Moira Irving (the complainant) complained about articles published in the Taranaki Daily News on March 12 and 13, 2014.

The complainant alleged the article breached Principles 1 (Accuracy, Fairness and Balance) and 5 (Headlines and Captions) of the New Zealand Press Council Statement of Principles.

The complaint was not upheld by a majority of 7:2.

The headline on the first story was “Waiau eatery to close” and the second “Leading eatery to close, staff may head for Mexico”.

Both articles were about the Waiau Country Estate (the Estate) with the first noting that the restaurant was to close but also that the Estate would continue to remain open for

The article also contained some information about a previous wedding held at the Estate and awards won by the head chef in championships along with comments from an unnamed staff member.

The second article included the information from the first, but also noted that a new Mexican eatery was opening in the future, so there could be employment opportunities for the staff.

The complainant alleged that the headline was “sensationalised out of context” and unless people had read the full body of the article they would not realise that only the restaurant was to close.

She believed that the article was misleading and despite the fact that the restaurant did not close until the end of April, bookings stopped immediately as people thought it was already closed. This meant a large monetary loss to her business.

She went on to state that the headline and article also caused panic for persons who had functions already booked (she provided the Council with e-mail evidence of this) and she had to spend a huge amount of time in damage control reassuring people that the function side of the business was still open and wholly functioning.

She believed that it also impacted on future function bookings as general opinion following the article was that the Estate had closed and bookings dried up.

The Newspaper’s Response
In reply to the complaint, the associate editor said the newspaper believed the article was fair, accurate and clear and while stating that the eatery would close, it did state that the Estate would remain open for functions.

The newspaper did offer the complainant the opportunity to come back with a potential follow up story.

Discussion and Decision
The headline made it clear that it was the eatery closing. This point was reiterated repeatedly and high-up in the body of the article.

The owner of the restaurant was approached for comment and, while not elaborating on the reasons, took the opportunity to confirm the Estate would remain open for functions. This confirmation was the second sentence of the article.

Although the newspaper could have further explained the different aspects of the business and the separation of the function centre and restaurant, it was clear in the story what was closing and what wasn’t.

Principles 1 and 5 have not been breached and, as such, the complaint is not upheld.

Council members Sandy Gill and Stephen Stewart thought the headline did not qualify the fact that only the restaurant was to close and any reasonable reader seeing that headline and not reading the full article would be left with the impression that the Estate itself was to close.

They noted that the body of the article did include the fact that the Estate would remain open for functions.

It was their view that Principle 5 had been breached in that while the body of the article contained accurate information, the headline was misleading and gave an incorrect impression to any person who did not read the full article.

Press Council members considering the complaint were Chris Darlow, Tim Beaglehole, Peter Fa’afiu. Jenny Farrell, Sandy Gill, John Roughan, Marie Shroff, Mark Stevens and Stephen Stewart.


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