Media Council upholds Newshub complaint

An interesting decision by the Media Council partially upholding a complaint against Newshub.

Basically Newshub ran a story that described Speak up for Women as being anti-trans. It didn’t quote someone saying this, it described it basically as fact in their news story.

The response from Newshub was an interesting display of hubris. Newshub said it has a view that trans people are the gender they identify as, and hence anyone who disagrees with them on this is anti-trans and they can report them as being anti-trans as a matter of fact.

The Council found:

Newshub is entitled to adopt an opinion on this issue, but it should be clear when it is doing so. In this case an opinion was simply dropped into a news story as though it was an uncontested fact, with no indication that an opinion was being expressed.

A clearly correct decision by the Council.

But to my surprise four members of the Council dissented, saying:

They are of the view that those representing trans women have made it very clear that being a woman is an essential and integral part of a trans woman’s identity. It follows that to say a trans woman is not a woman, as SUFW does, is to deny that identity and devalue trans women. In reporting SUFW’s stance as anti-trans,Newshub may be reporting its own opinion, but it is also reporting the strongly-held beliefs of those most affected by SUFW’s stance. This is hardly a matter of opinion.

This is an intriguing stance. The minority basically say that as those representing trans women think SUFW is anti-trans, then they can factually be described as anti-trans. Let’s put aside for the moment that I am sure there is no 100% common view amongst transpeople on anything – Caitlin Jenner is an example of that.

But let’s that the view of the minority and apply it to another controversial issue. Let’s saw the Jewish Council of NZ regards John Minto’s outfit as anti-semitic because it calls for boycotts of Israel (and the Jewish people have a 2,000+ year history of such boycotts). According to the minority view, Newshub could describe John Minto as anti-semitic as an incontrovertible fact, and this would be fine as that is the view of the Jewish Council.

I think we can all agree that this would also be ridiculous. Whether John Minto is anti-semitic is a matter of opinion, just as whether SUFW is anti-trans. But what the minority members are probably saying is that if they personally agree with a description, then they think it is okay for media to use that description.

It is probably no a coincidence that none of the four dissenting members are from journalistic backgrounds. It should be an open and shut case that you do not report opinion as fact.

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