PETE ROSE AGAINST RODNEY TIMES

Case Number: 2620

Council Meeting: SEPTEMBER 2017

Verdict: Not Upheld

Publication: Rodney Times

Ruling Categories: Accuracy
Headlines and Captions
Misleading
Social Media

Overview

Pete Rose complained that an article in The Rodney Times breached Press Council Principle 1 (accuracy, fairness and balance).

Background

On August 1, 2017 The Rodney Times published an article headlined “Cat curfew divides Rodney residents”. The story was based on public comment made onThe Rodney Times Neighbourly page which had invited responses to the idea floated by a number of councils that cat curfews could be imposed to protect bird populations. It reported there was support for tighter control on cats.

The Complaint

Pete Rose complained that the headline was inaccurate as it suggested a cat curfew was in place in the area. The article was deliberately misleading as it pretended a wide-ranging community debate was occurring when it was solely based on social website postings on the Neighbourly website and was part of “the ongoing orchestrated libellous propaganda campaign against our cats”. The article did not mention how many posts were made and its purpose was to drive internet traffic to the website rather than educate or inform about a topic of genuine community interest.

The Response

The Rodney Times editor, Rhonwyn Newson, said the subject of cat curfews was a subject of nation-wide community debate and there had been a number of articles on this. A Neighbourly website item on this recorded 14 likes and 23 replies, which the editor described as a big response compared to other similar news posts. The comments varied and were diverse enough to warrant a story and the article was an accurate snapshot of community sentiment. The article did not state a curfew was in place and the headline was fair. The editor cited other articles in the paper to rebut the claim that it was part of a campaign against cats.

The Decision

The article, based on social media comment, indicated some local interest on the subject of cat curfews and it was written to reflect that and encourage further debate. Mr Rose fairly pointed out that the article should have mentioned the number of posts on which the story was based. That would have allowed readers to gauge the credibility of the report but, apart from that, the story was unexceptional and the headline was a fair indication of what was contained in the article.

The complaint was not upheld.

Press Council members considering the complaint were Sir John Hansen, Liz Brown, Jo Cribb, Chris Darlow, Tiumalu Peter Fa’afiu, Jenny Farrell, John Roughan, Hank Schouten, Mark Stevens, Christina Tay and Tim Watkin.