Case Number: 3393

Council Meeting: 27 March 2023

Decision: No Grounds to Proceed


Principle: Accuracy, Fairness and Balance

Ruling Categories:

  1. On February 14, 2023, Stuff published a story headed: Does Cyclone Gabrielle have you thinking about climate change? You’re not the only one. The story said recent weather events made the impact of climate change harder to ignore. The story offered a “quick guide to the basics” with tips for action on climate change. It covered how climate change was linked to cyclones, what was causing climate change, and asked what New Zealand could do to help. It linked to other stories that provided more information on these topics.
  2. Richard Hoadley complained that the story breached Principle (1) in that it did not provide fair, accurate or balanced information and deliberately misled readers by omission. The story failed to provide an opposition view. The subject was clearly controversial “due to conflicting data that Stuff is not making available to the readers in this article”.
  3. Mr Hoadley had emailed the reporter asking her to clarify and provide facts to back up ten points he disputed in her story, and she had not done this. Among these points, Mr Hoadley questioned whether there was a climate “crisis”, asked for evidence of record sea level temperatures, questioned the credibility of an academic quoted, and questioned some of the data and conclusions reached.
  4. Stuff replied, quoting a Media Council decision that said “Stuff has come to the conclusion, as many other publications have, that there is an overwhelming consensus in the scientific community that anthropogenic climate change is happening and it is a critical issue.” The Media Council had no issue with this, Stuff said. Stuff also responded to a couple of the points raised by Mr Hoadley with links that backed up the story.
  5. The Media Council repeats its view that Stuff’s policy on reporting climate change as outlined above does not breach any Council principles.
  6. It also repeats its finding from case 2470 (Neil Henderson against The Gisborne Herald) where the Council noted: “The Council's principles also allow an exception from the requirement for balance for long running issues where the various views have been well canvassed. Climate change has now become such an issue.”
  7. “However, it would be fair to say that unless the scientific consensus on climate change shifts markedly, or important new information comes to light, it is unlikely complaints alleging lack of balance, because the climate change sceptic viewpoint is not included, will be successful.”
  8. In this particular case, the Council notes that this was a broad-brush story that summarised major themes relating to climate change. Detailed evidence for every single point was not required, although the story included a generous number of links to articles with further information and evidence on many of the points discussed. Stuff was entitled to rely on the evidence of the expert quoted without going looking for an opposing view. Although the Council is not an expert on climate change, and has not the resources to check the detailed information provided by both Mr Hoadley and in the various Stuff articles, it can find no proven factual errors. No principles have been breached.

Decision: There were insufficient grounds to proceed.


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