Case Number: 3488

Council Meeting: March 2024

Decision: No Grounds to Proceed

Publication: New Zealand Herald

Principle: Accuracy, Fairness and Balance

Ruling Categories:

This complaint was prompted by an article published by the NZ Herald on 5 January 2024 and headlined Laura Gemmell:  Climate Resolutions – how you can change the world. This was an opinion piece offering advice on New Year’s resolutions that might help save the planet and warned that red flags about climate change and biodiversity loss had been repeatedly dismissed as woke baloney.

Chuck Bird did not complain specifically about this story but used it as a basis for a broader argument that there was lack of balance on climate change in articles and letters to the editor.

“I have followed climate change closely and read books from qualified climate scientists who accept human emissions cause some global warming but do not believe that there is a climate emergency.”

He said he had asked a NZ Herald reporter if the NZ Herald would publish comment by an American scientist who had written on the subject.

“I am not sure why the MSM [mainstream media] in New Zealand will not allow balance on the subject. I hope it is not because of the government funding they received from the previous government.”

The Herald responded that the article was clearly presented as opinion and was no requirement for it to be balanced. It added that the NZ Media Council had regularly ruled that readers did not have the right to be offended and that no one was forcing a reader to read the article, or the newspaper.

“The Herald's editorial position is that there can be no doubt that human activity has and is contributing to climate change. Naturally you are welcome to hold your own opinion, but we are unlikely to provide a platform to anthropogenic climate change deniers.”

Publication of opinion articles was the prerogative of editors and readers could provide feedback on articles via comments or letters to the editor.

The NZ Media Council concurs with the NZ Herald on this complaint. This was an opinion piece and there was no requirement for the NZ Herald to run comment countering the now widely stated view, which is adopted by governments, reputable scientific bodies and many publications - that human activity is contributing to climate change.  It is not the Media Council’s role to take a definitive position on climate change and its causes and it welcomes articles that challenge assumptions, but it does not interfere with editorial discretion on this topic. There are no proven factual inaccuracies.Furthermore, counterarguments have been reported over the many years this subject has been debated. 

This complaint has not shown how the NZ Herald might have breached any Media Council principles with this opinion piece or with its editorial stance on climate change.

Decision: There are no grounds to proceed.


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