Rachel Hunter complaint against Woman's Day upheld
The Press Council has upheld a complaint against a "misleading" Woman's Day Rachel Hunter cover story that looked like an interview but was not.
The October 5 2015 article "Reinventing Rachel. My secrets to staying in shape" was found to have breached an accuracy and balance principle by presenting itself as an exclusive interview when it was in fact made up old quotes.
The article was not based on any interview between the writer and Hunter. It collated quotes from other media organisations and her TV show, but did not properly attribute them. Hunter herself branded it as "misleading".
It was agreed by the Press Council that while the article did not explicitly sell itself as an exclusive interview, the cover photo and headline "Rachel reveals all. How I got my body back" meant the average reader would interpret it as such.
Six members of the voluntary industry body voted to uphold the complaint, with three dissenting. Those dissenting felt that habitual readers of gossip magazines would have understood that the article was not based on an actual interview. In the past, the council have given gossip magazines a wide berth.
"The article was clearly written in a way that led readers to believe that the writer had conducted an interview with Rachel Hunter by the use of speech marks and direct quotes when in fact the material was likely to have been pieced together from a variety of sources, including previously published interviews etc.," the decision read.
Woman's Day are obliged to print a significant part of the decision in the pages of their December 28 issue.
In their response to the complaint, editor Sido Kitchin maintained that no accuracy breach had occurred. The article had been purchased from "reputable" freelance agency "FEAT", and while it was subsequently found to have used outdated quotes, Woman's Day were not aware of this when they purchased and published the story.
The council unanimously rejected this excuse, holding that the responsibility always lay with the editor, no matter where the article came from.
Kitchin argued that regular readers were aware of the fact that articles in the magazine were often speculative and conditional.
She declined a request to comment following the decision.
The actual complaint was made by journalism lecturer Grant Hannis, not Hunter herself.
Hunter said she was "extremely disappointed" with Woman's Day on a Facebook post when the article came out, and her agent confirmed she was not interviewed. She declined to comment for this article.
Hannis, a senior journalism lecturer at Massey, was pleased with the outcome.
"I felt that what the magazine did was inappropriate, it's nice to the see that the Press Council agrees with me," he said.
"There should have been some sort of clear attribution as to where she said these things. According to her, some of the material came from her TV programme, some of it came form old interviews, some of it she even insisted she had never said."
He said he would use the article as a teaching opportunity with his students.
"This was the reason I sort of took up the cudgels with this, [...] I don't want to get up in front of a media law and ethics class and say they can get away with that. I needed to show that when people do these things there are consequences."
Woman's Day had plenty of time to retract the article or apologise, but did not.
"If you're in the wrong, apologise, acknowledge it, and move on."