Written By: - Date published: 11:35 am, March 17th, 2010 - 57 comments
Categories: articles - Tags: charles chauvel, clint heine, dita de boni, fred phillips, homophobia, nz herald, stephanie phillips
The New Zealand Herald has never been shy of attacking blogs for their lack of journalistic standards and editorial rigour, but given some of the paper’s recent work you’ve got to wonder who they think they’re kidding.
Take today’s piece by Dita De Boni pontificating about Charles Chauvel and those screaming kids on his plane.
The piece is simply woeful. De Boni can’t even get the identity of the main protaganist right, referring to the blogger in question as “Clint Heine”. Just amateurish. Clint is the owner of the blog, the guy who made the attacks on Chauvel is Wellington orthopaedic surgeon and ACT Party activist Fred Phillips*.
It gets worse. De Boni’s intro to the piece declares: “Sometimes child-free adults need to have some sympathy for parents of noisy and fractious children on planes”, obviously making the assumption that because Chauvel is gay he doesn’t understand what it’s like to have kids.
It’s no wonder she got this impression from the news coverage. Fred Phillips and his wife Stephanie have been pushing the homophobic dogwhistle for all it’s worth, telling TVNZ “the pre-schoolers were well-behaved and Charles Chauvel just is not used to kids.”
But of course, Charles does have a kid. As Zet put it last night:
Gotta love that ACT woman saying Chauvel wouldn’t know what it’s like to have a young family. A variation of the line the Right used to use on Clark. In fact, Chauvel has a four year old son. I know! A gay with a kid! Carter and Hague have children too. What a world!
De Boni, like many journalists, simply hasn’t done her research. She’s picked up on yet another a right-wing smear campaign aimed at targeting a gay Labour MP for his sexuality and has repeated the story with framing intact. No fact-checking, no critical analysis. In fact, not once does she mention that an ACT Party activist might have a political interest in embellishing the story or even lying to make Chauvel look bad.
The fault isn’t entirely hers though. She’s sloppy, but she’s hardly the first columnist to be guilty of that. The real fault lies with the Herald’s failure to fact check her or require some basic research and critical analysis from its writers. It’s a basic failure of editorial standards.
As I said yesterday, this is what happens when the right’s smear machine meets an increasingly tabloid news media. There’s more of this dirty personal smearing to come, and I’d suggest Labour gets a strategy in place soon to counter it. Using Charles’ excellent front-footing of this issue as a case study would be a good place to start.
[The Standard was informed of Fred Phillips’ identity yesterday afternoon but chose not to publish it in the interests of his privacy. Now that the name has been published in the Dominion Post it is in the public realm.]