The Press Council has not upheld a complaint from Lorraine North against the New Zealand Herald over a review of a book about New Zealand artists, titled Inner Landscapes: New Zealand artists with Canterbury Connections.

The book features 15 New Zealand artists and includes an essay, photographs and interviews. The review, by Peter Simpson, was published on 31 October 2009.

Ms North, chair of the Canterbury Arts and Heritage Trust and project director for the book, rejected the reviewer’s judgment that the book lacked a sense of purpose and coherence. She rejected his criticism that the book was loosely conceived and his remarks questioning the basis on which the participating artists were selected.

She says it was unfair that the book had been reviewed by a publisher who had rejected it for publication and she sought to defend the book in a right of reply in the Herald. This was denied.

The Complaint
In her complaint to the Press Council Ms North says the review made no sense and was damaging to her professional reputation. She says while the review was positive about the work of the artists, the photographs and the interviews, she was singled out as the object of a ‘nasty attack’. She says she has been criticised for things that she did not set out to achieve - the parameters of the book were clearly expressed in the preface. She believes the reviewer has ignored her innovative approach to the book.

The Response
Herald editor Tim Murphy says the review was factually accurate, fair and balanced and the genuinely held opinion of the writer. He acknowledged that Peter Simpson, as a publisher, had earlier been approached by Ms North about the concept for the book. Mr Simpson had, however, forgotten Ms North’s approach and had not connected the book with that incident. He says Mr Simpson has no bias against the book and stands by his review.

Any book submitted to a newspaper for review must take its chances. The Press Council backs freedom of expression, and reviewers are free to like or dislike a book.

Ms North describes her approach to the selection and treatment of the 15 artists covered by the book as innovative. Mr Simpson, an established reviewer and publisher, does not think it worked. This is something they are not going to agree on.

The review handed out both criticism and praise and, in the end, provided a platform for readers to make up their own minds.

The complaint is not upheld.

Press Council members considering this complaint were Barry Paterson (Chairman), Pip Bruce Ferguson, Ruth Buddicom, Kate Coughlan, Sandy Gill, Penny Harding, Keith Lees, Clive Lind, Lynn Scott and Stephen Stewart.

John Roughan took no part in the consideration of this complaint.


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