Case Number: 835

Council Meeting: August 2001

Verdict: Not Upheld

Publication: New Zealand Herald

Ruling Categories: Balance, Lack Of
Letters to the Editor, Closure, Non-Publication

The New Zealand Press Council did not uphold a complaint lodged against the New Zealand Herald by Imelda Hitchcock. Her complaint dealt with the non-publication of her Letter to the Editor. She had responded to a ‘Rudman’s City’ column supporting fluoridation in which Rudman had issued a challenge to readers stating ‘It is time to call the anti-fluoriders’ bluff and demand they produce a local victim or two’.

Imelda Hitchcock wrote on 22 February 2001 to the New Zealand Herald providing the surname of a Timaru woman who had suffered a mysterious itch which had disappeared when she moved into the country. Mrs Hitchcock claimed that tests conducted by a doctor and dentist had produced positive results that fluoride was the cause of Timaru victim’s skin ailment and also submitted the names of the doctor and dentist. Her letter was not published.

The editor of the New Zealand Herald explained that the so-called victim was, in reality, beyond contact. The incident dated back to 1984, the victim’s full name had not been supplied nor had her address. She had lived in Timaru and did not meet the criteria of Rudman’s column to produce a ‘local victim or two’. The Herald had published letters from two other anti-fluoride correspondents on the fluoridation issue.

In each publication the NewZealand Herald clearly states as its letters policy that ‘Letters are not normally acknowledged and may be edited, abridged or discarded’. This is normal editorial policy for all newspapers and Mrs Hitchcock’s letter fell within the scope of the editor’s discretion.