ALEXANDER WILLS AND JOHN WAKELIN AGAINST NEWSHUB

Case Number: 3278

Council Meeting: JUNE 2022

Decision: Not Upheld

Publication: Newshub TV3

Principle: Accuracy, Fairness and Balance
Comment and Fact
Headlines and Captions
Photographs and Graphics

Ruling Categories: Apology and Correction Sought
Misleading
Misrepresentation

Overview

1. The Media Council received two separate complaints from Alexander Wills and John Wakelin about the same Newshub story and has considered both complaints together.

2. The complaints were about a Newshub story which promoted a new interview programme hosted by broadcaster Piers Morgan called “Piers Morgan Uncensored”. The story showed edited clips of an interview with former American President, Donald Trump.

3. On 21 April 2022, Newshub published a story headlined: Donald Trump storms out of Piers Morgan interview over questions about election lies and which began with “A promotional clip for Piers Morgan’s new TV show teases a fiery interview with Donald Trump, in which the former US president appears to angrily cut the interview short”.

4. The story quotes Trump calling Piers Morgan a “fool” and “very dishonest” in the short preview when Morgan questions Trump about his claims of a rigged election and goes on to show a quick exchange between the men before Mr Trump says, “Let’s finish up the interview... turn the camera off”. The footage shows him getting up from his chair, walking away and describing Morgan as “very dishonest.”  

5. The promo does not show Mr Trump storming off. 

6. The second half of the Newshub story quotes from an opinion piece Morgan wrote for The New York Post promoting the same interview. It notes how Mr Trump had been given a list of critical statements Piers Morgan had made about the former president. Mr Morgan wrote that they had angered Trump so much he was “almost foaming at the mouth”.  

The Complaint

7. Both Alexander Wills and John Wakelin complain the article breaches Principle 1: Accuracy Fairness and Balance because it does not portray Donald Trump fairly. The article was based on a promotional clip in which the video was cut and pasted to intentionally mislead viewers into thinking that Donald Trump angrily walked out of the interview.

8. Mr Wakelin says a 7.32 minute audio recording by Mr Trump’s team and released after the interview with Piers Morgan shows the interview was cordial and the interview did not end in the manner portrayed in the Newshub story. 

9.Both complainants asked that the article is retracted and Newshub apologise for what they describe as false reporting.

10. In addition, Mr Wakelin complains the article breached Principle 4: Comment and Fact, Principle 6: Headlines and Captions and Principle 11: Photographs and Graphics.

The Response

11. Newshub said the story was an accurate report of a clip produced by Fox Nation to promote its new Piers Morgan Uncensored television show.  Newshub did not produce the promotional video.

12. Newshub says it did not ‘knowingly lie’ or set out to mislead readers in its reporting. When the article was published on 21 April the headline accurately conveyed the information the editorial team had at the time of publication. It conveyed what is depicted in the video being reported on and the article clearly explained that ‘the former US President appears to angrily cut the interview short”.

13. The following day, 22 April when Mr Trump released secretly recorded audio of the interview which suggested a very different and amiable end to the interview, Newshub promptly published another story headlined Donald Trump releases audio of deceptively edited Piers Morgan interview . Newshub believes this subsequent article ‘sufficiently addresses the issues… raised’.

14. Newshub apologised for any distress the article may have caused.

The Discussion

Principle 1: Accuracy, Fairness and Balance

15. Principle 1 states publications should be bound at all times by accuracy, fairness and balance, and should not deliberately mislead or misinform readers by commission or omission.

16. The Newshub story references the content of the promotional video and describes the footage as a rapidly cut montage. As such it is an accurate report of the promotional footage. The misleading clip and description were not authored by Newshub which published them in good faith. Newshub published a subsequent story the next day when new information about the interview came to light. 

17. The article shows the material is clearly of a promotional nature and the programme, “Piers Morgan Uncensored” has provided the edited video to attract viewers to the new show.

18. The key point is that while the headline might be seen as misleading as a description of the whole interview and its ending, it is made clear in the first sentence of the story – and repeatedly throughout the article - that Newshub is referring to what the promotional clip says, rather than what the interview contained.  The fact is that the promotional clip does show what appears to be a fiery interview, in which the former US president “appears” to angrily cut the interview short.  The Newshub story is about the video, not the interview, and the video does appear to show these features.

19. Newshub initially published another party’s misleading video, not knowing it was incorrect. When it became aware of the true position the next day Newshub published another news story that acted as a correction, informing its readers that the Fox Nation promo had been misleading. Under principle 1 we see this as defusing the error.

20. Based on this, the Media Council has not upheld the complaints by Alexander Wills and John Wakelin under Principle 1. 

Principle 4: Comment and Fact

21. This principle states a clear distinction should be drawn between information and comment or opinion. An article that is essentially comment or opinion should be clearly presented as such. Material facts on which an opinion is based should be accurate.

22.This article was a straight forward news report on a promotional video and it was clearly displayed at such. It was not and did not claim to be the writer’s opinion.  It was a summary of a clip, and the difference between comment and opinon does not arise as a relevant issue.

23. Based on this the Council has Not Upheld the complaint under Principle 4.
 
Principle 6: Headlines, Sub-headings, and Captions

24. This principle states headlines, sub-headings and captions should accurately and fairly convey the substance or a key element of the report they are designed to cover. 

25. The headline is not misleading in terms of the video clip shown which was from an edited promotional clip taken from the end of the 75 minute interview. 

26. Based on this, the Council has not upheld the complaint under Principle 6

Principle 11: Photographs and Graphics

27. This principle states editors should take care in photographic and image selection and treatment. Any technical manipulation that could mislead readers should be noted and explained. Photographs showing distressing or shocking situations should be handled with special consideration for those affected.

28. The Newshub story notes the visual material was a “rapidly cut montage” leaving the reader and viewer in no doubt of the production behind the clip.

29. Based on this the Council has Not Upheld the complaint under Principle 11.
 
Decision: The complaints are not upheld.

Council members considering the complaint were the Hon Raynor Asher (Chair) Judi Jones, Rosemary Barraclough, Hank Schouten, Alison Thom, Jonathan Mackenzie, Marie Shroff, Richard Pamatatau, Ben France-Hudson, Tim Watkin and Craig Cooper.

 

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