THE PRESS, THE WORKERS, AND SOME RED HERRINGS.
TO THE EDITOtt. Sir, —I have purposely ■waited for the smoke of the election battle to clear before saying a word in reply to your leading article of Thursday on ‘ A Saul Among the Workers.’ We may now reasonably expect some attention to a discussion of the issues raised by my criticism at the Princess Theatre of the ‘Evening Star's’ action in allowing its “Stop Press” column to be used for an attack on the Liberal party and certain politicians. Bo it remembered that this attack appeared ou the eve of the poll, in the most prominent part of your newspaper. Everybody turns to it first, and you allowed that “Stop Press” column to be used to prejudice certain politicians when you knew it was too late to make an effective reply. This is your defence: — Wb claim, under the approved prac- . tice of all newspapers, to hold no responsibility for the opinions or misstatements in correspondence or advertisements, so long as they are free from actionable matter. Surely a sorry standard of newspaper ethics! Yon remember you intimated that correspondence would not be published after a certain date, and you gave the very excellent reason that it was üßt fair to attack political candidates or parties when they had no adequate opportunity to reply. Yet “An Elector” was allowed to make an eleventh-hour attack in the most prominent part of your paper, and when it was too late to reply. It was all truly in line with German tactics, inasmuch as it was the antithesis of British fair play. And your defence means that you would permit the same again—the same misstatements and the same eleventh-hour stab in the back, “so long as they are free from actionable matter.” Really, Mr Editor, I had a much higher opinion of your ethical standard. I very seriously suggest to you, therefore, that right co urse was to either justify the hiring of your “ Stop Press ” column by “An Elector” after yon had closed your correspondence columns and when reply was impossible, or to frankly admit that your action was unfair to the progressive forces of our City. Instead of - which you devote quite a lot of space to a criticism of my political position. And the only, justification you apparently have 'for your action is that as a matter of “ approved practice” you have no responsibility for inch statements so long as they • -ore free from actionable master. Sow, Mr that's not cricket.. Your readers '<■ -jr ‘*l| . :■!-
have surely a right to expect you to protect them against misstatements on the very eve of the polls. The fact that the author of the misstatements paid to have them inserted in your " Stop Press" column simply aggravates the offence. Doubtless you hoped that the skilful use of the numerous red herrings you introduced would sufficiently blur your readers' the main trail. Whether I should take part in political campaigns is merely a matter of opinion. I propose to act in accordance with my convictions and as I deem best in the interests of our country. The point to which yon should have addressed yourself was a full justification of your action in rebuttal of my charge—that you allowed to appear in your " Stop Press" column an obviously biased misronresentation which you would rightly have excluded from your correspondence columns at such a time. I assure you, Mr Editor, that the workers of our City are amazed at the many and very glaring examples of Press bias exhibited in tho recent campaign. Leaving aside the " Red Fed." bogy and similar extravagant nonsense, what is any reasonable man to say of an institution which alarms the public by the lurid accounts of the alleged Ponsonby riots, and the very next day tells the same public that " Entirely misleading rumors are being apparently circulated throughout New Zealand about the incidents at the Prime Minister's meeting at Ponsonby"? Only the Press circulated the " entirely misleading rumors." In other words, the Press Association sent an untrue account of certain alleged happenings, which account was full of '• entirely misleading rumors." In my opinion, tho Press should be as careful about its facts as a gentleman is jealous ot his honor.—l am. etc., J. T. Pact,. December 14.
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THE PRESS, THE WORKERS, AND SOME RED HERRINGS., Evening Star, Issue 15676, 15 December 1914