In Joanne Black’s defence of her journalistic ethics (Listener 9 January 2010), which had come under scrutiny from Mediawatch, she refers to me as “that famously impartial observer on this matter [the Cartwright Inquiry], Sandra Coney”.
I was not an “observer” at all, but the co-author of the “unfortunate experiment” article that brought about the Inquiry in 1987 and a party and participant in it. That article was upheld by a judicial inquiry, so why the sarcasm?
Black then goes on to say that I was the source of the statement in Mediawatch that the Listener had accepted embargo conditions from the publisher of Linda Bryder’s book that prevented anyone else being included in her article. She says that in saying this, I was correct.
Indeed I got this information from Black herself when she offered me a “right of reply”. The publisher’s embargo was her excuse for not having interviewed me for the original article, which a balanced story required. Black then does not tell her readers that I challenged her and the Listener for accepting this condition. I pointed out to her that the Listener could have refused this condition, which prevented balance and fairness. The fact that Radio New Zealand also accepted this condition is simply depressing, rather than the let-out Black seems to think it is. In my view, this is contrary to good journalism ethics and practice.
This was the reason I did not take up the right of reply Black offered. I had lost trust in the Listener’s impartiality. The way the Listener behaved over subsequent issues confirmed my assessment. Comments from my co-author Phillida Bunkle were accompanied by rebuttals from Linda Bryder, as was the article by Professors Charlotte Paul and Linda Holloway, and letters to the editor.
The Listener, and Joanne Black, lost a lot of credibility through this episode.