The Press Council has not upheld a complaint by Angela Burns against a student magazine, Critic Te Arohi.

In a column labelled "Daily Grind" a couple of contributors reviewed their experience while dining at the Green Acorn cafe in Dunedin.

While some of the article was favourable to the cafe, the contributors made negative remarks about aspects of the experience, including some disparaging comments about the age of the barista and his waiting skills.

Angela Burns, co-owner of the Green Acorn, complained to the magazine. She disputed the alleged age of the barista and found the contributors' attack on him "degrades him personally and is an outright attack on our business as well". She requested to meet with the contributors, a request that they refused.

Believing that she had had no satisfactory response from Critic, Mrs Burns took her complaint to the Press Council. It was a general complaint, did not cite specific principles that she felt the paper had breached, but reiterated her concern about the rudeness of the contributors and their inaccurate comments about the barista.

The Magazine's Response
The editor of Critic replied that he had fielded a phone call from the angry co-owner. He had directed her request to meet with the contributors to them, but said that they had the right to respond as they saw fit.

Subsequently, he forwarded a written response from the contributors to the owners of the Green Acorn offering a sincere apology “for the offense we caused with our cafe review". The contributors stated that they were playing to their audience “who appreciates a bit of tongue-in-cheek humour" and that they had not meant to be ageist. They had learned from the complaint and "are aiming to steer our column in a more fair and less offensive direction. Apologies and Regrets".

Mrs Burns disputed receipt of the contributors' apology and the email from the editor of Critic. However, he was able to forward this to the Press Council, showing clearly that he had sent the email. Mrs Burns decided to continue with the complaint as she had not received the apology from the paper directly.

The Press Council does not always accept complaints against student magazines, however Critic Te Arohi some years ago determined it did wish to come under Press Council jurisdiction.

Student magazines are a particular genre, with a long history of provocation and even offensiveness. They are also usually noted for their edgy and ironic tone.

The Press Council has previously noted that a reviewer is entitled to express an honestly held opinion of a particular dining experience.

The magazine had forwarded a reply from the contributors which included an apology and their recognition that they would strive to avoid such writing in future.

The comments about the barista are not exceptional in a review of this kind, especially given the review was published in a youth-focussed student magazine. In admitting the article had been unfair, and apologising, the contributors acknowledged a different perspective which would be taken into account in future writing.

The complaint is not upheld.

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


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