CHRIS JELLIE AGAINST NELSON MAIL

Case Number: 2219

Council Meeting: OCTOBER 2011

Verdict: Not Upheld

Publication: Nelson Mail

Ruling Categories: Errors, Apology and Correction Sought
Comment and Fact
Balance, Lack Of
Accuracy
Unfair Coverage

Introduction
Chris Jellie complained on three grounds regarding an article published by the Nelson Mail. The grounds were accuracy, fairness, balance; comment and fact; and corrections.

Mr Jellie’s complaint was not upheld.

Background
The Nelson Mail published an article on July 5, 2011 under the heading “Used car price hike claims disputed”.

The article related to doubts held by Nelson car dealers that “used car prices would soar when vehicle emission standards are stepped up next year” and an online petition about delaying implementation of the standards.

This was in reaction to the Imported Motor Vehicle Industry Association’s prediction that used car prices may increase by as much as $5000 when the new emission standards are implemented.

The article contained comments from motor vehicle dealers in the Nelson area and also stated that an online petition had been started by the Imported Motor Vehicle Industry Association (IMVA) which was also lobbying the government to delay implementation of the new emission standards due to a shortage of suitable used vehicle stock in Japan.

David Vinsen, Chief Executive of IMVA, was quoted as the spokesperson for the IMVA.

Complaint
Mr Jellie advised that the online petition was in fact started by him not the IMVA.

Mr Jellie contacted the Nelson Mail and requested that they tell him the source of their information and was told that the source was Mr Vinsen. He said that when he informed the reporter that he was recording their conversation, she requested that he send his questions to her via e-mail and he did this. Despite his “many e-mails” to the reporter, the first being July 25, 2011, she had not contacted him or provided an answer to his question “How did she get the information?”

Mr Jellie then contacted the editor and “was promised a quick response” but had not yet (September 1) received one. He went on to state that there had also not been any retraction of the story.

Mr Jellie was upset that someone could claim his [Mr Jellie’s] work as their own and that a media source would so recklessly print something without clarifying the facts. He advised that when the newspaper finally did get back to him, he was told that Mr Vinsen had confirmed that Mr Jellie had started the online petition.


Response from Nelson Mail
The editor acknowledged the information in the article regarding the online petition was not accurate. He stated that Mr Jellie was offered recourse by way of a published correction but never replied to the offer so the editor ran the correction anyway on 6 September 2011.

He went on to say that Mr Jellie was not willing to see the correction until the matter of who supplied the reporter with the incorrect information was resolved.

The editor explained that once Mr Jellie’s complaint was received by the newspaper, the reporter informed Mr Jellie that she was happy to clarify the matter once she had spoken to Mr Vinsen.

Mr Vinsen informed the reporter that he had not given her the information so she then thought that Mr Drummond, one of the car salesyard owners, had given her the information but she was not sure. Once she had spoken to Mr Vinsen, the reporter acknowledged the error and offered to provide a correction in a further article.

When the reporter informed Mr Jellie that Mr Vinsen had not given her the information, Mr Jellie asked whom she had received it from, but she was unable to remember her exact source. The editor stated that the reporter’s reply to Mr Jellie was “self explanatory in that she was not sure at the time who had told her about the petition”. The editor believes that this was a genuine mistake on the part of the reporter, one which she was willing to correct.

The editor also stated that he did attempt to contact Mr Jellie earlier than alleged and they ended up playing telephone tag.

Discussion
As soon as the newspaper was informed and the reporter could verify facts with Mr Vinsen, the Nelson Mail acknowledged that the information regarding the instigator of the petition was not accurate and offered Mr Jellie both a published correction and an opportunity to provide comment as to why he thought the IMVA did not support his stance.
The mistake was comparatively minor and not the main thrust of the article. Mr Jellie chose not to take up the newspaper’s offer and while there was a delay in publishing a correction that had partly been caused by the complainant, who would not advance any discussion about a clarifying article or correction until the reporter had told him who had given her the incorrect information.
The newspaper did attempt to discuss the correction with Mr Jellie, and published a correction and apology at a later date than desirable. But a correction was made.

Unfortunately, Mr Jellie was not happy with the response from the Nelson Mail as they could not tell him the source of their information regarding the online petition. The Mail did provide information about the source, which turned out to be incorrect. Newspapers are not obliged to disclose sources, however, and the Press Council does not believe the newspaper was obliged to do so in this case.

The complaint is not upheld.

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