Hard News by Russell Brown


Media Take: Heavy topics

We take on a weighty trio of topics on Media Take tonight: family violence, the mooted Fairfax-NZME merger and its likely impact, and reporting about climate change.

Our guests on the domestic violence panel are Jeremy Eparaima and Kyle Macdonald. Jeremy is a former violent abuser who has been working with the It's Not OK campaign since 2011 and is now contracted by the police to talk to recruits and frontline officers. He was the subject of an unflinching profile by senior police reporter Anna Leask as part of the Herald's week-long #betterthanthis campaign.

Kyle is a psychotherapist who contributed a column to the campaign noting that family violence is a male problem and that addressing it "is the work of all men". He stirred some inevitable indigation in doing so, but was in part motivated by a more controversial column that appeared on the second day of the campaign – the one by Tony Veitch.

The problems with Veitch's self-serving column have been well addressed by Emma Hart on Public Address, Delaney Mes on The Spinoff and others. It makes for a stark contrast with Jeremy's comprehensive ownership of his own violent behaviour. But how the hell did it end up in the Herald on Sunday?

We sent the NZME the following list of questions last week:

Whose decision was it to include Tony Veitch in the Herald’s domestic violence campaign?

Were domestic violence organisations consulted on that decision?

Was his victim consulted in advance? Has there been any contact since?

Did anyone assist Mr Veitch with the writing of his column?

Who signed off on the column? Was there sign-off at corporate level, or editorial only?

I had actually drawn up those questions before we were told last week that Veitch had  been assisted in writing his column by NZME communications staff, and that editorial staff were told it could not be altered before publication. But I think the questions as submitted serve well enough as an inquiry about that.

Yesterday, we received this reply from acting managing editor Murray Kirkness (Shayne Currie is overseas), who has overall responsibility for all Herald mastheads, including the Weekend Herald and the Herald on Sunday, which are edited by Miriyana Alexander:

Dear Brioni Gray,

I reply to your email of May 13.

Tony Veitch’s opinion piece was considered and discussed at length by senior editorial staff before publication. The decision to publish was an editorial call. 

I trust you have seen the other work produced as part of the anti-domestic violence #betterthanthis campaign. Encouragingly, we had reports of a spike in calls to refuges and police last week. We hope this will continue -- and that shows such as your own will join us to help try to reduce the levels of domestic violence in our communities.

It is indeed encouraging to hear that the Herald's series has prompted people to seek help. That's a tribute to Anna Leask, who guided the admirable campaign and wrote most of the stories. We invited Anna on the show, but she was unable to join us.

But it's a crying shame that the story about the campaign became the entirely misconceived Veitch column. (It's notable that although it appeared under the #betterthanthis banner in print, it now doesn't on the website.) It always looked like a clumsy corporate attempt to rehabilitate a radio asset by inserting him into an important newspaper campaign – one which damaged that campaign. And nothing we've learned has changed my mind on that.

In the second part of tonight's show, Merja Myllylahti, project manager at AUT's Research Centre for Journalism, Media and Democracy, and former Herald managing editor Tim Murphy discuss the mooted merger of Fairfax New Zealand NZME – which may or may not put both businesses on a stronger long-term footing and might embody a return to local media ownership, but will inevitably end up in more jobs lost in journalism and less choice for news consumers.

And in the third part, Tagata Pasifika reporter John Utanga and Rod Oram talk about reporting on climate change – especially with respect to the Pacific, where issue is more acute than it is here in New Zealand.

There's also a lively and wide-ranging online-only bonus Q&A where we assembled all the panelists to respond to questions from our studio audience.

So, yes, I think we've provided plenty of substance this week.

You can watch Media Take at on demand here.

And don't forget the online-only session with audience questions to all the panelists here.

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