Case Number: 3318

Council Meeting: OCTOBER 2022

Decision: No Grounds to Proceed

Publication: Stuff

Principle: Accuracy, Fairness and Balance

Ruling Categories: Misleading
Right of Reply
Disinformation, Misinformation


Stuff published an article on August 30, 2022, headlined Greenland ice sheet set to raise sea levels by nearly 30cm, study finds. The story reported the findings of Nature Climate Change project, a study which forecasts human-driven climate change has set in motion massive ice losses in Greenland that will trigger nearly 30 centimetres of global sea level rise.

Richard Hoadley complained that the article was misleading, inaccurate and had not been verified by the journalist who reported on the study findings. He also complained that Stuff had not forwarded an email challenging figures in the story to the journalist who wrote it.

He said it seemed that staff at Stuff had no responsibility or good manners to reply to emails when asked. Nor could they be bothered to address his concerns about the contents which he said were “inappropriate and offensive.”

Stuff Deputy Editor Janine Fenwick explained how this complaint may have been lost. She said Stuff received many emails from Mr Hoadley and that he often sent group emails to many people at once. The result was that his emails often went to spam which was automatically deleted after 30 days.

“Had we received this, we would have advised that it is a Washington Post wire article and that he would need to take his complaint to them if he wishes to contact the author directly to discuss it.”

The Media Council can understand Mr Hoadley’s frustration at not receiving a response from Stuff but it can also understand how his correspondence may have fallen victim to a spam filter set up to prevent staff from a deluge of irrelevant and unsolicited messages.  We are also critical of the Stuff response for saying that the story was from the Washington Post, and that Mr Hoadley should contact the author directly.  A New Zealand publisher that publishes a story from another source, is responsible for that story no matter what the source and should not attempt to palm off responsibility by referring a complainant to the original author. A complainant is entitled to have the New Zealand publisher respond on the merits, and if that involves going to the author, the publisher should do that.

As for the story, it was straightforward report of a scientific study which may be wrong and may be right. It is a dramatic analysis of harm from global warming, but it’s a study that was legitimately reported.

Mr Hoadley has raised questions about the maths cited in the study, which is a legitimate debating point for those doing the science. However, he has not shown any inaccuracy in the way the study was reported and it would be impractical to expect journalists to verify every new piece of scientific research and analysis before they do any reporting.

The complainant says the story was “inappropriate and offensive.” That is his opinion. However, he has not offered evidence that there has been a breach of any Media Council’s Principles.

Decision: There were insufficient grounds to proceed.



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