NEW ZEALAND FOOTBALL AGAINST STUFF
Case Number: 2726
Council Meeting: NOVEMBER 2018
Verdict: Not Upheld
Balance, Lack Of
In October 2018 Stuff published an article Two Kiwis on five-strong shortlist to replace Andreas Heraf as Football Ferns coach.The article outlined those who had applied for the Football Ferns coaching role and were shortlisted.Details of the coaching position and background on each of the shortlisted candidates were included.The previous coach and reviews into the conduct and culture at New Zealand Football had been the subject of numerous media reports prior to this article.
New Zealand Football Incorporated (NZF) – the national sporting organization responsible for the administration of football in New Zealand - complained about this article.They state that the publication of this information is a breach of Principle 2: Privacy.They argue that the recruitment process for this role (indeed, any role) is confidential.Candidates have submitted their CVs in confidence to NZF. They argue that the candidates are likely to have a high public profile and the publication of their names will have a negative impact on them, including difficulties with their current employer.They argue that candidates should expect their privacy to be protected in such circumstances.The information for this article was leaked and confidences broken.
They argue further that the publication of the names is highly damaging to NZF in that it will damage NZF’s reputation because they have not been able keep the names confidential.
They raise a further complaint under the Principle 1: Accuracy, Fairness and Balance. NZF states that there are a number of errors in the report, though do not detail what these errors are because they argue to do so could breach individuals’ privacy further.They also argue that they should have had the opportunity to provide comment and fact-check the article.
Geoff Collett, Editor-in-Chief Editorial Verticals, replies for Stuff.Mr Collett argues that NZF are confusing internal sensitivities around running a fair recruitment process withStuff’s role in seeking out and reporting stories that they think news worthy for their readers.
Mr Collett states that there was significant public interest in this appointment process given a high-profile controversy over the performance and behaviour of the previous women’s coach that included an independent review.Regardless of this, Mr Collett also argues that there is always strong interest in national sports coaches.It is their strong view that the story was justified and justifiable.
In regard to Principle 2: Privacy, Mr Collett argues that Stuff does not have the responsibility to protect the individuals involved privacy; that this lies with NZF.If there are concerns of privacy, these should lie within NZF.
In regard to Principle 1: Accuracy, Fairness and Balance, Mr Collett states that while NZF has stated there are errors, they have not provided any detail.Mr Collett has asked for details of any errors in order to correct them but none have been disclosed.He states that the requirement for balancing comment usually arises when there are conflicting viewpoints and argues that the article was a factual account of those involved in a recruitment process.
Principle 1: Accuracy, Fairness and Balance states that publications “should not deliberately mislead or misinform readers by commission or omission. In articles of controversy or disagreement, a fair voice must be given to the opposition view.”The Media Council judges that Stuff has not misled or misinformed readers (to the best of its knowledge) by reporting details of the applicants for the coaching role.This specific article is a straightforward account, profiling the backgrounds of a number of potential candidates for the coach role.Furthermore, this is also long-running issue over many months over which time NZF have made numerous comments.We see no evidence that Principle 1 has been breached.
Principle 2 states that “everyone is normally entitled to privacy of person, space and personal information, and these rights should be respected by publications. Nevertheless the right of privacy should not interfere with publication of significant matters of public record or public interest.”The judgment to be made here is whether the normal right of privacy for the candidates for this role is greater than the public interest in this story publishing their names.The impact on the reputation of NZF (because it could not run a confidential process) is not relevant to this consideration.
On one hand, the candidates would have expected NZF to keep their applications confidential.That their interest in this role may impact on their current and future employment prospects must be considered. Likewise this article may see future potential applicants to high profile roles think twice about applying.One could also argue that the public interest is served by reporting the outcome of the application process – who is actually appointed, not necessarily who applied.
On the other hand, there has been a high-profile long-running issue about the behaviour of the previous coach and the sporting body.There is much interest in how the issue will be resolved and the calibre and track-record of the applicants.The Media Council is of the view that the prime responsibility for protecting the privacy of the applicants clearly rested with New Zealand Football, not a media outlet, and that any responsibility that may rest with the media is outweighed by the public interest in the issue.Therefore the Media Council does not uphold this complaint.
Council members considering the complaint were Sir John Hansen, Liz Brown, Craig Cooper, Jo Cribb, Chris Darlow, Tiumalu Peter Fa’afiu, Jenny Farrell, Hank Schouten, Christina Tay and Tracy Watkins.