ALAN MCDONALD AGAINST THE OTAGO DAILY TIMES

Case Number: 625

Council Meeting: SEPTEMBER 1996

Verdict: Not Upheld

Publication: Otago Daily Times

The Press Council has dismissed a complaint by a parliamentary candidate against the Otago Daily Times.

The complaint by Alan McDonald an Independent candidate standing in the Dunedin South electorate, claimed he had been discriminated against by the newspaper in his campaign. He cited as evidence of discrimination that his photograph was not included in a report of a poll conducted by the Otago Daily Times, nor was his name given in a graph conveying the degree of support for each candidate.

Mr McDonald claimed the unwillingness of the newspaper to correct what he regards as a “mistake” on its part threw into doubt the impartiality of the newspaper.

The editor Geoff Adams however, made it clear in his response that the decision not to publish Mr McDonald’s photograph was a deliberate decision, exercised on the editorial prerogative that it publish the photographs of the four candidates who received any voter support from those polled. Mr Adams argued there was no requirement that all candidaites must be equally publicised. He gave an assurance that the Otago Daily Times intended to give fair treatment in its election treatment.

Whether the Otago Daily Times reported Mr McDonald’s lack of support is a matter of editorial judgment, and there does not appear to be any grounds for suggesting that news judgment was unfairly exercised. But the Press Council, in taking the view there were no grounds for upholding the complaint, noted that the editor made an unfortunate error in his initially published responseto Mr McDonald that may have compounded the sense the complainant held, that he had been treated somewhat cavalierly.