P.TOMKINS AGAINST THE BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

Case Number: 609

Council Meeting: APRIL 1996

Verdict: Not Upheld

Publication: Bay of Plenty Times

The New Zealand Press Council has rejected a complaint made against the Bay of Plenty Times by Dr Peter Tomkins, one of seven doctors practising in Te Puke.

An article about the quality of after hours medical care provided by six doctors caused Dr Tomkins, not attached to the after hours roster, to take exception because his sole practice and after hours service had not been mentioned in the article. In his view, the omission did not provide balance because it appeared that the after hours situation pertained to all doctors in Te Puke.

He wrote to the editor who, after looking at his concerns, decided that as the article was accurate and that Dr Tomkins' practice was not involved in the after hours case complained about, there had been no need to mention it at all. However in the interests of good relations, the editor asked a reporter to contact Dr Tomkins with the idea of writing a brief article outlining his after hours arrangements.

It appears the reporter made some unsuccessful efforts to speak with Dr Tomkins and then let the matter drop. This was the first of a series of failed communications and misunderstandings between the newspaper and Dr Tomkins which resulted in Dr Tomkins being upset by the discourtesy he felt he had shown in the lack of a written reply from the editor, Mr Jim Eagles.

For his part, the editor had felt the matter would be beat dealt with by discussion rather than correspondence, and waited for Dr Tomkins to telephone him. Both parties in this dispute got their wires crossed with each waiting for the other to ring. When Dr Tomkins did not ring, the editor assumed that the matter had been dropped.

Dr Tomkins sought Press Council assistance to progress the matter which he labelled as inaccurate and misleading reporting. He said that should the Bay of Plenty Times seek to publicly admonish any health care professional regarding perceived shortcomings, the newspaper should make it clear to its readers with whom it believed the problem existed.

The Press Council does not believe that that was the point of the story which simply reports a mother's concern. There was no lapse in journalistic integrity in the story, but as not one person from the Bay of Plenty Times ever held a conversation with Dr Tomkins, the Press Council suggests that more might have been done to bring the complainant's concerns to a satisfactory outcome. The Complaint was not upheld.