Saturday, June 22, 2024

NZ Press Council dismisses complaint

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A reader lodged a complaint to the Press Council in May following a report by the Times about the discovery of the body of a man in Whitford.

She had demanded that we remove the story online. That story had received a an enormous number of hits online and an extraordinary number of comments. We refused to remove the story. Following is the unedited finding of the NZ Press Council in full.
-Nick Krause

Case No: 2577
Adjudication by the New Zealand Press Council on the complaint of Ellen Adoko against the Times
Finding: Not upheld

Ellen Adoko alleges breaches of our principles of accuracy, fairness and balance, in a report published in Times Online on May 10, 2017.

The Complaint
The publication complained of was a short piece noting that a body had been found at Whitford, and the police were at an address “where they say that a “sudden death” has taken place”. It continued that formal identification procedures were underway and the police were not treating the death as suspicious. It also states the death would be referred to the coroner. The article concludes that the police could not confirm that it was the body of 55-year old John Prangley, who was missing from his Whitford home since April 13. It was accompanied by a headshot of the late Mr Prangley.

The major thrust of the complaint appears to be that, although the body had not been formally identified, the editor used the photo with the article title because he was “pretty certain” that the body found was the late Mr Prangley.

Although the complainant does not appear to be related or have any knowledge of the late Mr Prangley and his family, she states the family would be devastated and the article will make things worse for them.

The Response
The editor stated that this was not an unusual story, in that a man had gone missing, this had been reported on earlier, and then a body was found. The editor says that this information was relayed to him by a trusted source, and that the body found was almost certainly the late Mr Prangley. The editor notes that the initial Facebook page led to a number of posts which he described as “trolls”. He said the complainant was one of those, although he appears to have no evidence to suggest that that was her motivation.
Essentially, his position is that it was a reasonable link to make and he did not breach any principles of the Press Council in the story.

We do not consider our principles have been breached by this story.

It had already been reported on that Mr Prangley had gone missing some considerable time previously and had not been seen since. He had gone missing in the Whitford area. Given that a body was found, it is almost inevitable that a link would be made to the possibility that it may have been Mr Prangley. The story clearly states that this was not confirmed, although we note it was confirmed the next day. We do not find the publication of the photograph along with the story objectionable in any way, in that it simply added a further human interest element to the story. Any privacy breach would be that of the deceased family, but they have not complained.

The complaint is not upheld.

The Press Council considered this complaint in committee.

Chris Darlow took no part in the consideration of the complaint.

The complaint was considered by Sir John Hansen, Jo Cribb, Tiumalu Peter Fa’afiu, Mark Stevens and John Roughan.

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