JD Wetherspoon has printed and distributed a magazine of corrections and apologies from news and media outlets who had made “untrue statements” about the company.
Wetherspoon, and chairman Tim Martin in particular, were heavily criticised during the early months of the pandemic for what was perceived as unfair treatment of his staff during lockdown. Martin claims comments from an internal staff video, in March 2020, were “taken out of context and distorted outrageously”, and that Wetherspoon quickly became “a James Bond villain”.
In one particular instance following the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns prohibiting pubs from opening last year, the company and Tim Martin were accused by several news outlets of telling staff to “work for Tesco,” a supermarket company, until pubs reopened.
Tim Martin strenuously denied using that term and saying he informed employees that supermarkets were in need of staff; the allegations in the news were eventually retracted, with some organisations even issuing apologies.
In another example Tim Martin said: “It’s fair to say that more people seem to read the incorrect versions than the subsequent corrections – yet, even so, correcting something quickly and a commitment to accuracy make a big difference to any publication’s credibility. The same can’t be said for American publication Bloomberg Businessweek – which published an article riddled with basic factual errors which it appears reluctant to correct. UK readers, who know and visit our pubs, will easily see that the offending article is cobblers – but American readers, who do not have this opportunity, may believe that it is telling the truth”
Now, 18 months on, and having “waited for the furore to subside” Wetherspoon has secured apologies and corrections from, among others, the Daily Express, Daily Mail, Daily Mirror, Daily Star, Daily Telegraph, The Guardian, The Independent, The Times, Sky News and Forbes.
“Never in the history of business, we surmise, has a single organisation sought, and obtained, so many apologies and corrections from so many iconic media organisations,” said Martin in an editorial piece in the magazine. “C’est la vie, as the Chuck Berry song goes. No hard feelings, folks. Yes, some people were horrid to us, but we bear no grudges. Newspapers play a vital role in shining a light on power and on the murkier goings-on in the world – and journalists work incredibly hard in an internet-ravaged industry. Years ago, I berated a stockbroker who criticised Wetherspoon in a note to his clients. ‘Remember, Tim’ he said. ‘you’ve got your job to do, and I’ve got mine.’
Fair comment, I thought, I’ll settle for that – and in the case of the media representations of the last 18 months, we’ll settle for publishing the extensive list of corrections and apologies.”