S.WAUGH AGAINST THE DAILY TELEGRAPH

Case Number: 674

Council Meeting: DECEMBER 1997

Verdict: Not Upheld

Publication: Daily Telegraph

A complaint to the New Zealand Press Council by Mr S.Waugh against the Daily Telegraph, Napier, has not been upheld.

A report in the Daily Telegraph on 11 August of a meeting of the Napier City Council dealing with the sale of a beach site for a proposed hotel and the conduct of those at the meeting was the first step in a chain of events that led to the complaint being made to the Press Council.

On 12 August the newspaper published a letter to the editor claiming distortion of fact and misleading reporting of the city council meeting. The following day the editor stated the letter had been mistakenly published in its uncorrected form and without an intended rebuttal. The editor then defended the report and responded to various points in the letter.

On 14 August Mr Waugh wrote to the editor supporting the original letter and expressing disappointment at the editor’s comments. The final two one-sentence paragraphs of Mr Waugh’s letter were omitted from the published version which was noted as having been abridged. Mr Waugh complained about the abridgement of his letter which, he contended, changed the emphasis and claimed the editor had fallen short of an acceptable standard in objectivity.

The editor responded by way of a personal letter to Mr Waugh pointing out that the only emphasis that the abridgement changed was to omit the accusation that the Daily Telegraph was prejudiced. The editor also reiterated that the newspaper was not in any way allied to or aligned with the mayor, councillors or any council policies.

Mr Waugh then complained to the Press Council at the omission of the two final paragraphs voicing strong objections to the Daily Telegraph publishing correspondence over his signature which markedly changed his intent.

The editor Louis Pierard, defended his paper’s policy on the handling of letters to the editor. “All correspondence is at the discretion of the editor who reserves the right to decline, edit or abridge letters. No correspondence will be entered into.”

The decision to abridge falls within the discretion of the editor. In the Council’s view the abridgement did not alter the substance of the letter. The complaint is not upheld.