PEDRO SILVA AGAINST NEW ZEALAND HERALD 2
Case Number: 3200
Council Meeting: FEBRUARY 2022
Decision: No Grounds to Proceed
RULING OF THE NEW ZEALAND MEDIA COUNCIL ON THE COMPLAINT OF PEDRO SILVA AGAINST THE NEW ZEALAND HERALd
FINDING: INSUFFICIENT GROUNDS TO PROCEED
DATE: FEBRUARY 2022
The New Zealand Herald published a story on October 24, 2021, headlined Woman crushed between cars, patrol car damaged after boy racer gathering in New Plymouth.
Pedro Silva complained that the term “boy racer” was derogatory to males. The media should use gender neutral terminology and in this case a more appropriate term would be “street racing.”
As well as being derogatory to men and boys there was no evidence in the article about the gender of participants. Besides, street racing is done by men, women and gender diverse people, he said.
The Herald responded saying video of the incident shows the driver of the vehicle that crashed into the woman was male, as was the significant majority of attendees.
Mr Silva replied saying he was disappointed the Herald did not seem to support the use of gender-neutral terminology. He was also surprised by the Herald’s response that it could be seen in a video that it was a male driving. It was unacceptable to assume someone’s gender just by looking at them and the video was also not available on the Herald website.
He asked whether gender was relevant in this story at all and suggested it would have been better if the headline had referred to an “illegal street racing gathering.”
A final point raised was that the Herald failed, in its response, by denying him information on how he could escalate the complaint process.
The Herald’s senior newsroom editor Oskar Alley referred to a Media Council ruling in 2019 where it considered a similar complaint by Mr Silva against Radio New Zealand and had found there were no grounds to proceed.
In that decision the Council noted that while "street racer" might be more accurate than "boy racer" the term is widely used as shorthand for those taking part in the activity. It did not find use of the term to be discriminatory.
Mr Alley said Mr Silva was just rehashing the same argument.
The Media Council is not bound by precedent in this or any other case as each complaint has its own set of facts and notions of discrimination and community attitudes can change over time. It is of the view that the passage of time has strengthened Mr Silva’s case, though not to the point where it could consider upholding the complaint.
Media Council Principle 7 (discrimination and diversity) says “Issues of gender, religion, minority groups, sexual orientation, age, race colour or physical or mental disabilities are legitimate subjects for discussion where they are relevant and in the public interest, but publications should not place gratuitous emphasis on any such category in their reporting.”
It would still be stretching things to regard the use of “boy racer” as a breach of this principle. But the Council notes most news outlets have changed their editorial style in recent years to avoid unnecessarily gendered terms like actress, waitress, policeman, fireman etc. If the trend continues, “boy racer” will probably also be replaced but this is a matter of editorial style, which is an editor’s prerogative and generally not a matter for the Media Council to determine.
There were insufficient grounds to proceed.
As for the final point raised by Mr Silva, it would have been a simple matter of courtesy for the Herald to tell Mr Silva that he had a right to take his complaint to the Media Council.