Case Number: 769

Council Meeting: February 2000

Verdict: Not Upheld

Publication: Northern News

Ruling Categories: Balance, Lack Of

The New Zealand Press Council has not upheld a complaint by the Northland branch of the Alliance Party that its candidate failed to receive fair election coverage from the Kaikohe-based community newspaper Northern News..

The branch complained that the candidate, David Wilson, twice had his name left off a list of candidates. It also expressed concern that press releases and letters from supporters had either been
ignored or excessively abbreviated. Overall, it said, there had been a great imbalance in the coverage given to different parties making it impossible for voters to be properly informed on election issues.

In response, the editor acknowledged that Mr Wilson's name had been left out twice, once accidentally for which the paper acknowledged responsibility, but said he received at least as much space as any other candidate. It was not possible for the paper to print all the material supplied by political parties and the Alliance received the same treatment as the others.

The editor provided a number of clippings to support his case. The Alliance had intended doing the same but was unable to carry this through as the clippings were accidentally destroyed whilst in their possession..

The council felt the cuttings provided showed the Alliance had received a reasonable amount of coverage from Northern News . There was also an opinion piece by the editor which singled Mr Wilson out for praise. It was unfortunate that Mr Wilson's name had been omitted from a candidate list but readers of the paper could hardly be unaware that he was standing or what he represented.

Political parties invariably felt they failed to get the publicity their policies merited but they were hardly neutral. It was the job of the editor to decide what was of interest to readers and as far as this election was concerned the council concluded there was no evidence the Northern News had done the job unfairly.

The complaint was not upheld.