STU DICKSON AGAINST STUFF

Case Number: 3089

Council Meeting: AUGUST 2021

Decision: No Grounds to Proceed

Publication: Stuff

Ruling Categories: Accuracy
Misleading

Overview

Stuff published an article on August 2, 2021 headlined Covid-19 infection causes worrying brain changes.This was an opinion piece written by science columnist Siouxsie Wiles which referred to a new study that gave rise to greater concern about the effects of Covid-19.

Mr Dickson complained the article was misleading, failed to highlight flaws and limitations in the study and gave the impression “Covid makes you dumber.” It therefore breached standards for accuracy.

Stuff senior reporter Will Harvie and Dr Siouxsie Wiles both responded to the complaint.

Mr Harvie said the column was a shorter and simplified version of a complex citizen science study. Science stories and columns were like headlines which could never capture all the details and subtleties of a story. Dr Wiles was entitled to express her views about the study.

Dr Wiles defended her column saying that the 500 word limit meant she had not been able to cover all the points raised in the complaint. She believed the way she had reported the results of the citizen science project study clearly indicated that it was not a randomised controlled trial. She had also made it clear the study was comparing groups and not the scores of people before and after they had Covid-19.

This was a clearly marked opinion piece in which Wiles explained why a recent study gave her cause for concern. Her opinion had a factual basis in that it appeared to be a fair summary of the detailed findings of the citizens science project study. No case has been made that there has been any breach of Media Council principles.

There are insufficient grounds to proceed.

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