Case Number: 601

Council Meeting: FEBRUARY 1996

Verdict: Not Upheld

Publication: New Zealand Herald

Mr Peter Nickless, a long-time letter-writer to the New Zealand Herald, complained to the New Zealand Press Council about the way in which the Herald edited a letter he penned and which the newspaper published on 25 November.

Mr Nickless said he had not used honorifics when referring to a number of politicians, but these had been inserted in the editing process; and a date was printed wrongly.

He told the council he could accept the editing out of information, but would not have his name appended to material he did not, nor would not, write. The matters cited, he wrote, were trivial, but the principle was not.

A letter complaining about them to the newspaper had gone unanswered hence his recourse to the Press Council.

In response, deputy editor Don Milne said the newspaper had no record of Mr Nickless's complaint about the way the letter had been edited. Had it been received, it was the paper's usual policy to reply.

Answering the substance of the complaint, Mr Milne referred the council to the Herald's "Rules for letters" which explicitly pointed out that letters may be edited, abridged, etc. Staff were clear that such editing should not alter or distort the correspondent's meaning or intent, but should bring letters into conformity with the Herald's house style.

The paper assumed, wrote Mr Milne, that in submitting letters for publication that correspondents had read the rules and accepted them.

While repeating its previous finding that letters to the editor should not have their message distorted by the editing process and that where they were to be significantly shortened, such abridgement should be clear to readers, the council found that editing of the Nickless letter was not unexceptionable and within the discretion of the editor. The complaint was not upheld.