MARIA LEMPRIERE AGAINST TARANAKI DAILY NEWS
Case Number: 2120
Council Meeting: JUNE 2010
Verdict: Not Upheld
Publication: Taranaki Daily News
Errors, Apology and Correction Sought
Obligation to Publish
The complaint is not upheld.
On March 4, 2010 the newspaper published a story and photograph on an Eltham-made cheese that had just won a national award.
That same day, Ms Lempriere, an event organiser who specialises in lifestyle food making courses like cheese making, submitted a follow-up story to the Taranaki Daily News. Her story and the photograph featured Esta Souber of Inglewood, who had won a silver medal for cheddar in the same awards, under the champion hobbyist cheese category.
Ms Lempriere sent the story and photograph to the newspaper’s features editor, with whom she had had previous dealings. The story and picture appeared on the newspaper’s front page the next day, under a different staffer’s byline. Ms Lempriere complained by e-mail to the reporter about how it had been handled and his failure to thank her for the story.
On March 8 she wrote to editor Jonathan MacKenzie complaining about this, the reporter’s failure to speak to Esta Souber, omissions of any published credit for her own work on the story and photograph, and the story’s failure to recognise the contribution of another woman who had been the catalyst for Esta Souber’s success.
Response from the Newspaper
Apart from a brief acknowledgement, on March 9, Mr MacKenzie did not answer Ms Lempriere’s emailed complaint by March 23, the date she complained to the Press Council.
The editor said Ms Lempriere’s correspondence to the newspaper had been treated as a press release and processed accordingly by the reporter. The photograph was treated as “supplied” and no credit given, in accordance with treatment afforded press release material.
“To my mind the news was the person who produced the winning cheese, not the person who was in some way involved in the course that the winner attended.”
He said he believed Ms Lempriere misunderstood how the news media operated. He apologised for not getting back to her.
In an April 22 e-mail, Ms Lempriere expressed dissatisfaction with Mr MacKenzie’s explanation. She criticised the newspaper’s “shabby” journalism and said the editor did not respect the newspaper’s readers.
On April 30 Mr MacKenzie again apologised for his lack of detailed response to her initial e-mail. The subsequent failure to send a response drafted by his chief of staff was an honest mistake.
He rejected Ms Lempriere’s claim about “shabby journalism”. The reporter had at least 30 years experience, and was well versed in writing stories based on details provided in press releases.
He stated “It is a journalist’s job to determine what is appropriate and applicable information for news stories.”
Concerning the picture, the newspaper believed it was supplied for publication. It was common practice to publish pictures from sources other than the newspaper’s own photographers. Such pictures normally carried the published credit “Supplied”. However, sometimes when the picture was published small, the credit was dropped to save space.
The story and picture had appeared on the front page, so Ms Lempriere’s efforts were not in vain.
This complaint has arisen from a misunderstanding. Many such stories are received by a newspaper each day, and mostly the suppliers are pleased simply to see their contribution in print. The newspaper’s actions were not unusual.
However, it is unfortunate that the newspaper, on receipt of the initial complaint, did not take the time to explain the situation to Ms Lempriere. At the time she was simply seeking thanks.
The complainant is aggrieved at how “her” story was treated; the reporter’s byline on what was essentially her work; and the lack of credit for the picture she supplied. She also takes issue with some of the details the story omitted.
However, the story was accurate in so far as it went and its content was the newspaper’s prerogative. Not all material supplied in a press release “makes it”. Often press releases do not appear at all. In this case, the story did appear on the newspaper’s front page, and the Council notes that the photograph is now credited to Ms Lempriere on the Taranaki Daily News website.
The Press Council does not uphold the complaint.
Press Council members considering this complaint were Barry Paterson (Chairman), Pip Bruce Ferguson, Kate Coughlan, Sandy Gill, Penny Harding, Keith Lees, Clive Lind, John Roughan, Lynn Scott and Stephen Stewart.