The New Zealand Press Council
PRESS COUNCIL MEMBERSHIP
Membership and Associate Membership applications invited
The Press Council has extended its remit to include digital media and bloggers and is now calling for applications for membership and associate membership of the Press Council. See here
If you have a complaint about the editorial content of a newspaper, magazine or periodical in circulation in New Zealand (including their websites) you may complain to the Press Council. You may also complain about digital sites with news content, including blogs characterised by news commentary, that have been accepted as members or associate members of the Council.
The Press Council was established in 1972 as an industry self-regulatory body and provides an independent forum for resolving complaints involving the press and other news media.
The Press Council is funded by industry and there is no cost to lodge a complaint.
The Press Council also lobbies on Freedom of Expression and Freedom of the Press issues.
Press Council Members
NEW ZEALAND PRESS COUNCIL OFFICERS
Hon Sir John Hansen KNZN, Independent Chairman, Retired Judge of the High Court, Canterbury
Mary Major Executive Director, Wellington
Representing the Public
Peter Fa'afiu General Manager, Communications and Stakeholder Engagement, Tamaki Redevelopment Company, Auckland
Sandy Gill Consultant and mother, Lower Hutt
Chris Darlow Lawyer, Auckland
Tim Beaglehole Emeritus Professor, Wellington
Liz Brown Independent Consultant, Horowhenua
Marie Shroff Indpendent Consultant, Wellington (Alternate Member)
Representing Editors (nominated by the Newspaper Publishers' Association)
Mark Stevens Digital Editor, Fairfax Media NZ, Wellington
John Roughan New Zealand Herald Assistant Editor, Auckland
Representing Magazines (nominated by the Magazine Publishers' Association)
Jenny Farrell Editor, KiaOra Air New Zealand inflight magazine, Auckland
Virginia Larson Editor, North & South (Alternate member), Auckland
Representing Journalists (nominated by the NZ Engineering Printing and Manufacturing Union , media division)
Stephen Stewart Journalist, Wellington
Vernon Small Journalist, Press Gallery, Wellington
Case Number: 2411 AARON LETCHER AGAINST WAIKATO TIMES
Council Meeting DECEMBER 2014
The Press Council has upheld, by a majority of 8:3, a complaint against the Waikato Times over a front page report of a claim that Young Nationals had bought hundreds of copies of the book Dirty Politics, intending to burn them.
Aaron Letcher, president of the Waikato University Students’ Union and a former member of Young Nationals, complained that the story was factually wrong, unsubstantiated, based entirely on rumour and damaging to him.
The story was spread across the front page on August 21, eight days after the publication of the book. The report was accompanied by a graphic illustration of books being set alight and it cited “rumour” that Mr Letcher had bought 202 copies to burn.
In response the newspaper said was reporting allegations, not stating as fact that Mr Letcher was involved in plans for book burning. Mr Letcher’s denial had been given prominence.
The Press Council recognises that social media are a frequent source of information that can be checked and developed into stories capable of meeting the standards of accuracy, fairness and balance expected by readers of a reliable newspaper.
In this case the Council does not believe the newspaper had sufficient corroboration of the claim on Facebook.
While Mr Letcher’s denial was also reported prominently, this did not redeem the report. Newspapers need to be careful when dealing with rumour that is denied. A false accusation can easily be made for the purpose of forcing a political opponent to deny it publicly. That indeed is said to be a device of “dirty politics”. Newspapers should take care to ensure they are not unwitting instruments of it.