We reproduce in full and with permission the email Fairfax’s central region editor Bernadette Courtney sent to the Wellington City Council’s Kevin Lavery yesterday, in response to the WCC’s disputing the Dominion Post’s coverage of a campervan story.
I am disappointed that I have to write to you to voice my concerns about the press release that was widely distributed to media and posted across social media and the council’s own website about the front page story Great roaring respite rip-off.
The press release from your communications department was sent out without any attempt by anyone at council to discuss any perceived concerns with The Dominion Post.
I am astounded that the council’s media unit chose to take this action without any discussion with the news director or indeed myself. This is contrary to the way we operate as a media organisation and contrary to what occured in the reporting of this story – we contacted the council for comment.
This approach is unprecedented. My door is always open and my phone is always on and you and the mayor are well aware of this, as is the media manager.
Yesterday I spoke with Mayor Justin Lester to voice my concerns about the path taken and the damage to the reporters reputation and indeed The Dominion Post’s.
In my tenure as editor I have never seen this dramatic and damaging course of action taken. Our policy is always to correct any error quickly. If we had something wrong then we would have expected the courtesy of a telephone call or an email to alert us, a discussion and then a solution. If we are wrong we take it on the chin. There is no agenda to cover up errors and we are a signatory to the Press Council.
My concern is that at no time has anything been offered to us to back up the claims that we are dishonest, irresponsible, sloppy, useless and have brought the city into disrepute. An over the top missive has just been widely distributed and promoted by your media unit.
It took repeated attempts to get details about the perceived inaccuracies.
As you well know we have extensively covered the Lions tour and have been as positive as the rest of the city about the benefits of the tour. Yes there have also been stories about seats double booked and scam accommodation – but that’s news.
This afternoon, after repeated attempts to ascertain what the actual issue was, Karyn Stillwell manager communications and engagement finally outlined the concerns of council. We are addressing those concerns directly with Ms Stillwell.
This however does not change the unusual way in which the council media unit chose to deal with their complaint.
While the mayor has reassured me that he believes the council has a good working relationship with The Dominion Post and that it works both ways I need to make it clear that I am very unhappy with the way the council’s media unit has dealt with this and the ripples already working their way through council.
I am also concerned about the damage to the reputation of the reporters concerned and their ability to continue a good and fair working relationship with the council.
On that basis I would ask that you remove it from your website and social media.
If you would like to discuss this further please contact me direct.