STUART MORIARTY-PATTEN AGAINST GISBORNE HERALD
Case Number: 3222
Council Meeting: MARCH 2022
Decision: No Grounds to Proceed
Publication: Gisborne Herald
Accuracy, Fairness and Balance
Columns, Blogs, Opinion and Letters
Defamation/Damaging To Reputation
Apology and Correction Sought
Letters to the Editor, Closure, Non-Publication
CASE NO: 3222
RULING OF THE NEW ZEALAND MEDIA COUNCIL ON THE COMPLAINT OF STUART MORIARTY-PATTEN AGAINST THE GISBORNE HERALD
FINDING: INSUFFICIENT GROUNDS TO PROCEED
DATE: MARCH 2022
The Gisborne Herald published a letter to the editor on February 2, 2022, headlined Blatant dismissal.
This letter was published in the paper and online at the tail of an on-line debate in which Mr Moriarty-Patten queried the extent of extreme right-wing activity at the anti-mandate protest in Wellington. Others involved in the debate wrote that he had attempted to justify white supremacy and antisemitism. Mr Moriarty-Patten said this was hurtful, offensive and damaging to his public reputation.
He complained to the editor who then attached a sentence at the bottom of an opinion piece that recognised his hurt.
“I don’t feel this was a strong enough refutation of the claim against me, nor was it in a position where it would be viewed openly.”
He added that a footnote to the letter published on-line was unlikely to be seen by many people.
Responding to the complaint Gisborne Herald editor Jeremy Muir encouraged Mr Moriarty-Patten to reinforce his point in a letter to the editor and made a commitment to give it prominence on the opinion page.
Mr Moriarty-Patten declined the offer saying he expected it would be bombarded by people who were not acting in good faith.
The editor then offered to add another footnote to the on-line letter setting out Mr Moriarty-Patten’s rejection of the inference that he was a supporter of white supremacy and antisemitism and apologising for publication of that inference in the letter.
This was also declined as was an amended statement. Mr Moriarty-Patten said his concern was that the apology would be tucked away in a footnote. It would not be read and would not be seen by those who might have been left with the impression that he was a supporter of white supremacy and antisemitism.
After Mr Moriarty-Patten said he was taking the matter to the Media Council, the editor offered to post the footnote anyway, to have that clarity and apology there while the matter went through the Media Council process.
Another issue raised by Mr Moriarty-Patten was that anybody googling his name would see the letter which he objected to. To stop this search result the editor amended his published name to Stuart M-P.
The Media Council notes this complaint stems from a robust on-line debate which spilled over into the letters column where readers would have been unaware of the background debate unless they referred to the on-line thread.
While Mr Moriarty-Patten was willing to engage in the on-line debate he did not want to continue with it in the paper’s letters column. This meant comment, which he objected to, went unanswered by him.
The editor acknowledged the offence at the end of a column he wrote, urged Mr Moriarty-Patten to write a letter to the editor and offered to publish a footnote including a clarification and apology to the letter which remained on-line.
The Council believes the editor’s response was reasonable and it is clear he went to some effort to resolve the issue, but Mr Moriarty-Patten’s chose to reject his suggestions. In doing so he did not help his cause where he could have.
He complained The Gisborne Herald breached Principle 1 (accuracy, fairness and balance) and Principle 5 (columns, blogs, opinions and letters) but has not advanced arguments to support his case. On the contrary, the Media Council considers the editor did his best to be fair to Mr Moriarty-Patten.
There were insufficient grounds to proceed.