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"Ripoff" Reporting An Insult To Tertiary Students


Date: 6 December 2002

Attention: Education/Political Reporters

For Immediate Release

'Student ripoff' reporting an insult to tertiary students and professional journalists

The Aotearoa Tertiary Students' Association (ATSA) believes today's (6 December 2002) Dominion Post front page lead story 'Millions go in student ripoff' reflects poorly on the investigative abilities of its authors, and is more suited to the back pages of the gutter press than the front page of a metropolitan newspaper committed to the principles of the New Zealand Press Council.

"ATSA is disappointed that the findings from a very small sample (0.15%) of all student allowance users was used to justify the claim that "…if 70 percent of (all student allowance users) had been overpaid by the same amount, taxpayers would have lost $108 million this year alone," ATSA President Julie Pettett stated. "It is our position that the banner headline used by the Dominion Post, combined with the disingenuous use of a selective quote as a sub-header, in no way reflects the real substance of the Ministry of Social Development's report into a very small group of students (96) who declared additional income.

ATSA agrees with the New Zealand Press Council belief that "…a responsible newspaper will strive to inform, to be a journal of record, the place to go for accurate reports…" (Source: NZPA 'Annual Report 'What is news'.

ATSA considers that the Dominion Post may have breached several principles of the New Zealand Press Council in their reporting of this matter, specifically principles one -'Accuracy', six - 'Comment and Facts', and ten - 'Headlines and Captions' (detailed below).

"ATSA appreciates that the errors in fact, slanted reporting style and totally incorrect headline may have been an honest error in judgement on the part of the Dominion Post," Pettett stated. "We invite the paper to offer a front page apology to the tens of thousands of students it has suggested may be fraudsters and embezzlers of the public purse."

Failing such a response from the Dominion Post, the Aotearoa Tertiary Students' Association may consider laying a formal complaint with the New Zealand Press Council over this sorry matter. The complaint will be based on failure of the Dominion Post to uphold the three following principals of the New Zealand Press Council.

New Zealand Press Council Statement of Principles

Principal 1. Accuracy

Publications (newspapers and magazines) should be guided at all times by accuracy, fairness and balance, and should not deliberately mislead or misinform readers by commission, or omission.

Principal 6. Comment and Fact

Publications should, as far as possible, make proper distinctions between reporting of facts and conjecture, passing of opinions and comment.

Principal 10. Headlines and Captions

Headlines, sub-headings, and captions should accurately and fairly convey the substance of the report they are designed to cover.


For further comment, contact:

Julie Pettett

ATSA National President

Cell phone 029 939 1417 or (04) 9391417

The Aotearoa Tertiary Students’ Association

Representing University, Polytechnic and Wananga students

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