JOHN CANTIN AGAINST THE POST
Case Number: 3438
Council Meeting: 30 October 2023
Decision: No Grounds to Proceed
Publication: The Post
Principle: Comment and Fact
Ruling Categories: Columnists Opinion
The Post published an article on August 19m, 2023, headlined Labour's risky game of cost of living whack-a-mole. The item
was boldly marked “ANALYSIS” and was a commentary by the Post’s political reporter that focussed on the valedictory speeches of two retiring
MPs and former Cabinet ministers Stuart Nash and David Clark. The reporter commented that these highlighted the best and worst of the Labour
Government and how political aspirations had not been fulfilled.
Particular mention was made of delays in the construction of Dunedin Hospital, a $1.68 billion project barely started six years after the development was first announced by the previous National Government. The reporter remarked “How long does it take to build a hospital? Wouldn’t have a clue. But six years on, it seems clear that a lot more should have been done by now.”
John Cantin complains that the writer had breached Media Council Principle (4) Comment and Fact, which stipulates “Material facts on which an opinion is based should be accurate.”
Mr Cantin complains by saying he wouldn’t have a clue how long it would take to build a hospital, the writer was admitting his opinion was not grounded on material fact.
Mr Cantin says “My problem is the whole paragraph and how it reads and what it implies. It sets a factual question. It says I don’t have a clue but, I will provide my opinion anyway. The opinion may or may not be valid but the paragraph says, “I don’t care what the facts are.” Opinion should start from the facts. Greater editorial oversight should have been applied”.
The Post’s editor responded that the complainant had pulled one line out of a nuanced and comprehensive analysis of the current political situation to make a simplistic argument.
She said she was satisfied the column presented a fair and balanced argument about the multitude of problems the Government had to grapple with.
The Media Council notes that the article was marked as analysis, clearly indicating that this was an opinion piece. The line in which the reporter said he didn’t have a clue how long it took to build a hospital, was a rhetorical flourish, rather than a disregard of the facts.
It was one line in a longer article which reflected on the difficulties it was said that the Government has had in getting business done. Dunedin Hospital, a project announced in 2017 and still far from complete, was cited in support of that point.
Decision: There were insufficient grounds to proceed.