A Qantas winner, but still overcooking the eggs

I wrote last week about the 2008 Qantas Media Awards, suggesting that the surpreme winner – APN’s Herald on Sunday – might take the biscuit for circulation and zippy tabloid headlines, but that it also took the editor’s egg-beater to some stories in the chase for circulation. Well, I’m happy to say, my point’s been proved this week. A front page story about the “lavish” lifestyle of recently released 19-year-old Bailey Kurariki.

Convicted killer Bailey “Junior” Kurariki has been in the news for weeks. He was jailed at the age of 13 for his part in the brutal bashing murder of pizza delivery driver Michael Choy. He was released a week or so ago and is living at a “secret address” in Auckland.

Well, the address was not so secret that the Herald on Sunday couldn’t find it and send a couple of photographers round to get some “pap” shots of Bailey.

Bailey, who’s now 19, was given some presents and a birthday cake by his family when they celebrated his release. For the HoS this amounts to a “lavish lifestyle”:

Since being released a fortnight ago the 19-year-old baby-faced killer has had KFC, Burger King and pizza delivered most nights to the secret Auckland address where he’s staying.

At his birthday party on the day he was released, he was presented with gifts including a $180 pair of shoes, a stereo and a PlayStation console.

Got to love the language: “baby-faced killer”, indeed a description guaranteed to upset good honest right-thinking Aucklanders and to generate animosity towards the young man who’s now trying to rebuild his life. The headline on this story “Paroled killer’s lavish new life” is hardly supported by the facts, or the photographs.

Bailey got a new pair of shoes, a stereo and a PlayStation for his birthday/release party. Most 19 year-olds would have these things already. He also got a cell phone. Big deal. Knowing that this is not really a story, the HoS then falls back on the old stand-by: the mother of the victim.

What a winner. No doubt Michael Choy’s mother, Rita Croskery, is still grieving and no doubt Bailey’s release will refresh her grief. But it’s a laydown misere that Mrs Croskery’s going to provide a nice fat quote to highlight the unreasonableness of Mr Kurariki being allowed to celebrate his release after 6.5 years in prison.

Sure enough, Ms Croskery delivered:

“What this boy needs is hard work and discipline, not to be handed things on a plate. How is that going to teach him anything?

“It’s just so stupid of them to do this. Let him go out to work and earn the money and then buy these things himself.”

A pair of shoes and a couple of everyday electro-gizmos. Hardly being “handed things on a plate”. And how lavish is Mr Kurariki’s “secret” Auckland address? Well, the photos look like a state home backyard to me, not a Remuera villa.

I think that this story exploits Ms Croskery by jacking her up to say something that supports the angle taken by the paper. It also does nothing for the victims of crime, or for Mr Kurariki’s rehabilitation. It certainly isn’t a story worthy of a serious newspaper, even on a slow news Sunday.

And thanks to Colin Peacock at MediaWatch for noticing my post on the Qantas Awards. In case you missed that post, the link is here.

MediaWatch has picked up on the story about grumbling over the results in some categories and that there were only two women judges among all the “middle-aged men”. You can pick up a podcast of MediaWatch from the RNZ website.

BTW: Just in case you are beginning to suspect a bias against APN on this blog, actually no…

[I had an image here, but the SST has asked me to remove it for copyright reasons.]

The Sunday Star Times went down a similar path today with the story about a paedophile and his fish.

A mother is outraged that she wasn’t warned about her “perfect neighbour” – a convicted paedophile who, for three years, was sexually abusing her two young daughters.

In this case, the parent of children who might have been abused is interviewed by the paper and helps to out a man living next door. Here we can see the moral value implicit in the story – young children saved by actions of heroic Sunday paper. Kevin Bernard Kain (above) has been arrested. We can all breathe easier.

Is there a contempt issue here? Identification of the accused might be an issue in the court. Doesn’t seem to matter. Who would dare say “Crime doesn’t pay”? It seems that the courts don’t really give a stuff about media being in contempt any more, except if it’s terrorism, maybe.

To put the contempt question in context:

Contempt of court

The laws of contempt are designed to protect the principle of the right to a fair trial. In general the law of contempt prevents the publication of material that is prejudicial about matters that will be or are currently before the courts. In popular parlance the purpose of contempt law is to minimise the likelihood of ‘trial by media’. Types of information which are considered prejudicial include:

  • details of prior convictions;
  • the creation of an adverse impression of the accused;
  • statements about guilt or innocence of the accused; and
  • in cases where identification of the accused is in issue, the naming of the accused or the provision of other means by which the accused may be identified.

There is a limited form of defence of ‘public concern’. However, the closer the comment is directed to the actual subject matter of the trial the less likely it is that this defence will be available. The defence is intended more to protect the publication of material in the context of ongoing public debate about the broader issues, where the risk of prejudice to a trial is incidental and unintended, rather than discussion of the specifics of any particular trial.

Oh, but perhaps there’s a defence…freedom of speech. Then we could get into the territory of the ethico-legal paradox = what’s morally defensible versus legally do-able. But don’t we have a right to know.

This is a complex issue, perhaps I’ll come at it fresh when it’s not so late on a SuDnay nacht.


13 Responses to A Qantas winner, but still overcooking the eggs

  1. The Herald on Sunday is doing everyone a disservice by playing on public misconceptions about the criminal justice system. This story is just one in a long list of sensational, uninformed news items. Having worked in a prison, you get to know these people and it becomes obvious when the media do this…..and it is every bit as wrong and unjust as the original crime.

  2. Just a thought here: I’ve checked the picture of Bailey in the post above, something not square there?
    In the print edition there’s a series of photos by two photographers. The lines don’t make sense to me.

  3. In this case, the parent of a child who might have been abused went to the paper to out a man living next door. Here’ we can see the moral value – young children saved by actions of heroic Sunday paper. Kevin Bernard Kain (above) has been arrested. We can all breathe easier.

    is there a contempt issue here? Identification of the accused might be an issue in the court. Doesn’t seem to matter. Who would dare say “Crime doesn’t pay”?

    Er, did you miss this part of the Star Times story? Near the top?

    “In January this year he was caught indecently touching his neighbour’s five-year-old daughter. The mechanic lured the girl into his shed by offering her lollies but was caught in the act by his partner.

    “The partner immediately told the girl’s parents and police, and Kain was arrested two days later. He pleaded guilty to indecently assaulting the five-year-old and her older sister (now seven) over three years and is in custody awaiting sentence.”

    But the HoS lead bugged me too.

  4. Thanks Russell, I guess I did not see that, but (as you’ll see) I was still editing this piece when you pinged me. If the guy’s guilty and we splash his face (and fish) on the front page that’s OK. Breathe easy.

  5. Russell’s got a point. In terms of contempt of court, if the case is over – a plea or conviction has been recorded – then the issue of identification, etc is not so important.
    My post should be amended to reflect this, but it’s too late now. I guess I have to backtrack a little…it may take a few hours.
    In the meantime,…
    the SST didn’t “save” the children, it was a court story that was resolved late last week (it seems);
    Mr Kain is going to gaol, (good luck)
    the moral of the story stands – mainly because of its mythical value.

  6. NIK says:

    Interesting thoughts. Have to admit it all struck me as a bit of a reach by the HOS as well, and my wife and I did both wonder, ah, what about the OTHER fellas involved in the crime? Great blog.

  7. Bunnyhugs says:

    The thought about the mother of the victim being exploited by the HOS crossed my mind as well.

    I actually know her. She is a great person who has been a worthwhile voice for tougher sentencing and so on in recent years. What happened to her family was a real tragedy. The effect on her partner, the father of the murdered pizza delivery man, was just awful to behold.

    That said, I couldn’t help cringing when I read the story. It was such a case of wheeling the appropriate people out to deliver the appropriate lines.

  8. […] bFM current affairs programme The Wire on the Herald on Sunday’s front page exclusive about Bailey Kurariki’s “lavish lifestyle” and my blog comments on the Qantas Media Awards. I was hoping to embed an audio player here, but […]

  9. […] an audience or whipping up moral panic? I mentioned a recent Sunday Star Times article in a previous post. A front page story about the conviction of a sex offender with form. He pleaded guilty and at the […]

  10. ottomania says:

    Just to clarify your assumption that the mother of the children who were abused was interviewed by SST . This was not the case…she was not even in the country at the time…all information was copied from a blog (and some not even copied correctly) after a press release from The Sensible Sentencing Trust. SST had emailed the mother and asked some questions but NONE of the information provided was used in the article. The mother was not happy with how the article was written…definately sensational lazy journalism. My 7 yo could have written it better. Yes….I am that mother.

  11. ottomania says:

    I have not had much experience of the world of journalism writing and on mulling over in my head these past few days I have come to realise that maybe articles have to be written in a certain way to attract a certain audience. With this in mind I am wondering if my first reaction about lazy journalism is just an uneducated view. I am now thinking that you have x number of words that fit on a page and you do not have the word count to go into depth about issues when you are going for shock/sensation factor. In my mind I was probably making the comparison of a front-page-Sunday-paper article to a 5000 word essay…..both very different forms of writing. Also on reflection there were only a few small points in the article that I wasn’t happy with…and those probably had more to do with the fact that it involved my family and that I was being overly sensitive about how the article was worded.

  12. […] Bailey Kurariki: [no] life in a glass-walled cage The media attention “lavished” on Bailey Junior Kurariki this week is possibly driving the young man mad. A round of court […]

  13. kelly says:

    I am kevin Kain’s first victim. Imagine reading this article years after he is released only to find he did it again. The police were meant to keep me informed of his where abouts and monitor him closely after his release, they did such a pathetic job that it happened again!!!!
    Imagine reading the articles about these two girls (although no names where mentioned) to find myself being described as a sex toy and have my suicide attempt plastered in a few newspapers and websites.

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