Case Number: 3085

Council Meeting: AUGUST 2021

Verdict: No Grounds to Proceed

Publication: New Zealand Herald

Ruling Categories: Accuracy


Andrew Soper complained about three Covid-19 articles published in the New Zealand Herald recently.

He said the first was wrong to report that Covid-19 had been found in New Plymouth wastewater samples.Covid-19 is a disease caused by the sars-cov-2 virus and the samples would have shown fragments of that virus.

In the second story he said a young man, who required a lung transplant after contracting Covid, should not have been taken at his word when he stated he did not have any underlying diseases or ailments.

In the third article he challenged the contention that the newly detected lambda variant of Covid-19, prevalent in South America, might be more dangerous than the delta variant.

The points raised are mainly semantic and not misleading. The sars-cov-2 virus is commonly referred to as Covid-19 because that is the name of the disease that most people know it by. It was also the term used by the Ministry of Health. This was a news article, written for a wide audience. It was not a technical paper where such distinctions could be important.

The quote from the lung transplant patient is simply that. When the patient said he had no underlying diseases or ailments the journalist was entitled to report that. Reporters usually take people at their word unless there is some indication they are lying or have reason to lie.

As for the lambda variant the Herald reported there is evidence it may be more transmissible and that scientists are also worried it may dodge vaccines. There is a lot of uncertainty and understandable concern about the course of the pandemic. The headline and article are not demonstrably wrong in stating the lambda variant may be more dangerous.

There is nothing to warrant disciplinary action against the Herald as called for by Mr Soper.

There are insufficient grounds for the complaint to proceed.