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Mainstream media jumps on ', ' bandwagon, fucks up pretty bad

Laura McQuillan

News

14/05/2007





VUWSA exec contemplating Press Council action, VSM supporters wetting pants
The VUWSA exec made national headlines once again last week for a night of antics in March involving psychic hotlines and office graffiti.

The antics of Welfare Vice-President Heleyni Pratley and (now sacked) Women’s Right’s Officer Clelia Opie made headlines in the Sunday Star-Times, the Wellingtonian (where it was the front page story!) and Radio New Zealand.
The Star-Times article, ‘Uni Seeks Costs Of Psychic Calls By Drunk Student’, reported on both Pratley graffiting the VUWSA office in a drunken rampage and Opie racking up over $4000 in 0900 calls to psychic hotlines.
As all of the participants in the events declined to comment on the issue, much of the article was sourced from an anonymous comment on the Salient website, and previous articles in Salient.
However, it contained a number of factual inaccuracies, which, at the time of writing, have yet to be corrected on the online copy on stuff.co.nz – despite being contacted by Salient writers on the day the story came out.
The Star Times misquoted Salient about what Pratley’s graffiti entailed, and neglected to add that Opie was not an elected student official. In fact, she had been co-opted to the exec, after Amy Mitchell – the WRO elected in last October’s general election – resigned before the university year began.
Opie was later removed from her position by an exec motion to rescind her co-option, and a staff member has filed a complaint to the university about Pratley for a breach of student conduct.
The Star Times article also confused that the VUWSA exec’s attempts to retrieve the costs were being made by the university, and suggested that the psychic hotline calls were made to a single number during the one night, which Salient can now reveal was not the case. The title also suggests Opie was drunk at the time the calls were made – which Salient has never reported to be the case.
The article also, quite mistakenly, referred to Salient as “the student union’s website”.
Star Times editor Cate Brett declined Salient’s interview request, stating in an email that “The Sunday Star Times’ piece was drawn entirely from the President’s report and your own and other student accounts of the incident.”
Brett continued: “When members of the student leadership body behave in such a fashion, it is certainly a matter of public interest.”
A Google search revealed that the story’s author, Lois Watson, has worked in journalism for around thirteen years (including two as Chief Reporter at The Press in Christchurch) and has a Qantas Media Award and a Jubilee Prize to her name.
A profile of Watson on Writerfind.com reads: “During her career she has specialised in local government and health reporting, but can turn her hand to any topic and has a knack for simplifying complex issues for the everyday reader.”
We at Salient believe she may have taken the ‘simplification’ to an extreme.
VUWSA President Geoff Hayward says the executive is currently contemplating its response, including a complaint to the Press Council.

Laura McQuillan With some MSM hate from Nicola Kean