PETER LANGE AGAINST THE PRESS

Case Number: 600

Council Meeting: FEBRUARY 1996

Verdict: Not Upheld

Publication: The Press

The New Zealand Press Council has rejected a complaint made against The Press newspaper by Peter Lange, a potter, of Auckland. Mr Lange complained about what he believed was the unbalanced coverage of an exhibition of his work in the McDougall Art Gallery, Christchurch.

The exhibition was reviewed rather unfavourably by Justin Paton in a hard-hitting article published in October. On 20 October Peter Lange sent a letter to the editor complaining about the review. The Press rejected the letter explaining in a letter to Mr Lange that it did not publish letters about reviews and adding that Lange's letter had been sent to the reviewer. Dissatisfied with this response, Peter Lange wrote again to the editor, enclosing a further very similar letter for publication and commenting on what he felt was an unwillingness by the paper to present a balanced view.

Writing to the Press Council, the assistant editor defended the review and explained at some length the paper's policy of not publishing letters about reviews, a policy designed to avoid tiresome controversy and personal abuse. He appeared not to have received Mr Lange's second letter, but claimed he would not have answered it in any case.

A further letter from Mr Lange to the Press Council repeated his view that some response to an adverse review should be allowed, at least from the subject of the criticism.

The Press Council considered that reviews are traditionally strong expressions of personal opinion written by people knowledgeable in a field. This was the case here and members did not find anything reprehensible in the review. Nor could they criticise the paper for refusing to publish Mr Lange's letter, a decision within the editor's discretion. A newspaper was quite at liberty, the Council said, to adopt a policy of not publishing letters about reviews on the reasonable grounds suggested. The complaint was rejected.