P.SMART AGAINST THE SUNDAY STAR-TIMES

Case Number: 790

Council Meeting: July 2000

Verdict: Upheld

Publication: Sunday-Star Times

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

The New Zealand Press Council has upheld a complaint from Patricia Smart against the Sunday Star-Times concerning the publication on 20 March, of a letter from her. Ms Smart wrote to the editor on 8 March making a point about offensive language. Her letter was headed "not for publication."

The letter made a good point and was well written. It attracted the attention of the letters editor who, in selecting the letter for publication, did not notice the "not for publication" heading.

Ms Smart wrote again to the editor, this time complaining about publication of the letter and received no response. At this point she complained to the Press Council. As a result of the Council's involvement the editor realised what had happened, immediately acknowledged that the error was unacceptable and wrote to Ms Smart apologising for it.

In upholding the complaint the Press Council notes that while the editor's acknowledgement and the sincere apology were laudable, the paper's error resulted in the very language complained of, being published under Ms Smart's name. The complaint highlights the need for considerable care on the part of those selecting letters for publication.