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?

Read the rest of this entry »

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. 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).

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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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 »

The process and the pundits: Tony Veitch arrested

August 18, 2008

This could well be my last post on Tony Veitch for some time. He was charged this afternoon (Monday) on six counts of assault and one of ‘reckless disregard’. According to his lawyers Mr Veitch will strenuously defend himself. His first court appearance is likely to be Monday next week.

This is my likely last post because, as of about now, the sub judice rule kicks in. According to my media law bible: “one should not say or do anything that might create a real risk of prejudice to a fair trial”. (Burrows & Cheer, 2005,p.387)

So, I guess it’s lucky that the PR flacks got in over the last couple of weeks to get the ‘poor Tony’ spin into the news cycle. We can now all google that stuff till the cows come home; it predates the charges so is not technically within the period of sub judice.

This post is, so I’m going to be careful and brief; when a matter is before a court (literally sub judice = under a judge) anything that prejudices the trial, or brings the process into disrepute is contempt of court.

If the trial is before a jury there is the constant fear of prejudice – jurors and potential jurors being influenced by pre-trial publicity. The question, according to B&C is therefore: “How great is the risk that this publication might influence the jurors (or witnesses)?”

This question cannot be easily answered; there’s no scientific measure of ‘influence’ over a jury. However, we can say that in this case there’s been a lack of balancing information recently.

  1. We have the allegations being canvassed high and low – how many kicks and punches, etc; was Ms Dunne-Powell’s back broken or not?
  2. We knew it was serious when Tony’s pals began to move quietly to the back of the room.
  3. We know that Mr Veitch resigned from his high-paid jobs when the story refused to go away.
  4. We know that Mr Veitch is not really like that and we know that Kristin Dunne-Powell is, at least, accused of stalking by Veitch’s supporters.
  5. We can surmise that a certain Mr Holmes might be called as a character witness.

All of that is hearsay and it’s now in the public domain thanks to the media’s close attention to the case.

But that’s all we know. The speculation will now have to stop in the news and in the blogosphere.

The End of Part 1.

A curiouser and curiouser tale – Mrs Veitch speaks up

August 17, 2008

What a fascinating account of the Tony Veitch affair in the Herald on Sunday this week. Tony’s partner, Zoe has given an amazing interview to the paper in which the curious issue of Kristin Dunne-Powell’s motive bubbles close to the surface of the text, but without ever being made explicit.

There’s a similar story in the Sunday Star Times by Donna Chisholm, but with none of the real impact. [“We’ll fight to  bitter end”]

Jane Phare’s story in the HoS stops short of suggesting anything really sinister, but a picture emerges of a young woman obsessed with a failed relationship and driven by something unhealthy:

Zoe Veitch, 27, said her husband’s former partner, Dunne-Powell, had had a “hold over us for the majority of our relationship”.

Speaking publicly for the first time, Veitch told the Herald on Sunday yesterday that Dunne-Powell appeared to react each time she saw Tony Veitch or the couple together, or if they were photographed socially.

“There was always something from her within a couple of days. It was always very reactionary.”

Veitch said that she had hoped once Dunne-Powell was married “she wouldn’t be bothering us so much”. “I’ve always said to Tony that if she is happy in her own marriage she will leave us alone.” [Veitch’s wife strikes back]

Another curious twist in this story and the word on everyone’s lips this afternoon… Read the rest of this entry »