Monday, 6 August 2007

Otago newspaper telling big white lies?

Dunedin's leading daily newspaper, the Otago Daily Times, seems to be taking an economical approach to the truth, with a mini-debate heating up over who took the first steps on the icebergs which appeared off the coast of Otago last November.

The ODT's Illustrations editor, Stephen Jaquiery, claimed in a recent article that he was the first local media person to set foot on one of the bergs. Jaquiery has repeated this assertion in subsequent media interviews, both in print and on radio.

One of the later Icebergs to visit the south
However, Damon Forde, a Dunedin-based cameraman with 3News, insists Jaquiery is telling "frozen pork pies", and says he was in fact the first one on that media helicopter flight to set foot on the ice.

TV footage taken by Forde clearly show him stepping out onto an empty ice-scape, with Jaquiery's red jumpsuit not making an appearance for another 20 seconds. Footage shot from a second camera (by 3News reporter Mark Price) confirms this story, showing Jaquiery still sitting beside him in the helicopter with the door closed after Forde's exit.

In a (largely unpublished) ODT 'Letter to the Editor', Forde writes...
"Unlike the question mark over who actually first set foot on the summit of Everest... and the current speculation over whether Neil Armstrong actually went to the moon that day, I can confirm a 3News foot was actually the first to set down on the first iceberg.

I have the very foot here with me now and, one day, I expect it will have its own glass case at the museum.

I also have one video shot of a Jaquiery-free iceberg - shot from the ice - followed by another as the helicopter door opens and Mr Jaquiery takes his one small step."
Jaquiery - no doubt keen to keep his good party story intact for the grandkids (and his boss) - has vehemently denied TV3's version of events... despite (or perhaps in spite of) the video evidence ;-)

One of the most picturesque Icebergs
But this raises the interesting question... if the newspaper (formerly known as New Zealand's Best Daily Newspaper of the Year) is skating on thin ice with the truth in this story, how much faith can we have in the accuracy of their everyday reporting on other local issues?

The ODT has been heavily promoting a new book on the Icebergs by Dave Cull, which happens to feature photographs by Stephen Jaquiery, and has apparently already sold more than 3,500 copies.

The ODT reportedly paid for only one of their flights to the visiting icebergs... but has scored big, taking in over $16,000 in local photo sales, as well as collecting a sizeable sum in royalties for photos sold to other publications around the world.

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