COASTLANDS SHOPPINGTOWN AGAINST KAPITI OBSERVER THE DOMINION POST AND STUFF

Case Number: 2600

Council Meeting: JULY 2017

Verdict: Upheld in Part

Publication: Kapiti Observer

Ruling Categories: Accuracy
Balance, Lack Of
Headlines and Captions
Unfair Coverage

Overview

Coastlands Shoppingtown complains that a story published by each of Kapiti Observer,Dominion Post and Stuff on either 17 or 18 May 2017 titled, variously,

Don’t like it? Then leave,

Don’t like the sign. Don’t stop here and

‘Intimidating’ 900 word sign warns Coastlands shoppers where they can and can’t park

breaches Press Council Principles 1 (accuracy, fairness and balance) and 6 (headlines).

While the story differed a little between publications its thrust was the same. It focused on Coastlands’ parking policy at its Paraparaumu mall. The story referred to the lengthy parking conditions notice erected at the car park entrances. It recorded adverse customer reactions to the notice and the (apparent) restrictive parking terms. The stories referred to Coastlands’ policy of fining parking violators (including fines levied on Coastlands’ tenants’ staff who parked on site). The story concluded with a brief response from Coastlands’ manager to the effect ticketing issues had been resolved and that the erection of the notices was a legal requirement.

The Complaint

Coastlands says the story failed to fairly set out its position on the parking issues. It had been asked several questions by the reporter before the story was written. Coastlands says its responses to all the questions, responses which would have provided balance, were not published. Importantly as far as Coastlands is concerned, the story failed to mention that non-mall customers have been using the park to the detriment of mall customers. Coastlands says its parking policies, which have been in place for some time, are common elsewhere.

Coastlands also maintains that the story’s headlines are misleading. It argues the headlines imply that Coastlands itself has said “don’t like it, then leave” when this is not so. It claims the headlines do not accurately reflect the story’s substance.

The Response

The publications reject the complaints. They say the story was fair and balanced. It accurately recorded mall customers’ reactions to the notice and other of Coastlands’ parking restrictions. They do not accept Coastlands’ claims that it has not been fairly treated. They refer to the Coastlands’ manager’s comments which were published. It was not necessary to include them all. Comments are “often edited down for space requirements”. Coastlands’ point was “got… across in the article”. The publications say that “[Coastlands] needs to accept that it was customers and retailers that complained about what they felt was a heavy handed approach by centre management”. This was a topical issue. They say, basically, that the complaint is merely a reaction to a story which was adverse to Coastlands.

The publications do not agree the headlines were inaccurate. The headlines conveyed the story’s essence.

The Decision

The Council finds that the story is not balanced in one respect. When Coastlands’ manager was asked for comment before the story was published she mentioned the problems being caused by non-mall users, some being Wellington commuters and others being car poolers, who parked on site for lengthy periods thereby putting pressure on the facility. She also said Coastlands’ parking terms were similar to those at other shopping centres. These references were not included in the stories. Had they been, a more balanced picture would have emerged. The restrictions the reported customers were complaining about would, to an objective reader, have made more sense.

The Council does not agree with Coastlands in relation to the headlines. The parking notice concluded with a statement to the effect that if people wishing to park did not agree with the terms then they should not park at the site. While blunt the headlines were not misleading.

The complaint in relation to Principle 1 is upheld. The complaint in relation to Principle 6 is not upheld.

Press Council members considering this complaint were Sir John Hansen, Liz Brown, Jo Cribb, Chris Darlow, Tiumalu Peter Fa’afiu, Jenny Farrell, John Roughan, Vernon Small, Mark Stevens, Christina Tay and Tim Watkin.