English Heritage and National Trust complain to Telegraph over article that ‘attempts to sow discord’

The headline of the story appeared to give the impression that English Heritage’s chief executive had made negative comments about the National Trust

The original Telegraph headline
The original Telegraph headline

English Heritage has made an editorial complaint to The Telegraph newspaper over an interview which appeared to misquote the charity’s chief executive as criticising the National Trust.

The National Trust also plans to submit a complaint to the newspaper over the interview with Kate Mavor, which was published on the Telegraph website on Saturday. 

The online version of the article was originally headlined with the statement: “When it comes to cancel culture, we’re safer than the National Trust – authenticity is key”, which appeared in quotation marks.

The print version of the story used the headline “Cancel Culture? At least we're not the National Trust”, also in quotation marks.

Neither quote appears in the body of the interview.

An English Heritage spokesperson told Third Sector: “The quote featured in the headline did not appear anywhere in the article and is completely at odds with the views of our chief executive, including those expressed – and cited – in the interview itself.

“We raised this matter with The Daily Telegraph over the weekend and they subsequently changed the online headline. We have also registered an editorial complaint with The Telegraph.”   

The online headline for the interview now reads “Cancel culture? ‘We're on safe ground. We always try to find the stories of under-represented groups’”. 

In the interview itself, Mavor praises the National Trust, describing herself as “full of love for it” and saying that what it does is “amazing”.

In the interview, she says: “It is a very broad church. They get so much interest because they have to please so many people. Anybody who attracts passionate discourse is basically engaging people, which is all good.”

Despite Mavor’s comments, the writer of the article frequently criticises the National Trust, comparing it unfavourably with English Heritage, describing the trust as “increasingly woke” and referring to the report the National Trust produced in 2020 into the links between the properties the trust oversees and slavery and colonialism.

The article incorrectly describes this report as having been produced “partly in response to the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests” – the report was commissioned in late 2019, before the murder of George Floyd sparked the resurgence of the BLM protests in May 2020.

Mavor is also quoted as saying that English Heritage commissioned similar research “on the transatlantic slave trade links to our sites” in 2007.

A spokesperson for the National Trust told Third Sector the charity would be submitting its own complaint about the piece. 

Celia Richardson, the charity’s director of communications and insight, tweeted this weekend: “This Telegraph headline’s been made to look like a direct quote from the CEO of English Heritage. You have to read the full article (paywall) to see she didn’t say anything like it in the interview. English Heritage does great work. I’m proud to work for the National Trust.” 

In another tweet, she said it was sad that the Telegraph was “trying to sow discord” between the two charities. 

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