LUKE BONJERS AGAINST STUFF
Case Number: 3125
Council Meeting: OCTOBER 2021
Verdict: No Grounds to Proceed
Conflict of Interest
CASE NO: 3125
RULING BY THE NEW ZEALAND MEDIA COUNCIL ON THE COMPLAINT OF LUKE BONJERS AGAINST STUFF
FINDING: INSUFFICIENT GROUNDS TO PROCEED
DATE: OCTOBER 2021
Luke Bonjers complained that a senior Stuff editor had previously been associated with and contributed to an Australian think tank specialising in public policy research and this had compromised his ability to be politically impartial. He also believed the editor had a conflict of interest.
Stuff’s Editor-in-Chief Newsrooms responded by saying many of Stuff’s journalists had previous associations with government and public relations firms. It was also not uncommon for senior journalists to have been members of think tanks or political parties. She was satisfied that the editor’s work was impartial and that he had not breached Stuff’s strict conflict of interest guidelines.
Mr Bonjers said the credibility of this assertion was undermined by a Dominion Post front page article in which the editor wrote uncritically about the ACT party and the principles under which it was founded 25 years earlier.
The Media Council considers that the reference to ACT in this article was a reporting of fact. There was no indication it was skewed by personal belief or breached the journalistic principle relating to conflicts of interest.
Beyond that this was a generalised complaint of bias based on the editor’s remote history. There were no examples of how his views - whatever they are - make his stories less than impartial or in breach of the Media Council principle relating to conflicts of interest. There was no evidence of inaccurate or unbalanced reporting.
Journalists, like everybody else, have values and beliefs and these may be quite different from those of their employers or even their editors. Former employment or association with any lawful group is not proof of bias or conflict, without more.
There were insufficient grounds to proceed.