Hard News by Russell Brown


McVicar and the media

Responses to the most recent round of national crime statistics for calendar 2009, were familiar enough: concern about a rising crime rate. This time, it's actually true: the 3.5% jump in overall offences per capita is the biggest in years.

The 65 recorded murders was the highest total in a decade, and up a quarter on 2008. Police believe changes in reporting trends –- especially in family violence – are still chiefly responsible for the 8% rise in recorded violent offences.

But our overall crime rate remains lower than it was in 2000, and much lower than in 1990, when it peaked. And yet, in a trend first noted by former newspaper editor Professor Judy McGregor, the proportion of news dedicated to crime has steadily increased.

And a fair bit of that news media coverage has featured our guest on Media7 this week: Sensible Sentencing Trust spokesperson Garth McVicar.

The show will be structured in pursuit of light, rather than heat, and I'll be interviewing McVicar one-on-one. Afterwards, I'll talk to Roger Brooking, Clinical Manager, Alcohol & Drug Assessment & Counselling, whose BSA complaint about a TVNZ Breakfast interview with McVicar last year was upheld as a breach of the balance standard. Waikato Times editor Bryce Johns will offer and editorial perspective.

McVicar remains unabashed. In his first press release for 2010 he described New Zealand's justice system as a "criminal friendly sham", declared that "liberal and naysayers" objecting to the three strikes sentencing law "have no-one else to blame, they are simply getting their just deserts," and described "policy makers" as "the real criminals".

There is no doubt that McVicar speaks for a substantial public constituency. For the show, I'm personally interested in how McVicar has achieved his go-to status with the news media, at the surprising frequency with which he is quoted as a legal expert, and at some of the more striking contradictions in his media commentaries.

I've you'd like to join us for the recording tomorrow, we'll need you at TVNZ by about 5pm. Click Reply and let me know if you're coming.

Otherwise, feel free to discuss the topic here.


Meanwhile, last week's show on feminism and the media – featuring Marilyn Waring, Gemma Gracewood and Sophia Blair -- was lively and enjoyable.

Part One is here on YouTube, and Part Two is here. It's also here in full on the TVNZ website.

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