GREG URQUHART AGAINST STUFF
Case Number: 3229
Council Meeting: March 2022
Decision: No Grounds to Proceed
Headlines and Captions
Stuff published an article on 5 March 2022 headlined Calls for Sleepyhead boycott after director shares “racist” email.
The story reported “calls for a boycott of Sleepyhead beds after a rant against ‘tribal rule’ and government policies ‘prioritising Māori’ was apparently shared from the email account of its director, Craig Turner.”
Greg Urquhart complained that a media outlet was prepared to call out an individual as racist, to the potential detriment of that person’s business and livelihood, with no justifiable cause.
“For a national news outlet to state someone is a racist for simply sharing a document that legitimately questions why we are losing one person one vote democracy is unfair and unjust. New Zealanders still have the right to question Government policy and should be able to do so without media calling them racist.”
Stuff business editor Susan Edmunds replied saying that those calling for a boycott were doing so because they felt the email was racist. This is what the headline reflected.
The Media Council notes that the use of inverted commas around a word in a headline does not totally absolve responsibility for publishing a comment that may be insulting or offensive.
However, “racist” is an epithet that is now a common term of abuse, and the obvious meaning of the headline is that someone has said the email is racist - which is a fair reflection of the article. It is not an allegation by Stuff of racism.
The Council also notes that Stuff’s report included Sleepyhead’s Facebook comment that Mr Turner did not write the letter and that it had been penned by former ACT MP Dr Muriel Newman.
There were insufficient grounds to proceed.