Case Number: 3460

Council Meeting: DECEMBER 2023

Decision: No Grounds to Proceed

Publication: Stuff

Principle: Accuracy, Fairness and Balance
Comment and Fact

Ruling Categories: Behaviour of Journalists

Stuff published an article on 19 July 2023, headlined Award-winning journalist and broadcaster Tova O’Brien joins Stuff Digital.

This was a story announcing the appointment of Tova O’Brien and which noted her experience as Newshub’s political editor, her three years as its European correspondent and that she was recognised as Broadcaster of the Year (News) in the 2023 Voyager Media Awards.

Jose Aquino complained that the article was misleading as it did not mention some controversies which he said showed she lacked professionalism. This included calling David Seymour a “cockwomble” and “a disgracefully unprofessional, one sided and hostile interview with Jamie Lee Ross after the 2020 election” in which she let her personal biases influence her performance.

Mr Aquino said the story also did not mention that she took legal action against Newshub, when she challenged the length of the stand down period set out in her contract before she could start another job.

Mr Aquino said her appointment showed poor judgment, poor ethics and poor research and he wanted Stuff to be prevented from hiring her.

In response Stuff said O’Brien was a respected journalist and invited Mr Aquino to email them if he had issues with her reporting.

It is not within the Media Council’s remit to comment on Stuff’s employment choices. It is clear Ms O’Brien has standing as a journalist. While she may at times have been controversial, outspoken and a tough interviewer, that does not mean she is unprofessional.

Mr Aquino is entitled to his opinion, but the Council has no information that any complaints about her work have been lodged or upheld by either by the Media Council or the Broadcasting Standards Authority.

Stuff is entitled to announce her appointment and there was no obligation to report the views of people who do not rate her.   It is essentially a statement by Stuff to let readers know they have employed Ms O’Brien and that they rate her highly.  The story was not misleading.

Decision: There were insufficient grounds to proceed.



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