VAYLE HENDERSON AGAINST NEW ZEALAND HERALD
Case Number: 3116
Council Meeting: SEPTEMBER 2021
Decision: No Grounds to Proceed
Headlines and Captions
CASE NO: 3116
RULING BY THE NEW ZEALAND MEDIA COUNCIL ON THE COMPLAINT OF VAYLE HENDERSON AGAINST THE NEW ZEALAND HERALD
FINDING: INSUFFICIENT GROUNDS TO PROCEED
DATE: SEPTEMBER 2021
Vayle Henderson complained about a New Zealand Herald headline. When she viewed it on her computer she saw the words: “Covid-19 Delta Outbreak: Expert’s vaccine warning – thousands of deaths.” Ms Vayle said she was shocked, and then she clicked on it and read the rest of the headline “unless rate tops 90 percent.” In a pandemic people need to be informed of true factual information not given misleading attention-grabbing headlines, she said. “No wonder there are so many conspiracy theories circulating.”
The NZ Herald replied that headlines served to summarise the article they precede and should be read in conjunction with the story. In this case the full headline was “Covid-19 Delta Outbreak: Expert’s vaccine warning – thousands of deaths unless rate tops 90 percent.” This was entirely accurate.
The Media Council has been unable to view the headline exactly as Ms Henderson describes it, but it is apparent that she became alarmed when she saw only part of the headline on the device she was using to view it. Once she clicked on the headline and saw it in its entirety the true meaning became obvious. Although headlines must be an accurate reflection of the story, it is unrealistic to complain about being misled after only reading half a headline, which was in any case, slightly ambiguous until it was read in its entirety. Ms Henderson’s misunderstanding and alarm must have been fleeting. As soon as she clicked on the headline the full version was revealed, and was a fair summary of the content of the story.
Finding: Insufficient Grounds to Proceed.