Case Number: 2102

Council Meeting: DECEMBER 2009

Verdict: Not Upheld

Publication: New Zealand Herald

Ruling Categories: Editorial Discretion

W. Garry Whincop complained that all publications should use the apostrophe in the spelling of Hawke’s Bay and in particular lodged a specific complaint relating to the non use of the apostrophe by the New Zealand Herald.

Mr Whincop’s complaint is not upheld.

Mr Whincop contacted the New Zealand Herald to request they use the apostrophe in Hawke’s Bay.

The writing style currently in place with the New Zealand Herald omits the apostrophe and Mr Whincop believes this is disrespectful to Hawke’s Bay.

Mr Whincop said that the editor, Tim Murphy “stated that the New Zealand Geographic Board had decided to shun the use of possessive apostrophes in place names and that was the basis of the Herald’s policy”. This comment was later denied by the editor.

Mr Whincop contacted the New Zealand Geographic Board’s secretary who confirmed that the apostrophe is still included in the official spelling of Hawke’s Bay.

Mr Whincop supplied this confirmation to the New Zealand Herald with the request that they change their policy immediately.

The Newspaper’s Response
The editor responded stating that “all newspapers make their own style decisions and establish a Style Guide. Ours has determined some years ago that Hawkes Bay – and all other New Zealand place names – carry no apostrophe”.

The Style Guide is reviewed from time to time but this does not mean that the current policy regarding apostrophes would change. He noted that the Geographic Board could not be the arbiter of Herald style.

He went on to state “There is no question of the Herald showing disrespect to the people of Hawkes Bay”.

Discussion and Conclusion
While the New Zealand Geographic Board’s official spelling includes the apostrophe, it is also common usage in New Zealand to omit the apostrophe.

The lack of apostrophe in the New Zealand Herald is a style issue. It is the view of the Press Council that a newspaper may determine such issues and we note that no disrespect is intended to Hawke’s Bay/Hawkes Bay.

The complaint is not upheld.

Press Council members considering this complaint were Barry Paterson (Chairman), Pip Bruce Ferguson, Ruth Buddicom, Kate Coughlan, Sandy Gill, Penny Harding, Keith Lees, Clive Lind, Lynn Scott and Stephen Stewart.

John Roughan took no part in the consideration of this complaint.