Case Number: 2291

Council Meeting: NOVEMBER 2012

Verdict: Not Upheld

Publication: The Dominion Post

Ruling Categories: Balance, Lack Of
Unfair Coverage
Conflict of Interest

Allan Golden complains to the Press Council about a Dominion Post opinion piece about Neil Armstrong’s moon walk. The complaint is not upheld.

The column published on September 1, 2012 discussed the impact of US astronaut Neil Armstrong’s moon landing and compared his achievements to those of cyclist Lance Armstrong, who had been stripped of his awards that same week because of drug cheating.

Mr Golden said the column was untrue because the moon landings did not happen and it was improper for The Dominion Post to suggest otherwise. He claimed that the columnist and The Dominion Post editor knew the moon landings were a fiction and they were propagating “false propaganda”.
He said the column breached six Press Council principles, including accuracy, fairness and balance. He also cited principles covering children, discrimination, subterfuge, conflicts of interest and corrections.
Mr Golden later widened his complaint to the newspaper’s news coverage of Neil Armstrong’s death, which also repeated the false story of the landings.

The Newspaper’s Response
Dominion Post editor Bernadette Courtney says the column was clearly labelled opinion and was the honestly held opinion of the columnist.
She said Mr Golden was entitled to express another opinion and the newspaper had published at least one letter in the past year claiming the landings were a hoax.
The columnist’s view was shared by many others and was far from extreme.

It is widely accepted that Neil Armstrong did land on the moon and The Dominion Post’s column is reflecting many reports over many years that have assumed the moon landings to be fact. Mr Golden believes the reports to be propaganda and The Dominion Post a willing vehicle for that propaganda.
The difficulty for the Press Council is Mr Golden has not supplied any evidence to convince it that the moon landings did not happen – except his own opinion.

The Council does not uphold the complaint.

Press Council members considering this complaint were Barry Paterson, Tim Beaglehole, Pip Bruce Ferguson, Kate Coughlan, Chris Darlow, Sandy Gill, Penny Harding, Keith Lees, John Roughan and Stephen Stewart.

Clive Lind took no part in the consideration of this complaint.