Subscribe to the daily newsletter.

Manchester Mill issues ‘community fact check’ plea following legal action over covid funding story

Hyper-local news website The Manchester Mill has taken the unusual step of issuing a plea for a “community fact check” by readers following receipt of a legal notice from lawyers representing a leading Manchester figure.

The Mill last week published a story relating to Arts Council funding received by Primary Events Solutions, a company founded by Manchester’s night time economy advisor Sacha Lord, during the pandemic.

In a lengthy post on The Mill’s website, founder and editor Joshi Hermann explains that last Friday, The Mill received a letter from a London law firm acting for Lord stating that the story was defamatory and “factually wrong.” The letter, Hermann added, went on to demand that The Mill permanently remove the article from its website and social media by 4pm on Tuesday, May 21, as well as publish a correction and apology and pay legal costs.

Hermann, however, claims that the lawyers have not produced evidence that The Mill’s story is erroneous, adding that if they do “I will take the story down. Not only that, I will make a big deal of it, and I will apologise publicly for getting it wrong.”

In a highly unusual step, The Mill’s editor then went on to publish the full application submitted by Primary Events Solutions to the Arts Council’s Culture Recovery Fund in January 2021 – the document on which the story was largely based – and issue the fact check plea to readers:

“We don’t have anything like the staff or resources of the Arts Council or the GMCA, but we do have the most engaged readership in British journalism, so we may as well use it,” Hermann wrote. “There are 45,000 Millers on this mailing list, some of whom are trained as journalists, researchers, lawyers and police officers, and others of whom we know from past stories are extremely good online sleuths.

“Our story last week focused on some of the key misleading details in the document, but there are dozens more claims we haven’t been able to check. Now that we’re being threatened with a lawsuit, we need to go through every single line.”

Hermann said that three journalists from The Mill and its sister publications in Liverpool and Sheffield have been assigned to fact-checking the story full time this week, and asked readers to send any tips by email.

He added: “By 4pm tomorrow, the deadline set by Lord’s lawyers, we should have a very good idea of who is in the right here and who has misjudged things. There’s nothing like a mass exercise in public transparency to sort things out.”

,A spokesperson for Lord told Prolific North in a statement:

“I can confirm Mr Sacha Lord has instructed solicitors and a specialist defamation KC and has started legal proceedings against The Millers Publishing Company Limited and its publication The Mill Manchester in response to a defamatory and factually incorrect article published Thursday, 16 May 2024.

“We vehemently disagree with allegations presented in the article and strongly dispute the accuracy, reliability and transparency of its sources. 

“Furthermore, the latest review by Arts Council England (dated December 2022) and in reference to the grant provided to Primary Event Solutions Limited, concluded that Arts Council England was “satisfied with the evidence provided” by Primary Event Solutions Limited and that no misuse of public money had been found. This outcome was explicitly provided to The Mill ahead of publication. 

“Since 2020, The Mill Manchester has published nine separate articles critical of Mr Lord, and as such we are saddened but not surprised by these latest additions to their campaign of negativity against him.

“The Mill and its founder, Joshi Herrmann, advocate for truthful, transparent and quality journalism and we are disappointed that these values and journalistic standards have not been upheld by their own publication.

“No further comment will be provided at this time.”

Related News