Case Number: 3467

Council Meeting: December 2023

Decision: No Grounds to Proceed

Publication: New Zealand Herald

Principle: Accuracy, Fairness and Balance
Headlines and Captions

Ruling Categories: Misleading

The New Zealand Herald published a story on November 12, 2023, headlined: Israel-Hamas war: Aotea Square protesters rally for New Zealand to join France and others in calling for ceasefire in Gaza.

Mukseet Bashir complained that the article under-reported the size of the protest, saying it was attended by hundreds, rather than the thousands who turned out on the day. This misled readers and undermined the magnitude of support for the rally.

The fact that thousands attended was reported by the police and this was recorded in an article published by the Herald the following day. However, the estimate reported in the November 12 article was not corrected until five days later when the headline would have lost relevance.

The Herald said the estimate that the rally was attended by hundreds was not a news story but a video report from the scene. This was later updated to make it clear there were thousands of people at the rally.

The Media Council can understand how estimates can vary widely as crowds may grow rapidly over time. A live video report recorded at one point in a rally may not truly reflect the ultimate size of a swelling crowd. It is also difficult to estimate the size of any crowd.

There was nothing to suggest the Herald set out to deliberately mislead with its reporting of the crowd.  Besides, little turns on this - whether it was hundreds or thousands, both words would indicate large numbers attended the rally.

However, the Herald did not help its defence by suggesting that a video report from the scene was not a news story, particularly when it was presented as part of the story, and by not being able to admit to Mr Bashir that they got it wrong.

To its credit the Herald did correct the story after its error was called out, although it would have been helpful to readers if the Herald had noted how, when and why the story was corrected. This is now common practice in many publications and as the Council notes a willingness to correct errors enhances credibility.

However, on balance the statement about hundreds attending was an understandable error.  It needed to be fixed and was.  It would have been better if the error had been expressly acknowledged, but was not so serious as to nullify the defusing of the statement, particularly given the more accurate numbers given by the Herald within a short time.

Decision: There were insufficient grounds to proceed.


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