DANIEL RYAN AGAINST HERALD ON SUNDAY

Case Number: 2538

Council Meeting: SEPTEMBER 2016

Verdict: Not Upheld

Publication: Herald On Sunday

Ruling Categories: Accuracy
Balance, Lack Of
Unfair Coverage

Overview

Daniel Ryan (the complainant) complained about an article published in the Herald on Sunday on July 31, 2016. The article also had a video attached.

He believes that the story breached Principles 1 (Accuracy, Fairness and Balance) of the New Zealand Press Council Statement of Principles.

The complaint is not upheld.

Background

The story was headed “Caring chiropractor clicks with his tail-wagging clientele”. The article was based on an interview with a chiropractor who specialised in the treatment of animals and was based on his description and comments on the work he has undertaken over the last 11 years at his practice in Freeman’s Bay.

The story did not include any comment on the reporter or newspaper’s own opinion on the subject matter, only comments and opinions of those interviewed.

The Complaint

The complainant said that the story and accompanying video were unbalanced as they did not include information or any commentary questioning the efficacy of chiropractic practice on animals or humans.

He believes that the story in its current form was unbalanced as it presented what the chiropractor had said as fact when the reality was that chiropractic care is a controversial topic and its efficacy the subject of debate.

The newspaper should have included the opposing view as well and he provided the Press Council with information that stated the theory espoused by the chiropractor was an historical concept but remained a theoretical model which was not supported by any clinical research.

He also provided further information in support of his case.

He acknowledged that the article did note that “some vets are suspicious of his [the chiropractor’s] methods”.

He did not agree with the deputy editor’s defence that the article was just a life style story and not an analysis of chiropractic care and this negated the need for the opposing view to be included.

The Response

In reply to the complaint, Stuart Dye, deputy editor, said this was a light-hearted lifestyle picture story and not an analysis of chiropractic care. It was neither an endorsement nor warning. It simply reported the fact that pet-owners are taking their animals to this particular chiropractor in increasing numbers.

The newspaper acknowledges the controversy and dissenting views regarding chiropractic care stretching back to its founding more than 120 years ago but in today’s world, it is licensed, governed and managed through the New Zealand healthcare framework.

Chiropractic care is a well-established alternative medicine. People are free to use it or not, and have recourse to the relevant authorities if they are unhappy with the treatment or outcome.

The newspaper accepts that this is not evidence that it works, but is an accepted part of the medical landscape in New Zealand and the article was clearly not an analysis of the place for chiropractic care. It was purely a life style article about a particular person and their work.

The story expressed no opinion on behalf of the newspaper regarding alternative treatment.

The Decision

The story did not advocate for the use of chiropractic treatment nor its efficacy, and it did not express a view as to the efficacy of alternative treatment in general.

It was very clear that the views described in the story were those of person interviewed and the story did note at the end of the article that the treatment had its skeptics.

Any type of alternative medicine is a topic that creates debate with proponents on both sides. It is not in the expertise of the Press Council to comment regarding the efficacy or not of any alternative medicine.

While one person might not agree with the opinion of another, which is their right, it is important to remember that they, in turn, must respect the right of others to hold and express their viewpoint.

While the complainant would have preferred the newspaper to write a story that included the opposing view of chiropractic care, the story was about people and their own experience not that of the two sides of the debate.

The complaint is not upheld.

Press Council members considering this complaint were Sir John Hansen, Liz Brown, Chris Darlow, Peter Fa’afiu, Sandy Gill, Vernon Small, Mark Stevens, and Tim Watkin.

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