DANIEL STRIDE AGAINST OTAGO DAILY TIMES

Case Number: 2959

Council Meeting: OCTOBER 2020

Verdict: Not Upheld

Publication: Otago Daily Times

Ruling Categories: Detail Needlessly Prejudicial
Privacy
Unfair Coverage

Overview

On the 18 July, 2020 Otago Daily Times published an article titled Clubs candidate withdraws.Daniel Stride complains that the article breaches several NZ Media Council Principles.

The Article - Clubs candidate withdraws

The Otago Daily Times (ODT) published an article regarding the withdrawal by one of the candidates seeking to be the next student representative for clubs and societies at the University of Otago. The previous Otago University Students’ Association (OUSA) clubs and societies representative had resigned following a complaint against him for sexual misconduct, which created a by-election. Mr Stride was one of four nominees vying for the vacant position.Mr Stride was nominated and that nomination was seconded by a person who later withdrew her support after learning that Mr Stride had stood down from the OUSA executive in 2011 following a vote of no-confidence after groping an acquaintance. Mr Stride had admitted in an online blog “he had got drunk at a student party and groped a woman’s breast. ”In his online blog, Mr Stride named the victim he had groped and apologised for the “sincere accident” of using his victim’s name in his admission. Mr Stride was offered police diversion for the groping incident.

The ODT made unsuccessful efforts to contact Mr Stride for comment.

The Complaint

Mr Stride sent an email to the ODT which was received on 21 July. He says that he attempted to contact theODT a number of times via email and telephone to discuss the article. He was able to connect with theODT editor, Barry Stewart on 27 August, however Mr Stride did not accept Mr Stewart’s ‘justification for public interest’ and explanation.

Mr Stride is basing his complaint on the breach of NZ Media Council Principle 2 Privacy and has referred in his complaint to 5 facets:

  • The reporter of the article is said to have Facebook stalked the nominator and seconder for Mr Stride’s candidacy. Mr Stride says the behaviour by the reporter “convinced the seconder that I was a convicted sex offender” and that this is a “recipe for defamation”.
  • Mr Stride admits that the groping incident that occurred in 2011 was a “breast squeeze” and was “wrong” but he does not agree with “harassing someone about such a thing nine years later.” He says that he has “the right to rebuild my life withoutODT harassment” and he has “suffered enough”.
  • The article was published at a time when Mr Stride was “waiting to hear back from a number of (non-political) job applications.”Mr Stride has referred to the “ramifications of digging up personal incidents from nearly a decade ago.”
  • Mr Stride opposes the comparisons being drawn between his case in 2011 and the accusations facing the previous OUSA clubs and societies representative. Mr Stride has described the alleged comparisons as “disgustingly lazy journalism and a disgrace to theODT.”
  • Mr Stride says that as he had “withdrawn from the by-election, there was no public interest to justify the article”.

Mr Stride has remarked that he was “an employee of the ODT from 2005 – 2014”.

There is a request by Mr Stride to rectify this matter in the following way

1. The journalist needs to apologise to my seconder for dragging her into this.

2. The ODT needs to promise not to dig up 2011 ever again, unless a similar offence is publicly committed that justifies such reporting.

3. The online version of the article is to be removed.

The Response

Barry Stewart, editor, has provided a response on behalf of the ODT. TheODT rejects the claims by Mr Stride that they breached his privacy. They described the article as being a “fair and balanced” account and that the coverage by the journalist was “accurate”.Mr Stewart contacted Mr Stride via telephone to discuss the article. According to Mr Stewart, the ODT was being accused of making Mr Stride out to be a “rapist”.

There has been “some sympathy” expressed by Mr Stewart as he acknowledges “his offending did occur some years ago. ”However, Mr Stewart noted that Mr Stride put his hand up for selection of the OUSA clubs and societies representative position therefore he could “expect some scrutiny”.

Mr Stewart advised that was the reason for bringing to light Mr Stride’s previous incident of “breast groping” given that it had led to his being forced of the OUSA Students Association in 2011.

The ODT had made efforts to get “Mr Stride’s response but he could not be contacted. ”There have been reports on the “activities and events Mr Stride has been involved in over the years” by ODT but no reference to any offending was raised “simply because it was not relevant.”

The ODT assert “Standing for an elected office at the university was a different story.”

Further comment from Mr Stride in response to the ODT

Mr Stride has stated “The ODT misrepresents my complaint. I did not say the article made me out to be a rapist.. theODT reporter had hunted down my seconder, and (via his line of questioning) convinced her that I was a rapist. ”This provided the basis for the seconder to withdraw her support.

Following the 2011 complaint “I was widely considered a rapist … I had my life literally destroyed by this – being the subject of bullying, abuse, death threats, and even people trying to harass me into committing suicide.”

Mr Stride has expressed the further implications of the article being published, “The ODT parading this around in public was a highly traumatic experience for me. The second I withdrew from the by-election, any justification for the article vanished. If I am no longer a candidate, there is no public interest. I just want to be left alone.”

The Decision

The Council notes that although Mr Stride received an initial response to his complaint on the 21st July, despite some effort by Mr Stride to make contact via email and phone calls there was a delay in Mr Stewart contacting him until 27 August.

In the complaint, Mr Stride has referred to Principle 2 and says that his privacy has been breached.

NZ Media Council Principle 2 focuses on privacy and outlines the requirement for balance: ‘the right of privacy should not interfere with publication of significant matters of public record or public interest’. Of relevance to this complaint, is establishing whether a nomination to the Otago University Students’ Association for another position after having previously resigned following a vote of no confidence can be considered a ‘matter of public interest’.

Although the groping incident of 2011 was dealt with through police diversion it also coincided with Mr Stride holding a OUSA position.

The ODT has reported on a matter that is of public interest in the Otago region, where the university and related events are a mainstay of local news. It is also newsworthy that someone is seeking public office for a multi-million-dollar organisation, who has lost a previous role with that organisation due to a vote of no confidence.

The nomination for a position on the OUSA exec is also a matter of public interest because the recent representative resigned following a “complaint about sexual misconduct” which had been made against him.

Decision/Summary

Principle 2: In considering a breach of this principle, the Council considered the impact upon Mr Stride’s privacy. It took into consideration his previous conduct which resulted in a vote of no confidence and his standing down from OUSA, and found that Mr Stride was placing himself back into the public arena and into a position in which there was a legitimate public interest.

The complaint by Mr Stride is not upheld.

Media Council members considering the complaint were Hon Raynor Asher (Chair), Rosemary Barraclough, Katrina Bennett, Liz Brown, Craig Cooper, Jo Cribb, Ben France-Hudson, Hank Schouten, Marie Shroff, Christina Tay and Tim Watkin.