Complaint over vagrant article in 'Critic' upheld

The Press Council has upheld a complaint against University of Otago student newspaper Critic over an article depicting three people the publication deemed homeless and vagrant.

Mike McAlevey, of the Otago Mental Health Support Trust, complained the May 24 feature was inaccurate, discriminatory, and in poor taste.

The council did not uphold Mr McAlevey's associated complaint that an item asking five female students questions, which included whether they would kill the three featured "homeless" people, could incite violence.

The council also rejected Mr McAlevey's complaint that a published apology in the newspaper was insincere.

The council held the main article was derogatory, alleged alcoholism and drug use, vagrancy, unusual or bad behaviour.

"By publishing rumour and other details about three easily-identified people without giving them an opportunity to respond, or without making serious inquiries, Critic let itself down badly," the council said.

The complaint about the related item in which students were asked if they would have sex with, marry, or kill, the featured trio was not upheld, on the grounds it was a regular feature readers would not take seriously.

The council said student newspapers had a history of provocative and even offensive material, which had been taken into account.

The council said fabricating one of the interviews was a "ridiculous concept".