MICHAEL MAYNARD AGAINST NEW ZEALAND HERALD

Case Number: 3177

Council Meeting: DECEMBER 2021

Decision: No Grounds to Proceed

Publication: New Zealand Herald

Ruling Categories: Accuracy

Overview


CASE NO: 3177

RULING BY THE NEW ZEALAND MEDIA COUNCIL ON THE COMPLAINT OF MICHAEL MAYNARD AGAINST THE NEW ZEALAND HERALD

FINDING: NO GROUNDS TO PROCEED

DATE: DECEMBER 2021

The New Zealand Herald ran two articles on November 28, 2021, and December 1, 2021, on modelling the spread of Covid-19 infections. One was headed Covid-19 delta outbreak: Unvaccinated 25 times more likely to be hospitalised, modelling shows. The other was Covid 19 outbreak: Unvaccinated people nine times more likely to see outbreaks – model.

Both articles reported the modelling done by postdoctoral researcher Dr Leighton Watson, an Auckland-based geophysicist with the University of Oregon.

Michael Maynard complained that the researcher’s work was scaremongering. He understood the Herald’s commitment to encouraging vaccination, but running speculative articles based on the modelling of a person who has no background in epidemiology was not the way to do it.

He said there was no authoritative science here. This was speculation touted as reliable prediction and it carried no weight.

In response the Herald defended its coverage and said it was far from scaremongering. During the pandemic it had regularly reported on modelling and how this had helped shape the Government’s Covid response.

“All modelling is ‘speculation’ – it is an estimate and prediction based on an assessment of source data.,” the Herald said in its response.

In this case Dr Watson’s modelling was based on data, including Ministry of Health information and the New Zealand Medical Journal and a link was included to allow a reader to assess the context and sources relied on.

The Media Council accepts the point that all modelling is speculation. That does not mean it is unhelpful or should not be published.

The Council considered the articles to be straight forward reporting of Dr Watson’s work and readers were not misled about his qualifications.

There were insufficient grounds to proceed.

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