Standards of Practice and Complaints Handling Processes
The North Western Courier Pty Ltd (The Courier and associated publications)
The publications of The Courier adhere to the traditions established by the news media in the reporting and chronicling of news and events in the community it serves. No provision exists in the Australian Constitution for freedom of speech and freedom of expression, but such democratic ideals are embedded in the Australian community. The adoption of the conceit to report, chronicle, advise and warn on matters of community, state and national issues is wholly dependent on the support of readers and advertisers. Through its publications The Courier also provides a forum for letter, comment and opinion on matters of community interest. The Courier therefore recognises that it has responsibilities and obligations to the community it serves and endeavours to ensure that its publication of news, information and comment is carried out with fairness and accuracy.
To this end The Courier, as a member of the Country Press Association of NSW, upholds the Association’s Creed (Code of Ethics and Guiding Principles for Newspaper Production) and also is committed to the Standards and Principles of the Australian Press Council through membership of Country Press Australia. The Courier is therefore responsive to the complaints process of the Australian Press Council.
The Courier recognises that news reporting may involve contentious or rapidly changing factual circumstances and may include the reporting of assertions, differing perceptions, claims, or speculative views.
Complaints may arise in such circumstances which require a response from the newspaper.
In the case of expressions of opinion and comment about and issue or event and individual or a group may also offer a contradictory view which may lead to a complaint.
The Courier believes that all complaints made to the newspaper should be appropriately handled through a systematic process.
In the first instance the nature and time of the complaint should be recorded and referred to the
editor or an authorised person for a response.
The investigation and resolution process should not be delayed and should include consideration of the following:
- Was the article in question factually incorrect in part or in total?
- Has the article been fair in its treatment of individuals, groups or organisations involved?
- Was the article balanced (i.e., including a contrary or other view that may have been available)?
- Has an allegation or imputation been made that is incorrect, mis-stated, incomplete or suspect?
- Was the article clearly an opinion piece in which the views were expressed under a by-line.
- Was an accompany photograph, illustration or heading appropriate to the context?
- Does the article fall significantly below the previously accepted standards of reporting or commentary of the publication.
- Other tests an editor may apply include to the article:
- Preciseness rather than vagueness?
- Objectivity rather than subjectivity?
- Authoritativeness rather than superficiality?
- Level of expertise of writer?
- Importance seriousness versus triviality.
Often, complaints stemming from opinion and commentary pieces should be viewed from within the scope allowed by freedom of speech over what are regarded as contestable issues on which ‘reasonable’ readers are left to decide what is or is not tenable. Freedom of speech does allow tolerance for a broad spectrum of views.
It may be that the newspaper decides that the complaint (for whatever reason, trivial, serial, vexatious) cannot be accepted. However, if it is found that there may be merit is a complainant’s grievance there are a number of avenues of redress available.
Typically, such responses are:
- An offer of correction (in the case of factual error).
- An offer of clarification.
- An offer of space for a letter to the editor in a forthcoming issue
- The offer of space for a contrary view of the issue.
- An apology (usually after other forms of redress fail, following legal advice).
- The matter be referred to the Australian Press Council for adjudication.