A complaint over a live update from September last year about the political party NZ Loyal has been upheld by the Media Council.
The complaint arises from a story published in The Spinoff on 19 September 2023 headlined Liz Gunn party only registers three candidates. The first paragraph read “The political party led by broadcaster-turned-conspiracy theorist Liz Gunn managed only to register three candidates, meaning it wouldn’t have enough to enter parliament even if it scraped above the 5 percent threshold.”
Jeanette Wilson complained the headline and story were wrong. The party had 33 electorate candidates and there were three on its party list and the article needed to be corrected quickly as being close to the election it could damage NZ Loyal.
The Spinoff promptly made changes to clarify the headline and story were referring to the party’s list candidates. However the Media Council found the article remained misleading as the story inaccurately stated NZ Loyal “wouldn’t have enough to enter parliament…”
The Council said if NZ Loyal got 5 percent of the party vote, its three list candidates could have entered parliament although the party could not have filled the balance of its allocated list seats. This clear error was never corrected. It was a serious error, giving the reader a false impression that the party’s candidates could never enter parliament.
Ms Wilson also complained about Liz Gunn being described as a conspiracy theorist and alleging The Spinoff was politically biased and had a conflict of interest as it had received payments from the Government.
The Spinoff did not respond to these points, saying they were not raised in Ms Wilson’s initial complaint. The Council said media organisations should be aware the Council takes both the initial complaint to the publisher and the subsequent complaint to the Media Council into consideration when making its decision.
In considering these two points, the Council said a number of media outlets describe Ms Gunn as a conspiracy theorist and she herself has embraced the term. The complainant did not provide any arguments to show why it was wrong to describe Ms Gunn as a conspiracy theorist nor did she provide evidence of a conflict of interest. The Council did not uphold these matters.
The full Media Council ruling can be found here.