STUART MILLIS AGAINST THE MIRROR

Case Number: 2361

Council Meeting: DECEMBER 2013

Verdict: Not Upheld

Publication: The Mirror

Ruling Categories: Balance, Lack Of
Politicians
Accuracy
Unfair Coverage

1. Stuart Millis claims The Mirror failed to comply with Principle 1 (accuracy, fairness and balance) in relation to a story published on 25 September 2013 headed “Some Key Issues for Candidates”.



2. The Press Council does not uphold the complaint.



Background
3. The 25 September story referred to issues facing the Central Otago District in the context of the October local body elections. Part of the story related to water use in the area. The article went on to refer to a body called “the Progressive Group”, members of which were standing as candidates in the election. The story referred to this Group saying “they claim to be concerned with economic growth in the Alexandra, Clyde and Omakau areas”. The story contrasted Cromwell and its economic growth on the one hand with the remainder of the district which “is increasingly battling to attract new enterprise and retain the people it has” on the other. The story went on to refer to “good news” in the form of the region’s 2012 GDP growth of 8% and employment growth of 1.4%, both figures being above the national average. The story concluded with reference to certain initiatives being undertaken by the Central Otago District Council to assist struggling businesses in the area.



The Complaint
4. Mr Millis, one of the Group, was a candidate for office. He says the Group was formed “to fight to keep jobs and services in the Alexandra area”. He says that The Mirror’s reference to the Group “claiming” to be concerned over economic growth in Alexandra and neighboring areas placed a “negative emphasis” on the Group. The story should simply have said the Group was concerned with the lack of economic growth in the Alexandra area.



5. Mr Millis also says that the article “confused” readers by implying that the Central Otago growth figures and employment figures were the same as the figures applying to the Alexandra, Clyde and Omakau areas. Mr Millis referred to an article published in The Mirror after the election contrasting Cromwell’s population growth against Alexandra’s population decline in this respect.



6. Mr Millis says that the reference in the article to Cromwell as being a
“service base” for the wider region was “rhetoric” and that the article failed to mention that Cromwell had benefited from the building of a $30m race track.



7. Mr Millis says The Mirror’s reporter tried to influence the election.







The Response
8. The Mirror responds by saying that the article was fair. The article did not criticise the Progressive Group as Mr Millis claims. Further the district wide growth figures mentioned in the article are accurate they having been published by BERL, an economic research group. The newspaper points to the reference in the article to businesses in areas outside Cromwell as “struggling””.



The Decision
9. The Press Council does not agree with Mr Millis. The Council does not believe the newspaper casts any kind of slur on the Progressive Group. The article referred to the Progressive Group in the context that it was the “first time” candidates for local office in the area were running under a single banner. The reference to the group claiming to being concerned with economic growth in areas outside Cromwell was appropriate given the story’s coverage of local issues in light of the election.



10. The Council believes the article to be balanced. It referred to the difficulties businesses outside Cromwell were facing. Mr Millis’ point regarding the BERL figures is a fine one and does not amount to an improper “influence” on the election as Mr Millis claims.



11. The Council does not uphold the complaint.



Press Council members considering the complaint were Sir John Hansen, Liz Brown, Pip Bruce Ferguson, Chris Darlow, Peter Fa’afiu, Sandy Gill, Penny Harding, Clive Lind, John Roughan and Stephen Stewart.