Case Number: 3025

Council Meeting: APRIL 2021

Verdict: No Grounds to Proceed

Publication: Gisborne Herald

Ruling Categories: Accuracy
Balance, Lack Of


The Gisborne Herald published a story headlined Surfing festival on 22 February 2021, covering a local surfing event that it said had attracted its biggest field of surfers in its 26-year history, and quoted the organisers as saying it included more women than ever before.

Marguerite Vujcich complained, saying the report was inaccurate and misleading because it failed to point out that the over-50s and over-60s event was only for men. This could misinform the public that the event was one of equality for all men and women, when in fact men had four divisions they could enter and women had only two. The article was written in a way that portrayed the event as gender equal when it was not. The journalist had been aware that Ms Vujcich was opposed to the event due to what she saw as gender discrimination. She had told him she was boycotting the event for this reason and had asked him to include this in the article. The view of the organiser, that women’s surfing was “playing second string” to the men at many other surfing events was reported, implying that this event was different from those, but Ms Vujcich’s opposing view was not, so the story was unbalanced, she said.

The editor of the Gisborne Herald replied that it seemed Ms Vujcich’s issue was with the surf competition organisers, rather than with the reporter who had covered the event. He offered Ms Vujcich the chance to write a letter to the editor if she wished to do so to try to build support for the format changes she wanted.

The Media Council agrees with the editor. The story was a straightforward report of the surfing festival. It was up to the newspaper to decide whether it was newsworthy that Ms Vujcich was boycotting the event and the reasons for this. The editor’s offer to publish a letter to the editor was an adequate response.

No Principles have been breached.

Finding: Insufficient Grounds to Proceed.