Hard News by Russell Brown


Sunday's Perfect Storm

The sad thing about the Herald on Sunday's lead story yesterday is that everyone involved with it on an editorial level knows its premise is bullshit. That is to say, they know very well that the "secret Auckland house" to which Bailey Kurariki has been bailed, is not "lavish" and neither are his circumstances there.

They know that a pair of shoes and a couple of (quite probably second-hand) electronic items given for Kurariki's first birthday outside prison in seven years do not really constitute "being showered with expensive gifts". And neither does "texting for the first time", or ordering KFC.

Caroylne Meng-Yee is an aggressive and enterprising reporter, one who consciously pushes the line. She wins the trust of her subjects and gets interviews other journalists don't.

In this case, she has won the confidence of Kurariki's mother Lorraine West, then taken what she has learned to Rita Croskery, the mother of the late Michael Choy, knowing full well the result.

No mother should have to endure what Rita Croskery has, but in media terms she has become something like a vending machine for victim quotes. Reporters know exactly what she will deliver. Hence:

"What this boy needs is hard work and discipline, not to be handed things on a plate. How is that going to teach him anything?

"It's just so stupid of them to do this. Let him go out to work and earn the money and then buy these things himself."

But he can't, because he wears an electronic bracelet that won't allow him to leave the property. This is a condition of his parole. According to his mother, he would like nothing more than to get a job. In the meantime, he is showering and feeding his father, who is recovering from heart surgery, and mowing the lawns. Does that sound like a "lavish" life for a 19 year-old?

Kurariki is still, the story says, "the 19 year-old baby-faced killer … the country's youngest convicted killer."

Kurariki was rightly convicted of manslaughter after Michael Choy, just trying to deliver a pizza, was beaten to death by a group of youths who meant to rob him. He was not involved in the beating, but, as a 12 year-old, he acted as lookout.

Yet there were others there, older and far more culpable, of whom we never hear. Indeed, every year, there are grown men convicted of such offences who serve their time and are, in general, never heard of again. Why is Kurariki of much more urgent news value than any of them?

The long-lens photographs of Kurariki kicking his heels in the backyard that he can't leave give it away. He is not only a criminal, he is a celebrity. What we see is the melding of criminal justice and paparazzi journalism. It's the Sunday paper equivalent of the perfect storm.

Thus do we arrive at the manufacture of 'Youngest killer's lavish new life: gifts, games and birthday parties'.

Martin Hirst had similar thoughts.

Elsewhere, "Steve Pierson" of The Standard outs himself. He's Clinton Smith, the guy who stepped up to the mike during the comedy protest about the Electoral Finance Bill at Parliament last year.

And … people keep asking me "What do you think of The Wire?" And I say "I haven't had time to have a proper look through it." But I have now, and I'm impressed. I've gone into more detail in a Listener column, but Ben King and Adam Bryce's big group blog for creative New Zealanders -- including Taika Waititi, Ant Timpson, Madeleine Sami, Bic Runga and Liam Finn -- is quite a scene.

PS: Hit reply if you (with a friend if you like) would like to join us early tomorrow evening for the recording of __Media7__. Our panel discussion this week focuses on the sexualisation of teenagers in the media, with reference to Miley Cyrus and Zippora Seven. The panel is Pam Corkery, Pebbles Hooper and Woman's Day editor Sarah Henry.

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