SIMON FRASER AGAINST NEWSHUB / MEDIAWORKS
Case Number: 2709
Council Meeting: SEPTEMBER 2018
Balance, Lack Of
This is a complaint that a Newshub article on the dumping of 1080 poison in a national park was unbalanced and inaccurate.
Simon Fraser complained about an article published by Newshub on July 12, 2018 headlinedExclusive; 1080 dumpsite uncovered in Stewart Island national park.
The item reported that as much as 75 kilograms of the poison, which had been dumped in a swamp by a Department of Conservation contractor, had the potential to kill hundreds of animals.
“That’s because if the 1080 hits the ground it will kill anything that eats it – including our indigenous kiwi. Even eating insects or bugs that have ingested it can harm them.”
Mr Fraser said there were no known incidents of kiwi deaths from 1080.It was also wrong to say 1080 kills everything. That is not the case as 1080 is highly selective, killing mainly mammals.
The article was also wrong when it stated that 1080 is eaten by insects and travels up the food chain. Insects have not been shown to be a vector in this way.
When dumped in water 1080 breaks down swiftly, so implying that it was a massive risk to native animals was misleading.
The article lacked balance as it did not provide an opportunity for qualified scientists to refute the anti-1080 campaigners’ statements that “1080 kills everything” and “1080 kills kiwis.”
It was also misleading to refer to a dead kiwi found 10 kilometres from the 1080 dump site.
Responding on behalf of MediaWorks’ standards committee Robert Dowd said the article’s focus was on the incorrect disposal of 1080 in the national park and was not critical of the Department of Conservation’s use of 1080 for pest control.
The committee accepted there may be no known kiwi deaths from 1080 but “that does not mean kiwi cannot be killed by 1080.”
“After reviewing the expert advice provided to Newshub, the committee is satisfied that the article’s characterisation of the risk 1080 presents to wildlife is not misleading”
Experts consulted for the article agreed it was possible that animals could be harmed by eating insects that had themselves eaten 1080.
The article did not suggest the risk to wildlife was magnified by the fact the 1080 was dumped in water.
The article was balanced. It included an interview with DoC’s acting deputy director general for operations, an interview with an employee of the contractor responsible for the 1080 dumps and the perspective of several experts with experience relevant to 1080 and its effects on wildlife, including its potential effects on kiwi.
The Media Council does not have the mandate or expertise to act as a referee on the long-running arguments relating to the use of 1080. This decision is confined solely to issues of journalism.
Mediaworks has not mounted an effective argument on the grounds of accuracy.It says it accepts there may be no known kiwi deaths from 1080 but then goes on to say that doesn’t mean kiwi cannot be killed by 1080.
The article clearly indicated the 1080 dump was a threat to kiwi and this was reinforced by reference to a dead kiwi found elsewhere on Stewart Island.
While the reporter may have sought expert opinion from an ecologist and two toxicologists, the article does not report their views. And while Mediaworks’ standards committee said it had reviewed this advice, that information was not conveyed to the Media Council to support its contention that the article “accurately characterised the threat 1080 poses to kiwi.”
On the question of balance DoC was given the opportunity to comment on the issue of 1080 dumping. However, the article does not do anything to balance the clearly contentious claim that 1080 will kill everything including kiwi.
The complaint is upheld.
Media Council members considering the complaint were Chris Darlow, Liz Brown, Craig Cooper, Jo Cribb, Tiumalu Peter Fa’afiu, Jenny Farrell, Hank Schouten and Christina Tay.
Tim Watkin took no part in the consideration of this complaint.