ADA MC CALLUM AGAINST THE INFORMER

Case Number: 2164

Council Meeting: DECEMBER 2010

Verdict: Not Upheld

Publication: The Informer

Ruling Categories: Bias
Distortion
Politicians
Accuracy
Unfair Coverage

Ada McCallum of Whitianga complains at The Informer's treatment of Dal Minogue, a member of the Thames-Coromandel District Council who stood unsuccessfully for the mayoralty and for re-election to his council seat this year. The complaint is not upheld.

The Complaint
The complainant cites a number of published items, the first of which is the subject of a complaint also from Mr Minogue, which the Press Council has not upheld.

It concerned The Informer's September 21 report that the candidate had omitted two paragraphs from an email from the District Council's chief executive when he distributed copies of it at an election meeting in Whitianga. (See Decision No 2163)

Ada McCallum complains secondly that The Informer's issue of October 5, four days before postal voting closed, published a letter containing "a totally false suggestion that Mr Minogue had released information from a 'public excluded' session of the council several years ago".

Thirdly, she complains that the same issue contained a retraction of allegations made against a former District Council member who was now standing for the regional council, Environment Waikato. "This late retraction was printed just before the voting period ended, during which time those earlier allegations had remained unanswered," she said.

Fourthly, she complains that The Informer did not give all candidates equal opportunity. Mr Minogue was the only candidate in the Mercury Bay ward not given a feature article.

Lastly, she complains that one of those articles had carried an editor's note that the candidate was supported by the Whangamata Ratepayers' Association when that decision had not been made by a full meeting of the association.

The second, fourth and last of those items were not included in her letter of complaint to the editor.

The Editor's Response
In a brief response to her, the editor stood by his September 21 story.

He said he would not be commenting to her or the Press Council on her second complaint because the statement published on October 5 was part of a confidential agreement.

He added a gratuitous reference to an incident between neighbours that the complainant had "come in to our office ranting about".

To the Press Council, the editor also commented on the points that had not been raised in the complainant's letter to him.

He said he could personally vouch for the accuracy of the accusation made in the letter published on October 5.

He omitted Mr Minogue from features on candidates, he said, because it was focused on new candidates to help them raise their profile. He said that was explained to Mr Minogue who made no complaint.

He added that the Whangamata Ratepayers' Association endorsement had been announced by its president.

The Decision
The Press Council has considered each of the items of complaint in turn.

As previously decided on Dal Minogue's complaint, The Informer's story on his edited hand-out was factual and included his explanation for excluding two paragraphs.

The letter alleging an improper release of council information, included a response from Mr Minogue, and he has not complained about it. The Press Council is not in the position to adjudicate on whether there was an improper release of information.

The Press Council accepts the editor's reason for making no response to the third item of Ms McCallum's complaint, the lateness of a retraction concerning a previous council member. Newspapers do not need to answer for settlements negotiated with complainants in confidence.

Mr Minogue's exclusion from The Informer's profiles of new candidates was a result of a policy the paper applied generally and brought no complaint from the candidate.

The paper was entitled to mention the Whangamata Ratepayers Association's endorsement on the basis of its president's announcement.

The complaints are not upheld.

Press Council members considering this complaint were Barry Paterson (Chairman), Pip Bruce Ferguson, Kate Coughlan, Chris Darlow, Sandy Gill, Penny Harding, Keith Lees, Clive Lind, John Roughan, Lynn Scott and Stephen Stewart.