Case Number: 1039

Council Meeting: OCTOBER 2005

Verdict: Not Upheld

Publication: The Dominion Post

Ruling Categories: Letters to the Editor, Closure, Non-Publication

Stuart Young of Wellington has complained to the Press Council about alterations and omissions made to his Letter to the Editor published on 17 September 2005.

The letter sent to The Dominion Post for publication had previously been published in its entirety in the NZ Autocar magazine, and had been awarded “Letter of the Month”. The writer expressed his concern that people buying cars with ABS brakes need to understand that these brakes operate differently from old braking systems; that buyers of cars with ABS braking systems need to be alerted to the differences; that drivers practise using the ABS system so that they react properly in an emergency.

The Dominion Post has a policy that letters for publication should not exceed 200 words. This rule and others concerning editing are published at the foot of the Letters to the Editor column each day. The original letter submitted by Mr Young was 293 words, and was edited down to 220 words. The omissions and alterations complained of by Mr Young were as a result of the editing process. However, the Press Council found that the editing had not substantially altered the tone or the main messages of the letter.

The Press Council has always maintained that it is the right of newspapers to publish or not to publish, and to edit or not to edit, letters sent to them for publication. Letter-writers should find that making their salient points within the 200-word limit reduces the likelihood of their letters being edited.

The complaint is not upheld.

Press Council members considering this complaint were Barry Paterson (Chairman), Lynn Scott, Aroha Puata, Ruth Buddicom, Alan Samson, Denis McLean, John Gardner, Terry Snow, Keith Lees and Clive Lind.