FRANKIE LETFORD AGAINST THE WAIKATO TIMES

Case Number: 3295

Council Meeting: AUGUST 2022

Decision: No Grounds to Proceed

Publication: Waikato Times

Principle: Discrimination and Diversity

Ruling Categories: Bias

Overview

The Waikato Times published an article on July 31, 2022, headlined Of gorse, there’s a problem – Traffic island weeds thrive amid red tape wrangle. The story reported an issue raised by Hamilton deputy mayor Geoff Taylor that new national safety rules meant weeds were being left to grow on traffic islands.

Frankie Letford cited this story as evidence in support of a claim that the Waikato Times was biased, she said it was obvious that it was giving extra prominence to Geoff Taylor, an ex-reporter who now wanted to be mayor. In addition to this story, it had printed two of Mr Taylor’s letters when none of the other candidates were given any prominence. She also complained that letters to the editor were no-longer published mid-week.

Waikato Times editor Jonathan Mackenzie responded that the paper now received few letters and that was why letters now usually only ran on the weekend. He also said he had no reason not to run Mr Taylor’s letters. He would be happy to publish letters from other contenders, but they have to write a letter first.   

He added that the story was a legitimate story of interest to a national readership, and it was not a political story about the mayoralty.

The Media Council has always regarded the publication or non-publication of letters as being an editor’s prerogative. It adds that Mr Mackenzie also has a valid point when he says he cannot publish letters from other candidates if they don’t send him any. We have no evidence that news or views of other council candidates have been excluded in favour of news about Mr Taylor.

There are insufficient grounds to proceed.

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