L CARTER AGAINST THE NEW ZEALAND HERALDThe Press Council has not upheld a complaint that the New Zealand Herald had been at fault in publishing an article about the man who damaged the America’s Cup and in rejecting a letter critical of the article.
On 5 September 1997, the newspaper published an article by Alison Harwood in which she described episodes and influences which had played a part in leading Ben Nathan to attack the America’s Cup. The article contained background details and comments about him which provided possible motives for the attack.
This led Mr L.Carter of Rotorua to write a letter to the editor on 6 September in which he contended that Alison Harwood’s article was likely to encourage others to emulate Nathan’s actions. He said that it was irresponsible of the New Zealand Herald to print the article, especially since it was difficult to get a letter published that was critical of
what he termed the “Maori grievance industry.” The letter was not published.
Mr Carter then wrote to the Press Council enclosing a copy of his letter to the editor but with no specific complaint beyond not having received a reply from the editor. He did not follow up that action until 5 January when he complained to the Council on lines similar to those followed in his rejected letter to the editor. He also sought the Council’s comments on Alison Harwood’s article.
The editor of the New Zealand Herald expressed surprise that the Council should have accepted the complaint since, in his view, it had lapsed. He said that Mr Carter’s letter of 6 September was not in the form of a complaint, but was written for publication. This was refused since it was one of a succession from him that were intemperate and had strong racist overtones.
In the opinion of the Press Council, the complaint was deficient in two essential respects. It was clearly within the editor’s prerogative to refuse to publish the letter and all the more so since it had been preceded by others similar in tone that the editor had refused as being objectionable. Nor was the editor in any way at fault in publishing Alison Harwood’s article which was clearly bylined and embodied opinions that, while not necessarily those of the paper, were topical and of valid interest for the public.
Accordingly, the complaint was not upheld.