DAMON WYMAN AGAINST NATIONAL BUSINESS REVIEW

Case Number: 2383

Council Meeting: MAY 2014

Verdict: Not Upheld

Publication: National Business Review

Ruling Categories: Accuracy
Defamation/Damaging To Reputation

Introduction
Damon Wyman claims that an article published in the National Business Review on February 7, 2014 contained misinformation and defamatory comments. The complaint is the same as one he made against the Listener magazine, which has already been heard and was not upheld.

Background
On February 7, the NBR published an article by Chris Keall about the issue of Wi-Fi as a radiation threat.
The article referenced the successful lobbying of Te Horo School to remove Wi-Fi from its junior campus. The complainant’s son was a pupil at the school and had earlier died of a brain tumour.
The complainant’s son had been using a Wi-Fi iPod before his tumour was diagnosed. The death prompted the complainant to research the subject of electromagnetic radiation from Wi-Fi and its impact on children.
The NBR article said the complainant blamed his son’s death on the Wi-Fi.
The article quoted several sources suggesting Wi-Fi was safe. Included in these sources was Peter Griffin, the manager of the Science Media Centre and the author of the Listener column. Griffin said it was wrong for the complainant to blame his son’s death on Wi-Fi.

Complaint
Mr Wyman advised he had never categorically said that Wi-Fi caused his son’s tumour, only that it had prompted him to research the subject.
Other aspects of the complaint related to matters of science which were published in the Listener column and which have been dealt with. See decision 2374.

NBR editor’s response
The editor did not respond to the complainant. After some delay, however, the editor of the NBR responded to the Press Council.
The editor said the NBR published authoritative articles by journalists and contributors who were experts or made valuable observations about matters of public interest.
Mr Griffin was in this category, the complainant was not; the complainant was a conspiracy theorist.
The editor referred the Council to research on medical conspiracy theories.
The NBR would not endorse or circulate conspiracy theories.

Discussion
The editor’s response was unreasonably flippant, provocative and did not in any way address the complainant’s key concern that his position had been incorrectly stated.
There is no evidence to support that view that the complainant is a conspiracy theorist.
To state as a fact that the complainant blamed Wi-Fi for his son’s tumour and death did not align with what the complainant said was his view.
The Council can only conclude that, at the time the article was prepared, NBR accurately quoted Mr Griffin’s view of the complainant’s position. It was not an unreasonable view based on public reports and comments attributed to the complainant at that time.

Mr Griffin and the NBR now know this is not the complainant’s position and the Press Council would not expect to see it reported as such again.

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, Vernon Small, Mark Stevens and Stephen Stewart.