Paddies upset about Press pox article

Some Paddies and Micks laid a complaint with the Press Council against a story, that it turns out was manufactured, that Micks were spreading the pox in Christchurch. The complaints were upheld.

The Weekend Press published an article on October 12 about health data from the Canterbury District Health Board (CDHB) concerning the increase in chlamydia in the region since 2011.

The headline of the article was Luck of the Irish has downside in sex-disease stats.

The introduction read ”Irish workers helping with the rebuild are sharing the love but it seems they may also be helping to spread sexual disease.”

The newspaper article was illustrated by a cartoon depicting two men in green coats heading into a doorway signposted STD Clinic.

The article reported an increase in the number of confirmed cases of chlamydia in Christchurch. It also reported an increase in the number of Irish nationals making appointments for investigation and treatment.

The Press Council considered and upheld complaints from four complainants: Charlie Smyth, Skry Adamson, James MacAodhgain and Justin Devlin.

The Press acknowledged that there were problems with the story in particular the introduction of the story which should not have stated that Irish workers were ”spreading” sexual diseases. Recognising the fault in the story, a clarification was published in the paper’s Putting It Right column.  In addition, the paper published two letters to the editor including from the President of the Christchurch Irish Society and published a piece from a regular columnist taking issue with the article. 

So they just made it up.

The Press Council’s decision was as follows:

There was no statistical information given to support the statements linking the Irish to the chlamydia.

The article reported that in 2011 there had been 282 confirmed cases of chlamydia, and so far this year there were 320. However it also reported that an additional 500 people had been tested for chlamydia. Given an increase of only 38 cases (YTD) from 500 additional tests it is an unfounded assumption that an increase of Irish appointments at the clinic was indicative of their ”spreading the disease”.

In fact the article states ”There are no concrete figures to analyse who is giving chlamydia to whom” and that a CDHB member said New Zealand historically had high rates of STIs and he guessed it would be local women passing infections on to rebuild workers rather than the other way round.

The link between the Irish nationals and the chlamydia statistics was of the newspaper’s making and not supported by any reported information. The Council upholds the complaints on this limb on grounds of Principle 1 Inaccuracy and Principle 4 Comment and Fact.

Likewise the headline ”Luck of the Irish has downside in sex-disease stats” is inaccurate and this complaint is upheld.

All the complainants alleged a breach of Principle 6 Discrimination. Given the misrepresentation of statistics and the treatment given to the story (headline, cartoon) it is difficult to see the whole as anything but discriminatory against the Irish. This complaint is upheld.

Cartoons are generally regarded as opinion and are given wide licence to offend. However, in this case the cartoon was not on the op-ed pages, but was an illustration for a news article.  As such it does not attract the same dispensation.

While it may have had appeal to some, in the context of what The Press said was a serious public interest story it was inappropriate at least, and offensive to many. In the context of this complaint the cartoon was an integral part of the article, and as such the complaint is upheld.

The final matter is the reporter’s response, using Twitter, to those complaining about her article. She engaged with complainants in a manner that was flippant and rude.

Ok for reporters to be flippant and rude eh? Where is the outpouring of outrage from other journalists about unsuitability of this person to be  journalist? Oh that’s right it isn’t me….so silence will prevail.

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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

To read Cam’s previous articles click on his name in blue.