MR MAURICE SEARLE AGAINST THE HOWICK AND PAKURANGA TIMES

Case Number: 573

Council Meeting: APRIL 1995

Verdict: Not Upheld

Publication: NULL

A complaint alleging unfair bias on the part of the editor of the Howick and Pakuranga Times, has not been upheld by the New Zealand Press Council.

On August 3 1994 Mr Maurice Searle wrote to the editor of the newspaper taking strong exception to a headline of an article headed "Catholic school axed" the first sentence of which read: "Howick's Catholic Star of the Sea school is to move to Northpark."

In Mr Searle's view, the move was relocation of the school, not axing. The Press Council does not take the view, that in the circumstances, the word "axed" is unacceptable. Mr Searle also complained that the article freely quoted Mr John Roy who opposed the demolition of the existing school rather than reporting the views of the people responsible for the decision to relocate - Bishop Browne or the parish priest, Father Peter Prendergast.

The editor did not publish Mr Searle's letter, but replied direct to him on 9 August 1994 saying he felt Mr Searle had taken the wrong inference from the article and the editorial. The paper had attempted to seek comment from several people concerned with the relocation of the school, but none of these people wished to either comment or be directly quoted. In the editor's view the editorial was an unbiased attempt "to cover both points of view of what has now become a contentious issue.

In his complaint to the Press Council dated 27 February 1995, (five months after the original article and editorial), Mr Searle not only dealt with the above matters, but also complained that the editor, by publishing several articles from one group known as "Friends of Our Lady, Star of the Sea School and Convent" has abused a major media principle, namely the ability of the press to be fair, to put forward both sides of an issue, and present balanced views at all times."

The Press Council has received copies of the substantial number of articles and letters published about this controversy which fully discuss the issues concerned. The Press Council reaffirms the view that the decision of what letters to publish is one for the editor and in all the circumstances dismisses the complaints.