New Zealand Law Society - Media Council rebukes RNZ for slow and inadequate correction

Media Council rebukes RNZ for slow and inadequate correction

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The Media Council has upheld a complaint by Michelle Levy against RNZ.

The story related to a claim Dr Levy had lodged with the Waitangi Tribunal because of concerns she had that training material for undergraduate and graduate psychology programmes in New Zealand lacked sufficient Māori focused content.

Dr Levy complained that the headline of the website story -   “Psychology, “very cold, robotic’ for Māori” - did not accurately and fairly convey the substance of the report. She also complained that a caption attributed words to her she never used.

RNZ accepted that the original story fell short “of our own standards as set out in editorial policies, and for that we apologise”. However, referring to the Council’s Principle 12 Corrections, RNZ considered they had responded reasonably quickly and refused to uphold the complaint.

Given the acknowledged lapse the Media Council accepted the complaint that Ms Levy never used the words attributed to her in the caption. The Council considered this an egregious error.

The Council was unanimous RNZ could not use Principle 12 as a defence for its errors. It noted first a continuing trend of media reliance on this Principle to excuse errors.

The Council went on to find whether or not a correction was sufficient would depend on the circumstances of each case. It also stated that what is a reasonable time in which to correct would again be case specific. The Council stated:

“Furthermore, the Council is satisfied that the correction did not go far enough.  In a case where a journalist has wrongly attributed factual statements to a person, any correction must point out the actual passages that were wrongly attributed and make clear they were never said by the person being interviewed.  This correction fails to do that.

The Council is also of the view in a case such as this, with an egregious error, even noting the apology to the complainant personally, the apology should be a public one accompanying the correction.”