DAVID BOSLEY AGAINST HAWKE'S BAY TODAY

Case Number: 970

Council Meeting: MAY 2004

Verdict: Not Upheld

Publication: Hawkes Bay Today

Ruling Categories: Balance, Lack Of

Napier City Councillor, David Bosley was mentioned in a letter to the editor published in Hawke’s Bay Today on 5 February 2004. Cr Bosley wished to refute what the letter-writer had said about him and wrote to the editor. On 10 February his letter was published in abridged form. The published letter contained two spelling mistakes, which had been introduced by the paper and an error of fact introduced by Cr Bosley. On 12 February the paper attempted to put these matters right by publishing a corrected version of the abridged letter, albeit further abridged, with a footnote explaining the previously published letter had contained typographical errors.

On 14 February Cr Bosley complained to the New Zealand Press Council that the editor had “over-abridged” his letter and had not made it clear when publishing the correction that the spelling errors had not been made by him.

Cr Bosley is a seasoned letter-writer and has had many letters published over many years in Hawke’s Bay Today. During the tenure of two editors he has complained often to the paper and the Press Council.

As the Press Council has always defended an editor’s right to select letters for publication, it would have been easy for the editor to quietly ignore letters from Cr Bosley and avoid any ensuing complaint procedure. However, at some personal cost, the editor has ensured that Cr Bosley received the same consideration as other readers.

On the main issue of this complaint there is no case to answer. Editors have the discretion to abridge letters, provided they acknowledge the abridgement. The paper routinely publishes rules for letter-writers which state “Preference will be given to letters of fewer than 200 words. Those that exceed this length are liable to be abridged.” As a seasoned letter-writer Cr Bosley should have been well aware his letter was liable to be abridged or not published.

On the other complaint that the paper did not identify clearly who had made the spelling mistakes, it is noted that the paper has a long history of publishing corrections and admitting mistakes. On this occasion, with no finger pointing, the paper republished the letter with its own and Cr Bosley’s error removed.

The complaint is not upheld.