GRANT TUCKER AGAINST THE HOROWHENUA MAIL

Case Number: 638

Council Meeting: DECEMBER 1996

Verdict: Not Upheld

Publication: NULL

A complaint by a dairy and Lotto Shop owner in Levin about an article in the Horowhenua Mail has been dismissed by the New Zealand Press Council.

Mr Grant Tucker wrote to the Press Council to complain about an article in the Mail, his local community newspaper. The article related to a complaint which a local woman had made to the Race Relations Office after, she said, Mr Tucker objected to her speaking Maori in his shop.

Mr Tucker said the article lacked balance, was emotive, was defamatory and was not of a standard expected of the written media. It identified his shop - his was the only dairy-cum-Lotto outlet in the town - after the reporter had agreed not to do so, and it was biased.

The reporter concerned, he told the Council, had been asked not to print anything until the outcome of the Race Relations Office case was known, at which time he would have been in a position to comment. She, however, had indicated it was her intention to proceed.

The editor of the paper, Richard Woodd defended his journalist. However, he said had he realised Mr Tucker’s shop was the only such Lotto outlet in town, he would have dropped that reference from the article. He apologised to Mr Tucker for identifying his store. But, Mr Wood said, the report as published was fair and accurate. The reporter had made every effort to obtain the views of both parties. It was Mr Tucker’s insistence that he couldn’t comment until the outcome of the Race Relations Office complaint was known that means his side of the story wasn’t told. Mr Woodd also said the reporter had heard of the story when the woman concerned was interviewed on a National Radio “Mana News” bulletin, and decided to follow it up.

The Press Council found the Mail had done what a good community newspaper should: it pursued a story of interest to its readers, had sought information and comment from all parties and when that was not forthcoming from the shop owner, had spelled it out in the article why Mr Tucker had chosen not to comment. That was his right, but it wasn’t for him to dictate when the newspaper should print its article, especially since the issue was already in the public arena after being broadcast on nationwide radio.

The Council rejected the complaint.