Some of Press Council dump on Garner

There’s something a bit funny about this issue, but the rest is of serious concern.

I posted Changing faces and population growth this morning. I thought it seemed familiar to something Duncan Garner had previously said but checked – not well enough – that it said Last updated 05:00, December 23 2017.

It was actually published in October. It was clearly marked as opinion:

OPINION: I went to Kmart on Wednesday to buy some new underpants and socks.

It has been updated with this message.

A majority of the Press Council ruled that this column breached Principle 4, Comment and Fact and 7, Discrimination and Diversity.  The Press Council decision is here.

The decision: ELIZA PRESTIDGE OLDFIELD AGAINST THE DOMINION POST AND STUFF

Overview

1. Stuff ran an opinion piece by Duncan Garner Dear New Zealand, how do we want to look in 20 years? on 7 October. The column was also published inThe Dominion Post. In it Mr Garner discusses his recent visit to Kmart where he observed the long line waiting for the check-out. He used his observations of who was standing in the line to comment on current immigration policy. He considered what the future of New Zealand may be if, he argues, we do not plan better for our future population.

2. The complaint was upheld by a majority of five members with four members dissenting.

What the hell? Good on four members dissenting, but why are five members dumping on Garner’s opinion?

The Complaint

3. Eliza Prestidge Oldfield complains that the article falls short of Principle 7: Discrimination and Diversity. This principle states that “issues of gender, religion, minority groups, sexual orientation, age, race, colour or physical or mental disability are legitimate subjects for discussion where they are relevant and in the public interest, and publications may report and express opinions in these areas. Publications should not, however, place gratuitous emphasis on any such category in their reporting”.

4. She argues that the article refers to a group of immigrants and suggests that immigration is a concern because the migrants are from those countries. She points out that if the article wanted to avoid a racist subtext particular minority groups should not have been singled out.

So specific ‘sub-groups’ should not be talked about? Garner was describing how he saw things in a queue at K-Mart.

5. She also complains that the article falls short of Principle 1: Accuracy, Fairness and Balance, Principle 4 Comment and Fact, in that “a clear distinction should be drawn between factual information and comment or opinion” and Principle 5 that states that columns, blogs, opinion and letters should be labelled as such.

The Response

6. Bernadette Courtney, Editor in Chief Central Region, responds by stating that the column is an opinion piece and clearly labelled as such. She acknowledges that the content may not sit well with some readers but defends the right to present a variety of views. She pointed out that the paper published a right of reply from the Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy and also published a number of letters with a diverse range of views on the article.

It was clearly labelled as Opinion and other opinions were published in response, including one from the Race Relations Commissioner.

The Decision

  • 7. The Press Council in the past has ruled on complaints against opinion pieces. While an opinion piece does not require balance and is entitled to take a strong position on issues that it addresses, it needs to be based on facts that are accurate and to take into account relevant Press Council principles (such as Principles 4 and 7).

(The published decision does have numbered bulleted paragraphs).

  • 8. In relation to principle 7 it should not legitimise gratuitous emphasis on stereotypes or fear-mongering. The Council will not uphold complaints against expressions of opinion simply on the basis that they are extreme, provocative, and/or offensive. However, if the opinion is so extreme in substance or tone as to go beyond what is acceptable as opinion and amount to a breach of Principle 7, a complaint will be upheld.
  • 9. The parts of the article which are relevant to the complaint start with a statement that the visit to the shopping mall “ . . . fast became a nightmarish glimpse into our future if we stuff it up.” The writer then describes “a massive human snake” and continues: “The self-service counter could not cope. It couldn’t cope with the pressures of the people. The dozens of stressed faces making up the human snake were frustrated too. I looked around, it could have been anywhere in South East Asia. I wasn’t shocked – we have reported this for three years – we have targeted immigrants, opened the gates and let in record numbers. This year’s net gain of migrants was 72,000. Indians, Pakistanis, Sri Lankans, Syrians, and many others. I saw the changing face of New Zealand at the cross roads, otherwise known as Kmart’s self-service counter”.
  • 10. Much of the article consists of legitimate expression of opinion on questions of immigration and population control. It is clearly labelled as opinion and there is no failure to distinguish between opinion and fact (Principles 4 and 5).
  • 11. The main questions before the Press Council relate to the requirements that there be a clear distinction between fact and opinion and that material facts on which an opinion is based should be accurate (Principle 4), and to the discrimination and diversity principle (Principle 7).
  • 12. In relation to principle 4, Mr Garner appears to offer the “fact” that New Zealand’s population is growing because of South East Asian immigration. The actual drivers of population growth are more complex than that. It is only in the last three years that India and China were the top two countries of origin for New Zealand migrants, and in any event, these countries are not generally included in the popular understanding of “South East Asia”. Before that the United Kingdom topped all figures. While the Asian population in New Zealand is the fastest growing (up 33 percent from the 2006 to 2013 census), it still only represents 12 percent of the total population, and not all those of Asian ethnicity are migrants. Population growth can also be driven by New Zealanders returning from overseas or deciding not to migrate. Conflating migration and refugees is also unhelpful.
  • 13. In addition, Mr Garner singles out migrants from Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Syria, countries which are the source of relatively few migrants. The immediate juxtaposition of the figure of 72 000 with the singled out groups amounts to misleading the reader on a factual issue. At the very least the line between fact and opinion has become blurred in this case.
  • 14. In presenting the data as he did, Mr Garner has inaccurately targeted a group of migrants in a way that leads the reader to infer that these groups are driving the poor outcomes for all New Zealanders that Mr Garner outlines. Immigration data, however, tells a more complex story. In presenting the data as Mr Garner did, the reader is led to make inferences that the “blame” for New Zealanders’ poor outcomes and standard of living lies with a targeted group of migrants. As such, the complaint under Principle 4 is upheld.
  • 15. With regard to Principle 7, the Press Council acknowledges and agrees that minority groups, race and colour are legitimate subjects for discussion where they are relevant and the discussion is in the public interest. However there should not be gratuitous emphasis on any such category. In this case, the article was directed at immigration and the consequences of uncontrolled population growth. The arguments are not advanced or aided in any way by singling out certain ethnic or national groups. That certain ethnic groups were singled out and some of these are groups do not provide large numbers of migrants is of most concern. Despite the writer’s protestations to the contrary, his approach can only be seen as gratuitous racism, especially when linked with the description of New Zealand’s future as nightmarish. The Council members upholding the complaint paid due consideration to freedom of expression as discussed in previous cases and concluded that this case went beyond what we deemed acceptable.
  • 16. The complaint under Principle 7 is also upheld.

Press Council members upholding this complaint were Liz Brown, Jo Cribb, Tiumalu Peter Fa’afiu, Hank Schouten and Marie Shroff.

Shame on them.

Dissent

17. The chairman, Sir John Hansen, and three members of the Council, Christina Tay, Tim Watkin and John Roughan, disagreed with the decision to uphold the complaint. In their view the column, while unpleasant, did not overstep the boundaries established by the Council’s principles and previous decisions regarding expressions of opinion on subjects involving race.

Good on them.

18. They noted the Council is reluctant to limit freedom of expressions of opinion on any subject and its principles and rulings allow ethnic issues to be debated so long as the references to race are not gratuitous and do not ascribe adverse characteristics or behaviour to an entire racial group. (See cases 2253 and 2260)

19. The columnist in this case was expressing concern about the ethnic diversity of New Zealand’s high immigration over recent years. He singled out several nationalities as those he thought he recognised in a shopping queue. While these groups were not a large component of New Zealand’s immigration, he was using them as an example of “the changing face of New Zealand”. In this context, the references to ethnic groups were not inaccurate or gratuitous in the minority’s view and he was not ascribing any characteristics to them.

20. The columnist did not explain why he was concerned at the ethnic diversity as well as the scale of immigration in recent years, and the clear implication that this did not need to be explained gave the column an unpleasant “dogwhistle” odour. But this sort of opinion is best challenged, in the minority’s view, by open debate rather than objections to its expression.

It was challenged and debated.

21. The Council has long stressed the safe guarding of “freedom of expression” in relation to opinion pieces. We find it impossible to distinguish this case from Toailoa also decided by the Council at this meeting. In that case the Council unanimously declined to uphold a similar complaint against an opinion piece.

The other case decision was discussed here recently in Complaint against David Garrett/Kiwiblog.

 

 

Complaint against David Garrett/Kiwiblog

Press Council Ruling:  TANYA TOAILOA AGAINST KIWIBLOG

Tanya Toailoa says the guest post is inflammatory, racist and irresponsible. She notes that assertions made by the piece are factually wrong i.e. that all Samoans and Tongans hate each other; and that they all are aware of historical reasons for Tongan/Samoan enmity.

Mr Farrar says his offer of a right of reply to the complainant was the appropriate response to the complaint; and believes agreeing to the complainant’s request for removal of the article would have a chilling effect on the ability of publications to allow strong opinions to be expressed.

Mr Garrett’s guest post is unpleasant, grossly exaggerated and provocative for many readers and possibly intended to be so.

The complaint is not upheld, dissenting from this decision.

 


CASE NO: 2639

ADJUDICATION BY THE NEW ZEALAND PRESS COUNCIL ON THE COMPLAINT OF TANYA TOAILOA AGAINST KIWIBLOG

FINDING: NOT UPHELD WITH DISSENT 8:1

NOT TO BE PUBLISHED BEFORE DECEMBER 18, 2017

Overview

On 8 November 2017 the online commentary site Kiwiblog published a contribution by David Garrett headed “Guest Post: Pasifika is Bollocks”. The post was made after the recent Tongan/Samoan rugby match and the associated public disturbances including fighting between Tongans and Samoans, as reported in the media.  Among other points made, the guest post stated “Samoans and Tongans hate each other with a vengeance”. It also claimed the recent events described above disproved the implications of the term “Pasifika”, i.e. that underneath cultural differences, Pacific Islands people are all one big happy family.

The Complaint

Tanya Toailoa says the guest post is inflammatory, racist and irresponsible. She notes that assertions made by the piece are factually wrong i.e. that all Samoans and Tongans hate each other; and that they all are aware of historical reasons for Tongan/Samoan enmity. She does not accept that the article is acceptable, is fair comment or ‘just an opinion’. She wants the article removed from the site. The complainant cites two Press Council Principles: Comment and Fact; Discrimination and Diversity.

The Response

David Farrar, editor of Kiwiblog, says that from time to time he publishes guest posts offering a variety of points of view. This does not mean he, as editor, agrees with all the opinions expressed, as in this case.

He responds that in relation to Principle 4, Mr Garrett’s article is clearly an opinion piece, and that no reasonable person could regard his assertions as factual. Principle 7 provides that race is a legitimate subject for discussion where relevant, and the context of the piece was extensive media coverage of Tongan/Samoan disturbances.

Mr Farrar says his offer of a right of reply to the complainant was the appropriate response to the complaint; and believes agreeing to the complainant’s request for removal of the article would have a chilling effect on the ability of publications to allow strong opinions to be expressed.

Discussion and Decision

A search of the Internet reveals that there are traditional stories of past Tongan and Samoan rivalry, and unverified accounts of recent incidents, including some involving rugby matches. Apart from that is hard to find a basis for Mr Garrett’s surprising claim that Tongans and Samoans hate each other. In fact he contradicts himself by noting “you would never know it at pan-pacific gatherings – at least until cocktail hour”. Mr Garrett’s guest post is unpleasant, grossly exaggerated and provocative for many readers and possibly intended to be so. It is not surprising that many people commented online about the guest post, both positively and negatively.

Sporting events worldwide can provide an emotional environment where racial prejudices are revealed and unruly behaviour occurs. The Press Council believes the media are entitled to report these occurrences, and commentators to express their opinions. The complainant certainly has a legitimate contrary opinion to Mr Garrett. She has been given the opportunity to express that in a balancing Kiwiblog opinion piece, but has to date not taken that up.

On Principle 4, Comment and Fact, the Council believes the article is an opinion piece and marked as such by the heading “Guest Post”. The contentious statements in the guest post are assertions, and we accept the editor’s submission that they are clearly Mr Garrett’s opinions. The facts of the historical basis and recent history of Tongan/Samoan rivalry are publicly (although perhaps not widely) known and do not appear to be contested.

The Press Council Principle 7 notes that issues of race are legitimate subjects for discussion where relevant.  In this case Samoan/Tongan sporting rivalry was an essential part of the news story sparking the opinion piece. Given this context, we consider that dealing with the Tongan/Samoan issue in an opinion piece could not be considered gratuitous emphasis on race.

The complaint is not upheld, with one member Hank Schouten dissenting from this decision.

Press Council members considering this complaint were Sir John Hansen, Liz Brown, Jo Cribb, Tiumalu Peter Fa’afiu, John Roughan, Hank Schouten, Marie Shroff, Christina Tay and Tim Watkin.


Also posted at Kiwiblog: Press Council decision on complaint against Kiwiblog

 

‘Right to Life’ versus right to an opinion

An interesting ruling by the Press Council after Right to Life New Zealand complained that a column in The New Zealand Herald by Lizzie Marvelly on abortion breached a Press Council Principle  on Accuracy, Fairness and Balance.

I agree that Marvelly has a right to express her opinion. ‘Right to Life’ is confusing facts with differing opinions.


Overview

  1. Right to Life New Zealand complained that a column in The New Zealand Herald by Lizzie Marvelly, “It’s her body, it should be her choice”, breached Press Council Principle 1, Accuracy, Fairness and Balance.

Background

2. On May 28 The New Zealand Herald published a column by Lizzie Marvelly, “It’s her body, it should be her choice”, which presented her views on abortion.

3. Abortion is technically an offence in New Zealand under the Crimes Act (1961). The article outlined the process women have to go through as a result to get an abortion, including referral by a GP or Family Planning, and consultations with two certifying doctors.

4. Ms Marvelly wrote that although we are protective of individual freedoms, in the eyes of the law the decision as to whether an abortion can go ahead is not made by women by the doctors who care for them.

5. In practice, she said, the most commonly used justification is that continuing a pregnancy would cause serious danger to the mental health of the woman.

6. “In our modern, developed world, to have to claim mental suffering to two consultants in order to obtain an abortion is frankly paternalistic and patronising,” she said.

7. Ms Marvelly argued that a woman should not have to speak to a counsellor or wait for an enforced period between appointments to think about her decision, particularly when she may have to travel great distances.

8. She said women in New Zealand should have access to abortion services regardless of where they live.

9. She maintained it was a basic medical procedure, safer than childbirth itself, but stigmatised even today.

10. The column also outlined the current situation with regard to abortion in other countries, specifically the United States and Britain, and criticised the actions of groups which publish emotionally charged newspaper ads, erect “condescending” billboards, create websites and crisis hotlines advertising their apparently neutral pregnancy services for women.

11. Ms Marvelly wrote that this results in an environment in which women are made to feel ashamed or judged for exercising a human right “that has been affirmed by the United Nations”.

The Complaint

12. Right to Life secretary Ken Orr complained that Lizzie Marvelly’s column breached Principle 1, Accuracy, Fairness and Balance. He also referred to Principle 4, Comment and Fact, and 5, Columns, Blogs, Opinion and Letters.

13. He said the article lacked balance because there was no comment from those opposed to abortion.

14. The main thrust of Mr Orr’s complaint appears to be what he considers are factual inaccuracies in Ms Marvelly’s column. These include:

      1. The writer said “pregnancy does not discriminate between the prepared and the utterly unsuspecting, it just happens”. Mr Orr said, “Pregnancy does not just happen, it can be prevented by avoiding sexual intercourse”.
      2. The writer claimed women have to plead grave mental suffering in order to gain an abortion. Mr Orr said that was not correct as abortion is “available on demand in New Zealand”.
      3. By saying a woman shouldn’t need to justify her decision to anyone, least of all the Crown and its agents, Mr Orr said the writer fails to recognise the human rights of the child in the womb.
      4. When the writer claimed women should have access to abortion services regardless of where they live, she failed to acknowledge that abortions are not available in some areas because doctors in those areas refuse to perform them.
      5. The writer claimed abortions were a safe medical procedure, but failed to recognise that “abortion is not safe for the child who is violently dismembered in the mother’s womb”.
      6. The writer stated that obstetricians and gynaecologists in the US are being shot, clinics bombed, and vulnerable women harassed, but failed to recognise that the violence at abortion clinics happened inside the clinic.
      7. Mr Orr said the writer’s suggestion that the pro-life movement was responsible for the crimes committed in the US was “scandalous”. The pro-life movement is “emphatically opposed to violence against women and their unborn, as well as murder of abortionists and violence against abortion clinics and staff”.
      8. Ms Marvelly’s wrote that amending the Care of Children Act 2004 making it mandatory for doctors to notify parents when under 16-year-olds seek an abortion would endanger vulnerable young women who seek an abortion as a result of incest or sexual violence and undermine the trust they have in their physicians. Mr Orr described her belief as “absurd”.
      9. He challenged the writer’s claim that the United Nations has affirmed that abortion is a human right, quoting Article 3 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights: “Everyone has the right to life”.

The Response

15. New Zealand Herald Weekends Editor Miriyana Alexander denied that the column by Lizzie Marvelly breached Press Council Principle 1.

16. She said the column is an opinion piece, clearly labelled with the writer’s name on the print and online versions. Ms Marvelly was employed to write a weekly column to share her views with readers. The newspaper did not expect everyone to agree with her, but “freedom of expression is a principle we hold dear at the Herald”.

17. The editor said she did not intend to respond to the parts of the complaint which are simply views Right To Life holds in opposition to Ms Marvelly. “It is not Right to Life’s place to tell Ms Marvelly that she should hold the same view as theirs.”

18. On the allegation that the statement “the United Nations has affirmed than an abortion is a human right” is untrue because there is no UN Convention that recognises this “human right” the editor rebutted Mr Orr’s claim. Ms Marvelly did not say there was a UN Convention, she simply said that woman were “exercising a human right that has been affirmed by the United Nations”.

19. The editor provided several links to examples of the UN’s position on abortion in which it ruled that denying women abortions was a violation of human rights.

The Decision

20. Lizzie Marvelly is a regular columnist for the New Zealand Herald and her June 28 column on abortion was clearly an opinion piece on a subject that has for many years inflamed public debate.

21. By their very nature, opinion pieces are frequently provocative, offensive or controversial in subject and tone, but they are exempt from many of the rules which apply to news reports, as long as it is clear that they are the writer’s opinion. Principles 4, Comment and Fact, and 5 Columns, Blogs, Opinion and Letters, both require that material facts on which an opinion is based should be accurate, with Principle 5 stating that with opinion pieces, balance is not essential.

22. It is clear to the Press Council that the inaccuracies Mr Orr alleges are in fact the views of the writer, which differ markedly from those held by Right to Life. Rather than attempting to prove the writer’s statements are incorrect, Mr Orr has simply countered them with the responses that his organisation routinely uses on this topic.

23. Ms Marvelly’s opinion may well be unpalatable to many, but that does not make it wrong. We agree with the editor when she says: “It is not Right to Life’s place to tell Ms Marvelly that she should hold the same view as theirs.”

24. As an opinion piece, the column was not required to provide balance and the Press Council finds no breach of Principle 1 in terms of fairness or accuracy.

25. The complaint is not upheld.

Press council versus Matt Heath

In April there was some controversy when two Radio Hauraki hosts ridiculed English cricket player Ben Stokes, then when Stokes’ mother rang up to complain they broadcast it live but told her it was off air.

One of the hosts, Matt Heath, wrote an opinion column that was published on NZ Herald: Matt Heath: When a mother sticks up for her famous son

Ben Stokes’ mum got wind of our comments and rang our studio to stick up for her 24-year-old son. I answered her call live on air thinking she was ringing up for a competition. When we found out she was ringing to make a complaint about us, we thought it would be funny to tell her she wasn’t on air so our listeners could hear someone have a go at us.

In my opinion, Ben Stokes’ mum was being an overly protective parent. She’d heard some people had made jokes about her son and wanted to stick it to us. Good on her.

But she shouldn’t have.

I reckon there is a lesson here for all us parents. Fighting your kids’ battles rarely helps.

Within reason, kids have to fight their own battles. That’s how they become resilient like we all are. You won’t always be around for them. You could get hit by a bus tomorrow. Your kids need to stand up for themselves today.

Give them love, support, advice and a safe home – but don’t ring up a radio station on air because someone called your boy “Ben Chokes”.

So Heath criticised Deborah Stokes and defended his deliberate deception on air.

But Deborah Stokes didn’t leave it at that. She lodged a complaint with the Press Council, who have upheld her complaint.

CASE NO: 2516

ADJUDICATION BY THE NEW ZEALAND PRESS COUNCIL ON THE COMPLAINT OF DEBORAH STOKES AGAINST NEW ZEALAND HERALD

FINDING: UPHELD

TO BE PUBLISHED ON 11 JULY 2016 Confidential to the parties until 11 July 2016

1. Deborah Stokes complains that a column published in the New Zealand Herald entitled “When a mother sticks up for her famous son” breaches Press Council Principles 1, Accuracy, Fairness and Balance, 2, Privacy, and 9, Subterfuge.

2. The complaint is upheld on Principle 1 with regard to fairness. One member would also uphold on Subterfuge.

The Complaint

11. Mrs Stokes’ complaint provides context to the subject of the New Zealand Herald column, namely the live broadcast of the phone call she made to Radio Hauraki. She says she asked for, and was given, two separate assurances by host Matt Heath that the discussion was off-air. It was in fact on air, broadcast live and was subsequently replayed and referred to on the radio breakfast show several times over the next few days.

12. Mrs Stokes complains that the New Zealand Herald column breached three Press Council principles.

13. Principle 9 Subterfuge: Because the column was based on an on-air broadcast that was itself obtained by subterfuge, the information in the column was obtained by the same root subterfuge, misrepresentation and dishonesty. “It goes without saying that the column cannot be justified as being in the public interest,” she says.

14. Principle 1, Fairness: Mrs Stokes claims the actions of Matt Heath in writing a column based on an act of subterfuge breached the fairness principle.

15. Principle 2, Privacy: Mrs Stokes claims it was a breach of her privacy for Heath to have referred to the matter in the column as the radio broadcast itself was also a breach of her privacy.

The Editor’s Response

19. The editor of the New Zealand Herald, Murray Kirkness, defends the newspaper’s decision to publish the column. It is important, he says, to make the distinction between the original live radio broadcast and the subsequent opinion column when considering the facts.

20. He denies that subterfuge was used in obtaining information for the column as the information was already in the public domain prior to the time of publication.

26. Mr Kirkness submits that the publication of the column did not breach any Press Council rules, and did not go any further than what was widely published nationally and internationally in other media. “I believe it would be a matter of significant concern if the media were not able to comment on matters of public controversy by reason of issues arising out of the circumstances in which a story first broke,” he says. “Once an issue is in the public domain and has become a matter of public debate it cannot be the case that it is impermissible for the media to comment on it by reason of some question mark over the manner in which the information originally surfaced.”

Discussion

27. The New Zealand Herald column published on April 11 is based on the live broadcast on Radio Hauraki on April 6; however the Press Council cannot comment on the radio broadcast as it is the subject of a separate complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority, and this adjudication deals only with the article published by the New Zealand Herald in print and online.

28. The column by Matt Heath was clearly an opinion piece; it was not a news report. Opinion pieces are by their very nature frequently provocative, offensive or controversial in subject and tone, but as long as they are clearly signposted as the writer’s opinion, they are exempt from many of the rules which apply to news reports. The Press Council’s Principle 5, Columns, Blogs, Opinion and Letters, states that “though requirements for a foundation of fact pertain, with comment and opinion, balance is not essential.”

29. In this case, however, we believe the fine line on what can be deemed fair or not fair has been crossed. Heath’s column about over-protective parents, which under normal circumstances is a perfectly acceptable subject for an opinion piece, was clearly a convenient hook to allow him to justify his actions in knowingly deceiving Mrs Stokes on his radio show.

30. In the column Heath openly admitted his dishonesty, which he said he thought would be funny, and then ridiculed Mrs Stokes for defending her son, writing that “a parental attempt to right things ended up bringing global humiliation on her son”.

31. The Press Council does not accept the editor’s argument that the New Zealand Herald article did not go any further than what was widely published nationally and internationally in other media. The difference was that the Herald published an opinion piece written by the perpetrator of the original deceit.

32. We agree with Mrs Stokes’ view that it was not fair for the newspaper to provide Matt Heath a further opportunity to justify his improper actions on his radio show. It is also unfair that he was permitted to add insult to injury by using her as an example of what not to do as a parent. Otherwise he is able to take advantage of his own misleading actions, which is unfair.

33. The complaint that the column breached Principle 1, with respect to fairness is upheld.

34. With regard to the complaints under Principle 9, Subterfuge, and Principle 2, Privacy, it is clear that rightly or wrongly, the subject of the broadcast discussion between Mrs Stokes and the Radio Hauraki hosts was very much in the public domain by the time the column appeared, so the information contained within it cannot be deemed to have been obtained by subterfuge. Mrs Stokes’ identity was by that stage also in the public domain, so her privacy cannot be deemed to have been breached by the New Zealand Herald article.

35. The complaints under Principle 2 and Principle 9 are not upheld.

However one member of the Council also wanted the complaint upheld on grounds of subterfuge and wanted his dissent noted. The column relied on an interview based on deception, and regardless of whether that interview was broadcast on radio or was simply part of the columnist’s research, the deception remains and, in his mind, was grounds for a wider uphold.

Regardless of this, the actions of Heath (and Jeremy Wells) on air were crappy, and Heath doubled down on his crap with the column.

The Herald published the full finding in Press Council upholds complaint against Matt Heath column.

 

The Bloggers Gang

The Press Council is proposing to allow bloggers to become members. Rod Emmerson at NZ Herald generalises:

Just as some current members of the Press Council might see themselves differently to how they are depicted here, some bloggers won’t see themselves as part of a skull jacketed gang of thugs.

I’ve been called many things (including Beige Badger and Mother Teresa), I beg to differ from this image.