ETHEL AND CLIFF WINSLOW AGAINST NORTH & SOUTH

Case Number: 2085

Council Meeting: NOVEMBER 2009

Verdict: Upheld

Publication: North & South

Ruling Categories: Children and Young People
False Accusation
Misrepresentation, Deception or Subterfuge
Photographs
Misleading

Ethel & Cliff Winslow complained about North & South’s publication of a photograph which included their daughters, Katy-Sue (20) and Maggie (18), to illustrate an article about increasingly violent, criminal and changing behaviour among young females.
The complaint is upheld.
Background
The cover story, GIRLS BEHAVING BADLY, in North & South, May 2009, is about growing violence and criminality among young women and a change in socially acceptable behaviour associated with young women including “ladette” type behaviour.
Katy-Sue and Maggie Winslow were out for a Girls’ Night with friends in Queen Street, Auckland when they encountered a freelance photographer on assignment for North & South.
The Winslows say the photographer told the girls he was taking “random photos” and they, along with two friends, offered to pose. North & South editor Virginia Larson says the photographer told the girls their photograph could appear in a magazine.
The photograph was one of 10 illustrating the hard-hitting cover story. The other nine images illustrate young women being arrested, a prison official, a jail, a young female convicted of murder, tattooed hands and a set of stairs. Each of the other images was linked to matters of a serious criminal nature. Only one other image is recognizable and that is of a convicted murderer.
The photograph was reused in June North & South to illustrate the Letters to the Editor about the issue.
The girls were not named, though they were clearly identifiable, and the caption stated “Another night on Queen Street” above a pull-quote referring to girls previously having been wrapped in cotton wool and the changing concepts of socially acceptable behaviour.
The Complaint
The Winslows, complaining on behalf of their daughters (who consented to allow the complaint to proceed) say their daughters were on a night out and were not behaving badly. “They do not behave badly on any night nor participate in grudge attacks, murder, ambush or female violence, yet they appear as part of your article that is all about such behaviour.”
They say the article has caused their extended family a lot of hurt and embarrassment. And they are concerned that if the girls’ employers were to see the article, it could affect employment. They say the girls’ reputations are damaged.
The Response
North & South editor Virginia Larson apologized for any anxiety that the publication of the photographs caused. However, she argued that there was no breach of privacy nor implication that the girls were involved in illegal activity. The photos were taken in a public place.
She argued that the photographer clearly told the girls the photographs were for a magazine and they offered to, and went on to pose.
The Decision
Photographs taken in public places are able to be used without gaining the consent of their subject. In this instance the girls were aware they were being photographed and crafted a pose for the camera.
However the use of this photograph to illustrate an article which is largely about seriously criminal behaviour and deeply anti-social attitudes displayed by a growing number of young women is inappropriate.
The editor’s assertion that the article canvasses more general societal changes in regards to young women’s behaviour, and is therefore justified, is not accepted. The article is predominantly concerned with serious criminal behaviour. The subsequent use of the photograph, to illustrate the Letters to the Editor page, indicates an editorial thinking that this photograph does represent the article as a whole. It is accepted that this second use occurred before the Winslows’ complaint was received.
The complaint is upheld.
Press Council members considering this complaint were Barry Paterson (Chairman), Ruth Buddicom, Pip Bruce Ferguson, Kate Coughlan, Sandy Gill, Penny Harding, Keith Lees, Clive Lind, John Roughan, Lynn Scott and Stephen Stewart.