A new low in New Zealand journalism – Napier siege coverage

I was so angry last night that I tweeted.

I could not believe what I was seeing on Close Up. A police officer’s body lying in a Napier street and the vultures of the media circulating, sniffing out a tasty morsel or two.

In the case of Close Up the tasty morsels were the mother and the brother of the alleged gunman.

Then again this morning,  the brother, Peter Molenaar, was back on air. This time on Morning Report and the questioning was sickening.

“Do you think you’ll see your brother alive again”

“Why did he open fire? Did you know he had guns in the house?”

“Did you know he was doing drugs? Was he using P?”

These are questions for the coronial inquest, not for radio hosts. The news media is overstepping the boundaries of public decency in relation to this story. It’s not over yet. The siege is ongoing, there’s likely to be more blood on the streets of Napier. The way things are going, we’ll get it live at 6pm tonight and again at 7pm.

Where’s the formidable bulk of Glenda Hughes when you need her. If the PR flack had been able to intervene on behalf of the family, I’m sure her advice would have been “Tell Mark Sainsbury and the Close Up team to fuck right off.”

But of course a working class family from Napier cannot afford the celebrity protection service that Ms Hughes offers to her wealthy clients. Instead, the hapless Molenaar family were lambs to the slaughter.

The interview with Mrs Molenaar was excruciating. An old lady obviously very upset and traumatised by what was happening to her son. She should not have been put in that situation

How could it happen? What would possess someone to shoot at police?

It is a question all New Zealanders will ask – a question that is torturing the family of Jan Molenaar, the man suspected of carrying out the attack on policeman and the public in Napier.

Close Up reporter Donna Marie Lever spoke to Molenaar’s brother Peter Gerrit Molenaar and his distraught mother Anna – herself at a loss to understand why it happened. [“I’m sorry,” says mother…]

I have linked to the video, so that you can see for yourself, not because I endorse what Close Up did. The torture was going on right before our eyes last night and it continued all morning today with Peter Molenaar’s interviews on television and radio.

How does this type of coverage unfold? You could be forgiven for thinking that the Molenaar family were desperately ringing Close Up, keen to get their story across.

No, that’s not how it happens.It goes something like this.

The Close Up team hears about the siege and the death of the police officer and decide they need to move quickly to get Mark Sainsbury down there.

They have to get hold of the family to stop the opposition Campbell Live from getting an advantage.

They can’t get “Sainso” [all TV blokes have blokey nicknames] to the site of the siege, but they can stick him on a street corner in Napier to imply he’s on the scene looking out for our interests. After all the programme is Close Up.

Update: I hadn’t noticed because I don’t actually watch all of Close Up, but a keen-eyed viewer noticed this:

The interesting thing is that I thought that Mark was also on the scene in Napier, however, he was actually standing outside the Auckland Art Gallery as a few moments latter he was in the gallery for an interview which included the Prime Minister (John Key).

The producer and reporter move in on the family and take advantage of their lack of media-savvy to persuade them to go on camera. They would put the vulnerable family members under a great deal of pressure by suggesting they have a duty to tell the people of New Zealand about the alleged gunman.

This is bullshit, the family has a right to privacy. I am also amazed that the police have not given the Molenaar family some protection from the media. The questions being asked are critical to evidence and to any trial of the “gunman” if he surrenders, or is captured. The media should not be asking these questions, particularly during an ongoing investigation.

I also wonder if Sainso took Mrs Molenaar to Chennille’s Maison de Beaute for the dreadful perm and heavy make-up job, so she’d look her best for the invading cameras.

The whole event is nothing to do with public right to know, it’s all about ratings and money. Now, unfortunately, the flood gates are open and Peter Molenaar is all over the media. He’s been handed around like a used tart at a gangbang. It’s not pretty and it’s not good journalism.

[I’ll come back to this later today. I just needed to get this off my chest before breakfast.]

9 Responses to A new low in New Zealand journalism – Napier siege coverage

  1. Kim Knight says:

    Martin Hirst, Online Journalism Blog, 2008: “This is going to sound old-fashioned, but perhaps journalism professors should be encouraging their students to get out from behind the silverscreen and into the streets, that’s where the stories actually are; they don’t (or shouldn’t) just trickle into the newsroom via a modem and wireless connection to the world wide web of deceit.
    Harsh? Maybe, but real journalism means talking to people; seeing things for yourself; working it out; thinking; asking questions and getting in people’s faces.”

  2. kino flo says:

    What, some people are too dumb to realise that they don’t really want to be interviewed? Who will protect these poor misguided things? And how dare they do their hair before going on the telly.

    You want offensive – how about a Prime Minister doing a media briefing about the shooting, and then going back into a business luncheon to quaff wine and eat a huge sirloin stake, while a police officer lies dead on a Napier footpath.

  3. Medusa says:

    How very tragic and what a surprise there’s no PR firm jumping up to assist. A stark comparison to the points made re the Veitch case ie: joe average vs media identity and how differently they can be dealt with.

    I too, wonder why police weren’t protecting the family members as well as their case against the suspect should he survive.

    Disgraceful journalism. I hope some noise gets made about the management of this issue through other media circles and “Close Up” are publicly critised for the horrendous lack of compassion; at a time of such extreme duress how they can justify asking questions like “Do you think you’ll see your brother alive again”…how does one answer a question like that when they can’t even get their head around what’s happening!

  4. Kim wrote:

    Harsh? Maybe, but real journalism means talking to people; seeing things for yourself; working it out; thinking; asking questions and getting in people’s faces.”

    Thanks for the reminder Kim, and you’re right to point this out. However, I do not think that what we’ve seen so far on this story meets those criteria.
    I’m talking about real public interest journalism, not salacious voyeurism as I believe we are seeing in the coverage of this story.
    It doesn’t give me any pleasure to be so critical, but I think that Close Up and others should be called on it.

  5. The interesting thing is that I thought that Mark was also on the scene in Napier, however, he was actually standing outside the Auckland Art Gallery as a few moments latter he was in the gallery for an interview which included the Prime Minister (John Key).

    My wife and I also commented on the fact that John was at a function when a Police Officer was lying dead in the streets.

    I do wonder about the interview with the gunmans mother. She was all dolled up and was wearing what seemed to be new clothes. I thought that the whole thing was a bit strange really.

    While all of this is happening, I also find it strange that the police are so tied up with most of their special forces attending the shooting when they are also needed elsewhere. We have the NZ Army who have trained personnel who could be supporting the Police. Who not have the Police managing the situation with the NZ Army there as support. This would allow the police the ability to be in other places around the country.

    I know that with the death of a Police Officer this will be really hard for the police. I do wonder what will become of the gunman. I think that the result is obvious, however, if the Army was given the mission of removing him alive, it could all end a bit differently.

  6. Sam says:

    Yet people continue to watch as the events unfold and are eagerly awaiting the next installment like some kind of sick soap opera.The problem is so much bigger than the medias callous coverage of Chaucer road. The entire focus of the media needs drastic re-thinking because all Sainso and Cambo do is feed the public’s hunger for catastrophic stories and there is something so immoral and corrupt about angles the media and resulting public opinion; its like a cancer.
    Shame.

  7. […] respond? Under the radar: With wall-to-wall coverage (good commentary on its ghastly nature at Ethical Martini), now is the ideal time to sneak out news which must be released but which the releaser […]

  8. Geoff says:

    Four people shot by callous coward with an unhealthy relationship with firearms. Thats a headline in any newspaper anywhere. The media report the story …but apart from the measured and responsible attitude of RNZ ( apart from that Morning Report interview) we have a pack mentality and a corruption of journalism as its taught and practiced in many places around the country. That Donna-Marie Lever from TV1 ..take a look at her work back through the last few years …appalling nonsense on almost every occasion. She even won a TV award for a story about East Timor that was just lies. TVNZ is a publicly owned and funded network. It should stop behaving like a UK tabloid paper.

  9. […] In my previous post on the coverage of the Napier siege story I mentioned that we’d see a bloody finale to the story live on the news and evening current affairs shows. I was being a bit facetious, but FIGJAM. It’s not over yet. The siege is ongoing, there’s likely to be more blood on the streets of Napier. The way things are going, we’ll get it live at 6pm tonight and again at 7pm. [A new low in NZ journalism] […]

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