STU DICKSON AGAINST STUFF 5

Case Number: 3141

Council Meeting: NOVEMBER 2021

Decision: No Grounds to Proceed

Ruling Categories: Accuracy
Misleading

Overview

CASE NO: 3141

RULING BY THE NEW ZEALAND MEDIA COUNCIL ON THE COMPLAINT OF STU DICKSON AGAINST STUFF

FINDING: INSUFFICIENT GROUNDS TO PROCEED

DATE: NOVEMBER 2021

 

Stuff ran an article on October 21, 2021 headlined Covid-19: the wrong type of mask could see you banned from your flight. The article largely explored different types of mask, their levels of filtration of particles, and various countries requirements for air travel.

Stu Dickson complained that a statement in the article – that Covid-19 is primarily spread by larger respiratory droplets, at least 5 micrometres – contradicts information in an article published a few days earlier.

A sentence in the previous article stated that evidence overwhelmingly suggests that the virus spreads through tiny particles that accumulate in the air, where it can linger for hours.

He also said it was also misleading to say flimsy blue and white surgical masks do a great job. Surgeons do not wear masks to prevent transmission of viruses; they wear them to prevent saliva getting into open wounds.

Stuff responded that comment on particle size was based on a US study and confusion has probably arisen from the descriptor qualifying the size of the droplets. As for comment on the masks Stuff quoted an authoritative reference which states surgical masks have been used for over a century as it is believed they may reduce surgical site infections and work as personal protective equipment for staff.

The Media Council notes that 5 micrometres is .005 of a millimetre, still tiny, so perhaps as Stuff suggests the reference to “larger” particles here has caused confusion. The use of “larger” in the article was a relative term referring to filtration rates of masks where some could filter particles as small as 3 micrometres. We note that Stuff offered to remove the descriptor.

The articles are not contradictory as to the size of the particles. The complainant has not shown that misleading statements have been made.

There were insufficient grounds for the complain to proceed.

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