TRISH PALMER AGAINST STUFF

Case Number: 3070

Council Meeting: JULY 2021

Verdict: No Grounds to Proceed

Publication: Stuff

Ruling Categories: Te Reo and reporting on Te Ao Maori

Overview

Trish Palmer complained about a graphic in The Forever Project, a Stuff special project on climate matters, which was published online in June 2021, and as a newspaper inserted magazine. The graphic spread over two pages showing 20,000 years of the Earth’s temperature. Significant world events were shown on the timeline.

Ms Palmer takes issue with the inclusion of the settling of Aotearoa by Polynesian setters and the signing of Te Tiriti o Waitangi, which she thought linked these events to climate change. Other significant events, like the Industrial Revolution, which contributed to climate change, were not included. The inclusion of the New Zealand events “slides into racism”, she said.

Stuff responded, thanking Ms Palmer for holding the organisation to its commitment to stamping out racism in its coverage. However, Stuff said Ms Palmer had misunderstood what the timeline was showing. The events, which include dogs being domesticated and writing systems emerging, were placed to show significant events in history, and to show how stable climate had been through history, versus how rapidly climate was changing now. The Treaty of Waitangi did not cause emissions to rise, but neither did the invention of writing. The events were selected so the timeline would be inclusive of New Zealand’s Pacific and Māori roots.

The Council understands that Ms Palmer had the best of intentions when making her complaint, but believes she has misinterpreted the purpose of the historical points marked on the graphic. The Treaty of Waitangi was merely a marker and was not intended to suggest it, or any other of the points marked, had any link to climate change, and Stuff was trying to be inclusive when choosing the points to mark on the graphic. The graphic starts to rise sharply after the Treaty was signed, but it is noted that this is due to human activity releasing carbon into the atmosphere and there is no suggestion it was anything to do with the Treaty.

The Council believes Ms Palmer has misunderstood the graphic and accepts Stuff’s explanation.

No Principles have been breached.

Finding: Insufficient Grounds to Proceed.

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