A Courier-Mail reporter had dinner at the restaurant Thai Terrace Rosalie and reported that the restaurant told customers it raised prices on prawn dishes because of a ban on imported prawns.
But, the restaurant filed a complaint with the press council over the article. The article was misleading, inaccurate, and unfair, the Australian Press Council reported. The paper didn’t use deceptive means to get the story, though, the press council found, because its story didn’t report on anything that wasn’t publicly available.
The Courier-Mail’s April 2017 news story was headlined, “Prawn prices in Queensland rise in restaurants despite fishermen cutting prices.” It reported that local fishermen were cutting their prices causing a “glut of prawns on the local market” because of an “outbreak of white spot disease in Queensland.” The Courier-Mail is in Brisbane in Queensland.
But, the Courier-Mail said the restaurant had a notice telling customers they were temporarily upping prawn dishes by $2 because of the “temporary ban on imported raw prawns.” The Courier-Mail’s story said that the restaurant didn’t respond to the paper’s inquiries.
But, the restaurant rebutted, saying it got an online booking form e-mail that asked about prawn costs, but didn’t identify as affiliated with the paper, and the newspaper never called or identified as a journalist when dining at the restaurant. If the Courier-Mail had spoken with the restaurant before publication, the restaurant’s explanation for the price increase was that it doesn’t use local prawns but instead gets them from a supplier who had raised prices.
The restaurant was also upset because it said it did contact the Courier-Mail after publication and never heard back.
In its defense, the Courier-Mail said it tried calling “Several times” and accidentally failed to use a newspaper-related work e-mail address when it used the online booking form. Further, the paper claimed that the response from the restaurant in the online booking form wasn’t substantive enough to change its story. And, because the press council failed to update and engage with the restaurant after publication, the press council found the paper broke guidelines for correcting inaccurate or misleading information and offering a right of reply.
However the press council rejected that, saying it was inaccurate to say the restaurant didn’t provide a response and that it was misleading to suggest that the restaurant upped its prices as a way to profit when it in fact uses prawns that weren’t related to the prawn ban.
“In addition to this, the article omitted that the ban on importing prawns to Australia had actually increased the price of prawns in Australia generally, in line with the surcharge put in place by the complainant,” the press council found. “In omitting any reference to this, the article unfairly compared the prawn prices at the complainant’s restaurant to those of local fishermen and, given this, did not present the material with reasonable fairness and balance.”
iMediaEthics has contacted both the restaurant and the paper for their response to the ruling.