Case Number: 3479

Council Meeting: 12 February 2024

Decision: No Grounds to Proceed

Publication: Stuff

Principle: Accuracy, Fairness and Balance
Discrimination and Diversity

Ruling Categories: Court Reporting

Dr David Hingston has made a second complaint about a story published on the Stuff website on 18 April 2023 headed Wellington doctor’s property dispute with dad drags on more than a decade. His first complaint about the same story was upheld in Ruling 3452 on the basis of lack of balance, unfairness and inaccuracy. After he received the ruling, Dr Hingston complained about the time difference between the summary of the decision appearing on Stuff (5am) and the full decision being published on the Council website (9am). He complained the link at the end of the summary published on the Stuff website did not link to the full ruling, rather it went to the Media Council website. This matter was not the subject of the formal complaint, but the council acknowledges those points and has altered its procedure as a result.

In Dr Hingston’s second formal complaint to the Media Council, made on 20 November 2023, he complains that every change Stuff made to the story as a result of Dr Hingston’s correspondence with Stuff had not been noted on the story.  He argues the changes should be annotated with the time and date of each revision or update, as each is significant.

One correction made by Stuff was to make clear that there had been a mistake made about whether a statement came from the High Court or the Court of Appeal.

The first version of this correction read: “Correction: This story has been updated to reflect that some references to the Court of Appeal statements were actually from an earlier High Court hearing (Updated: September 11, 2023, at 1.22pm)”

Dr Hingston objected that this was not accurate and the correction was changed to read: Correction: This story has been updated to reflect that some references to the Court of Appeal statements were from an earlier High Court hearing and attributes a statement about David Hingston’s “bizarre behaviour” to the High Court judgment, rather than the Court of Appeal. (Updated: September 11, 2023, at 1.22pm and September 24, 2023, at 8.12pm)”

In his formal complaint, Dr Hingston said “correction” should read “corrections” because there was more than one change made.

Dr Hingston also objected to the part of the story that said:  The earlier High Court judgment had said he once hid in a cupboard of the house while the couple were absent and jumped out at them. He also stayed at the house and used a camcorder to record the couple going about their daily lives. He also stayed at the house and videoed the couple going about their daily lives, the court said.”

Dr Hingston said: “No judgement involving me uses the word ‘video’ or ‘videoed’. This statement is untrue.” Stuff responded that the judgement referred to a camcorder. Stuff asked Dr Hingston if he believed using a camcorder was by definition not videoing. Dr Hingston replied “A camcorder is an audio visual device. Videoing implies a visual recording device.” The story was amended to use the word camcorder and Stuff removed the second sentence that used the word “videoed” saying it was essentially repetition. Stuff did not annotate the story as it said the change did not materially alter the facts.  However, Dr Hingston said it should be noted. Dr Hingston also objected to the use of the word “also” in the paragraph.

The Media Council notes that it has thoroughly considered Dr Hingston’s complaints about this story in its first ruling, which was upheld.

The Council considers the corrections made by Stuff pertaining to the High Court and Court of Appeal were sufficient, and considers that the term “correction” was adequate. It is good practice to annotate a story when significant corrections are made and this was done. The Council has struggled to understand the difference between using a camcorder and videoing. The New Zealand Oxford Dictionary describes a camcorder as “a combined video camera and sound recorder”. Stuff removed the word “videoing”, but the Council agrees this was not significant and it was not necessary to note this change on the story. The Council cannot see any significance in the use of the word “also”. No principles were breached.

Decision: There were insufficient grounds to proceed.


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