Paula Bennett and journalists

Paula Bennett has been under pressure this week over allegations (unproven) that she may have been involved in deliberately leaking information about the leader of a marae that has been providing emergency housing being under police investigation.

It looked bad for Bennett and her handling of it wasn’t good at times.

Bennett’s involvement and responsibilities have been widely discussed, but it finally emerged yesterday who her staffer was.

And the identity of the journalist involved was revealed  They made what some have claimed was a bit of quiet gossip into a major and potentially damaging story that included calls for the resignation of both the staffer and the Minister.

I think what actually happened here and the motives behind it is important in the context of how journalists interact with MPs and Ministers, and how journalists can potentially create political stories rather than just report them.

In this case what was possibly a minor chat could have resulted in a Minister being forced to resign if Bennett had badly stuffed up her handling of it.

Journalists had been unwilling to reveal the identities of those involved until Claire Trevett wrote a revelation yesterday, first posted only at Newstalk ZB but later also at NZ Herald.

Marae leader leak: TVNZ reporter, Bennett staffer named

The TVNZ journalist leaked to by Paula Bennett’s press secretary was Rebecca Wright – a journalist whom Ms Bennett has crossed swords with in the past, including taking an unsuccessful complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority.

Ms Bennett’s press secretary told Ms Wright about a Police investigation into the handling of a case by Te Puea Marae chairman Hurimoana Dennis, after Mr Dennis told Ms Bennett about the investigation in a private meeting last week.

RNZ was the first to ask Ms Bennett about the leak. It is not known how RNZ found out about it. Ms Wright has not responded to requests for comment. The press secretary, Lucy Bennett, declined to comment or confirm Ms Wright was the journalist she spoke to.

In a statement today, John Gillespie, TVNZ’s Head of News and Current Affairs, said the broadcaster had already confirmed a One News journalist was approached with information. “We’re not naming the journalist because they’re not the story here.”

I disagree. The nature of what was alleged to be a ‘leak’ and who was involved is quite important in this issue.

There has been a number of claims and speculations about what happened, with serious accusations made against Bennett.

Opposition MPs have claimed the press secretary must have passed on that information with Paula Bennett’s permission, something Ms Bennett has denied, saying the first she knew about the leak was when a Radio NZ reporter asked her about it on Tuesday.

This has been countered.

Deputy Prime Minister Bill English accused the media of colluding to take down Ms Bennett in Parliament today.

“What they call a leak to the media, which turns out to be discussion around the dinner table, about something apparently everyone already knew about, but the media had decided not to run until they could use it to attack Paula Bennett.”

There are increasing concerns about journalists playing politics and promoting their own agendas, to the extent at times that they appear to be more political activists than reporters.

There are grey areas and fine lines between holding power and politicians to account but these seem to be increasingly challenged by media that has considerable power in politics than can be abused and is at times abused.

How the media and journalists operate in a democracy is a very serious issue.

Plaudits to Claire Trevett for having the gumption to break the cone of silence amongst media for what might be the biggest and most important aspect of this stories.

Do some journalists abuse their position of power for personal and political reasons?

I think Rebecca Wright has important questions to ask her.

Will any journalists ask her as forcefully as she is known to pursue stories?

Or are politicians fair game while journalists protected by their own?

Wright versus Palino “harassment and bullying”

Campbell Live confronted John Palino yesterday, significantly contrasting with their treatment of Len Brown – John Palino: what did he know about Chuang affair?

John Palino, unsuccessful Auckland mayoral candidate.

He’s been silent since news of the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang affair broke.

But what role did he or those involved in his campaign play in the saga becoming public?

Rebecca Wright caught up with him this morning.

That doesn’t say much because hardly anything new was said. The video of the interview shows that Palino was accosted in a car park. He was obviously not prepared for an interview. He kept referring to the statement he put out two weeks ago.

Wright wouldn’t accept this and kept pushing aggressively, refusing to accept his explanation, saying it was “not plausible”.

@DrBrianEdwards tweeted:

“Interviewing” John Palino, Campbell Live’s Rebecca Wright confuses harassment and bullying with journalism. You’re not a prosecutor, Madam!

This seems to be a common approach by Campbell Live and Wright, if someone won’t agree to an interview they hammer their target as if in punishment for not complying with their demands.

This was a marked contrast to the John Campbell ‘interview” with Len Brown, where Brown used the occasion as a carefully rehearsed PR opportunity. It was notable how soft Campbell was on Brown.

The headline could have been written by Brown’s spin team, ‘My apologies but stand by me’ – Len Brown, as could the report. Campbell all but put his arm around Brown and hugged him.

Questions remain about the Len Brown affair/s but Brown has not been harrassed by Campbell Live.

This unbalanced approach by Campbell Live probably reflects in the show’s inability to take advantage of an insipid Seven Sharp, it continues to struggle to compete – see CAMPBELL LIVE VS SEVEN SHARP: WEEK 38 at Throng.

Campbell Live has built a reputation of being very left friendly and antagonistic to the political centre and right . This continued bias alienates many potential viewers.

Perhaps John Campbell is happy to have a show where he can promote his own politics and dish out utu for those who don’t comply with his interview requests, but this must deter many advertisers, and it must affect the bottom line for TV3.

Challenging Peters’ racism, and ambush hypocrisy

Campbell Live ran an item on Winston Peters tonight, questioning claims Peters made in a speech to Grey Power in Takapuna entitled “Auckland, super city or sin city?”

Winston Peters’ sin city claims investigated

In it, he used the word “China” 21 times and he asked the question “who’s running things here, us or them?”

Is there any other immigrant group that gets singled out like that?

It was all in a speech that refers to corruption, crime, money laundering, shady dealing, pokey machines, sex workers, cheating Asian students, a slave trade, drug importation and the seven deadly sins.

So Campbell Live asked Winston Peters for proof.

The item ran through a number of claims made by Peters and disputed them all, backed by various people knowledgeable or expert in their fields.

Emma Espiner@emmawehipeihana

Nice to see some actual facts to challenge Winston’s ridiculous racism tonight. Thanks @rebeccawright and @CampbellLiveNZ

John Campbell said they wanted to interview Peters around Auckland to try and elicit justifications and show examples of his claims. Campbell said a prepared studio interview with Peters is often futile as Peters won’t answer questions.

Reporter Rebecca Wright was then shown meeting Peters as he arrived off a plane at Auckland Airport. She asked him questions on the couple of hundred metre walk to his taxi.

It was a fruitless discussion with claim and counter claim of lying.

@_JessK1

You’re lying. NO, YOU’RE LYING! This might be the funniest segment I have seen in my life. @CampbellLiveNZ

It even led to a threat to sue:

@rebeccawright

“I will sue you. I will sue your programme.” Tonight @CampbellLiveNZ pic.twitter.com/YvmzheXlE0

That’s rich from Peters threatening to sue, supposedly for (as he claimed) lying about him. He’s been making many things up and accusing people of criminal offences and suggesting salacious behaviour wihtout producing any evidence.

Some praise for Wright.

Juanita Copeland@JuanitaCopes

@rebeccawright gold star for enduring yet another arrogant winston peters “chat”. He’s a piece of work. Excellent grace under fire Rebecca

And Peters bit back.

Winston Peters@winstonpeters

Gutter journalism from Campbell Live. Offered to do a live interview, but instead they lurked at the airport for an ambush.

That’s also rich from Peters, who seems to spend his time in Parliament trying to ambush opponents. Two weeks ago he ambushed Peter Dunne in a select committee with off topic accusations. So crying about an ambush hypocritical from him, as usual.