RULING BY THE NEW ZEALAND MEDIA COUNCIL IN THE COMPLAINT OF GLENDA HUGHES ON BEHALF OF GREYHOUND RACING NEW ZELAND AGAINST THE W

Case Number: 3329

Council Meeting: SEPTEMBER 2022

Decision: Upheld

Publication: Wairarapa Times-Age

Principle: Accuracy, Fairness and Balance
Photographs and Graphics

Ruling Categories: Advocacy
Misleading
Unfair Coverage

Overview

On Monday July 4 2022, The Wairarapa Times-Age published an article Clean up your act… Greyhound racing industry on notice. Greyhound Racing New Zealand chief executive Glenda Hughes complains without specifying under which principle. Given the nature of her complaint, the Council will consider the matter under Principles (1) Accuracy, Fairness and Balance and Principle (11) Photographs and Graphics. The complaint is upheld.

The Article

The article followed an appearance by Auckland Central Green MP Chloe Swarbrick’s appearance on TV 1’s Breakfast programme to promote her member’s bill calling for an end to greyhound racing.

It leads with Wairarapa MP and Racing Minister Kieran McAnulty saying he will “seriously consider banning greyhound racing” if the industry does not make changes to improve dog welfare by the end of 2023.

Greyhound Protection League spokesman and former Featherstone resident Aaron Cross said nine dogs have been euthanised trackside, 214 had major injuries. He said the industry is not committed to reform and a ban is the only way to prevent harm to animals.

Beneath the headline was a photograph of an emaciated greyhound without a caption and a second photograph showed a greyhound with an injured snout.

The Complaint

The complainant has not specified the principles under which her complaint falls. The council decided based on the text of the complaint to examine it using Principle (1) Accuracy, Fairness and Balance, and Principle (11) Photographs and Graphics.

Glenda Hughes, the chief executive of Greyhound Racing New Zealand said the thrust of the article was Wairarapa MP and racing minister Kieran McAnulty will seriously consider banning greyhound racing if the industry does not make adequate changes by the end of the year.

She said the article was “completely biased” and “entirely lacked balance” as her organisation was not contacted for comment while it quoted Auckland MP Chloe Swarbrick who had appeared on TV1’s Breakfast and a member of the Greyhound Protection League of New Zealand.

She said it used photographs which were not “adequately explained’ and were “distressing and misleading” and using them in this manner was not professional.

  • “When the average person reads the article in conjunction with the shocking photo, one would automatically link the practice of greyhound racing and the emaciated greyhound. However greyhound racing actually had nothing to with the photo’s circumstances”.

She said her organisation is “extremely disappointed at the way we have been treated and the unfair and unbalanced way that our industry has been portrayed in this article”.

The Response

The news director Roger Parker presented an account given by the writer of the article.

The writer said the story came about after Chloe Swarbrick spoke of “issues in the industry on TV1 because she was highlighting her bill to ban racing”.

He said the local Wairarapa MP had recently been made racing minister so it was relevant to its local audience and topical.

He said former Wairarapa resident Aaron Cross, the spokesperson for Greyhound Protection League of New Zealand was also calling for change and had shared greyhound images on Twitter.

He said attempts to find a Wairarapa-based greyhound breeder were unsuccessful and he could not find a local link after an email from Glenda Hughes alerting him to a track in Wanganui and because it was outside the area covered there was no reason to get a comment from the minister and nothing new could be added.

He said the photos “were adequately explained with a caption that appeared on the front cover and it is made clear they are photos from eight years ago”. The Media Council noted that the material supplied was from the online version of the story where there was no caption identifying the source of the images.
  • “Yes, the SPCA did raid the property as GRNZ said, but is important to note that the Racing Integrity Unit was also involved because the dogs were ex-racing dogs.





The Discussion

Principle (1) Accuracy, Fairness and Balance.

Greyhound Racing has garnered significant attention, particularly around animal welfare. Moves to make changes have been issued by the racing minister Kieran McAnulty alongside a bill presented by Auckland based Green MP Chloe Swarbrick. The article was generated by a TV appearance by Chloe Swarbrick and quoted material from that event. The writer also quoted the racing minister and MP for the area plus a former resident opposed to greyhound racing.

The comments were critical of the industry, which is national, and as the writer pointed out not active in the Wairarapa area. The article implied no changes were underway.

No attempt was made to include comment from the greyhound racing industry. Principle (1) states “publications should be bound at all times by accuracy, fairness and balance, and should not deliberately mislead or misinform readers by commission or omission. In articles of controversy or disagreement, a fair voice must be given to the opposition view”. Facts to support or refute the assertion of the people quoted in the article could have been sought through an interview with Greyhound Racing New Zealand.

In this case the industry body was not given a chance to comment on what was reported and what, if any, changes it was making to show reform was underway. Therefore, the article was inaccurate, unfair and not balanced .

Principle (11) Photographs and Graphics

The article was illustrated with eight year old images of greyhounds – one very emaciated and the other with a large cut on its snout. The images were sourced from the Twitter social media account of Aaron Cross, the spokesperson for Greyhound Protection League of New Zealand who was also calling for change.

The picture of the emaciated greyhound was not captioned with any information about how it was sourced in the online version of the story. The second image carried the caption “An abused greyhound. PHOTO/SUPPLIED”. It is reasonable to assume that an average reader would assume the pictures of the dogs were recent and the last two sentences in the story do not explicitly state the relationship between the images and 18 dogs being rescued 8 years prior. Glenda Hughes noted there were health issues associated with the owner of the dogs.

The council notes while the images are disturbing it was not clear if the dogs were still being used for racing.

With respect to photographs and graphics the Council notes that care should be taken in photographic and image selection and treatment. Any technical manipulation that could mislead readers should be noted and explained. Photographs showing distressing or shocking situations ought to be handled with special consideration for those affected.

In this article the images were used without care and were misleading because they were historic and the captions were inadequate. The council notes the importance of photographs that are accurately titled so as not to be misleading.

The complaint is upheld on Principles (1) and (11).

Council members considering the complaint were Hon Raynor Asher (chair); Hank Schouten; Rosemary Barraclough; Tim Watkin; Scott Inglis; Ben France-Hudson; Judi Jones; Marie Shroff; Alison Thom; Richard Pamatatau.

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