COMPLAINT AGAINST THE OTAGO DAILY TIMESThe Press Council has upheld a complaint against the Otago Daily Times.
The newspaper published a report about a criminal proceeding. When referring to the charge faced by the defendant the newspaper published the names of the two child victims of the alleged offending.
The complainant is the mother of the two children.
After publication of the report the mother complained in person to the newspaper, but she was not at that time able to speak to the reporter who had filed the report. She spoke to two other members of the newspaper staff and acknowledges she did receive an apology at that time. However she also subsequently wrote to the editor recording her complaint. This communication remained unacknowledged. Perhaps, not surprisingly, she felt further aggrieved by that lack of response. She initiated her complaint tot the Press Council.
The Newspaper’s Response
The editor told the Council he had no recollection of the complainant’s initial letter of complaint, but indicated that had he been aware of it he would have apologised immediately. After the complaint was brought to his attention by the Press Council he made a formal and unreserved apology by letter.
The editor acknowledged that the publication of the children’s names was an “unintended error”. He advised that in subsequent reports on the case the newspaper had taken particular care to ensure the children were not identified.
It is common ground between both parties that the newspaper erred in publishing the children’s names.
Principle 5 requires an editor to “… have particular care and consideration for reporting on and about children”. The editor appears to accept that this was a situation where there was inadequate care towards children.
The Council recognises that an apology has been tendered on two separate occasions. In some instances this might suffice to persuade the Council that the complaint should not be upheld. However this error was a significant and egregious one.
It was unfortunate that the newspaper’s systems did not result in the complaint being formally referred to the editor on the complainant’s first contact with the newspaper, for it does appear that the delay has exacerbated the sense of grievance and this is regrettable for all concerned.
The Council upholds the complaint but in doing so also acknowledges that the newspaper has now unreservedly apologised to the complainant.
Council members considering the complaint were Barry Paterson, Aroha Beck, Kate Coughlan, Penny Harding, Keith Lees, Denis McLean, Alan Samson and Lynn Scott.
People with a complaint against a magazine or newspaper should first complain in writing to the editor of the publication and then, if not satisfied with the response, complain to the Press Council. Complaints should be addressed to the Secretary, P O Box 10 8789, The Terrace, Wellington. Phone 473 5220. Information on the Press Council is available at www.presscouncil.org.nz