Sunday, May 19, 2024

Reporting errors leave bad taste in the mouth

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Vanilla Plant Based Kitchen’s owner Jessica Chand. Times photo Wayne Martin

The owner of a Howick eatery has been left shell-shocked after major news agencies published Auckland Council food gradings that were out of date and incorrect resulting in a massive downturn in business.

The stories – run under the headline “Auckland’s filthiest restaurants revealed after council inspections” – drew unprecedented negative comments on social media.

Vanilla Plant Based Kitchen’s owner Jessica Chand is furious and is demanding the media groups Stuff, the New Zealand Herald, Radio NZ and NewsHub fix the damage they caused.

Chand’s store rating was dropped to D after an inspection in October due to temperature issues.

These were resolved quickly and remedied and within nine days had her A rating re-instated.

Her store had no issues with either pests or hygiene.

All but NewsHub had retracted the online stories after she complained and told the media houses they had erred and the story was damaging her reputation and business.

NewsHub appears to have revived the story in the past week, putting questions to Auckland Council to which it has responded.

The council made it clear to the Times it did not issue a press release but responded to media questions.

The revised story was run again causing mayhem and “public humiliation”.

Chand’s shop was routinely reinspected since the article was published and continues to maintain an A grade food rating.

“We had hundreds of abusive comments online again. I honestly wanted to pack it in. Business fell off by about 40 per cent. News bodies like these should not be slandering small businesses,” she said.

The articles stated that her cafe was issued a D rating because of poor hygiene and a pest problem.

The wording of the article also implied that she still had a D food rating at her business.

Additionally, they posted pictures of other establishments with a pest infestation, without context to each image, implying that these images were taken in her cafe.

“Besides a nine-day period last October, my cafe has always had an A grade food rating.

“The downgrade was due to needing to improve our temperature checking and recording systems, along with needing a new ambient cabinet.

“The statement that we have pests is completely false,” said Chand.

“It’s appalling that the media can publish completely false information, cause so much damage to a business then just retract an article without an explanation to the public or an apology.

“But an apology would require them to take responsibility for what they have done and that is something they are completely unwilling to do, which is a gross misuse of their power.”

She is also considering seeking damages.

“These reporters have regurgitated, word for word, a news report from last November that was inaccurate, poorly written and researched then, but to portray it as new information now is defamation, and I will be pursuing such.

“You have cost me time, money in loss of revenue, you have damaged my reputation as a business that I have put everything into building and you have caused me emotional turmoil.

“This is unacceptable and they should be reporting more responsibly.

“At the very least, I expect a public retraction, an apology and a correction of the information you have published, and in a timely manner.”

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