STEVE DICKIE AGAINST STUFF

Case Number: 2824

Council Meeting: SEPTEMBER 2019

Verdict: Not Upheld

Publication: Stuff

Ruling Categories: Accuracy
Children and Young People
Comment and Fact
Photographs
Privacy
Unfair Coverage

Overview

1. Stuff.co.nz published a story on August 28, 2019; headlined Burger King opens its doors, gives out free burgers in Rangiora

2. The story says:Rangiora High School students say they were pretty excited when an assembly announcement alerted them to free burgers. Year 13 students Eugene Dickie and Tyler Hills said the school warned students during Wednesday morning's assembly not to go to the event as Rangiora's newest fast food chain – Burger King – officially opened its doors. Tyler said he and his friends arrived 20 minutes early to make sure they did not miss out on a free Whopper burger. The only drawback was that free burgers were only given out with a purchase, Eugene said.

The Complaint

3. Steve Dickie (Eugene’s father) alleges Media Council principles of Privacy (Principle 2), Children and Young People (Principle 3) and Comment and Fact (Principle 4) have been breached.

4. Mr Dickie says the two boys deny saying anything to the reporter about the school assembly and were unaware of what was said at the assembly. Tyler was unaware his photo was being used online.

5. Mr Dickie asked for the article to be removed, and says “we have proven that part of the article was fabricate (sic) and know the words the reporter claimed were said were never used from the 2 boys in the article”.His complaint notes a photo was removed from the story after he had contacted Stuff as it was “incorrect and fabricated”.

The Response

6. The Press – Stuff Canterbury editor Kamala Hayman responded. She says Mr Dickie’s fabrication allegation (which Stuff unequivocally rejects) relates to a photograph of Eugene Dickie (supplied by him) dressed as Ronald McDonald at the new Burger King restaurant. The photo had been incorrectly captioned by Stuff, who chose to remove the photo and caption from the story.

7. Ms Hayman says the reporter’s notes included a comment from Tyler Hills that the event was “advertised in assembly” and they had “told us not to go”. A visual journalist also recalled the comment.

8. Ms Hayman says the reporter’s notes showed the boys asked that their school be tagged when the story was posted to Facebook, which indicated they knew it would be online.

9. Ms Hayman the two students were “enthusiastic participants who approached our reporting team wanting to have their photograph taken. They high-fived our reporter when they finished the interview. We accept that great care needs to be taken in interviewing young people, even 17 or 18-year-olds, if the subject matter is sensitive and/or involves criminal offending.”

Mr Dickie’s second response

10. Mr Dickie says the boys denied asking for their school to be tagged with the photo and reiterated his earlier complaint.


The Decision

11) Mr Dickie’s complaint to the Media Council alleges principles breached are:

a) Privacy – The Media Council notes that Stuff says the boys approached their reporter and were “enthusiastic participants” in the story. A photo for the story was supplied by one of the boys. The Media Council can see no evidence that their privacy was breached. Not upheld.

b)Children and Young People –Stuff says this was a “light-hearted” story. Regardless of the tone, editors are still required to assess whether publication would have a negative impact upon the young people involved. These Year 13 boys were also at the upper end of what could be regarded as a child, and whilst they are still young persons, it was reasonable for Stuff to assess that any impact from this story was minimal.Not upheld.

c) Comment and Fact – this principle states: A clear distinction should be drawn between factual information and comment or opinion.

The Media Council can find nothing within the story or complaint/responses that suggests distinction is an issue.Not upheld.


12) Mr Dickie makes no specific complaint about Principle 1 - Accuracy, fairness and balance but references inaccuracies in his general complaint.

He says:

  • A photo was fabricated.
  • Mr Dickie says the two boys deny saying anything to the reporter about the school assembly. Stuff says the reporter’s notes record observations from the boys about the assembly.
    It is difficult to understand, based on the information before the Media Council, where else the information has come from. One point without dispute - the boys were present at an event that their school – via a school assembly - had asked its students to avoid.Not upheld.

Stuff removed the photo supplied by Eugene Dickie after noting an error in the caption. This is not an admission of fabrication. It is cautious journalism after acknowledgement of a mistake.Not upheld

13) Mr Dickie says Tyler was unaware his photo was being used online and thought the photo and the story were for a “small article in the local newspaper only. The editor gave no indication it would be online as it is”, he says.

Ms Hayman says the reporter’s notes showed the boys asked that their school be tagged when the story was posted to Facebook, which indicated they knew it would be online.
Media organisations publish stories in print and online.A journalist should clearly identify the publication they are representing, and that they are writing a story. Once a story is written, it can potentially be published on multiple news websites, and not all are necessarily related to the original publisher. Identifying their masthead and the intent to write a story, in this instance, was satisfactory. A person speaking to an identified reporter for the purpose of a story can reasonably expect the story will be published online.Not upheld.

Media Council members considering this complaint were Liz Brown, Craig Cooper, Jo Cribb, Tiumalu Peter Fa’afiu, Ben France-Hudson, Jonathan MacKenzie, Hank Schouten, Christina Tay and Tim Watkin.

Rosemary Barraclough stood down to maintain a public member majority.