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Date Posted: 14:27:28 03/12/04 Fri
Author: jason brown
Subject: Tonga or Rarotonga?
Kia ora na. The so-called Pitt Media Group is quite right to state that we should be careful of government seeking controls over the media. That is true of any government, not just this one.
However the point must again be made that the Pitt Media Group is not part of the news media. They do not follow any rules of the news media. Most importantly, they do not have a code of ethics.
Unless the Pitts agree to play by the rules, and follow a code of ethics, they cannot and should not expect to be considered part of the news media industry.
Just last night, CITV News Director Nannette Woonton-Pitt ended her story on media reform by saying words to the effect that 'some people say these are the actions of an arrogant government - what do you think?'
Innocent enough by third world standards perhaps, except such on-air editorialising may look much less cute when it is the night before general elections and the proposed complaints council cannot rule until after people of this sovereign nation have voted.
By operating far outside of accepted norms of news media operation, the Pitts may think they are being clever, but they are really just being arrogant themselves.
Their track record reveals little to be arrogant about.
For years, the Pitts have placed themselves in conflict of interest situations with government. Not just once, but half a dozen times, at least those we know about. Consultancies, jobs, and contracts, gaining them hundreds of thousands of dollars ahead of their independent competitors, while at the same time claiming to cover the news "without fear or favour."
For years also they have mounted a concerted and consistent campaign of personal attacks against their critics. I have been described as a homosexual stalker, a dishonest drug dealer, as a reporter with ethics for sale, the list goes on and on, all the way back to 1998, when the Pitts first got into the news media.
At times, I have felt completely disheartened at their cynical manipulation and degradation of an industry I love dearly, as well as deeply depressed by their personal attacks. When he was still at school, my son told me about being asked by his mates whether the "stories" about me being homosexual were true. They were and are not, but the fact that the Pitts seek to denegrate the professional standing of a colleague by attempting to raise doubts about their sexuality - and, worse, allege dishonesty about their sexuality - is one of the lowest and most contemptuous misuses of the media.
Soon after, George Pitt admitted their newspaper items suffer "embellishment" and should be regarded as "entertainment." He never explains this in print. In front of a regional audience of media reps, the same man proudly declared "Your journalistic ethics don't make me any money."
His newspapers reflect this view.
Stories in his newspapers regularly accuse people of "lies" while his gossip column in the Cook Islands Herald regularly features sleazy anectodes about sexual exploits, including one particularly nauseating reference to stains left on a desk.
This in the same paper that features the pre-teen daughter of one of the shareholders as a kiddie's columnist. It's a good column, but what are readers her age supposed to learn from the rest of the Pitt paper?
In other words, the Pitt Media Group displays a teeth grindingly brazen contempt for any of the standards of the news media industry and the sacrifice made by many others. For them to claim solidarity with the brave efforts of the media in Tonga is just yet another example of their ability to take half a truth and twist it beyond recognition.
I just pray that by the time my second son is old enough to care about what is in the newspaper that the Pitts unique brand of septic tank news will be no more than a fading memory.
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