TONY HOLMAN AGAINST THE AUCKLANDERIntroduction
North Shore Councillor, Tony Holman, lodged a complaint under Principle 5 of the Press Council Statement of Principles, Headlines and Captions.
Mr Holman included several other areas of complaint in his letter but the Council deemed these “third party” complaints and that Mr Holman was not the appropriate person to make them. Mr Holman declined to obtain the consent of the party involved.
The complaint is not upheld.
Background and Complaint
Mr Holman objected to the headline of an article published in The Aucklander on 11th March 2010.
The headline of the article was “Name Shame” and, immediately below, the subheading stated “Valerie Schuler discovers a Birkenhead park has been renamed. It’s news to locals too, who say the council should have run the name change past them first.” The article related to the naming of parks in Birkenhead, and how such names are chosen.
Mr Holman said that the headline was a “gross misuse of editorial power”. He believed that the headline was entirely improper, grossly misleading, insulting and demeaning of the person after whom the park had been named.
Mr Holman believed that the headline was inaccurate and did not relate to the process as to how names are chosen for parks, but rather to the person the park was named for.
Response from the Newspaper
The editor of The Aucklander, Ewan McDonald, stated that “this is a case where the headline must be considered with the contents of the article because the headline itself does not convey any of the meanings contended for by the complainant”.
He went on to say that “The text of the article makes clear that the “shame” reference, with the intended meaning of regret or disappointment as expressed by Mr Platt [a local resident] in the story, is in relation to the process by which the park became named”.
The editor stated “The Aucklander submits that the headline was clearly a pointer to the article underneath, was not misleading and when read together with the article did not convey any of the meanings alleged by the complainant”.
Discussion and Conclusion
Principle 5 states that “Headlines, sub-headings, and captions should accurately and fairly convey the substance or a key element of the report they are designed to cover.
Immediately under the headline, the subheading clearly states that the process of how the park was named is the subject in question. The article uses information given by local residents to outline the fact that they [residents] believe that there should be consultation when considering any possible name.
The article also includes information gained following interviews with council staff to show that there is no formal policy or process in place for the naming of parks.
Where a specific park is named in the article, there are only positive comments in regard to the person that the park is named after, and that person was not insulted or demeaned.
It is clear from the content of the article that the heading relates purely to how names are chosen for local parks and is not denigrating to any person a park is named for.
The headline does relate to the content of the article and does not breach Principle 5 of the Press Council Statement of Principles.
The complaint is not upheld.
Press Council members considering this complaint were Barry Paterson (Chairman), Pip Bruce Ferguson, Kate Coughlan, Sandy Gill, Penny Harding, Keith Lees, Clive Lind, John Roughan, Lynn Scott and Stephen Stewart.