BRYAN HARRISON AGAINST BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

Case Number: 2125

Council Meeting: AUGUST 2010

Verdict: Upheld

Publication: Bay of Plenty Times

Ruling Categories: Errors, Apology and Correction Sought
Accuracy

Bryan Harrison complained to the Press Council about an article published in the Bay of Plenty Times on 31 May 2010. The complaint is upheld.

Background
The story, published under the headline Motorcyclists lose road traction, was a report of two motorcyclists crashing off the road on State Highway 2, 10 kms from Waihi.
The report stated that the motorcyclists (who with their pillion riders were taken to hospital) slipped on a bend and crashed. Comment from the Fire Service and police implied that the cyclists had not taken sufficient care when traveling in wet conditions.

The Complaint
Mr Harrison complained to the newspaper and then, in the absence of a response, to the Press Council
He provided the Press Council with photographs to support his claim that the accidents were caused by a poor road surface on a corner where there had been a fatal accident two to three weeks earlier. The road had been repaired after the accident but the tar did not have gravel embedded in it. There was a large smooth tar strip on the road which had led to lack of traction for the motor bikes and caused the accidents.
As the photographs showed, the weather was not a factor as it was not raining and the road was dry at the time of the accident.
The complainant said that the motor bikes involved were part of a larger group, all of whom were experienced bikers, and that they were traveling well under the speed limit.
He noted that motor cyclists did not need bad reporting at a time when they are under pressure from ACC. It was important to get the facts right, as incorrect statistical reporting could lead to issues with insurance companies and ACC.

The Newspaper’s Response
The editor in his response said that the article was written in good faith, based on the comments of highly respected personnel from the fire service and the police. The newspaper did not always have the resources to check on the comments of senior emergency personnel when preparing a story to meet deadlines.
The editor apologized for the delay in responding to the initial complaint, and stated that he was more than willing to discuss a correction with Mr Harrison.


Discussion and Decision
The newspaper published information from authoritative sources in good faith. However, on being advised of the inaccuracy of the report, no action was taken.
The Fire Service has apologized to Mr Harrison for providing incorrect information on these accidents; but the public record has not been amended.
The Press Council believes that factual errors should be corrected as soon as possible after publication, and although the editor has now offered a correction, this offer was only made after Mr Harrison complained to the Press Council.
The complaint is upheld on the grounds of failure to correct inaccuracy.


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