SAM KNIGHT AGAINST THE NEW ZEALAND HERALD

Case Number: 3279

Council Meeting: JUNE 2022

Decision: No Grounds to Proceed

Publication: New Zealand Herald

Principle: Accuracy, Fairness and Balance
Comment and Fact
Conflicts of Interest

Ruling Categories:

Overview

[1] On 23 April 2022 the Herald on Sunday published a story with the headline, Lone pine estate when you’re 25 and home is a 34 million castle. Sam Knight complained about this story which was briefly on the New Zealand Herald website, and about a couple of Russian descent and their luxurious Auckland home. It was one of two stories – one was a story in the “Spy” section about a party the couple had at their home when they opened it as a wedding venue; the other, which was taken down, was a longer profile about the couple and their home. According to the Herald on Sunday the story was taken down after about an hour in what was an “internal and private decision” and they did not want to reveal the reason to the complainant, although in later correspondence the Herald on Sunday said the couple had safety fears due to anti-Russian sentiment. Sam Knight complained that the story lacked integrity and failed to ask hard questions, such as whether the money for the home was legitimately gained. The complainant criticised both the quality of the story and the fact that it was taken down, asking if articles were routinely pulled just because people did not want to be featured.  He cited Principle 1: Accuracy, Fairness and Balance, Principle 4: Comment and Fact and Principle 10: Conflicts of Interest. 

[2] The Media Council agrees that, although unusual, the removal of the story from the website was a matter of editorial discretion. Mr Knight’s main complaint is that the story did not dig deeply enough. Although the story contained a degree of self-promotion, questions about the source of the money and the people behind the property were asked, and some, not particularly specific, answers were reported. The fact that the story did not extend to an in-depth investigation of the couple’s affairs does not breach any Media Council principles. The depth of probing in a story of this type about an interesting couple and their home is again a matter of editorial discretion.

[3] There were insufficient grounds to proceed with this complaint.

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