Case Number: 682

Council Meeting: DECEMBER 1997

Verdict: Not Upheld

Publication: The Dominion

A complaint against The Dominion by Barbara Griffith has not been upheld by the New Zealand Press Council. Ms Griffith wrote a well-constructed letter to the newspaper on 19 September in response to an article published that day on the proposed closure of Greytown Hospital. Ms Griffith complained that the letter was not published until 2 October and had been abridged, without that modification having being recorded, and changed so much that it was rendered, for her purposes, meaningless.

In response to her complaint, the editor explained the letter had been abbreviated to save space and he thought the most important points had been covered. He was not prepared to re-publish the unabridged letter, but offered to consider a brief second letter, covering the main points the editing of the original had removed. Ms Griffith declined this offer, as the issue the article related to had become stale. She asked the Press Council to adjudicate.

In this case, the editing made material alterations to the sense of the letter. The changes were not referred to Ms Griffith, a practice the Council encourages. The Council, however, understands the constraints of time and space placed on editors.
The editor explained the word “abridged” was usually placed at the end of an abridged letter, but in this case space constraints had made this impossible.

In recognition of the points made by Ms Griffith the editor offered to print a brief second letter, but this was declined and the Council therefore does not uphold the complaint. However, the Council emphasises that editors should adopt as an invariable policy, the practice of placing the word “abridged” at the end of a letter which has been altered by the editor.