Saturday, November 27, 2021

A tale of two corrections requests: Part II, Kiwi columnist conceals cock-up! (12/10/21 UPDATE: The New Zealand Herald fixes the glitch - twice - and moves forward the story)

12/10/21 UPDATE: In a prompt, helpful reply to my November 27 request to the New Zealand Media Council (see below the hash marks), Executive Director Mary Major informed me that, before her organization could get involved, I needed to give the Herald a chance to resolve the problem.

Her guidance resulted in a productive and friendly exchange with David Rowe, the paper's senior newsroom editor. 

In the course of our correspondence I explained that I'd like to use opportunity to move forward the story about my dad's claims that in 2001 and 2016 he'd reportedly rescued choking victims using his namesake maneuver.

That resulted in the following paragraph being tagged onto Ana Samways's October 28 and November 9 Sideswipe columns. 

It's the first time I've expressed my opinion about the two cases in a mainstream news outlet. 

Sounds too good to be true?

Sideswipe recently reported that Henry Heimlich demonstrated his signature manoeuvre and only got to use it in an actual emergency when he was 96 when he saved a woman in his nursing home from choking on a burger. The story went viral in mid-2016, but his son Peter M. Heimlich believes it's false: "The 2016 story was packaged as a tie-in to the upcoming June 1 'National Heimlich Manoeuvre Day' by a public relations company representing the corporate parent of the Cincinnati, Ohio, nursing home where my father was living. The PR company handed the package (which mostly consisted of video interviews they had conducted) to the Cincinnati Enquirer. For obvious reasons, the story took off and turned up in scores of media outlets. Among other problems, per a video interview at the time, my dad was extremely frail and could barely get his arms around the woman he purportedly rescued." Peter adds that after the story went viral, he informed reporters that from 2001-2006 his father had told at least four reporters that he had saved the life of a choking victim at a Cincinnati, Ohio, restaurant in 2001. "My outreach resulted in numerous published corrections to the 2016 story. My opinion? Both 'rescues' were bogus."

What do a blogging rabbi in Boca Raton, FL, and New Zealand Herald columnist Ana Samways have in common?

In articles published in the same week, they made the identical factual error. 

When I sent them polite requests for published corrections, rather than simply correcting the record and informing readers that they'd goofed, they gave me material for this pair of blog items. 

The one you're reading is a complaint I filed yesterday against the Herald with the New Zealand Media Council, "(an industry self-regulatory body that provides) the public with an independent forum for resolving complaints involving the newspapers, magazines and the websites of such publications and other digital media."

I'll update with the Council's response.


Subject: complaint against NZ Herald, 26 November 2021
Date: Fri, Nov 26, 2021 at 4:12 PM
Cc: Charlotte Tobitt

Mary Major
Executive Director
NZ Media Council
79 Boulcott Street
Wellington, 6011 New Zealand

Dear Ms. Major:

This is me:

Today I attempted to submit the following complaint via your website, but when I made multiple attempts using your online form, I kept receiving this message and was unable to proceed:

The publication date of the problematic Herald article was 28 October 2021 and, per the Media Council's website, the complaint submission window is but one calendar month - two days from today - so I would greatly appreciate you accepting my complaint via this email.

Would you please review the attached pdf which consists of emails I recently exchanged with Herald columnist Ana Samways? It's in reverse chronology, so please start at the bottom and read up.

Briefly, per my first email to Ms. Samways - dated 29 October and clearly marked PRIVATE EMAIL; NOT FOR PUBLICATION - I explained that she'd made a factual error in this first item from her previous day's Sideswipe column:

1. Henry Heimlich demonstrated his signature manoeuvre thousands of times throughout his life but he never got the chance to use it in an actual emergency until he was 96 when he saved a woman in his nursing home from choking on a burger.

As I explained to Ms. Samways and provided thorough supporting documentation, from 2001-2006 my father had told at least four reporters that he'd saved the life of a choking victim at a Cincinnati, Ohio, restaurant in 2001.

In other words, this part of her item was wrong - (Dr. Heimlich) never got the chance to use (his namesake anti-choking manoeuvre) in an actual emergency until he was 96 (in 2016) - so I requested a published correction.

Instead of correcting her error, without my consent she published this in her 9 November 2021 column:

In two 14 November 2021 emails to Ms. Samways, I pointed out that the sentences she lifted from my first email did not correct her original error. I also pointed out that I hadn't given her permission to publish my email and asked if doing so was in compliance with her paper's editorial policy?

She then wrote me a rude email in which failed to address her factual error or to answer my question. In my final email, I asked Ms. Samways for her editor's name and email address. I never received a reply, hence this complaint.

But there's more.

When I subsequently revisited the URL of her 28 October column, I discovered her item about my father (with the factual error) had been replaced with this unrelated item without a note to readers explaining the substitution:

To summarize:

1) Instead of correcting a factual error, the Herald entirely replaced part of an article, presumably to "disappear" the error.

2) The Herald published sentences from an email clearly marked PRIVATE EMAIL; NOT FOR PUBLICATION.

Would you please determine if either or both actions are in compliance with your organization's policies and provide me with the results?

Incidentally, per this 30 May 2019 Press Gazette report by Charlotte Tobitt, my efforts revealed that member publications of the UK's Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) could "disappear" articles without recourse. I hope that doesn't go for your organization's member publications.

Thank you for your time/consideration, best of the holiday season, and would you please confirm receipt?


Peter M. Heimlich
Peachtree Corners, GA 30096 USA
ph: (678)322-7984‬

cc: Charlotte Tobitt, Press Gazette