10:13, October 09 240 0 theguardian.com

2018-10-09 10:13:05
Woman's Own forced to print front-page correction about actor

Denise Welch has forced a celebrity magazine to print a landmark front-page correction, after Woman’s Own made false claims about the former Coronation Street star without any evidence, in a move that could have major repercussions for other glossy gossip publications.

Woman’s Own magazine had quoted a single anonymous “source close to the star” describing the former Waterloo Road actor’s “diva demands” after she returned to ITV panel show Loose Women after a five-year break.

Welch took the unusual decision to complain to press regulator Ipso about the coverage, forcing the magazine into a climbdown when it could not justify its coverage – and she hopes that other celebrities will now follow suit rather than accept what gossip magazines write about them.

“There have been far worse things written about me but often they were true,” said Welch. “When they are true you have to suck it and take it on the chin.”

“It had been done purely to humiliate, degrade and embarrass me and I couldn’t let it go,” said Welch, who said other stars had been in touch with her about the case. “It hit a chord for me and others for the years I’ve tolerated it.”

The story appeared on the front page of Woman’s Own earlier this year, accompanied by a picture of Welch, trailing two pages of coverage inside the magazine, which set out a series of supposedly extraordinary demands made by the star and suggesting her fellow panellists “don’t even want her back full time”.

The magazine did not approach Welch for comment before publication, later telling Ipso that it felt no need to do so as the source had been accurate in the past.

Woman’s Own offered to publish a correction on page three of a future edition but the press regulator’s complaints panel ordered that the magazine print a message on the front page, in the same font size as the original headline – although in reality the wording was obscured at the bottom of the page.

“We may not have a right to privacy in the way other people do but we have a right that a source cannot wake up one day and make up two pages of lies which is trailed on the front page,” said Welch, urging fellow celebrities to follow suit and complain about inaccurate coverage.

“Covers have a ripple effect. When you’re at the Sainsbury’s till those covers are in people’s faces and seen by people in a million years who would never buy Woman’s Own, it goes into people’s subconscious.”

She said she insisted on pushing for the maximum penalty after the magazine had previously apologised for printing an inaccurate story about her on a previous occasion: “I thought: ‘Fuck you, I’m going to take this to the end’. There was no concern about how this article of complete lies had impacted on me or my family.”

“I really hope that this case makes a huge difference …. Even the News of the World had the integrity to phone you on a Saturday night.”

The move could have an impact on the world of celebrity magazines, where stories often rely on hearsay from anonymous sources in the belief that celebrities are unlikely to challenge the material.

Welch also criticised the broader industry of celebrity magazines and said her son Matty Healy, the frontman of the band The 1975, has never received comparable coverage. “Even Matthew, with the international fame he has, never has people writing two entire pages of complete lies having never talked to him, having never met him.”

“If I see my picture on a magazine, I literally don’t even read it any more. I’m so used to seeing myself with 84 chins on the cover of a magazine.”

“I couldn’t put on Twitter: ‘Molly Smith, the editor of Woman’s Own, was found shagging her gardener behind the local pub on Sunday’ and say: ‘Sorry, a source told me.’”

“These magazines call themselves women’s magazines. All they do every week is tear women down.”