Hard News by Russell Brown

1095

So far from trivial

If the gruesome detail we've heard about Tony Veitch's assault on his former partner has made its way past Fairfax's lawyers, and has not attracted even the hint of a denial from Veitch, then we can assume it is broadly true. In which case, it's hard to see that the police had an option but to investigate.

Should there be a prosecution, it seems reasonable to speculate that an assault that broke four vertebrae and put the victim out of work for six months would put the perpetrator at peril of a jail term. It is so far from trivial.

Even if he has turned a corner -- and anyone capable of such a sustained, vicious assault as this one probably has something in his personality not easily rooted out -- Veitch warrants little sympathy.

There will be a clause in his contract about bringing his employer into disrepute; it's the quid pro quo for the large premium that being a public face adds to the income of a TV presenter. I have something similar in my contract for an independently-produced programme, and (for obvious reasons) I had to submit to a background check before appearing in the Families Commission's family violence campaign.

I am struck by how much that campaign -- coincidentally back on our screens -- has been in the conversation around this. It tends to bear out the research published earlier this year, which found a very impressive 89% recognition rate for "It's Not Okay". One in five respondents said they had taken action as a result of the campaign.

(John Key, frankly, picked the wrong week to drop hints about preventing the commission from undertaking such activities -- in favour of "supporting everyday parents" -- under a National government.)

Before I appeared in the campaign I discussed, with a Women's Refuge worker, this 2005 Listener column about the media storm around a rugby player who admitted manhandling his wife in an incident that undoubtedly constituted an assault (and was properly brought to court), but hardly bears comparison with what Veitch is said to have done.

The player was granted name suppression at the request of the victim, prompting Michael Laws to express outrage and declare that the player should be "named and shamed". Laws and others held that there was clearly one law for All Blacks and one for the rest of us.

I found out a little about the judge who had heard the case, in which the assault was readily admitted, and was inclined to trust his view that the victim's request for anonymity came from a genuine desire to avoid the trauma of a media spectacle, rather than through duress.

The view I advanced in the column was that that case became principally about the needs and desires of the news media, rather than the best interests of the family involved. When a Herald on Sunday editorial demanded a Ricky Ponting-style confessional, it was hardly a call devoid of self-interest. What better to stuff your paper with?

This is the option that Veitch, a sports journalist, has taken: the sportsman's path to redemption; the media conference confessional. I'm no more inclined to believe in its redemptive qualities than I was in the case of the rugby player: it is a public relations exercise, by definition.

Anyway, after that nuanced discussion, in which the good faith of both sides was established, I went ahead with the campaign, and I feel nothing but good about doing so. It has been a privilege to be involved with it. My personal presence in the campaign -- this time around, I am not just a minor media figure, but a TVNZ presenter -- presumably plays in some small way into TVNZ's deliberations about the matter of Veitch, but I don't think it really matters.

I am perhaps in a tricky position to say this (and I don't envy those tasked with making the decision), but I speak as a man, and not a face on the telly, when I say that it's hard to see how Veitch can continue for now in his broadcast roles. That doesn't mean he can never be redeemed, but the conflict between the friendly face of the channel and the thug who has emerged in the news is just too great to carry on as if it never happened.

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On a wholly different tip, this week's Media7, on the media and sustainability, and how green is the new black, is lots of fun. The panel: the editor of the Woman's Weekly Sido Kitchin; Good magazine publisher Vincent Heeringa and the splendidly curmudgeonly Clive Matthew-Wilson.

As usual, you may choose from the TVNZ ondemand version, the Windows Media clips, the podcast and our YouTube channel.

Want to discuss it? It might be tidier to pop over to our ongoing discussion thread about the issue after you have watched the show.

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And, finally, a fascinating essay on the Pew website about the changing face of evangelical Christianity in America, in a year when the decisions of people of faith may have great political bearing. I am, as you know, not a believer, but I'd love to have such an authoritative eye as Pew's on our own Christian movements.

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