CHRIS BRADY AGAINST RUAPEHU PRESS

Case Number: 2551

Council Meeting: DECEMBER 2016

Verdict: Not Upheld

Publication: Ruapehu Press

Ruling Categories: Bias
Politicians
Unfair Coverage

Overview

Chris Brady (the complainant) makes a complaint under Principle 1 (Accuracy, Fairness and Balance). He states that an article published inRuapehu Press unfairly gave prominence to two candidates in the local body elections which gave them an unfair advantage over other candidates.

The complaint is not upheld.

Background

The article, published on September 28, was headed “Town gets the royal makeover”. The article covered work undertaken by volunteers as part of a Taumarunui Revitalisation Taskforce clean-up.

It included a photo of the project organiser, Karen Ngatai and another volunteer, Elaine Wheeler, both of whom are local body councillors.

The Complaint

The complainant alleged that in his opinion it was entirely inappropriate to run an article on the front page that featured “prolonged comments” from a sitting councillor along with a large photo of said councillor and another current councillor. This was especially so when both were seeking re-election.

He believed that this gave the two councillors an unfair advantage over other candidates with free publicity.

The Response

Daniel Hutchinson, the editor, replied on behalf of the newspaper.

He stated that the article was a news story about an event of interest to the local community.

It was the best story of the week and not intended to favour any particular election candidate.

It would not be in the interests of the public to ignore news that is happening just because a local body candidate was involved.

As the organiser of the project, Karen Ngatai was the most appropriate person to comment as she had had the most to do with the project.

The editor also noted that the newspaper had not breached any Electoral Commission guidelines by quoting Karen Ngatai.

The complainant had not cited any specific inaccuracies in the article.

The Decision

The article was a news story commenting on a group of volunteers that were working to revitalise and clean-up Taumarunui.

The article included a photo of two of the volunteers and accurately noted that they were councillors. The prominence given in the article was to the project.

It is a stretch to say that other local body candidates were disadvantaged by an article that gave prominence to the project and what is hoped to be achieved. Given the content of the article it would be normal practice to obtain comment from the main organiser.

The complaint is not upheld.

Press Council members considering the complaint were Sir John Hansen, Liz Brown, Chris Darlow, Peter Fa’afiu, Jenny Farrell, Sandy Gill, John Roughan, Marie Shroff, Mark Stevens and Vernon Small.