Press Council complaints

Whale Oil has blogged on an interesting case:

Todd McDonald aka The Jackal has been told to sling his hook by the Press Council because he won’t reveal who he is. He complained last year about the NBR and the Otago Daily Times.

It is of course not proven that Todd is The Jackal, but Whale lays out a pretty convincing case. The ruling is what interests me:

Requests from the Press Council for an address; phone number; driver licence details or car registration (Mr McDonald said he was homeless and lived in a car) were all refused.

Amazing how good his Internet connection is for someone who lives in a car and is homeless.

The Press Council determined not to rule on Mr McDonald’s complaints. They reasoned that they should not rule on a complaint where the complainant had not provided any detail as to their bona fides.

If a newspaper were to publish material or a letter to the editor under the same circumstances (without establishing, or having the means to establish, the credentials of the commenter/letter-writer) the Press Council might very well say the newspaper was at fault. The same principle applied. If the Council accepted the complaint it was lowering its standards to a level it wouldn’t want a newspaper to practice.

I absolutely agree that the Press Council should only accept complaints from people who are prepared to verify themselves. There are enough trolls out there who abuse the Press Council and BSA complaints system, without adding to it by allowing people to file complaints from effective anonymity (such as providing a name and no contact details).

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