GRANT SMITH AGAINST STUFF
Case Number: 3360
Council Meeting: DECEMBER 2022
Decision: No Grounds to Proceed
Principle: Accuracy, Fairness and Balance
Ruling Categories: Discrimination
In March and April 2022, Stuff published four stories about a New Zealand Jewish Council survey on anti-Semitism in New Zealand. One reported the survey findings, one quoted the Holocaust Centre and there were two opinion pieces, one from John Minto, the other from Professor Paul Spoonley.
Grant Smith complained about the opinion piece by Professor Spoonley, saying the article was inaccurate, unfair, unbalanced and misleading by omission. Stuff sought to blame the political right wing for anti-Semitism, while ignoring or excusing left-wing anti-Semitism, he said. The selection of Professor Spoonley to contribute an opinion piece reflected this as he was a well-known researcher of the “radical right”. Mr Smith complained that the story did not include coverage of left-wing anti-Semitism, and quoted the executive summary of the report saying: "The survey data shows some evidence of the emergence of left-wing anti-Semitism.”
Mr Smith also said an opinion piece by John Minto reinforced his complaint. The opinion piece said the survey used the controversial IHRA (International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance) definition of anti-Semitism, which had been used to shut down criticism of Israel using “false smears of anti-Semitism against those actively supporting Palestinian human rights”.
Stuff replied that the pieces by Professor Spoonley and Mr Minto were clearly marked as opinion and under the Media Council principles balance was not required for opinion pieces. The subjects of anti-Semitism and Israel were long-running issues and Stuff could not be expected to cover every aspect in every story. Stuff invited Mr Smith to consider contributing his own opinion piece.
The complaints were considered under Principle (1) Accuracy, Fairness and Balance, which stated in part: “Exceptions may apply for long-running issues where every side of an issue or argument cannot reasonably be repeated on every occasion” and Principle (4) Comment and Fact. The Council can find no breach of either principle. The two opinion pieces were clearly marked as opinion as required under Principle (4) and the four stories reported a range of opinions on the subject. Considering Principle (1), there is no evidence of inaccuracy and Stuff is not required to cover every aspect of a long-running and complex issue such as this in every story. While Mr Smith may have preferred Stuff to have taken a different angle on the story, that is a matter of editorial discretion. The Council also notes that Stuff invited Mr Smith to contribute his own opinion piece which could have canvassed the views he holds.
Decision: There were insufficient grounds to proceed.