New Zealand news site The Spinoff called a radio host named Miles Davis homophobic but didn’t include any evidence for the serious claim, the country’s press council ruled. The New Zealand Press Council agreed with Davis, who complained, that the article was “wrong and offensive.”
The July 4 article was headlined Holy s**t, we found the worst 10 minutes of radio.”
Davis complained to the press council, arguing that “he had been an unflinching supporter of gay rights and the article was an unflinching slur on his character,” the council reported.
The Spinoff’s editor, Duncan Grieve, told the council it was fair to call him homophobic by pointing to examples of previous comments. However, The Spinoff only included two such examples and the council found “neither can be considered proof of prejudice towards gay people.”
“The Spinoff article did not include any evidence of Davis being homophobic and the complaint is upheld,” the council ruled. However, the council said that if The Spinoff had include other unpublished examples, like when Davis used the terms “ponce” and “fags,” “the council would be ruling differently.”
In an e-mail to iMediaEthics, Davis provided iMediaEthics with his response to the press council ruling. In an e-mail to the press council, Davis said he had “major concerns” about the ruling. He defended his use of the word “ponce,” pointing to the Oxford Dictionary definition of “an effeminate man,” which he argued has no relation to any homophobia claim.
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Davis complained over the council’s suggestion that the inclusion of that would have bolstered a claim of homophobia, a claim “I deny and deeply resent,” he wrote. Davis conceded that he had used the word “fag” in a post referring to himself, which he called a “semi-valid point.”
The Spinoff’s Grieve told iMediaEthics by e-mail:
“We were bemused by the decision – the strange logic it seemed to apply. Our reading of it was that the Council didn’t dispute that there is plenty of clear evidence that Davis is a homophobe, but that because we didn’t irrefutably prove that in our story then we were unable to assert it.
“Given that we provided some evidence with the story, their ruling could only be that we didn’t provide enough – which seems more like a sub-editing decision, not one for the Press Council. As many have pointed out, it makes the practice of journalism vastly more complex if it were applied to every fact or opinion in a story. So we abided by the ruling but respectfully found it deeply weird and reserve the right to essentially continue as we were.”
The Press Council told iMediaEthics by e-mail, “The Press Council does not enter into discussion on its rulings, so we have no comment to make.”
When asked what principle The Spinoff violated, as a blogpost asked, the council pointed to its Statement of Principles, which says, “The following principles may be used by complainants when they wish to point the Council to the core of their complaint. However, a complainant may nominate other ethical grounds for consideration.”