Case Number: 2980

Council Meeting: DECEMBER 2020

Decision: No Grounds to Proceed

Publication: Nelson Mail

Ruling Categories: Accuracy
Balance, Lack Of
Unfair Coverage


On November 30 the Nelson Mail and Stuff published, as part of Our Truth,Tā Mātou Pono, an article headlined Pākehā framing of news on Stuff andOur history – ‘our people’ and racism in the Nelson Mail.

The article looked at the history of the Nelson Mail, from its launch in 1866 under the ownership of Robert Lucas right through to more recent times, in the context of how Maori issues were framed and reported – or not. This included reportage on a 1997 Māori Land Court decision and the foreshore and seabed issue through the 2000s.

On December 2 the Nelson Mail published an opinion piece by Peter Bale Seeing my ancestors in Stuff’s Māori apology. This was published alongside a letter to the editor from David LucasBack then times were different. Both men are great-great-grandsons of founder Robert Lucas.

Mr Bale’s opinion piece noted that his wider family has always had profound respect for Robert Lucas and the legacy of quality journalism he had bequeathed to his descendants and the community. He noted that some of the descendants might feel slighted by Stuff’s recognition of historic bias against Māori, but he didn’t feel that way.

David Lucas’s letter started “It is typical of modern woke journalism to blame the troubles of today on someone in the past.” He said the November 30 article tended to blame his great-great grandfather for the Nelson region’s attitude and treatment of local Māori.

David Lucas’s complaint to the Nelson Mail and to the Media Council develops his argument that since the article doesn’t name any other individual person responsible for this racism across the entire country this leaves Robert Lucas as the sole individual blamed.

The Media Council notes that the tone of the article was a regretful examination of past attitudes. The article covers over 150 years. Although it details racist incidents and attitudes it does not attribute them to any one person. It was not a denigration of an individual; Robert Lucas was not demonised at all. The Bale opinion piece put him in context and David Lucas’s letter, expressing his concerns, was published.

The original article along with the two later items made up a piece of well-balanced journalism.

Finding: Insufficient Grounds to Proceed.


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