Hard News by Russell Brown

A queer business

The dismissal of Queer Nation presenter Jonathan Marshall and his director David Herkt after they tailed TVNZ frontliner Mike Hosking in search of paparazzo pictures from his private life has excited sympathy in some quarters - notably from the Act party's eternally available Rodney Hide, who is no doubt trying to bolster his liberal credentials after that unfortunate business on Waiheke Island.

Sacking from the show - via the independent production company for which they worked on Queer Nation - was certainly at the heavy end of the scale, but, really, what did they expect? Herkt bragged about his escapades with Marshall in the nz.soc.queer newsgroup, thus:

"... I also know that Jonathan is vaguely tempted to use his cellphone and report Mike's speeding. I'd be tempted. You'd at least get photos of Mike being pulled over... by the time we are at the bottom of Anzac Ave, by Beach Rd, I am sure Mike knows he is being tailed ... 'You really need two cars,' Jonathan comments, 'with cellphones on ... Mike is really going fast and just over the Strand has to swerve to avoid another car and we are up into Parnell... but at the end of the street there is a roundabout and Mike goes right round it and goes back the way we came. I laugh. He has really got us now... We continue following him until he pulls into a Mobil service-station. We go down the street and pull into a side-road... 'There he is,' I say, as Mike seems to be heading into the service station."

Uh-huh. So they provoke a chase and then speculate about calling the cops so they can get shots of Hosking being stopped. But what say something else had happened? What say Hosking, in his effort to evade a car tailing him for unknown reasons, had hit someone else? Wouldn't that have been hilarious?

Herkt's enthusiastic diary postings in the newsgroup appear to have been a significant factor in his own dismissal - they were noted by a lawyer from Simpson Grierson acting on TVNZ's behalf. He's been back there since bleating about the lawyer who had "been trawling through my life with a yellow highlighter". And yet, he had done nothing wrong in chasing Hosking because "the only photographs taken were taken on a public street". Pardon? So reading his freely-offered posts to a public Usenet newsgroup is a terrible invasion of his privacy - but the physical pursuit of a Hosking (who might technically be regarded as a fellow employee) isn't?

I know people who know Herkt and he doesn't seem to be a bad guy. Marshall, on the other hand, seems utterly self-interested (memo to Darren McDonald: that furtive figure trying to take your picture recently through the window of Jervois recently was Jonathan Marshall). The two of them are welcome to brazen it out - if Herkt does take his own legal action, it'll be an interesting test of the new "disrepute" clause in TVNZ's contracts. What neither of them is entitled to do is go begging for the kind of personal sympathy they never thought to offer Mike Hosking.

PS: Jay Bennie's excellent GayNZ.com has the stories.