Case Number: 2721

Council Meeting: October 2018

Verdict: No Grounds to Proceed

Publication: Otago Daily Times

Ruling Categories: Headlines and Captions

The Decision

Ruling by the New Zealand Media Council on the complaint of David Tordoff against The Otago Daily Times

Finding: No grounds to proceed

Date: October 2018

David Tordoff complained that a sub-heading Marked by the Cross was used on a series of articles published in the Otago Daily Times

The tag-line was used on a number of articles about offending within the Catholic Diocese of Dunedin.

Mr Tordoff said the cross was a central and very meaningful symbol for Christians and for them, the phraseMarked by the cross, has a very different meaning from the way it was used by the paper.

Use of the term as a tag-line was disrespectful and offensive to Christians as it inferred those who had been abused by individuals in the church were damaged by Christianity.

Otago Daily Times editor Barry Stewart said the title Marked by the cross referred specifically to the life-long pain and suffered by victims of clerical sexual abuse in Dunedin and elsewhere. While most church members and leaders abhor such crimes, victims of abuse have had a very different experience of the cross and everything it represents. The ODT stood by the title of its investigative series and would continue to use it.

The Media Council finds it difficult to see any grounds for ruling against the headline on the grounds of accuracy. The sub-headline conveys an important theme in the articles. There are also no grounds for upholding the complaint that the headline was offensive or disrespectful.

Mr Tordoff may have been offended but the Media Council has routinely found that readers do not have a right not to be offended.

Finding: No grounds to proceed