Case Number: 2288

Council Meeting: NOVEMBER 2012

Verdict: Not Upheld

Publication: Stuff

Ruling Categories: Balance, Lack Of
Unfair Coverage

Mr Aldridge complains that a series on the website entitled “Marriage equality stories” is inaccurate, unfair and unbalanced.
The complaint is not upheld.

The purpose of the series, as stated in the first opinion published, was to feature different New Zealanders and their thoughts on the current marriage equality debate. The introduction to the first opinion noted that the Marriage Amendment Bill aims to amend marriage legislation to ensure gay couples are not treated in “a discriminatory manner”.
The complaint was made after the publication of the first two opinions. In reply submissions, Mr Aldridge alleges that there had by then been eight opinions, six of which supported the Bill and two of which opposed the Bill.

The Website’s Position
The website noted that it started the series with a live chat with two key figures, one on each side of the debate. There were only five opinions in the series “Marriage equality stories” and of these three took one side and the other two the other side of the debate.
On the supplementary complaint, the editor repeated that there were only five opinions in the “Marriage equality stories” and that if the complaint were to be extended beyond that series, it was appropriate to consider the website’s entire offering rather than the eight stories that Mr Aldridge had selected. He gave a reference to these stories and there were numerous stories and opinions well in excess of the eight referred to in the complaint.

The original complaint related to two opinions only. The complaint was premature and when the five articles on the series are considered, it is not sustainable. In a series of five articles it cannot be said that there was a lack of balance when three took one view and two the other. Nor do any of the articles display inaccuracies or unfairness.
When the opinions and articles which appeared on the website are considered, rather than just the eight referred to by the complainant, it is obvious that there is balance and not a lack of fairness or accuracy.

The complaint is not upheld.

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