ALLAN GRANT AGAINST STUFF

Case Number: 2842

Council Meeting: NOVEMBER 2019

Verdict: No Grounds to Proceed

Publication: Stuff

Ruling Categories: Accuracy
Balance, Lack Of
Comment and Fact
Unfair Coverage

Overview

CASE NO: 2842

RULING BY THE NEW ZEALAND MEDIA COUNCIL ON THE COMPLAINT OF ALLAN GRANT AGAINST STUFF

FINDING: NO GROUNDS TO PROCEED

DATE: NOVEMBER 2019

Allan Grant complained about an item, published on September 20, 2019, which was headedClimate Explained: Why are climate change sceptics often right-wing conservatives? He complained that Stuff was in breach of Media Council Principle I (accuracy, fairness and balance) and Principle 4 (comment and fact).

He challenged the claim made in the article that 97 per cent of climate scientists support the consensus that humans are causing global warming and said this was a disingenuous interpretation based only on biased sources. He also argued Stuff breached Principle 4 as it did not make a clear distinction between factual information and comment or opinion.

Stuff editor-in-chief Patrick Crewdson said the authors of the article drew on a scientific paper for their reference to the 97 per cent figure and cited other papers which had also quantified the consensus. He was satisfied it was accurate and did not warrant correction.

He also argued that the various items referred to in Mr Grant’s complaint – a press release and two opinion pieces by economists - did not disprove the consensus. Rather they showed that objection to the consensus on climate change was political rather than scientific.

He referred to the previous Media Council no grounds ruling Andy Espersen against Stuff which said:

The Council's principles also allow an exception from the requirement for balance for long running issues where the various views have been well canvassed. Climate change has now become such an issue.

[I]t would be fair to say that unless the scientific consensus on climate change shifts markedly, or important new information comes to light, it is unlikely complaints alleging lack of balance, because the climate change sceptic viewpoint is not included, will be successful.

As we have stated in previous decisions the Media Council cannot and will not judge the accuracy of the science of this and other issues, but we do believe there is a requirement for the scientific research and arguments to be accurately reported.Balance is another issue and in a long running debate issue such as this there is no requirement for all arguments and counter-arguments to be covered every time the subject is discussed. That would be impractical. It is inevitable that writers will select facts that support their arguments as Mr Grant does, and a publication that has chosen to exercise its right to adopt a forthright stance on an issue, as Stuff has with climate change, may present the facts that support its stance.

As for the complaint on Principle 4, the item was not clearly labelled as “opinion”. However, the wording of the headline and the way it was written with sentences starting “our research” and “our findings” leave the reader with little doubt that the views expressed were those of the authors named at the top of the article.

No Grounds to Proceed