Complaint against The Northern Star upheld after political candidate claims it ruined his election chances

The Australian Press Council has censured The Northern Star for failing to approach an independent candidate of the Lismore City Council election for comment, after he was criticised in a letter to the editor from the deputy major of Lismore City Council.

Greg Bennett, an independent candidate in the Lismore City Council election, made a complaint to the Press Council Board about a letter entitled ‘Choose Wisely’ in the Northern Star on September 10 2016 – the day of the local election.

The letter was submitted by deputy major, Simon Clough, who expressed what Bennett would “seek to do” if he won the majority of seats on Lismore City Council, and the possible implications and risks of such actions.

He also urged voters to “carefully consider” what they wanted.

The complainant said the newspaper – which ran the letter on the day of the election – did not contact him for comment, inform or allow him the opportunity to reply in the edition of the newspaper.

Bennett believed the letter was published to maximise damage and ruin his electoral prospects.

He also argued the letter was misleading, noting the letter was signed off by the “deputy mayor” – when on the day of publication that position was declared vacant – and it framed him to be a Shooters member when he stood as an independent candidate.

The Northern Star said it regretted not allowing for a response, but said the letter did not have significantly inaccurate material and was not missing key facts.

The publication refuted claims the letter had been published to inflict damage, saying coverage was fair and balanced, pointing out it had run on the ‘Your Say’ page, which clearly informed readers it was an opinion.

It pointed out the letter ran in print and the readership included four other local government areas, all holding elections on that day, thus only a small percentage of readers were eligible to vote in the Lismore Election.

The Press Council said the publication should have afforded the complainant an opportunity to respond in the same edition.

It concluded the publication failed to take reasonable steps to present factual material with reasonable fairness and balance, thus breaching guidelines.

The upheld adjudication is the second in recent months for the Northern Star, which was censured for an article graphically describing the death of a Queensland woman a couple of weeks ago.


Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing.