Four local body candidates are angry and upset that they missed out on advertising in the September issue of the Ōtaki Mail.
Although all say they had submitted their advertisements, they discovered when the local paper was published that their advertisements were not in it. The candidates were Ōtaki Ward councillor James Cootes, district-wide councillor Angela Buswell, community board chair Chris Papps and DHB candidate Adrian Gregory.
James Cootes says that a day after the paper was published he received a general “Dear candidate” email from editor Lloyd Chapman saying that space had been at a premium and the paper had to allocate advertising on a “first in, first served” basis. The advertising request could therefore not be accommodated.
“That’s a very poor explanation from a newspaper when there are local body elections happening,” James says. “There wasn’t even an apology. If there wasn’t another local newspaper I would not have been able to advertise in print what I stand for in these elections.
“It’s disappointing not only for me but for the community. All we ask for is a level playing field so the community can vote by being well informed about what we’ve done and what we stand for.”
James took to the Sunny Ōtaki Facebook page, telling the social media community that as his ad had not appeared in the paper, he was showing it on the Facebook site.
Chris Papps says she was dismayed by the explanation she also received. She says she had been invited to advertise and she had her advertisement with the paper days before deadline.
“The explanation doesn’t make sense to me,” she says. “I had the ad in with plenty of time, and found out that I had missed out only when I read the paper.
“I noticed some advertisements for other candidates did appear. That doesn’t seem fair.”
Chris also posted on Sunny Ōtaki, saying she had been denied the opportunity to advertise in the Mail and had been advised of the omission only at 2.10pm on Friday, at the same time as the September edition was arriving in her letterbox.
“If the Ōtaki Mail was short of space and was genuine in its professed aim of promoting democracy it could have apologised to its readers or taken out some regular editorial for one issue,” she posted.
Angela Buswell says that after originally not getting an invitation to advertise, she was urged later by one of the paper’s owners to place an ad. She rushed to provide the content but missed the deadline by nearly four hours. She says she was not advised that would be an issue.
After seeing the paper in print, she was disappointed to see some candidate ads had been published, but not others.
“In the spirit of fairness, all ads should have been withdrawn or another page added, as these were paid ads.”
Ōtaki-based candidate for the MidCentral District Health Board, Adrian Gregory, says he picked up his copy of the Mail early on Friday morning and realised his ad wasn’t included.
“I’d had no warning of this so emailed the editor, expressing my disappointment and asking for an explanation. The response I got was ‘first in, first served’, and I later learned that others found themselves in the same position.
“I still feel that the editorial decision to selectively run some ads and not others was a mistake, because it didn’t allow for full coverage of all the candidates who are putting themselves forward. I trust it’s a mistake that won’t be repeated.”
Asked for comment, Ōtaki Mail editor Lloyd Chapman said he told those who missed out: “Last triennium, we had a response of not much more than 50% from those seeking election. This time it was over 95%, and we were extremely stretched to accommodate everyone. With space at a premium, we had to allocate advertising on a ‘first in, first served’ basis. I’m afraid we were unable to accommodate your advertising request.”
He told Ōtaki Today in an email that the Mail had existing commitments to its regular advertisers and contributors which it did its best to honour.
“We regret that we were unable to satisfy everyone,” he said.
Meanwhile, Ōtaki Rotary also took to Facebook – and confirmed to Ōtaki Today that it had submitted an advertisement for a “meet the candidates” meeting and it had also been omitted from the September issue of the Ōtaki Mail.