COMPLAINT AGAINST NEW ZEALAND HERALDA resident living close to Eden Park, Auckland, has complained to the New Zealand Press Council about a breach of his privacy following a June 1, 2011 article in the New Zealand Herald which named specific addresses near the park and detailed where the owners of homes so identified would be during the Rugby World Cup.
The article included an aerial picture graphic of the park with streets and numbers of houses, including the complainant’s, clearly identified by tags.
The complaint is not upheld.
The Herald article was headlined Not long now until party time with the sub-heading They’re living on the edge of the Garden of Eden, so where will they be for the World Cup? The Herald knocks on every door.
The following text detailed what home owners in the park’s immediate vicinity would be doing at the time of the Rugby World Cup.
The complainant was not named but the text recorded against his address: “Will be overseas for one week but will not rent out. ‘Don’t fancy a bunch of English dudes ripping the place up.’ ”
The complainant emailed the Herald the same day saying he was asked a few questions by a male reporter “who didn’t ask permission to use any of the information provided.” He had specifically mentioned that anything discussed was anonymous. But the article directly referred to his house which was identifiable.
“The article specifically gives a timeframe when the house will be empty and therefore is an open target to be robbed and I interpret this as a breach of our privacy. Given we’ve been robbed before, criminals in the area need no second invitation.”
In a response dated June 7, deputy editor David Hastings said in light of his complaints, the Herald had reviewed its coverage and sought the views of the reporter. He appreciated his concerns about the published comment but he was satisfied the reporter followed correct procedure.
He clearly identified himself and took notes during the interview. The request for anonymity was made after the interview had been completed, “and this was respected as was done with a number of similar requests in the survey.”
In a response, dated June 14, the complainant said he would have thought professional judgement and common sense would have over-ridden internal procedures, particularly after a recent Herald article showing a rise in crime in surrounding areas.
The complainant said the request for anonymity had been “completely contravened” when comments were attributed to an identifiable address. Dissatisfied, the resident complained to the Press Council.
In his formal response to the Press Council, Mr Hastings repeated the points he had made in the email, and pointed out how the graphic did not include full details of others who had similarly requested anonymity. The request for anonymity was that his name be withheld and nothing more.
“On [the complainant’s] other point, we do not agree that the time frame in the article was specific. It mentioned he would be away for a week whereas the tournament lasts for just over six weeks.”
The facts in the complaint are largely undisputed. Where differences arise is in interpretation, particularly on what was meant by anonymity.
The complainant understood this would mean neither he nor his home would be identified. To the newspaper it meant that the complainant personally would not be identified, and it believed the complainant knew that.
The deputy editor acknowledges the complainant’s concerns about the published comment, but is satisfied correct procedures were followed.
The question for the Press Council is whether there has been a breach of privacy.
The reporter did follow procedures but the complainant, whose experience with the media is not known, was expecting nothing he said would lead to the identification of his home or person. In that, there has been a regrettable miscommunication, and it is a pity that he mentioned such detail at all.
The Press Council also acknowledges the complainant’s concerns, but the newspaper was open about its intentions and the complainant spoke openly of his situation.
The complaint is not upheld.
Press Council members considering this complaint were Barry Paterson, Pip Bruce Ferguson, Kate Coughlan, Chris Darlow, Sandy Gill, Penny Harding, Keith Lees, Clive Lind, Lynn Scott and Stephen Stewart.
John Roughan took no part in the consideration of this complaint.