J VAUGHAN AGAINST THE EVENING POSTThe New Zealand Press Council has not upheld a complaint that, in publishing an article about same sex partnerships and marriage, the Evening Post had been unfair to the local gay community and had offended standards of good taste.
On 3 December 1997, in its “Friday Forum” feature, the Evening Post published an article by Julie Belding under the title “same sex partnerships are not a marriage.” This drew a complaint from Mr Jeffrey Vaughan that the paper had not disclosed that Ms Belding was a candidate for the Christian Coalition. He went on to object to her remarks about the unsuitability of same sex partners as parents and about what he saw of her vilification of a minority group. He charged the newspaper with having similar views and urged that it not print such opinions.
His letter was published, along with others objecting to the article. In a footnote, the editor said that the “Friday Forum” was a weekly opinion column to which readers could contribute. It was part of a page devoted solely to opinion - the column, the editorial, the cartoon, and the letters to the editor. Out of these, only the editorial represented the newspaper’s opinions.
Mr Vaughan then addressed his complaint to the Council, repeating his disagreement with Mr Belding’s views and his suggestion that the Evening Post shared them. In reply the assistant editor of the Post said that the “Friday Forum” gave an opportunity for groups and individuals to put forward their views. The Evening Post did not require that these be popular or politically correct. It was of no relevance that Ms Belding belonged to the Christian Coalition. Selection for the “Forum” was not
influenced by any special agenda or editorial slant. A column arguing for marital rights for same sex partners would be treated on exactly the same basis as any other submission for the “Forum”, that is to say for its topicality, the quality of its writing, and the cogency of its arguments.
Members of the Press Council did not consider the Evening Post had been at fault in publishing the article. The fact that Ms Belding’s views happened to coincide with views expressed in editorials was not enough to sustain the charge of partiality. The paper had printed letters by Mr Vaughan and others in opposition to Ms Belding’s views.
The complaint was not upheld
Neither Suzanne Carty, Editor of the Evening Post nor Brent Edwards, the
newspaper’s political editor, who are members of the Press Council, attended the meeting where the complaint was considered.