COLIN PANNELL AGAINST NEW ZEALAND HERALD

Case Number: 2100

Council Meeting: DECEMBER 2009

Verdict: Not Upheld

Publication: New Zealand Herald

Ruling Categories: Comment and Fact
Bias
Plagiarism
Accuracy

Introduction
The Press Council has not upheld a complaint by Colin Pannell against nzherald.co.nz regarding a review of an Air New Zealand Fashion Week show.

The Article
On September 22, 2009 nzherald.co.nz published an 82-word review of a showing by fashion label Basquesse under the heading Expert Eye by Janetta Mackay. The article conveyed a description of the clothes and identified the designer as Peruvian-born Wellington-based Viviana Pannell.

The Complaint
Colin Pannell, who identified himself as the husband of Viviana Pannell and referred the Basquesse brand as “ours”, complained on various grounds covering a range of objections from inaccuracy, inappropriateness, offence at what he said was a description of his wife as “Dynasty meets EuroTrash” and an accusation of plagiarism. He required the article be removed, the New Zealand Herald publish a printed apology, the New Zealand Herald investigate why the journalist Janetta Mackay dislikes Basquesse, financial recompense and ongoing dialogue over the racial content of the article.

The Response
The nzherald.co.nz stated the article was opinion commentary written by a fashion journalist with seven years experience in covering the Air New Zealand Fashion Week. It was written in the language of fashion critique, under the heading Expert Eye to identify it as opinion.
Jeremy Rees, responding for nzherald.co.nz, did not dispute that there may be errors but offered to correct them. He rejected suggestions that ‘Dynasty Meets EuroTrash” is a pejorative phrase and that it extends to Basquesse designer Viviana Pannell herself. He explained the reference to diplomats was to highlight the vibrancy of the fashion label when juxtaposed against what the writer presumed was a grey bureaucrat mode of dress. He chose to ignore Mr Pannell’s comment about Aucklanders dressing as tramps, the suggestion Janetta Mackay should get out more beyond the western suburbs and Mr Pannell’s observation that a designer might have to come from Mangere to have talent in the eyes of the nzherald.co.nz. He also ignored Mr Pannell’s comments regarding a private email exchange between Viviana Pannell and Janetta Mackay and allegations about restricted access to a fashion week show. Mr Rees advised that the Runway Reporter website had no connection to the New Zealand Herald.
Discussion
Mr Pannell was advised that the Press Council was unable to have the original article removed, unable to order a printed apology, unable to investigate his claims nor able to seek financial recompense.
Reviews are by the nature of the content prone to evoking a reaction in those whose artistic creations and endeavours are criticized. However, so long as the opinions reported are those of an expert observer whose approach is independent of bias, the publication is entirely in order to publish even should the review be critical. Those who put their creations up for review in a public arena such as the Air New Zealand Fashion Week must let the work speak for itself and accept the outcome.
Mr Pannell challenged the accuracy of the description of the garments from the Basquesse label (for example, animal print not leopard print, French beading not sequins) and this was not rebutted in the response from nzherald.co.nz. The offer from nzherald.co.nz to correct any errors of fact in the article was not one that Mr Pannell has taken advantage of to this date, but could still do so.
If errors were significant, it would be beneficial to correct them. The Press Council urges both parties to consider this as a way forward.
The Press Council does not accept that the article made pejorative statements about Viviana Pannell, nor located her private residence and is at a loss to understand Mr Pannell’s references to being born in Mangere and his observation regarding people in Auckland dressing like tramps.
His response to the review is not that of a disinterested observer and his emotional interpretation that the article is negative is not upheld by a Council of unattached observers.
The Press Council upholds the right of publications to bring their readers unbiased, informed opinion free from fear of those who may be criticized.
The email dialogue between Viviana Pannell and Janetta Mackay is irrelevant to these deliberations. The Press Council chose to ignore the possibly inflammatory nature of Mr Pannell’s criticism of Janetta Mackay.
The Council notes that Mr Pannell has been unable to provide the item from Runway Reporter, as the website is now defunct, so the claim of plagiarism must be put to one side.

The complaint is not upheld.

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

John Roughan took no part in the consideration of this complaint.