DAL MINOGUE AGAINST THE HAURAKI HERALD

Case Number: 2162

Council Meeting: DECEMBER 2010

Verdict: Not Upheld

Publication: Hauraki Herald

Ruling Categories: Confidentiality

Dal Minogue’s complaint concerns the public distribution of an email he sent to the Hauraki Herald editor and Cc'd to a freelance contributor who wrote for the newspaper. Mr Minogue's email was in response to a story by the contributor, published in the Hauraki Herald, and said it misreported him during his bid for election in the recent local body elections. He said the story, and release of his subsequent email to the Hauraki Herald, detrimentally affected him in his campaign for re-election.



His Press Council complaint is that he emailed the editor and Cc'd the reporter, and the latter then publicly disseminated the email. Mr Minogue contends his email was confidential and that the reporter – who was not the main addressee – should not have breached that confidentiality.



The complaint is not upheld.



Background
A story concerning Mr Minogue was written by a freelance contributor and published on June 25 2010. Mr Minogue objected to its contents, in an email sent to Hauraki Herald editor Clint Fletcher, on June 27. The email referred to a Letter to the Editor Mr Minogue had also sent, correcting what he said was "a whole series of errors" in the Hauraki Herald June 25 report. The Press Council has not seen this letter to the editor, and its contents are not the subject of this complaint. Nor is the original story.



The email was Cc'd to the reporter. It was not marked confidential by Mr Minogue. As the correspondent is an independent contractor to the Hauraki Herald, the Cc message was sent to her home email address.



The email was supplied to the Press Council by the Hauraki Herald. It was not sent to the Press Council by Mr Minogue. The Press Council must accept the newspaper's contention that the email was not protected by any attached confidentiality message from Mr Minogue. In any case, Mr Minogue has not referred to such protection of his email to the newspaper.



Complainant's View
Mr Minogue said the reporter had publicly disseminated the email during the local body election campaign, detrimentally affecting him. His complaint to the newspaper said "as my email was addressed to you as the editor of the Hauraki Herald, it must be regarded as official Hauraki Herald correspondence, subject to confidentiality".



He objected to the editor's contention that the freelance contributor was entitled to distribute it as she saw fit and was not subject to Fairfax confidentiality obligations. Mr Minogue noted the standard clause at the bottom of Fairfax emails which protected the contents of Fairfax emails and said they were not to be given to anyone other than the intended recipient.



He also said as the complaint email was addressed to the editor, it should be regarded as official Hauraki Herald correspondence, and subject to confidentiality.



His November 1 email to the editor concluded: "Please regard this email as not for public use and as confidential to the management of the Hauraki Herald."



In correspondence with the editor, Mr Minogue said he had spent more than $5000 with the newspaper in his election campaign "which, as it turned out, was being effectively undermined from within" because of the reporter's dissemination of his email complaint.



Hauraki Herald View
Editor Clint Fletcher told Mr Minogue the original email was sent to himself and Cc'd to the reporter, who was entitled to forward it or print and distribute it to anyone she liked. He did not give her permission to do so and did not believe it was his right or responsibility to do so. The reporter was one of the original email's recipients. Her email address was also a private one, not a Fairfax one, which made any talk about Fairfax confidentiality clauses moot.



The amount Mr Minogue spent on advertising had absolutely no bearing on editorial decisions.



In later correspondence with the Press Council, Mr Fletcher said confidentiality clauses would have had a place in the debate "had Mr Minogue included his own confidentiality clause with his June 27 email."



He also noted as "puzzling" Mr Minogue's citing of Fairfax's confidentiality clause on its emails and said the clause in question was attached to emails FROM Fairfax, not emails sent TO it. "Therefore it does not apply in this case."



Complainant's Reply
Mr Minogue said in a November 15 reply to the Press Council that it was difficult to believe Mr Fletcher's claim that such complaints were not subject to the standard confidentiality requirements of the media industry. If the editor's response became common practice, he asked who would be brave enough to complain about anything. He also said a reporter's "leaking" of internal correspondence did not comply with professional standards.



Press Council View
Mr Minogue's contention was undermined by his failure to insert his own confidentiality clause, in his original email complaint to the editor (Cc'd to the freelance contributor). Fairfax protects its emails it sends OUT with such a clause. Emails sent IN to Fairfax are not protected by that clause.



Mr Minogue is aggrieved by (a) the original story (which the Press Council has not seen) and (b) public dissemination of his email complaint to the editor by the freelance correspondent. His complaint to the Press Council, however, only concerns the dissemination of his email. However, the email was sent to the editor, with the freelance correspondent as a recipient, and was unprotected.



The email was not protected by confidentiality; the freelance correspondent was an addressee. Therefore the complaint is not upheld.



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