STU DICKSON AGAINST STUFF 7
Case Number: 3183
Council Meeting: JANUARY 2022
Decision: No Grounds to Proceed
CASE NO: 3183
RULING BY THE NEW ZEALAND MEDIA COUNCIL ON THE COMPLAINT OF STU DICKSON AGAINST STUFF
FINDING: INSUFFICIENT GROUNDS TO PROCEED
DATE: JANUARY 2022
Stuff published an article on December 20, 2021, headlined Covid-10 NZ: The “pro-choice” argument against vaccines, explained.
Stu Dickson said the article was biased, disingenuous and misrepresented the view of those who opposed vaccine mandates. It was one-sided as Stuff had not spoken to anyone making the pro-choice argument to get their side.
No acknowledgement was made of the fact that for many people vaccination was a significant choice. He also disputed comments in the article about how the phrase “pro-choice” had been co-opted from long running debates over abortion and assisted dying and that the article had failed to understand the concept that people could support the vaccine while opposing mandates.
Acting Stuff Editor-in-Chief Janine Fenwick said the article was specifically about people who cite “pro-choice” as a reason to not be vaccinated. This was clear from the headline and the introduction, which cited two examples.
“It is not intended to be an exhaustive report on the mandate or the reasons some are opposed to the Covid-19 vaccines. We have covered these issues elsewhere as part of our long-running Covid-19 coverage.”
“We appreciate there are those who are against the mandate but are vaccinated. That is a separate issue. Stuff has interviewed a range of people who have stated they are pro-choice and not vaccinated in recent weeks. This has prompted the reporting.”
She added that none of the statements which Mr Dickson took issue with was the opinion of the reporter. They were all attributed to a range of people who were highly qualified to speak on the topic.
The Media Council notes that Stuff’s article looked to analyse the argument that Government policies requiring vaccinations did not respect individual choice on whether to be vaccinated. One of Mr Dickson's main points - that those who consider themselves to be "pro-choice" are not necessarily opposed to vaccines but are opposed to mandated vaccination - is specifically mentioned in the article. As Stuff accurately says in its response to him, the article is about those who use "pro-choice" as an excuse not to be vaccinated.
The article also notes that while the benefits of vaccinations have been widely accepted, with more than 90 percent choosing to become fully vaccinated, a few people who oppose vaccinations have had a great deal of media coverage and been given the opportunity to explain their views. These include a few doctors, local body politicians, church leaders and prominent sports people. The story which Mr Dickson complained of included links to two such earlier stories.
The Media Council accepts that on long-running issues, like this, it is not practical or necessary to canvass all argument on every occasion an element of the subject is reported. The key point is that balance is provided over time. The combination of the nature of the report, this balance over time, and the references to the rationale of the pro-choice approach in the article itself, mean that no case has been established to show that Stuff has breached the Media Council principle relating to accuracy, fairness and balance.
There were insufficient grounds to proceed.