Remember our earlier column “When a school social studies presentation is misrepresented by Spin…“?
We went to an Auckland girls high school to do a presentation on our Protect Marriage campaign during the 2013 gay marriage debate, to help the Year 13 social studies students who were focusing on providing opposing viewpoints as part of an internal assignment. This was the 3rd time we have been asked, and is not the only school where we have presented this and other issues (including the anti-smacking debate) to senior students. Now, if you had read the ‘spin’ from the left-leaning blog The Spinoff “I had a social studies lesson from Bob McCoskrie“, you would be excused for thinking that most of the students needed counselling after my ‘highly offensive’ presentation. But the truth (something missing in large quantities in The Spinoff’s coverage) was very different.
And here’s the key – There were a number of teachers there including a senior teacher who we spoke to afterwards. Were they concerned with the tenor of my talk or any aspect? I am happy to receive constructive criticism – but this article seems to be something else. So we contacted the staff who were present for their opinion – something that The Spinoff didn’t, couldn’t or wouldn’t do. The response of the staff members verified our account and contradicted the Spin’s.
We were also contacted by a student who told us
You know, it actually took me a while to realise this student and I went to the same school and attended the same talk. It could be my memory but I doubt I’d forget a comparison of homosexuality to bestiality! And, as being gay seemed to be oh-so-important that it was mentioned over four times, I should also say that I myself am bisexual.
So we went to the Press Council on principle. Occasionally we might read an article on the blog site. If they’re this sloppy about us, perhaps they’re just a ‘fake news’ site. We need to hold NZ media to account.
Unfortunately, the Press Council didn’t uphold our complaint – because they said it was essentially a ‘she said he said’ issue. Which is actually wrong, because it was a ‘she said he said corroborated by two senior teachers and a bisexual student who should be opposing him if that’s what he really did say!‘
But it was the dissenting opinion from members of the Press Council which caught our eye – and for which The Spinoff should be hanging their head in shame..
Two members (of the 7) disagreed with the decision. Hank Schouten and John Roughan would uphold the complaint on the principle of fairness. They took the view that though the article was clearly an opinion, it was commenting on an event that the vast majority of The Spinoff’s readers would have known nothing about. In these circumstances, the two members believed, an opinion writer should, and normally would, recognise an obligation to provide the reader with a fair summary of the material being criticised.
This piece seized on a few words or phrases and ignored their context. It must have been evident to the editor that no attempt was being made to fairly represent the complainant’s statements to the school audience. The Press Council’s principles of accuracy and fairness allow a great deal of latitude for opinion but this piece fell so far short of a minimum standard of fairness, in the members’ view, that it was not worth publishing. (our emphasis added)
Next time you go to The Spinoff site, let these comments ring loud and true.
When you go to The Spinoff, you just may be reading ‘fake news’ – as it was when they misrepresented Family First.