The New Zealand Press Council has rejected a complaint that a New Zealand Herald story on the World Snooker Championships in New Plymouth last December had been unfair. The story reported how Belgian player Steve Lemmens became the second player at the tournament to score the highest possible break of 147 points. A Thai player, Aran Terananon, had already won a car for scoring the first break of 147.

But during the awards night the tournament controller Noel Mouldey announced Mr Lemmens would also get a car. When Mr Lemmens went up to the stage to get his award Mr Mouldey handed him a toy car.

The report finished by saying that 30 players walked out and were still bitter despite an apology from the president of the New Zealand Billiards and Snooker Association, Rob Elvin. After writing to the Herald, the association treasurer, Ray Habgood, complained to the Press Council on 31 January.

He said the article was unfair to the association because it told only part of the story. It failed to say Mr Mouldey subsequently made a public apology and that Mr Lemmens was given $5000 as a token of good faith.

In response the associate editor of the New Zealand Herald, Don Milne said the NZPA story had been abridged for space reasons so that Mr Mouldey’s apology and the decision by the local sponsors, supporters and members of the Taranaki Billiards and Snooker Association to raise $5000 for Mr Lemmens had been omitted.

However, Mr Milne said the report noted overseas players were still bitter “in spite of an apology by the President of the NZ Billiards and Snooker Association, Rob Elvin.”

Abridging stories - a common practice on newspapers - always carried difficulties. It is a paper’s obligation to ensure it strikes a fair balance between space demands and ensuring its articles are balanced and fair.

In this case, while it might have been preferable if the article had been longer, the abridged article the Herald ran was not unfair to the NZ Billiards and Snooker Association, it summarised what had happened, including a reference to the fact the president of the association had apologised.

The full NZPA report made it clear overseas players were angered by the joke played on Mr Lemmens and that the decision to raise $5000 was that of the Taranaki association not the NZ association. The complaint was not upheld.


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