CORALIE LEYLAND AGAINST THE DOMINION

Case Number: 621

Council Meeting: AUGUST 1996

Verdict: Not Upheld

Publication: The Dominion

A Wellington reader, Coralie Leyland who complained to the Press Council about a heading on a Dominion report published in April, has had her complaint dismissed.
The heading said: “Alliance deputy leader tipped to quit.” The article said the Alliance deputy leader Matt Robson was expected to give up that position at the party’s annual conference being held in Wellington at that time.

Coralie Leyland was upset at use of the word “quit” which she said gave a totally different tone to Mr Robson’s intentions to stand down from the deputy leadership but maintain presidency of New Labour, a party in the Alliance. According to Partridge’s Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English” the word “quit” meant “to run away in a lazy or cowardly fashion.”
She wrote to the Dominion to redress, as she saw it, the false impression created by a misleadingly biased headline. An abridged letter was published and she wrote again to complain about that.

In response the editor of the Dominion, Richard Long defended use of the word “quit” which, according to his dictionary, listed as one of its meanings “to resign; give up (a job).” Her letter had been published, he wrote, shorn of comments that the newspaper had been inaccurate because it had not. He rejected the claim that the newspaper had indulged in deliberately misrepresenting the news.

Ms Leyland, writing to the Press Council, said the word “quit” carried intentionally pejorative overtones, because the Dominion had an avowed policy to slaughter the Alliance at every opportunity. She supported that allegation with an excerpt from a North and South magazine article.

While Mr Anderton and the Alliance were as much fair game as any other political figure, she said, she questioned whether the paper’s policy on the Alliance gave its editor the right to deliberately, falsely bias the presentation of news.

Mr Long told the Council the so-called Dominion policy on the Alliance set out in North and South magazine and on which Ms Leyland relied to prove bias was the quoted view of Mr Anderton, not policy enunciated by the newspaper. He again denied that “quit” was pejorative and, like Ms Leyland cited reference material in support,.




Ms Leyland acknowledged a “rather stupid error” in attributing Mr Anderton’s view of Dominion policy on the Alliance, to the paper itself, but said that did not detract from her argument that “to quit” was not the same as “to stand down.”

The Press Council rejected the complaint. If the heading complained of left any room for doubt -and it did not accept that it had - then the first paragraph of the article removed it. Further, it found Ms Leyland’s allegations of deliberate bias and misrepresentation were undercut when the article on which she relied to draw the link had been wrongly interpreted.