STUART UREN AGAINST STUFF

Case Number: 3130

Council Meeting: OCTOBER 2021

Decision: No Grounds to Proceed

Ruling Categories: Accuracy

Overview

CASE NO: 3130

RULING BY THE NEW ZEALAND MEDIA COUNCIL ON THE COMPLAINT OF STUART UREN AGAINST STUFF

FINDING: INSUFFICIENT GROUNDS TO PROCEED

DATE: OCTOBER 2021

 

Stuff published an article on October 9, 2021 headlined Covid-19; ‘Grim’ future for Northland if vaccination rates don’t rise, with ‘up to 80k cases’. The figures were based on scientific modelling of what could happen in Northland if vaccination rates did not increase above the 68 per cent recorded as having their first dose.

Stuart Uren complained about the use of the word “grim”. He believed it was a gross overstatement as the calculated mortality rate from this article was 0.1 per cent.

Acting Stuff Editor-in-Chief Janine Fenwick said the word “grim” was the opinion of Northland Vaccination Programme senior officer Jeanette Wedding and it was attributed to her in the article. The modelling she based her comment on suggested that, with current vaccination rates, there could be 600 deaths in Northland over the next two years. This would be an alarming figure for those working on the front line. She said Stuff stood by its reporting.

The Media Council finds that the Northland Vaccination Programme officer was entitled to express her opinion.  Moreover, with illness, hospitalisations, and long Covid, the bad effects of Covid are not limited to deaths.  The modelling showed a worrying possible future for Northland, and Stuff was entitled to report her view. Using the word “grim” in the headline fairly conveyed a key element of the story.

There were insufficient grounds to proceed.

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