JOHN MCMILLAN AGAINST SUNDAY STAR-TIMES

Case Number: 2879

Council Meeting: MARCH 2020

Verdict: No Grounds to Proceed

Publication: Sunday-Star Times

Ruling Categories: Columnists
Sensationalism

Overview

On March 15 2020 Sunday Star-Times published an opinion piece by Damien GrantThe second Great Depression hit in the middle of 2020. The futuristic piece hypothesised on possible economic effects from Covid-19. He was, as the editor noted, crystal ball gazing.

John Mitchell complained that the article was nothing but fiction and blatant fear-mongering. Where were the stories of recovery, such as in China?

In later correspondence he noted that he understood that the situation was evolving as days went by but publishing the article was not helpful. At best it was speculation.

In response to the initial complaint the editor of Sunday Star-Times took issue with Mr Mitchell’s assertion that Stuff was “overblowing the risks of Covid-19 , which in your view is no more than “a bad cold””She outlined some of the known effects of Covid-19, including likely rates of death.

“Given the risks, particularly to the elderly and sick, it would be irresponsible of the media to underplay those facts” she said.

The Media Council notes the speculative, dystopian cast to the column. It also notes that what was written as speculation is becoming more possible by the day.The column was clearly marked as Opinion and breached no principle.

The Media Council also supports the editor’s view about the media’s responsibility to provide the public with information. It is accepted that they fulfill this important role in the public interest and ultimately with the health and well-being of the community to the forefront.

It is natural that at this particular time articles on Covid-19 will predominate.

Finding

There are insufficient grounds to argue a breach of Media Council Principles and this complaint will not proceed.

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