Case Number: 645 THE CREDO SOCIETY AGAINST THE NEW ZEALAND HERALD
Council Meeting MARCH 1997
Mrs Barbara Faithfull, secretary of the Credo Society, complained to the New Zealand Press Council THAT a letter she had written to the editor of the New Zealand Herald had been rejected for publication. Her complaint was not upheld.
Mrs Faithfull was unhappy that the letter sent in response to one from another correspondent was not published.
The sequence of events was: a correspondent wrote to the paper asserting claim by co-leader of the Christian Coalition Graeme Lee that the party had done poorly at the October general election because of attacks from, among others, the homosexual community, were wrong.
The Credo Society’s response was published five days later, saying the writer was deluded or intentionally misleading to make the claims he or she had. Within a week, the original correspondent had his or her reply to the Society published, and referred to what they saw as the Society’s “bizarre obsession with homosexuality.” The Herald decided not to publish the Credo Society’s response to that second letter.
Mrs Faithfull said that decision allowed a serious imbalance in the debate. The Society had supporting evidence that homosexual political activists had played a major, if not the major, role in the campaign to discredit the Christian Coalition.
She complained to the Herald and said its response was cursory, cavalier, dismissive and evasive.
Mrs Faithfull told the Press Council the Society believed that editors had a right to determine which letters to the editor were published, when all things were equal. When they were not, however, editorial decisions ought to be able to be queried. Editorial responsibility was at issue. She further alleged a common thread or pattern to the way the Society’s letters were handled, whether or not they were published.
The associate editor of the Herald , Don Milne, said the paper denied categorically Mrs Faithfull’s allegations. It had responded similarly to her about previous complaints over a considerable period and considered her continuing complaints about the Herald to have become vexatious.
The Press Council dismissed the complaint. It acknowledged that the original correspondent had been allowed to respond to the Society’s criticism of him (or her) and noted this was in line with its own recommendation to editors in 1989 when correspondents were the subject of personal criticism.
However, it could not find that editorial discretion on the publication of letters had been inappropriately exercised in the case of the Society’s second letter.
It reiterated its view that editors have wide discretion as to which letters are selected for publication.