The original accusation was written by a waitress and was anonymous. Of course there would be an immediate hunt to find the woman and get her story. It is a competitive industry, therefore when I saw an announcement by the editor of the New Zealand Herald that they had an exclusive with the woman, I thought it was a good “get”. But perhaps not. I want to address what I believe to be misrepresentation by the woman who got the story, Rachel Glucina. Her biography on the Herald site says she is “New Zealand’s reigning gossip queen, notorious for breaking celebrity scoops and dishing dirt on the country’s best known personalities.”
She certainly gets her scoops but at what cost? The story appeared addressing the waitress’s concerns and that of her employer. But soon, another story emerged saying it had been won by subterfuge.
The waitress, now named as Amanda Bailey, claimed she was told the “Rachel” she was talking to was a public relations professional. On hearing the person’s full name, Bailey discovered who she really was.
In a later conversation Bailey said she made it clear her comments were given “under false pretences, not to mention completely out of context” and that she “retracted her permission for her quotes and photograph to be used as a story.”
This sounds murky. Looking at Glucina’s story, it seems rather stiff. It does not read like a tell-all, sit down interview with the woman behind the ponytail. The quotes used are whole and grammatically correct which takes some very good shorthand or a recording. This assumes there is a solid account of the interview, either in note form or as an audio file.
So when the waitress’s account of Glucina’s approach was published, there were important questions to be asked of the reporter’s method. You can bet the editor and the reporter had a long chat in an office somewhere. Oh, and a lawyer too.
The Herald issued a carefully-worded statement which was uploaded and deleted and revised three times. The editor did not appear on any other media to front the issue, which is a shame because that is what we expect other people to do.
Journalism is a noble profession, we are told. And we believe it because there are shoulders that we are standing on, journalists who have held powerful people to account and continue to do so.
Consistently during my time in this fast-changing industry, we are told that we must get things right because every mistake erodes the public’s trust.
I believe the waitress in this situation but let’s say there was room for confusion. The onus is on the journalist to make sure her interview subject understood what she was being interviewed for and to assure her editor of the same.
We do not yet have all the information and I hope it comes in time. But let’s remember Amanda Bailey is not a public figure who has been trained in facing the media. She is not someone who has badly engineered a building, she does not run a dodgy business or traffic people for exploitation. She doesn’t know the game and she does not deserve to have her ponytail pulled or to be tricked by media.
In the meantime I feel let down and furious on behalf of working journalists who want to do a good job. I believe the ethics and principles of journalism should be reread by everyone in our industry. I think this one might go to Press Council and I hope for all our sakes that Glucina got it right.