The Press Council has not upheld a complaint by Thijs Drupsteen against the Herald on Sunday about a report of June 10 2007 on a meeting held in Auckland by the American televangelist Benny Hinn.

The Complaint
In his final comment to the Press Council of 11 October, Mr Drupsteen charged the Herald on Sunday with “inaccuracy, unfairness and imbalance” in their report on the meeting. He had earlier (14 June 2007) maintained that the reporter had “listed only negative aspects of the meeting and didn’t bother to list any of the miracles that God did in the latter part of the meeting.” He assumed that the reporter had attended the Friday night gathering only, whereas Mr Hinn had held three events – all attended by Mr Drupsteen. A balanced report would have detailed “some miracles and healing testimonies at least equal in number to the 10 negative points that he had counted in the article”.

Mr Drupsteen also complained that the comparison between Pastor Hinn and the Dalai Lama made in two boxes attached to the report in question was also unbalanced - “why not state the Dalai Lama’s income instead of just Benny Hinn’s?”

The Newspaper’s Response
The Editor responded that the complaint was without foundation. He noted that the reporter had spoken to [and reported] “an attendee who was miraculously freed from his crutches after Mr Hinn’s intervention – hardly a negative event”. In a final comment of 1 October, the Editor insisted that the report was “accurate, balanced and fair” and that he had no problem with the paper’s coverage of the event. The journalist had “quite properly reported on the more newsworthy events of the night.” Mr Drupsteen’s was the only complaint received from a crowd of 12,000.

The Press Council has consistently made the point that an Editor is responsible for the product, which is the newspaper and its contents. It is his or her judgement as to what is and what is not newsworthy which will sell newspapers or otherwise. It is to be expected that the reporting and editorial judgements of this kind will not always find favour with all readers. Special interests and deep personal concerns cannot necessarily be catered for if the newspaper is to serve a wider readership.

In this case the reporter homed in on the personality of Pastor Hinn and his insistence on discipline on the part of the faithful if they were to get the message. Mention was also made of the large sums of money derived from Benny Hinn’s ‘crusades’ and of the suspicions of a church-funding watchdog organisation which reviews financial transparency in the field. A comparison was also made with the different approach likely to betaken by the next spiritual leader to speak at the same Auckland venue – the Dalai Lama.

The Press Council is all for free discussion and the free expression of opinion. It is obvious that all points of view cannot or, often need not, be represented in a single article. On an issue to do with religious belief this may indeed be impossible. The reporter was entitled to report the event as he saw it.

Mr Drupsteen’s complaint is not upheld.

Council members considering the complaint were Barry Paterson, Aroha Beck, Ruth Buddicom, Kate Coughlan, Penny Harding, Keith Lees, Denis McLean, Alan Samson and Lynn Scott.

John Gardner took no part in the consideration of this complaint.


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