CHRIS CHIVERS AGAINST NZ HERALD
Case Number: 3445
Council Meeting: 30 October 2023
Decision: No Grounds to Proceed
Publication: New Zealand Herald
Principle: Headlines and Captions
Ruling Categories: Court Reporting
The New Zealand Herald ran an article on August 21, 2023, headlined Gang members see red over sentences. The story was about Black Power gang members appealing their sentences for beating a mentally impaired man who they mistakenly thought was a member of the rival Mongrel Mob gang because he was wearing a red jersey.
Chris Chivers complained about the use of a pun in the headline and that it was inappropriate to try and make a joke at the expense of the victim of the attack.
The NZ Herald responded that a range of devices were employed to encourage readers to read an article and on occasion this could include puns. It was important to stress that a pun did not necessarily imply that the article's contents were in any way amusing. The article itself was an entirely straight report of the appeal hearing.
Media Council Principle (6) states that headlines should accurately and fairly convey the substance or a key element of the report they are
designed to cover.
Word plays are commonly used in headlines to catch the eye of readers. They do not necessarily denote that a story is less than serious, although editors are wise to exercise caution when readers might be offended.
The headline succinctly conveyed a key element of the story – that the gang “saw red” and assumed their victim was a member of the rival gang because he was wearing a red jersey. The Council can see that the headline’s wording might be seen to trivialise the serious nature of what was being reported in the story but it does not believe it crossed the line in a way that warrants upholding a complaint.
Decision: There were insufficient grounds to proceed.