MARK COOK AGAINST STUFF

Case Number: 3240

Council Meeting: March 2022

Decision: No Grounds to Proceed

Publication: Stuff

Ruling Categories: Accuracy
Headlines and Captions

Overview

A story was published by Stuff on March 20, 2022, headlined Car hoons force Wellington council to install barriers in popular park. The story reported “Car enthusiasts and their driving have forced the Wellington City Council to replace barriers to a popular park and dog walking area.”

Mark Cook complained that the people who indulged in illegal driving activity should be called boy racers, hoons or hooligans. They should not be described as car enthusiasts, who were generally law abiding.

Mr Cook said he had a 100 percent clean driving record and when “I’m normal driving” it was really annoying that people on the sidewalk called him a boy racer just because he drives a car similar to those often seen drifting and doing burnouts. This mislabelling made law abiding car enthusiasts feel like outcasts.

The Media Council notes it is hardly inaccurate or unfair to call the hoons “car enthusiasts”. They are just the wrong sort of car enthusiasts. It is also a fine distinction when a tyre squeak or puff of blue smoke is all it takes for an enthusiast to then become a hoon.

The Council had a similar complaint recently (Case 3200) where it was argued the term “boy racer” was derogatory to males. It was suggested the media should use a gender-neutral term and “street racer” would be more appropriate as it included boys, men, women, and gender diverse people.

It was not factually incorrect to refer to the drivers as “car enthusiasts”.  As the Council noted in relation to “boy racers”, use of such terms is a matter of editorial style. That is an editor’s prerogative and general not a matter for the Media Council to consider. The result in this case is the same. 

There were insufficient grounds to proceed.

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