The Press Council has considered a complaint about an article headed Green tries to save pub he trashed in The Sunday Telegraph on 24 March 2013. It reported that New South Wales MP, Jamie Parker, had launched a campaign to help save the Annandale Hotel which at the time was in administration.
The first sentence said: “When the famous Annandale Hotel was fighting to keep its head above water as a struggling live music venue, then councillor Jamie Parker voted 11 times to continue legal action that eventually contributed to it going bankrupt”. A later paragraph said Leichhardt Council records showed that in 2005 Mr Parker voted against the hotel’s application to extend trading hours to 3am. It also said “records show Mr Parker voted to continue the legal fight against the owners on 10 further consecutive occasions between July 19, 2005 and September 2, 2008”.
Mr Parker complained that the article was inaccurate and unfair because, although he had voted in 2005 against extension to 3am, he had never cast any vote for or against the hotel’s legal challenge to Leichhardt Council’s refusal of the extension. Later, when Mayor, he voted in favour of an extension to 1am. He also complained that after the publication’s error was drawn to its attention it should have promptly and prominently published a correction.
The publication acknowledged to the Press Council that Mr Parker had not formally voted against the hotel’s application at any Leichhardt Council meeting after 2005. But it said he also had made no attempt to support the hotel at any subsequent meeting. It said it had given him the opportunity to respond prior to publication of the article and had included comments from him. Its offer to publish a letter from him had been declined.
The Press Council’s Principles require publications to take reasonable steps to ensure accuracy and fairness. If a serious inaccuracy has been published, it must be corrected promptly and with due prominence. The minutes of Leichhardt Council meetings are publicly available and clearly show that Mr Parker voted in 2005 against the requested extension to 3am but did not vote at any time in respect of the Council’s response to the hotel’s legal action. Accordingly, the complaint that the publication did not take reasonable steps to ensure accuracy and fairness is upheld.
The Press Council considers the error to be indisputable and serious. The publication should have acknowledged the error in its own name, not merely offered an opportunity for Mr Parker to write an article or letter asserting his own view. It also should have ensured that the correction was appropriately prompt and prominent. Accordingly, the complaint is also upheld on these grounds.
Relevant Council Standards (not required for publication by the newspaper):
This adjudication applies the Council’s General Principle 1: “Publications should take reasonable steps to ensure reports are accurate, fair and balanced” and General Principle 2: “Where it is established that a serious inaccuracy has been published, a publication should promptly correct the error, giving the correction due prominence”.