XOE HALL AGAINST KAPI-MANA NEWSIntroduction
The central issue in Xoe Hall’s complaint related to a front-page skybox headline given to an article inside the paper which described a mural she had painted in Titahi Bay. She claimed the headline was quite inaccurate and while she listed a number of Press Council Principles she believed to have been infringed those most directly relevant appear to have been Accuracy, and Headlines and Captions.
The complaint is upheld.
The article, “Mural Brightens Titahi Bay”, on page 7 of the Kapi-Mana News of April 7, 2015, gave an account of a mural painted by Xoe Hall in a Titahi Bay bus stop. The work was commissioned by the Porirua City Council as part of a plan to reduce graffiti and brighten up the community.
Ms Hall complained that the front-page skybox headline that read “XOE’S MISSION Porirua Artist on Graffiti Warpath” was quite untrue and that she had said nothing to justify the headline in her interview. She believed that the view expressed as hers could be taken as a challenge by local graffiti taggers and, indeed, the work was severely vandalised the weekend after the article appeared.
She further felt she had been misquoted by the reporter in comments she made on talking with members of the community about ideas for the mural.
In her view, the editor, Joseph Romanos (who wrote the headline) had become “rude and sarcastic” over a number of interchanges which followed her initial complaint.
The Newspaper’s Response
The newspaper’s response came from Bernadette Courtney, the Editor-in-chief of The Dominion Post. She noted that the article was “entirely complimentary of Ms Hall” but she did not accept Ms Hall’s opinion that “the tagging was a direct consequence of the article and skybox”, characterising such a belief as “entirely speculative”.
On the complaint of misquoting she responded that what was written “was exactly what she told the reporter during the interview”.
Ms Courtney submitted that the Council’s Principle 6: Headlines and captions “is the most relevant principle in Ms Hall’s complaint and the question for the Council is simply whether the skybox text is an accurate reflection of the article inside”.
In brief she argued that in accepting a commission from the Porirua Council’s anti-graffiti team Ms Hall effectively joined the community’s fight against graffiti, and that “given that the Press Council allows some license for headlines” she submitted “that the skybox text is an accurate reflection of the article it promotes”.
On the issue of misquoting Ms Hall in the article there is a clear conflict of views and the Council is not in a position to adjudicate.
In the interchanges which followed Ms Hall’s initial complaint the Council believes the Kapi-Mana editor showed little sympathy to an artist whose work had been vandalised. One email from the editor to Ms Hall dated April 13 was in the Council’s view entirely inappropriate from someone in his position. The Press Council expects complainants to be dealt with in a professional and courteous manner.
Communication would not appear to have been helped by the loose and somewhat emotive use of the term “graffiti” which, in recent years, has come to have a range of meanings as well as practitioners. The Press Council agrees that the article was entirely favourable to Ms Hall and her work, and believes that a local paper is acting admirably in supporting a campaign by its local government.
At the same time it shares Ms Courtney’s view that the principal question for it raised by the complaint is “whether the skybox text is an accurate reflection of the article it promotes”.
And on this the Press Council cannot agree with her argument. “XOE’S MISSION Porirua artist on graffiti warpath” indicates a personal campaign for which there is not one vestige of evidence in the article on page 7. To argue that some license can be given for a headline which is so fundamentally inaccurate is unsupportable, regardless of who commissioned Ms Hall’s work.
The complaint on the wording of the skybox text is upheld.
Press Council members considering the complaint were Sir John Hansen, Tim Beaglehole, Liz Brown, Chris Darlow, Peter Fa’afiu, Jenny Farrell, Sandy Gill, John Roughan, Vernon Small and Mark Stevens.