On 30 October 2003, following a period of fierce local debate about the future of community boards in South Taranaki, Mr Siegfried Bauer of Eltham complained to the New Zealand Press Council about the coverage in The Daily News. His complaint covered an extended period of July to October 2003.

Mr Bauer, who favoured the retention of the boards, contrasted the coverage in The Daily News with other papers. These he said gave a far more comprehensive and accurate coverage. In the local free papers, he said, all published letters were in favour of retention. He complained that The Daily News, in treating the issue differently, had shown blatant lack of balance in reporting.

In support of his complaint he provided copies of his correspondence with the paper, plus letters and articles from other papers as a comparison. He further bolstered his claim of lack of balance by identifying a specific letter and news item he felt should have been published. Finally he complained that a Daily News reporter had not attended a council meeting on the 29 October, the day prior to his complaint.

The Press Council has consistently stated that editors have complete discretion over the publication of letters and news items in their papers. Further, there is no obligation on papers to attend council meetings. Therefore these subsidiary matters will not be considered separately from the issue of lack of balance.

The editor said The Daily News had balanced its coverage of the debate. As evidence he enclosed over 50 pages, examples of articles and letters, which had been published on community boards and allied subjects. The editor believed that The Daily News had kept the debate in perspective giving both sides the opportunity to make their case.

The issue of community boards was an important local issue, which had been debated for some time. There were strong, honestly held views on both sides of the debate. The examples provided by the editor showed that The Daily News had published these different views. Far from the blatant lack of balance, if we accept Mr Bauer’s claim that in the other papers “ … ALL contributors were in favour of the retention of community boards – not one single letter supported their axing by the South Taranaki District Council”, The Daily News fulfilled a vital role keeping both sides of the argument before the public.

The complaint is not upheld.


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