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.