CHRISTINE LAWS AGAINST THE NZ HERALD
Case Number: 3434
Council Meeting: 25 SEPTEMBER 2023
Decision: Not Upheld
Publication: New Zealand Herald
Accuracy, Fairness and Balance
Comment and Fact
- On Saturday 1 April 2023, the NZ Herald published an editorial titled Political landscape strewn with debacle. Christine Laws complains about an inaccuracy in the editorial under Principle (1) Accuracy, Fairness and Balance and Principle (4) Comment and Fact. The complaint is not upheld.
- The NZ Herald editorial included discussion about the resignation of Labour MP Stuart Nash and Green Party co-leader, Marama Davidson’s comments about white cis men causing most violence that she made after being hit by a motorcycle when attending the Posie Parker protest at Albert Park, Auckland. The editorial stated Ms Davidson was hit after the protest.
- Christine Laws complains the timing of the ‘incident’ involving Ms Davidson, as stated in the editorial, was inaccurate. The editorial stated that Marama Davidson was hit by a motorbike after the protest when the NZ Herald and other media outlets reported she was hit before the protest.
- Ms Laws thinks the error is of significance because the length of time between Ms Davidson being hit and her 'white cis men' comment is central as to whether she was in shock at the time she made this 'racist' comment, as the Prime Minister claimed she was. Ms Laws goes further to say that she thinks the NZ Herald and Prime Minister are manipulating the facts to explain Ms Davidson’s ‘racism’.
- Ms Laws also points out that the length of time taken to address the inaccuracy was unacceptable.
- The NZ Herald accepted that the timing of when Marama Davidson was hit was wrong in its editorial and once they had confirmed the timeline of events, it was corrected. A statement at the bottom of the editorial admitting the error remains.
- The NZ Herald did not agree that there is any significance in the misreporting as the paragraph in question does not give any indication of the timeframe between the accident and Ms Davidson’s cis-men comments. The NZ Herald notes that two days after the protest, Ms Davidson herself said the comments were made "a short time after the incident" (the motorbike collision) and that she was "still in shock" at the time. "A short time" is a subjective timeframe in their view.
- Under Principle (1) publications are always bound by accuracy, and this is extended in Principle (4) to include comment or opinion articles. The requirements for a foundation of fact pertain for opinion pieces, such as the editorial in question here.
- That the editorial contained an inaccuracy is not in question. The NZ Herald corrected it and included a statement at the bottom of the editorial stating so. The Council has no evidence on which to comment on the motivation of the NZ Herald to manipulate the facts, as suggested by the complainant, nor whether Ms Davidson was or was not in shock at the time of making her comment.
- What the Council will comment on is the length of time that the correction took – about two weeks. Principle (12) states that a publication’s willingness to correct errors enhances its credibility as does the promptness of such correction.
- The NZ Herald notes that they received an unprecedented number of complaints following the protest at the Posie Parker rally. They state that once Ms Laws' complaint came in, it was added to the list of complaints to be investigated and all were responded to within ten days.
- The Council says while the error in question was not egregious and the NZ Herald reports that the volume of complaints stretched their processes, two weeks is an unacceptable time for an inaccuracy to remain uncorrected and the Council asks that the NZ Herald consider its processes in this light.
- Decision: The complainant is not upheld.
Council members considering the complaint were Hon Raynor Asher (Chair), Jonathan MacKenzie, Tim Watkin, Hank Schouten, Jo Cribb, Judi
Jones, Reina Vaai, Richard Pamatatau.
*Council member Scott Inglis declared a conflict of interest and withdrew from the meeting.