NIKKI HURST AGAINST STUFF

Case Number: 3136

Council Meeting: OCTOBER 2021

Verdict: Not Upheld

Ruling Categories: Photographs
Sensationalism
Tragedies

Overview

On 3 September, Stuff published an on-line article titled Man shot dead by police, six injured, after terror attack at Auckland’s LynnMall Countdown.  The article begins with an embedded video labelled “Warning Content May Distress” and with the caption “A witness of West Auckland's LynnMall Countdown attack captured multiple gunshots on camera.”

The text of the article begins by outlining the content of the video (a man on the ground, shoppers running in panic and the sound of gunshots). Details of the event are then presented with two further videos embedded: one taken outside the mall showing police officers on guard and another of ambulances attending the incident.

The article concludes with statements from shoppers, the general manager of safety from Countdown, the Mayor of Auckland, an Islamic Women’s Council spokesperson and the Race Relations Commissioner. 

The Complaint

Nikki Hurst complains that the video contained in the article should not have been shared.  She states that it is insensitive to many, including those impacted by the Christchurch Mosque murders.  She also states that there was no need to show the body of the dead because it has no journalistic merit other than shock value.

The Response

Stuff responds by stating that there is a substantial difference between the short, edited video from a member of the public that was included in this story and the live streamed event from the mosque attacks in Christchurch.  Stuff asserts that the latter was a publicity stunt by the attacker designed to cause harm, while the former is an edited video of a significant news event.

The video also has a clear warning and caption about its contents. The warning is also visible at the start of the video before the images begin. The title of the article is also clear about the contents.  Stuff submits that readers are given fair warning and can choose not to watch it. 

Stuff also states that the video does not show the attack itself, nor the police response or any violence.  There is no dead body in the clip.  The blurred man on the ground in the video has been injured. 

Stuff states that the video was included in the story because it captures a significant news event.  It was carefully edited to ensure any distressing images, such as the injured person, were not visible.

Stuff understands that the contents of the video may be upsetting to some, but that is not a reason to exclude it.

Stuff rejects any claims that the video was used for shock value and maintains its use is fair and reasonable during coverage of a nationally and internationally significant news event.

The Decision

Principle 11 states that ‘’editors should take care in photographic and image selection and treatment. Any technical manipulation that could mislead readers should be noted and explained.  Photographs showing distressing or shocking situations should be handled with special consideration for those affected.”

While the video in question has been edited, the substance of this complaint concerns its content and handling. 

The Media Council acknowledges that the complainant and indeed all of us found the events at the LynnMall shocking and distressing.  However, the principle is clear that anything distressing or shocking can captured in an image but needs to be done so with care and consideration.

The nature of the incident covered certainly is more than newsworthy.  So, this decision is based on a judgement as to whether the video embedded in the article has been handled with sufficient care. The Media Council notes that there are clear warnings, Stuff has added blurring to the image and that the reader needs to choose to play the video.  Furthermore, there are no images of “the body of the dead” as stated by the complainant. As such, the Media Council can determine no grounds on which to uphold this complaint. 

 

Media Council members considering the complaint were Hon Raynor Asher (chair), Rosemary Barraclough, Katrina Bennett, Liz Brown, Craig Cooper, Jo Cribb, Sandy Gill, Ben France-Hudson, Hank Schouten, Marie Shroff and Tim Watkin.

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