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Fri - 15.12.2017

New Zealand: Ethics of journalism tested with controversial editor's letter

New Zealand: Ethics of journalism tested with controversial editor's letter

Thousands of copies of New Zealand's Sunday Star-Times' Sunday magazine were distributed to subscribers with four pages ripped off, costing the paper a large sum of money in advertising and labour cost.

The paper had to call in emergency workers to tear out the pages because one of them contained the editor's letter (pictured, click to read) which some senior editors thought was too offensive for conservative New Zealanders.

Emily Simpson, the editor, had written about blogger Suzanne Portnoy's sexual exploits, detailed on her blog, in the Sunday magazine of March 16. She quoted a chunk of the blog, using asterisks to replace some of the vulgar words. But even then, it was thought to be too explicit.

Fortunately for her and the paper, someone spotted the letter, and decided to call in dozens of workers to remove the four pages from the Sunday magazine.

One page contained the contents, another the editor's and readers' letters, and two featured full-page advertisements.

Many subscribers did not realise the pages were missing. But thousands of others did.

The episode has raised some questions among journalists in New Zealand and Australia about the limits of freedom.

A senior editor with a leading paper in New Zealand wondered how the editor's letter got into print in the first place.

"Anyone with some sense of decorum would not have quoted the blogger," he said. "It left little to readers' imagination."

Another editor thought the decision would be viewed as high-handed on the part of some senior editors, especially among journalists in Fairfax, which owns the Sunday Star-Times, as well as at a string of papers in New Zealand and Australia.

Source: written by Peter Ong, regional director for the Society for News Design and newspaper consultant in Australia.



Kelley Vendeland


2008-03-26 17:08

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