Case Number: 974

Council Meeting: MAY 2004

Verdict: Not Upheld

Publication: Waiheke Marketplace

Ruling Categories: Headlines and Captions
Balance, Lack Of

A complaint brought by Mr Barry Lawrence against the Waiheke Marketplace was not upheld.

Mr Lawrence complained that an article headlined “PHO Blow by Blow” which appeared in the 5 November 2003 edition of the newspaper was unfair and unbalanced. In particular, he takes issue with the omission from the article of any reference to the submissions made by him at the AGM and regular monthly meeting of the Waiheke Health Trust, which articulated his concerns about the conduct of the Waiheke Health Trust and its involvement in the establishment of a Public Health Organisation (“PHO”).

Mr Lawrence complained to the publisher of the newspaper by letter dated 10 November 2003. He appears to have done this because a representative of the publisher was also an elected member of the Waiheke Health Trust and had been present at the AGM which the newspaper article reported on. The publisher did not respond to, or acknowledge, Mr Lawrence’s complaint so he sought to have the matter adjudicated upon by the Press Council. He enclosed with his letter of complaint various other items upon which he relied on to establish the substantive validity of the concerns he had raised at the AGM.

The editor and publisher of the Waiheke Marketplace confirmed that they had discussed Mr Lawrence’s complaint but concluded that it did not have any merit. They were of the view that the issues raised by Mr Lawrence at the AGM had “no substantive effect” and, accordingly, the newspaper did not report them.

The article published in the newspaper records the election of two office holders and then provides a summary of the address given by the guest speaker at the AGM. The article does not purport to traverse any discussion which may have arisen as a result of his address. Insofar as it comprises a report of that address it cannot be considered either unfair or unbalanced.

The Council notes that it is perhaps unfortunate that the headline to the article does not accurately reflect the actual content of the article. That does not of itself, however, result in the article infringing the Statement of Principles.

It is not the role of the Press Council to in any way determine, or even evaluate, the substantive arguments that Mr Lawrence has raised concerning the Waiheke Health Trust. The Council’s role is confined to considering the article complained of. The larger part of the article is devoted to a factual report of the overview of PHOs provided by the guest speaker.

The Press Council sees nothing in the article that requires censure and it does not uphold the complaint.