The Veitch story-when too much information is barely enough

May 21, 2009

So the New Zealand police were forced to release documents relating to the Tony Veitch assault trial to the news media under the Offical Information Act, after journalists asked for it.

According to the Dom Post there is an injunction in place preventing further disclosures from the 358 page police files. There will be hearing next week to determine if this will hold or be lifted.

My question is why did the media go after the files  in the first place?

Now we get a chance to satisfy our voyeuristic urges and read from the transcripts of Kristin Dunne-Powell’s statements to the police.
So what?

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Boquet for HoS – attempting to come clean on Veitch

April 26, 2009

I would like to congratulate Shayne Currie and David Fisher for the piece in today’s Herald on Sunday [Inbside the Veitch media circus] and for getting Tim Pankhurst to at least put something on the record about the genesis of the whole caravan.

I was interviewed for David’s story and in the course of our long-ish chat I raised the idea that the Dom Post and the other media outlets, who bought into the story subsequently, actually owed the public a certain level of disclosure about sources.

I know this flies in the face of accepted ethical wisdom about protecting sources and so-called “shield laws”, but I argue that in this case the motivation of sources is actually a key element of the story.

This is particularly salient when everyone involved – editors, journos, PR managers and the central protagonist – all admit that scrambling for the media high ground (and a position of control) was a key objective of both sides.

Unfortunately, we – the readers and viewers – were not privy to who the sources were, though in David’s piece, the Team Veitch PR expert, Glenda Hughes, says that she was reactive to the media most of the time and only admitted to “selling” a story on one or two occasions.

I am still mulling over a more considered and lengthy post on this story. In my view it is a fantastic case study of media actions – in this case feeding on one of its own – almost an act of cannibalism. I’m sure none of us (media people) would like to be in Tony Veitch’s shoes and see our career shredded.

I actually have sympathy for everyone caught in the shockwaves of this story.

Kristin Dunne Powell has been unfairly and disgustingly labeled a “bunny boiler” [cultural reference to Sharon Stone's character in Basic Instinct]. Her life will never be the same again.

Tony Veitch does not at the moment have a life – he is medically unfit for work, marriage and friendship – he may well be the “author” of his own misfortune, but he got plenty of help from the news media.

Zoe Veitch is also a victim, her performance during the whole saga was as “stoic wife”, but she too got dragged through the PR fence backwards from time to time.

The families of key figures are all scarred and substantially out-of-pocket. Therefore we have to ask, was it worth it? Was the public interest really served by the attention this story got?

I don’t think the media covered themselves in glory on this story. I will post something more substantial later.

I’m also considering doing an academic paper on this for a journalism studies conference in December. If anyone would like to talk to me about it, particularly any journos or editors, I’d love to hear from you.

ethicalmartiniATgmail.com is the best way to get in touch. Or you can leave a comment to this post. For the record, if you leave a comment I will assume that it is public and that you consent to me using it in any research publication that results (eg: conference paper and/or journal article).


Celebrity shine helps Veitch

April 17, 2009

It’s always good to have friends in high places and there’s no higher celebrity spot than sporting hero it seems.

Tony Veitch was undoubtedly helped by the slew of celebrity testimonials he received in the last few days before his trial in the Auckland District Court this week. While there’s nothing wrong with asking friends to write you references, it does show that in the rarified atmosphere of Planet Celebrity, a note from your middle class mates is much more valuable than any kind of letter from your social worker or drug counsellor.

And isn’t it nice to have an opportunity to work off your sentence helping out your favourite charities, rather than breaking rocks in some Hellish real prison.

Despite the nice idea that the legal system treats everyone the same and that the colour of your money, or the fame of your friends, doesn’t matter, there’s no doubt that real class will always triumph. Having a well-paid publicist in your corner is also a useful Joker in the pack.

Now the task of dissecting Veitch’s real level of remorse begins and, so far, it’s probably around 50 per cent.

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Veitch pleads guilty and jumps on the front foot

April 16, 2009

Embattled sports presenter and journalist Tony Veitch has taken a guilty plea in the Auckland District Court today and immediately leapt onto the front foot to vow revenge on media outlets who, he says, went too far in their coverage of his case. [NZ Herald]

Veitch pleaded guilty to one charge of reckless disregard causing industry and, in what seems to be a classic bargaining maneuver six other charges were dropped by the prosecution.

It’s likely that his sentence of 300 hours community service and a $10,000 fine will seem like a let-off to some, particularly given Veitch’s profile and the debate about community standards and role models that has accompanied this story for the past nine months. Ethical Martini’s coverage is archived here.

Now phase 2 begins-the legal battle over who said what to whom, when, where, how and why. You can’t hide from the 5 Ws and the H.

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Veitch: “It felt like a trial”

February 22, 2009

Tony Veitch has spoken publicly for the first time in almost eight months. In a statement sent to the Sunday Star Times and reported today, Veitch thanked Sky TV sports presenter Murray Deaker for throwing him a lifeline.

Veitch appeared on Deaker’s show last Wednesday and is slated for more guest spots in coming weeks, according to the SST.

Tony’s comments to the paper make interesting reading, particularly between the lines.

Veitch basks in limelight back on screen

Gossip queen Bridget Saunders also gets in on the rehab act

However, not everyone is singing Veitchy’s praises. According to the Herald on Sunday, legal eagles have been engaged to force an apology from Willie Jackson who said putting Tony back on television while there’s a “huge question mark” over his head was “not appropriate”.

Apparently Jackson went further than this on his radio show and Veitch’s lawyers were talking defamation before Jackson apologised.

Jackson apologises after slating Veitch

Well, I did say last week that it would all end in tears.

What a coincidence, it seems that the same (or almost identical) statement was  sent to the HoS as well as the SST, which makes me think it was a choreographed move. It just goes to show the value of having a good [spin] doctor in the house, or at least on a fat retainer.


Tony Veitch on the comeback trail

February 16, 2009

Tony Veitch is to begin the resurrection of his broadcasting career this week on Sky TV. I agree with the proposition that Veitch should be allowed to get on with his life, including returning to work. It seems his trial on assault charges will be delayed, perhaps into next year, and in the meantime there’s a presumption of innocence that must hold. [Tony Veitch's TV comeback, HoS, 15 Feb]

Veitch has already had his “trial by media” with the assault allegations being thoroughly aired last year in the period between the story breaking in The Dominion Post (July) and the time he was charged with the offences (August).

He has a right to earn a living by doing what he is good at. However, I’m a little less sanguine about Tony’s nomination as “sports presenter of the year” in the TV Guide annual awards.

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No comment

September 7, 2008

Updated 9 September 2008

Two of the Sunday’s carried the Veitch story today (7 September).

Aren’t there rules around reporting possible/alleged/unproven incidents of this nature?

Veitch hospitalised (Stuff.co.nz)

Ex-lover plea for privacy (Stuff.co.nz)

Veitch in suicide bid (Sunday News)

Fears for Veitch after hospital dash (Herald on Sunday)

Lita (bitsontheside) has an excellent post saying pretty much what I would say, were I not making any comment.

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Judge sets precedent for online reporting – will it affect the Veitch trial?

August 26, 2008

This week in the Manukau District Court, Judge David Harvey issued a supression order banning online news organisations (and presumably bloggers) from naming two men who have been committed for trail over the murder of 14-year-old John Hapeta on August 12.

The supression order does not apply to print and broadcast media. The judge’s reasoning is interesting. He argued that people (including potential jurors) could “Google” the information during the trial leading to possible prejudicial outcomes and also that material on the Internet tends to go “viral” within a short space of time.

According the the NZ Herald:

Judge Harvey teaches the Law and Information Technology course at the University of Auckland. The course looks at the way technology impacts on evidence, jurisdiction and freedom of information.

Judge Harvey has also written a textbook on the internet and law called internet.law.nz.

Perhaps he needs to read my material on the techno-legal time gap. I’ve written about this idea – which is fairly basic – that the law and regulatory regimes do not always keep up with the technology and what it can do.

Communication and New Media

Communication and New Media

I also wonder if this ruling might be a precedent that the judge sitting on the Tony Veitch case might consider. There’s already concern that some media outlets may have breached the sub judice rule by publishing details of the charges against Mr Veitch over last weekend.

As others have pointed out, the idea that we might all have to go through our online archives and delete references to pending, or live court cases is a bit scary.

Lawyers for the various media companies are scrambling to interepret the ruling and there may well be a challenged to the suppression orders.


The Veitch allegations: Who’s leaking, who’s spinning, who’s paying?

August 25, 2008

Well, the mystery has not been resolved. Who leaked information about the police charges against Tony Veitch to the Sunday papers?

The police have denied it was them and are instead saying that a campaign by Mr Veitch and his representatives is being mounted to undermine their investigation into allegations that the former sports presenter bashed a former girlfriend on perhaps more than one occasion.

So where did the leaks come from?

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SST – dancing to Zoe’s beat?

August 24, 2008

I wrote last week that I’d probably have little to say about the Tony Veitch case now that it’s before the court. I also wondered if the news media would do the same.

No chance actually. Now I find myself back in it too; trying to make sense of the spinning. I read this stuff and feel like it’s a public rehearsal of Tony Veitch’s defence arguments. It is trial by media. Only in this case it’s the complainant who seems to be in the dock.

The Sunday papers are all over the story again this week with revelations about the incidents covered in the charges laid against Veitch a week ago.  The Veitch saga: What Kristin told police (SST) Water assault charge for Veitch (HoS)

But what really caught my eye was another interview with Zoe Veitch in the Sunday Star Times.

Veitch’s wife: ‘We shouldn’t have given in to her demands

Read the rest of this entry »


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