June 07, 2005

Corrections and Clarifications, and all that that implies

Ben Thomas writes…

Student reporter and internet diarist Keith Ng demands "satisfaction" after a mention of his weblog, Poll Dancer, in this week's Hive Mentality in the NBR (available now, not online).
As strange as it may seem from his two blog entries referring to us, the mention didn't refer to his dress sense, the publication he works for, or even his appearance. We like reading Poll Dancer. Sometimes we agree with Ng. Sometimes we don't.
Ng objects to our description of his tale of a specific instance of homosexuality in the National party as having "the odour of an urban legend". He had ostensibly recounted the story to argue that some topics should stay off limits from media speculation.

That some National MPs in the past, present and in the future may be, have been and will be gay is, as Ng acknowledges, banal (the word he was presumably searching for with when he said 'mundane'). But to use this as some kind of revelation in an online diary entry about suppression of information makes its use (Reporter Reveals Tory is Homo!) overblown and, like most banalities, cliched.

As we noted, this particular story can't be corroborated by parliamentary staffing records: No male National MP has had a male secretary for a considerable time. Ng responds: "The story of the MP with the secretary is rather dated". I first heard a similar story in 1998 as a University undergraduate in Auckland. Maybe it is the same story about the same MP. Or maybe these rumours are ubiquitous in every age. But an aspiring journalist like Ng might want a better source for his news than 'everyone just, like, knows'.

Particularly when using the alleged episode to illustrate how responsibly the Gallery wields its insider knowledge.

Ng states he needs to defend his honour, in light of his belief that "[Hive Mentality was] counting my words towards a 'vicious whispering campaign', with all that that implies."

The words "vicious whispering campaign" referred to a separate incident. However, if Ng's reportage was intended to illustrate a point rather than merely titillate, it seemed jarring to us that he chose to name the political party concerned. If salaciousness was not part of the piece's agenda, why even mention that the alleged secretary was male? (No National Party member opposed the CUB on the grounds that homosexuality per se was wrong, so the 'hypocrisy' argument seems odd. I'm straight and I supported the CUB; David's gay and he opposed it. That doesn't make us 'hypocritical').

Ng's claim that I dress poorly is at least verifiable and accurate. But he got scooped on that story years ago by Olivia Kember and David W Young.



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