BARBARA MCKELVIE AGAINST THE HAWKE’S BAY HERALD-TRIBUNE

Case Number: 660

Council Meeting: JULY 1997

Verdict: Upheld

Publication: Hawke's Bay Hearld-Tribune

The failure by the Hawke’s Bay Herald-Tribune to correct an error in one of its articles has prompted the New Zealand Press Council to uphold a complaint against the paper.

Barbara McKelvie had complained to the Council about a story which appeared in the Herald-Tribune on 15 April. The story was about plans to shift the Ticketek booking office from Jetset Travel Centre in Napier to Napier’s refurbished Municipal Theatre. Ticketek leased space at Jetset Travel, but was run separately from the travel agency.

Mrs McKelvie, who owns Jetset Travel with her husband Ross, was upset by a line in the story which quoted Ticketek national manager Ben Unger saying Jetset’s lease had expired at the end of January and was being renewed on a month-by-month basis. If Jetset Travel staff moved to the theatre, it would be only for a short time.

The reported comment was wrong and Mrs McKelvie said it had prompted concern from her employees as well as from clients worried the travel agent was closing down. Mrs McKelvie complained immediately to the newspaper, but no correction was published.

In his defence of the newspaper, Herald-Tribune editor James Morgan said the reporter had contacted Mr McKelvie one night for comment on the move of Ticketek from Jetset Travel to the Municipal Theatre, but Mr McKelvie had refused to comment and had refused to put his wife on the phone.

Mr Morgan told the Press Council any perceived injustice to Jetset Travel could have been overcome if Mrs McKelvie or her husband had been prepared to talk to the paper before publication. Yet Mr Morgan agreed his paper published a story which included an error.

In fact notes of conversations Mr Morgan produced in the paper’s defence indicated comments made by Mr Unger had simply been misinterpreted by the reporter.

While the Council agrees it might have been more helpful if the McKelvies had made themselves available to be interviewed, their refusal to do so does not clear the paper of responsibility for publishing an error. Nor does it justify the newspaper not correcting its error once it was made aware of the mistake. Had the Herald-Tribune run a correction, the complaint might never have come to the Council. The complaint is upheld.