It was OK for the Newcastle Herald to report on a teenaged autistic group home resident screaming and banging on the windows of a neighbor, the Australian Press Council ruled.
The December 2015 headlines for the Herald’s coverage were “A Waratah family complains about unwanted visits from an ‘aggressive’ autistic group home resident” and “WHO CARES: The group home, the screaming resident, the neighbourhood nightmare.” As evidence, the paper relied on two different sources — one who lives near the home and one who lives two blocks away — along with response from the group home management.
The grandfather of the autistic resident complained about the article for being inaccurate, unfair, discriminatory and an invasion of privacy, according to the Press Council. He said it was easy to figure out who his grandson was even thought the paper used a “thinly veiled” pseudonym. The newspaper noted it tried to interview the man’s grandson but his representatives wouldn’t comment.
“The complainant said the information reported about his grandson was inaccurate, misleading and unfair,” the press council reported. “He said the photo caption in the print version of the article misleadingly implied the family were living near enough to the home to hear a resident screaming through the night though they lived two blocks away, which presented the situation unfairly.”
Ultimately though, the Newcastle Herald argued that the article was in the public interest. Luckily for the paper, the press council agreed that the story was in the public interest as it referred to “vulnerable people in care” and public actions. Further, the council found that the Herald “took reasonable steps to ensure the article was not inaccurate or misleading and was fair and balanced.”
iMediaEthics has written to the home and the Herald for comment.
The Herald is published by Fairfax Media.