ANDY ESPERSEN AGAINST STUFF
Case Number: 2744
Council Meeting: DECEMBER 2018
Verdict: No Grounds to Proceed
Balance, Lack Of
Censorship, Supression of Fact
CASE NO: 2745
RULING BY THE NEW ZEALAND MEDIA COUNCIL ON THE COMPLAINT OF ANDY ESPERSEN AGAINST STUFF
FINDING: NO GROUNDS TO PROCEED
DATE: DECEMBER 2018
On November 28, 2018 Stuff published an editorial Quick! Save the Planet: We must confront climate change. The editorial, written by Editor in Chief Patrick Crewdson, beganDespair isn’t the worst reaction to climate change. Complacency might be. He alerted readers to a long-term Stuff project, launching that day, that aimed todisturb our collective complacency.
The editorial continued
This project accepts a statement that shouldn’t be controversial but somehow still is: climate change is real and caused by human activity.
Mature adults can disagree about the impact of climate change and how we should react.We’ll feature a wide range of views as part of this project, but we won’t include climate change “scepticism”. Including denialism wouldn’t be “balanced”; it’d be a dangerous waste of time.The experts have debunked denialism, [hyperlink inserted] so now we move on.
Andy Espersen complained that Stuff policy took no account of the Global Warming Policy Forum, a body of equally eminent scientists coming to somewhat different opinions from the IPCC.
He cites the Media Council principle which says “In articles of controversy or disagreement a fair voice must be given to the opposite view.”He says “It is no accident that Accuracy, fairness and balance are listed as the first ethical principle in that code …I cannot imagine any circumstances where a newspaper is justified in withholding opposing views from its readership.”
For the record the Media Council notes that the principle cited goes on to say “Exceptions may apply for long-running issues where every side of an issue or argument cannot reasonably be repeated on every occasion.”
Stuff has come to the conclusion, as many other publications have, that there is an overwhelming consensus in the scientific community that anthropogenic climate change is happening and it is a critical issue.
The Media Council has previously stated its opinion on the matter. In case 2470Neil Henderson against The Gisborne Herald the Council noted
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.
The Statement of Principles preamble also states that publications have the right to adopt a forthright stance or to advocate on any issue. Stuff is well within its rights to adopt such an approach, particularly since it has advised its readers it is doing so.
The Media Council does not find Stuff to be in breach of any principle.
Finding: No Grounds to Proceed.