By Steven | September 7, 2012
The Press Council has partly upheld a complaint against the NZ Herald for its inaccurate and unfair editorial on the Piri Weepu breast/bottle feeding saga. It has also upheld a complaint against the Herald on Sunday for its coverage.
Thus, the papers have had to publish a summary of the decisions. (They point out that the full decision is available at the Press Council, but link to the site rather than the decision, which seems petty). NOTE: The link was not available because the Press Council doesn’t publish the decisions until after the newspaper does.
But the inaccurate and unfair NZ Herald editorial is still up, complete with most of the errors, including the unfair photograph. There is no indication in the editorial that it was the subject of criticism by the Press Council. The same goes for one of the Herald on Sunday stories. UPDATE: The Press Council tells me it forgot to remind the Herald about this, and says that perhaps it’s unfair to be too critical of the Herald given the big relaunch of the paper and its website.
What’s more, the Press Council rulings emerged from their meeting in June. I’m not clear exactly when they were released to the parties. But I’m left wondering why it has taken so long for the papers to run their summaries of the complaints. UPDATE: The Press Council tells me the rulings were issued to the parties on 24 August. So the papers haven’t taken very long to publish the summaries. Sorry, NZ Herald and HOS. I should really have checked this before posting. But I do think it’s odd that the Press Council labels this a “June” decision.
There is nothing in the Press Council’s rules that requires papers to (a) correct their online versions of stories when complaints have been upheld, (b) include a link to the full decision - either in the online version of the story, or in the summary of the Press Council’s decision, or (c) to publish a summary promptly when a complaint is upheld. NOTE: In fact, the Press Council’s rules to require online versions of articles to be flagged when a complain is upheld: see 10(a). I overlooked this: sorry, Press Council. I should also note that the Press Council says - rightly, I think - that members routinely publish the Council’s decisions reasonably promptly, even though that requirement is not spelled out in the rules.
But these practices all go against the spirit of the rules. If papers aren’t prepared to do the decent thing, the Press Council needs to shore up its rules to maintain its credibility. UPDATE: I now think this conclusion is over-stated. But the tag on the online story need only say that the article is “subject to a Press Council decision”, and need only link to the Press Council’s website, even when the decision has been published by the Press Council. Sometimes it will be easy to find; sometimes not. I can see no reason why the gist of the Press Council’s criticism should not be required to be appended to the infringing article, or at least that a direct link to the Press Council’s decision should be required. If that means the Press Council needs to publish the decision at the same time as the newspaper, then surely that makes sense.
The Herald still hasn’t noted the upheld complaint on the bottle-feeding editorial. But looking back through other Press Council decisions involving the Herald, I have to say it has a pretty good track record. And in relation to previously upheld complaints it has done the decent thing and linked the original (infringing) article to the summary of the Press Council decision that it published.
Topics: Press Council |
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