Hard News by Russell Brown


Michael Cullen apparently surprised a few gallery reporters yesterday morning by laying into TV3, claiming that one of its reporters had posed as a former Bayfield High student on the Internet in search of historical scuttlebutt on David Benson Pope. I am given to understand that they suggested perhaps he was referring to my column in the Listener this week. In which case, the broadcaster in question was surely Prime TV? No, he insisted.

But he subsequently got it straight, apologised, retracted, and said that it was Prime. Which promptly issued a release rejecting any criticism and insisting that its reporter Steve Hopkins "did not imply that he was a former pupil of Bayfield High school."

It certainly looked that way to me. And I feel bound to say that Prime had plenty of time to correct that impression when I was researching the column. I called Hopkins who confirmed that it was he who had posted the message ("Anyone else remember the beatings Benson-Pope used to dish out?") under the Bayfield High section of Oldfriends.co.nz. He then referred me to Prime's communications department, where I explained the story. They called back and said that Paul Holmes producer Pip Keane would call me "very soon".

She didn't. I called her repeatedly over two days, leaving half a dozen voicemail messages emphasising that I needed to hear from her, and even called another staff member asking her to pass on a message to Keane that I needed to hear from her. I don't think Hopkins' was a hanging offence, or that it need necessarily reflect on the overall performance of the programme. But it's a bit late now to be coming on all affronted and misunderstood.

Anyway, here's the thread - although sometime last evening, Hopkins' original post ("Anyone else remember the beatings Benson-Pope used to dish out?" under the title 'David Benson Pope'), which had been there since he posted it in March, was removed by someone. But the rest of it's there. You be the judge, as they sometimes say in television.

And Michael Cullen really needs to get to The Listener earlier in the week …

So I appear to be in the news this week, kicking off with that all-important nod from Bridget Saunders in the Star Times' About Town section. And the immunisation. Why didn't I listen to Graham Reid?

New contender for the keenly-contested prize of Biggest Occupation Fuckup - US forces kick off Operation Lightning by raiding the home of moderate Iraqi Sunni leader Muhsin Abd al-Hamid, who was appointed to the Iraqi Governing Council by Paul Bremer, and served briefly as president. They smash up his home, arrest him, three sons and their guests, and take money, passports and jewellery. Hamid's wife tells the press "They even wanted to arrest me too, but I told them I had leukaemia so they left me." It's the day after Hamid's party has released a statement condemning violence. And then they say, whoops, wrong guy. Arrrgh. Does it actually get any worse than this? Plenty of spewing at Daily Kos. Sober coverage by Juan Cole. Riverbend can't believe it.

Bush tells journalists at a Rose Garden news conference that last week's critical Amnesty International report relied on information from "people that had been trained in some instances to disassemble - that means not tell the truth. And so it was an absurd report." Not as absurd as your grasp of English, pal. Stick to the short words, George.

Alleged product placement in an Arnold Schwarzenegger political ad.

I actually assumed the new National Party billboard was some sort of online wheeze when I saw it, then it appeared that it was for real and now it appears that it really is just a product of the overactive imagination of the hands-down winner of the "most annoying blogger" poll, the pride of the centre right, Aaron Bhatnagar. The real one will be different, apparently. One would hope so, because that one's a disgrace.

And in conclusion: it looks like I'll be in Wellington for the weekend of July 2, the Lions test. I don't have a ticket, of course. But if anyone could see their way forward to offering me a ticket at face value, or extending some form of hospitality, my gratitude would know no limits. I guess I might even be induced to do a turn. Did I mention I've never been to the Stadium before?