L BARNES AGAINST MARLBOROUGH EXPRESS

The New Zealand Press Council has rejected a complaint that a report in the
Marlborough Express on a dog nuisance was biased.

Lynne Barnes complained to the Council about an article published in the newspaper on 8 March. It detailed the concerns of Picton resident Helen Davidson about conditions imposed on her by the Marlborough District Council to control the barking of her rottweiler dog.

Ms Barnes was one of three neighbours who had complained about the dog’s barking and its aggressive behaviour. She said the article had been biased and failed to give a full picture of the problem the dog caused her, her children and other neighbours. The article had portrayed her as the “neighbour from hell” and as the most affected neighbour she should have been approached for comment.

In response, the editor of the Marlborough Express said in hindslight it might have been appropriate to have sought some comment from Ms Barnes, but the article had been primarily about Ms Davidson’s unhappiness with the conditions the district council had imposed on her. The article had noted there had been numerous verbal and written complaints from three separate neighbours.

The editor offered Ms Barnes the opportunity of writing a letter to the letters column, but she insisted on a second article presenting her viewpoint. He did not believe such an article would have achieved anything.

Ms Barnes said no doubt the newspaper wrongly thought Ms Davidson had been
treated unfairly by the district council, but it ignored the biting, intimidation and barking of the dog. She felt the Marlborough Express should admit its error and apologise.

In considering Ms Barnes’ complaint, the Press Council was sympathetic to her concerns about the behaviour of her neighbour’s dog. But the article had not named her and had included balancing comment from the Marlborough District Council defending the conditions it had imposed on Ms Davidson’s rottweiler.

As well, Ms Barnes had been given the opportunity to express her views in a letter to the editor, but she had rejected that option. One other neighbour had a letter published which criticised the report published on 6 March.

The complaint is not upheld.

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