Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Special Sources

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  • Craig Ranapia,

    There are good reasons for that to be case, even when it generates this kind of farce. If sources, even sources who aren’t necessarily noble actors, could not be assured of confidentiality, some forms of reporting would simply be impossible.

    And that;s fair enough, as far as it goes. But I could also note that if Claire Trevett's source was from within the MSD (and I've no evidence either way) then, The Herald knowingly published a pork pie from Brendan Boyle. This is a non-trivial matter of legitimate public interest. Isn't it?

    And doesn't it create a credibility gap next time The Herald (or Campbell Live or anyone else who ran this story) decides to ride an editorial high horse on political accountability and transparency?

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    a pork pie from Brendan Boyle

    He sounds like a decent man. So where is his information coming from?

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19745 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Sacha,

    Well, quite.

    If the story did come from within the MSD, either Boyle (who is the chief executive of a major ministry of state) is a mendacious bastard whose staff were cold-bloodedly prepared to “out” a political embarrassment, and lied about it with impunity.

    Option B: He doesn’t have a very firm grip on what his ministry’s “media relations” staff do when in damage control mode.

    Option C: Option B, with the plausible deniability of “I know what I don’t want to know, and that’s quite enough for me.”

    None of these options are particularly comforting. YMMV, but I don't think this is about "burning" or "protecting" a source, but our right to know as media consumers and citizens whether we're reading news or a covert spin strategy being conducted with the complicity of people who should be speaking truth to power not enabling it.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Tristan,

    Wow Dot com super power of making shit stick to everyone else is still at full strength..


    Claire 'everyone else but me' Trivett does the forth estate no favours by demanding they be allowed to keep their sources secret while gleefully printing them when they aren't their own.

    At least real estate agents and used car salesmen have consequence for this unethical crap

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 221 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes, in reply to Sacha,

    Brendan Boyle, He sounds like a decent man.

    By the name alone he sounds like an axe wielding madman from the Gorbals whose very presence should be feared. But what is in a name ? a nose by any other name would smell.

    Peria • Since Dec 2006 • 5521 posts Report Reply

  • izogi, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    But I could also note that if Claire Trevett's source was from within the MSD (and I've no evidence either way) then, The Herald knowingly published a pork pie from Brendan Boyle.

    I don't see how he could possibly know for certain. Chances are there were many employees who knew about this, given how word gets around. Especially when people feel threatened, and an impression of being blackmailed would be normal if the circulating gossip is selective. Out of that, who's going to honestly own up to leaking a name given the likely consequences?

    The LinkedIn thing is suspicious combined with the Minister's track record, but it doesn't prove anything except that the Minister knew the name. Searching the web is one of the first things most sane people would do if informed of something like this. The LinkedIn profile is near the top of Google's results.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 1142 posts Report Reply

  • Hebe,

    Must be from the Minister's office; isn't Linked-In's record of viewing a lovely thing? The coincidence of timing is truly amazing-- Ira Bailey's talk to MSD then later in the week two viewings by the minsterial staffer. Which staffer? The name will be available. And who was looking over their shoulder? Claire Trevett is doing what she calculates she has to do to keep her political/govt sources sweet.

    Inept on all fronts; I guess they are all used to time-pressed journos with sources to lose. That's where unbeholden journalists like Keith Ng are invaluable. (I will not call him a blogger because MSM uses the term to devalue his credibility, thereby buying into the government spin.)

    Brendan Boyle, I am inclined to believe, is more savvy than to knowingly tell an untruth when he knows the unmuzzled media (ie bloggers with good reputations) are hot on the case and not about to leave it alone.

    Christchurch • Since May 2011 • 2899 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    You're missing what seems a quite plausible explanation: the information provided to him by other staff wasn't correct, and he passed it on in good faith. That wouldn't be his comms staff either. And it takes a while for any new CEO to reach down enough in a big organisation to establish other channels to know what's going on.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19745 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to izogi,

    I don’t see how he could possibly know for certain.

    I'm naive enough to think when a very senior civil servant gets a heads up that a shit-storm is about to break over his ministry, he'd be on top of the response. Then again, it seems nobody is accountable for anything in this saga except making sure their six-figure pay cheques have cleared.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Judd,

    Speaking of sources, what about Barry Soper's claim that the source of GCSB leaks to Shearer "has been revealed" as Fran Mold's partner? The only source I know of for that claim is Cameron Slater. It would be nice if Soper burnt his source on that one, if only because otherwise it looks awfully like Soper just ran a Whaleoil rumour without even attributing the shit.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 3122 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Hebe,

    Claire Trevett is doing what she calculates she has to do to keep her political/govt sources sweet.

    Fine, and the next time her employer wants to take the editorial high moral ground about political/public sector accountability and transparency (to paraphrase Julia Gillard) they should look in a mirror first.

    You’re missing what seems a quite plausible explanation: the information provided to him by other staff wasn’t correct, and he passed it on in good faith.

    Quite possibly. It's also perfectly possible Trevett's source was in Paula Bennett's office, and her (admittedly less unequivocal) denial was equally in good faith. But either way, I still think it's a matter of legitimate public interest to know where this came from, because I'm personally not cool with politically motivated smears being waved off with "we don't disclose our sources."

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    Journalists have always had exemptions from usual transparency, in the broader public interest of finding out what's going on - not as if protecting sources is a new thing. Reducing that protection is. Should be an interesting show.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19745 posts Report Reply

  • izogi, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    But either way, I still think it's a matter of legitimate public interest to know where this came from, because I'm personally not cool with politically motivated smears being waved off with "we don't disclose our sources.

    To me this seems like the bigger media outlets getting back at a blogger because he beat them to breaking a major story. If the issue had been leaked direct to the Herald or Fairfax (as if the usual journo's there would have the geeky competence to investigate as Keith did), the original source might never have been released short of a totally open Ministerial or MSD press release.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 1142 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    her (admittedly less unequivocal) denial

    Kind of revealing, some might say. The part about not wanting to ask her staff directly sounds awfully familiar.. coughjohnbankscough

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19745 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    Quite possibly. It’s also perfectly possible Trevett’s source was in Paula Bennett’s office, and her (admittedly less unequivocal) denial was equally in good faith.

    That seems considerably more likely than the source being the ministry, given Boyle's comprehensive denial, Bennett's disinclination to get to the bottom of it and the confirmation that her staff were digging around on Bailey last week.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22850 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to izogi,

    To me this seems like the bigger media outlets getting back at a blogger because he beat them to breaking a major story.

    But if you're given the name, you have to justify not printing it. And if you spit the dummy and say it came from (let's say) the minister's office, no one's ever going to tell you anything in confidence again.

    So, no, I don't think Trevett or the Herald have it in for Keith. It's just the dance.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22850 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole, in reply to Sacha,

    The part about not wanting to ask her staff directly sounds awfully familiar

    Yes, it's become a National standard.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 4097 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Bennett’s disinclination to get to the bottom of it

    Imperator Fish has a nice piece: A Day in the Life of Paula Bennett

    I assured the media today that I have not seen anyone in this government taking a cavalier attitude towards the privacy of others. It's why I had all the mirrors in my house removed.

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3894 posts Report Reply

  • Brent Jackson, in reply to Russell Brown,

    But if you're given the name, you have to justify not printing it

    But did she have to print it ? If she felt she had to, in order to ensure that she got future tip offs, then she is no longer acting as a journalist, and is merely acting as PR for her source's boss.

    I think it is unforgivable to use a confidential source to give away the confidential source of another journalist.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 620 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Russell Brown,

    So, no, I don’t think Trevett or the Herald have it in for Keith. It’s just the dance.

    Of course, part of the dance can be saying “well, I’m not going to run this unless you’re willing to go on the record and fully attributable” – which journalists do all the time. They also say “this isn’t going out under my by-line or the masthead of my employer under any circumstances” – which is the fate of a non-trivial amount of Wellywood political gossip, rumour and scuttle-butt every day of the week. (Personally, I think it's a very good thing NZ politicians can go through separation/divorce without landing on a local equivalent of Drudge or Gawker. For now.)

    But, sorry, I still don’t think credible and ethical news organizations get to have it both ways. You can speak truth to power, or you can choose to pimp your credibility for access and play along with a political strategy to discredit a political embarrassment.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Richard Aston,

    Seems to me the purpose of the leak was to distract from the real issue - ie why was MSD so woefully incompetent and at what level did this incompetence go to.

    Seems to me the distraction is still working.

    Northland • Since Nov 2006 • 510 posts Report Reply

  • Megan Wegan, in reply to Brent Jackson,

    But did she have to print it ?

    She didn't have to print it, but if she got it on the understanding that she'd protect her source, she has to do that.

    Once you decide Ira's name is part of the story, and you have it, if you make the decision to run it, you have continue to protect that source. Especially for the gallery journos, for whom so much relies on their sources.

    Welly • Since Jul 2008 • 1275 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Richard Aston,

    Seems to me the purpose of the leak was to distract from the real issue – ie why was MSD so woefully incompetent and at what level did this incompetence go to.

    Well, two points:

    1) It is possible for even the tiniest prole brain to think/care/get enormously fucked off about more than one thing at a time.

    2) The New Zealand Herald is the only daily newspaper serving New Zealand's largest newspaper market. So, yeah, I don't think it's a "distraction" to think about how a media outlet with that kind of clout is reporting this story.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler, in reply to Brent Jackson,

    I think it is unforgivable to use a confidential source to give away the confidential source of another journalist.

    The name of someone leaking information is newsworthy. Ira Bailley's role in this is also newsworthy.

    If someone in, for example, Radio NZ found proof that someone in the Minister's Office leaked Ira's name to the Herald, that too would be publishable.

    Keith's responsibility to protect his source. Claire's responsibility to protect hers, but if others find out, and it's newsworthy, they're free to publish it.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3215 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Graeme Edgeler,

    Keith’s responsibility to protect his source. Claire’s responsibility to protect hers, but if others find out, and it’s newsworthy, they’re free to publish it.

    Yep.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22850 posts Report Reply

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