Case Number: 667

Council Meeting: OCTOBER 1997

Verdict: Not Upheld

Publication: New Zealand Herald

A complaint against the new business section of the New Zealand Herald has been rejected by the New Zealand Press Council.

Mr W.Nieberding complained to the Council on 20 August about the Herald’s treatment of two press statements released by technology company Power Beat International Ltd. Mr Nieberding complained that on 1 July and 23 July, the New Zealand Herald ran stories just a few lines long when the press statements deserved more fulsome coverage.

In a more general complaint Mr Nieberding, who is a shareholder in Power Beat, implied the two stories were symptomatic of the Herald’s approach to Power Beat, which he said was based on an “old attitude” to the company and its founder Peter Witehira.

On 29 August, Mr A.Dickey, another Power Beat shareholder, wrote to the Press Council supporting Mr Nieberding’s complaint. Mr Dickey said the Herald’s reporting of the company had been slanted.

In response, the editor of the New Zealand Herald Gavin Ellis provided 20 stories the paper had run on Power Beat in the past two years. Most related to the financial arrangements of the company.

Mr Ellis said the nub of the complaint was that Mr Nieberding believed the Herald should report only positive stories about Power Beat. The Herald took a different view and believed it was in the public interest to put the company’s financial status in context.

In the Press Council’s view it is up to the newspaper to exercise editorial discretion about how much coverage it should give to press statements provided to it. In the Power Beat case there was nothing unexceptional about summarising those statements in just a few lines.

The Herald had dealt fairly with Power Beat and exercised sound judgment in its coverage of the company and its financial status. The complaint was declined.