KIRSTEN WYLIE AGAINST THE PRESS AND STUFF

Case Number: 3148

Council Meeting: NOVEMBER 2021

Decision: No Grounds to Proceed

Ruling Categories: Bias
Court Reporting
Unfair Coverage

Overview

CASE NO: 3148

RULING BY THE NEW ZEALAND MEDIA COUNCIL ON THE COMPLAINT OF KIRSTEN WYLIE AGAINST STUFF/PRESS

FINDING: INSUFFICIENT GROUNDS TO PROCEED

DATE: NOVEMBER 2021

 

On October 12 Stuff ran an article headlined Engineer fails to get half his ex-wife’s successful business.

Kirsten Wylie complained the article, taken from a Court of Appeal ruling, was one-sided. While it reported her husband had lost the appeal the only mention was that her ex-husband missed out on half the value of her assets. It left the reader with the impression that he was awarded nothing. It did not mention he instigated the appeal and that he obtained what he had signed up for, which was essentially all his properties.

She also complained that the article used a stock photo of her taken 10 years earlier and not a photo of her ex-husband.

She complained this was the second time in three years she had been the subject of a heavily biased article. The previous article, with which she now also took issue, had been published in 2018 and was linked to in this article. Both, she claimed, were written by the same journalist who was biased because of a personal relationship.

Stuff Canterbury and The Press editor Kamala Hayman responded that this latter point was an extraordinary suggestion and a misunderstanding of the newsroom process in which the relationship played absolutely no part.  The judgment on which the story was based was picked up by Stuff’s court reporters in Wellington and assigned to the Christchurch court reporter.

The editor noted the article was angled on the failure of Dr Wylie’s ex-husband to make a claim on the proceeds of her veterinary practice. The article was a straightforward and factual account of a lengthy and detailed judgment. It focussed on the decision, was a very simple outline of the arguments and there was no space to go into other details.  The stock photo was the only image readily available, but a photo of her ex-husband had since been sourced to be added to the story file.

She said it was Stuff’s usual practice to add “read more” links to other stories which are connected, even loosely, to the people and issues raised in case they are of interest to readers. In this case it was a link to a 2018 story concerning her veterinary practice.  She said no further comment was required for this current story as it was a basic summary of a court judgment.

The Media Council finds that the article was a fair account of the Court of Appeal judgement. It makes it plain that Dr Wylie won. The photo while old was all that was available, and shows her smiling and happy, consistent with her victory in Court.  The article does not reflect at all badly on her and there was no obligation to include all the detail.

The inclusion of the previous story in the “read more” link was not out of order as it pointed readers to an earlier story about her and was a reminder to readers who may have found the name familiar. 

It is noted that Dr Wylie had not complained previously about the 2018 article. Reference to that story in the “read more” link does not provide an opportunity to open a complaint that is now well out of time.

There were insufficient grounds to proceed.

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