J TASKER AGAINST HAMILTON PRESS

A complaint by Jude Tasker of Morrinsville about the publication of her name and photograph in the Hamilton Press has not been upheld by the New Zealand Press Council. Publication was in a column “Vox Pop” which samples opinion on local issues.

In her complaint Ms Tasker said she did not know she was being questioned by a newspaper reporter and thought she was taking part in a survey when she was stopped outside a bank. She had agreed to supply her name and pose for a photograph because the interviewer said she needed it to show her employer she was not making up the quotes. Ms Tasker said she would never have agreed to the publication of her name and photograph because in her job, her identity was kept confidential. She felt tricked by the newspaper.

Some basic points are in dispute. The editor of the paper said she had been assured her reporter had used standard procedure. She had identified herself as being from the Hamilton Press, shown copies of previously published “Vox Pop” features to the subject, written down the person’s comments, checked name spelling and got her to pose for a photograph. The reporter involved was trustworthy and had completed similar assignmemnts many times.

On the evidence it is not possible for the Council to accept one version over another and therefore not possible to uphold the complaint. Had Ms Tasker been deliberately deceived it would be a most serious matter. Sloppiness resulting in unwitting deceit would also be serious, but the Council has no grounds on which to question the reporter’s word that standard procedures were followed.

If the reporter’s introduction of herself as a reporter was misheard or misinterptreted, then any subsequent references to ‘readers’ or other pointers to her purpose may have been meaningless. In whatever way the breakdown in communiation occurred, the case is a reminder to reporters that subjects should be told in plain language their name and photograph will be in the newspaper along with their expressed opinions.

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