MARK ARMSTRONG AGAINST STUFF
Case Number: 3299
Council Meeting: AUGUST 2022
Decision: No Grounds to Proceed
Accuracy, Fairness and Balance
Headlines and Captions
Stuff published an article on August 3, 2022, headlined ‘Who else loses 25% of a wage increase,’ beneficiary asks. The article reports some beneficiaries are unhappy that a chunk of their benefit increase has been swallowed up by an automatic increase in the cost of their social housing. It quotes a beneficiary who says he will lose $5 of his $20 a week benefit increase.
Mark Armstrong complained that the article did not provide comment from a contact in the business community to balance the comment provided by advocates for beneficiaries. He also said the story had not distinguished a wage payment from a benefit payment and “set out to deliberately mislead or misinform readers by omission.”
He said the article contained errors of fact as it did not make it clear that a wage payment, which is earned, is not the same as a benefit payment, which is not earned and that any wage earner on more than $48,000 a year has considerably more than 25 per cent of their additional earnings deducted. Similarly, the headline was also misleading.
Stuff Editor-in-chief, News Verticals, Geoff Collett said the article reported on a specific issue affecting beneficiaries living in social housing and canvassed a range of views on that. It was reported in a straightforward and accurate manner. Claims that it was inaccurate, lacked balance and that the headline was misleading, were unfounded.
The Media Council does not believe the article beached any of its principles. The comparison between beneficiary income and wage income was used to make a point rather than as a like for like comparison.
The comments made in the article were legitimate reporting of opinion by people talking about a rise in social housing costs. It was not looking to present an overview on wages versus beneficiary payments.
Decision: There were insufficient grounds to proceed.