got quite right. It works for us, and we’re going to carry on with our structure,” he told Business Insider.

Pemsel “taken aback” at being branded “pious” by press regulator

David PemselGettyDavid Pemsel

The Guardian has refused to join IPSO, the regulator set up after the Leveson Inquiry into press ethics. IPSO counts The Sun and The Daily Telegraph among its members, and chairman Sir Alan Moses has been critical of The Guardian of refusing to join.

“My view is they are far too pious to join us,” Moses told the Financial Times this month. “It makes no sense if they really believe in improving press standards.”

Pemsel was surprised by the strength of Moses’ language. “[Pious] is an extraordinary word. I was slightly taken aback by the word, especially when you look at its true definition,” he said.

Pemsel on Seumas Milne: “Thankfully, it is not my responsibility”

Separately, Pemsel declined to provide a meaningful update on the future of a key member of Jeremy Corbyn’s top team, Seumas Milne, who has worked as a journalist at The Guardian since 1984.

Milne is working on loan for a year from The Guardian as Corbyn’s director of strategic communications, and there has been speculation in recent weeks that he is about to return to his permanent employer.

“Thankfully, it is not my responsibility,” Pemsel said. “He is on paid leave now. Does that debate continue? Yes. Is it my responsibility? No.”

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