Waikato Times slammed for front page fiction [UPDATED]

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The Waikato Times has been slammed by the Press Council for their front page fiction about Young Nats burning Nicky Hager’s Dirty Politics, a story gathered by their “news” team from the Facebook page of a NZ First activist.

The Press Council recognises that social media are a frequent source of information that can be checked and developed into stories capable of meeting the standards of accuracy, fairness and balance expected by readers of a reliable newspaper.

In this case the Council does not believe the newspaper had sufficient corroboration of the claim on Facebook. The Times’ additional source, a student who would not be named, claimed to have seen Mr Letcher with more than 200 books. If that statement were true, it does not establish that Mr Letcher intended to burn them.

The Facebook posting as reported by the Times, said, “So apparently the CNI Young Nats (and presumably the NZ Young Nats) are buying up copies of Nicky Hager’s # Dirty Politics….and burning them.” The word “apparently” should be noted. It suggests the information was at best hearsay, at worst an assumption by a person associated with a rival political party.

The Times called it “rumour” but its report also claimed to have confirmed part of the rumour. It is therefore difficult to accept the Regional Editor’s response that the paper was merely reporting an allegation. Its confidence in its own source and its decision to splash the book burning allegation across its front page would have given the story credibility in the minds of some readers.

While Mr Letcher’s denial was also reported prominently, this does not redeem the report. Newspapers need to be careful when dealing with rumour that is denied. A false accusation can easily be made for the purpose of forcing a political opponent to deny it publicly. That indeed is said to be a device of “dirty politics”. Newspapers should take care to ensure they are not unwitting instruments of it.

The Waikato Times could not substantiate this rumour to a standard that meets the Press Council’s principles of accuracy and fairness. Mr Letcher’s complaint is upheld.

That ruling is hilarious given just how many journalists have hypocritically and sanctimonious slammed me when they were the willing recipients of many stories, some of which they won awards for.

Dirty Politics is just politics, but the media, in this instance have been caught donkey deep in their own Dirty Media, making stuff up in order to smear people politically. With this ruling I suspect Aaron Letcher would have a dead set win in a case of defamation against the Waikato Times.

The Times did not base stories solely on social media but those media often provided tips or starting points for stories. In this case the allegation on social media was supported by a source the Times considered credible and agreed not to name, which is standard practice for news organisations.

But the anonymous source lied…and they still ran the story and are still protecting the lying source.

It wasn’t a unanimous decision though.

Three members of the Press Council Liz Brown, Sandy Gill and Peter Fa’afiu would not have upheld the complaint. They noted that the article was balanced; two sources had been cited; the reporter had gone to Mr Letcher for his denial; two MPs had spoken as to the good character of Mr Letcher. They expressed some concern at the front-page treatment, and the subsequent articles referring to the initial story, but on balance would not uphold the complaint.

Press Council members upholding the complaint were Chris Darlow (Acting Chair), Tim Beaglehole, Jenny Farrell, John Roughan, Marie Shroff, Vernon Small, Mark Stevens and Stephen Stewart.
Press Council members who would not have upheld the complaint were Liz Brown, Peter Fa’afiu and Sandy Gill.

So John Roughan (ostensibly right wing) and Vernon Small (Labour flunky in the Press Gallery) both upheld the complaint. So did Stephen Stewart the EPMU rep on the Press Council.

So who are these dissenters?

Accordng to the Press Council website they are described as follows:

Peter Fa’afiu General Manager, Communications and Stakeholder Engagement, Tamaki Redevelopment Company, Auckland
Sandy Gill Consultant and mother, Lower Hutt
Liz Brown Independent Consultant, Horowhenua

So the professional and union hacks all found against the Waikato Times but the professional spin doctors, wombles and wimmins activist refused to uphold the complaint.

Who appointed those fools tot he Press Council?

The Waikato Times should be approaching Aaron Letcher to arrange some sort of proper settlement rather than a weasel apology.

No wonder no one wants Yesterday’s Papers.

 

UPDATE: Obviously boobs, bikinis and babes are more important tot eh Waikato Times than apologising for defaming someone, which they buried on page two during Christmas holidays. Their original defamation was at the height of the election campaign.

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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.

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