ONE NEW ZEALAND FOUNDATION AGAINST THE NEW ZEALAND HERALD

Case Number: 562

Council Meeting: DECEMBER 1994

Verdict: Not Upheld

Publication: New Zealand Herald

The One New Zealand Foundation has not been successful in a complaint to the New Zealand Press Council against the New Zealand Herald. The secretary of the Foundation Mrs Annette Reid complained about an article in the Herald on 17 October.

It dealt with the controversy involving Race Relations Conciliator John Clarke and quoted Maanu Paul of the Maori Council supporting Mr Clarke. In so doing, he referred in negative terms to the One New Zealand Foundation which, as Mrs Reid acknowledged in her letter to the Press Council, the Herald referred to accurately as being dedicated to the repeal of all discriminatory statutes.

The first leg of Mrs Reid's complaint was that a letter from her to the Herald editor, and a second from Mr Ross Baker, a Foundation councillor, to the article's author, had not been replied to, acknowledged or published.

Second, she complained that approaches by ONZF chairman Geoff Chambers to the writer of the article also went unacknowledged, despite an apparent undertaking that the reporter would get back to him. Third, she sought a retraction or refutation of the allegation made by Mr Paul about the Foundation in the Herald.

Finally, and latterly, she sought Council advice on how readers should complain to newspapers if unhappy with their contents.

Responding, the Herald deputy editor Don Milne said letters from both Mrs Reid and Mr Baker were published. However the Baker letter published on 7 November was on a different subject and was not the memo Mr Baker had written on the Clarke-Paul article to the reporter concerned.

The Council repeats its long-established principle that editors retain discretion on publication of unsolicited correspondence. The Baker letter wasn't sent to the editor of publication and may, therefore, have been regarded as simply as an ONZF press statement which it decided not to use.

Mr Milne also said that approaches by the Foundation to the Herald over the Paul article were somewhat belligerent. Mrs Reid disputed that Mr Baker's letter fell into that category and said she couldn't coment on Mr Chambers' telephone contact. The facts, therefore, are not clear. However, if Mr Chambers was told someone would get back to him, courtesy and good office practice suggest that should have been followed through.

The Council finds there is no reason, however to uphold Mrs Reid's second complaint.


On the third point, the Council finds it was not for the Herald to retract or refute Mr Paul's statement about the Foundation. He was entitled to his view, just as the Foundation was entitled to its, and to respond by way of a letter to the editor, which it did. A two-week delay in publication was not found to be unusual, given the volume of correspondence received by the newspaper.

Finally the Council advises anyone unhappy with the content of an article to follow the procedures laid down in its pamphlet "HOW TO USE THE PRESS COUNCIL". Approaches to both the editor and reporter, asking reasonably for another point of view to be put, are acceptable and usually encouraged.

The Council finds no reason to uphold the Foundation's complaint, in whole or in part.

The editor of the Herald, Mr Peter Scherer who is a member of the Press Council was not present when the complaint was considered by the Council.