Brian Edwards Media

Gutter Journalism from the Sunday Herald and the Sunday Star Times

If you’ve ever wondered why journalists are among our least respected trades, have a look at yesterday’s Sunday Herald and Sunday Star Times.

Both tabloids carry stories about inappropriate relationships between teachers and their pupils. Among what journos like to call ‘sexy stories’ this brand of story may well be the sexiest. Why? Because they appeal to the most prurient fantasies of readers. Because the real people in these stories have actually done the very thing that so many men (and seemingly women) have only thought about – had sex with a schoolgirl or schoolboy.

This is not only the stuff of pornography, it is written into popular culture, from the girls of St Trinians, to the lyrics of The Police’s Don’t Stand So Close To me:

I’ve taught at school, polytechnic and university. Do you think that teachers and pupils at those institutions don’t have those thoughts? Then you are out of touch with reality. They do.

What makes these relationships dangerously inappropriate is the imbalance in age, experience and power between student and teacher. But it is futile to deny that strong emotional and sexual attractions can occur between pupil and mentor, particularly when the age gap between them is relatively small. Two such cases feature in today’s Sunday Herald and Sunday Star Times.

The Sunday Herald story makes it to the front page. I’d like to show you the garish headlines, but to do that I’d have to include the name and photograph of the female teacher and her former male pupil, now fiancée and father of their 4-month old baby. I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to contribute to this witch-hunt.

So here are the headlines without the photographs or names:

CLASSROOM SEX SHOCK

Teacher has baby to pupil

*She slept with a student four years ago

*They are now engaged

*They have a 4-month-old baby 

*They are teaching at college

 *She was never investigated.

There’s a photograph of the two of them together four years ago. They make a lovely couple.  She looks slightly older than him, an effect emphasised by the braces on his teeth. They look extremely happy.

The story inside reveals that, four years since the Sunday Herald (proudly) exposed their relationship, they are still together. They have a four-year-old child and are engaged to be married. She is teaching at a North Island High School; he is a part-time music tutor who also hopes to be a teacher. The headmaster of the school where she is teaching regards her as an ‘excellent’ teacher who deserves a second chance in the profession.

This looks like a pretty successful relationship and a pretty satisfactory outcome: two young people, both employed, living happily together, caring for their baby, planning to get married, ambitious for their future.

Whoa! Got to put a stop to that. Got to destroy these careers. Got to wreck this little family.

That is one of the twin purposes of this story. The second is to titillate and at the same time allow the readers of this crap publication to express their righteous indignation. There are levels of hypocrisy in this sort of journalism that defy description. If I were Rachel Grunwell who wrote this story, I would be hiding my head in shame. Have you no conscience, woman, no self-respect? And were you with the cameraman who photographed the teacher getting out of her car in the street? She looks upset in the photograph. But hey, Rachel, you’re only doing your job, aren’t you?

Meanwhile, the Sunday Star Times has its own grubby little story from Susan Pepperell  on teacher/student shenanigans.  In this story, the teacher has been found guilty of hitting his 11-year old son on the head with an open hand and shoving his eight-year-old daughter off the bed so that she hit her head on the floor. That’s not good and publication of what happened is in the public interest.  But is what follows either relevant or in the public interest?

‘ X was accompanied to court by his pregnant second wife Y, a former student at Z College whom X taught. The Sunday Star Times understands Y was X’s babysitter but the couple moved in together as soon as she left school.’

Say no more… nudge nudge… wink wink… know what I mean? And in case you missed the point, there’s a photo of Y (circled) in her school uniform with her classmates at Z College.

Is this what you went to journalism school for, Susan?  To write stuff like this?

So, if you’ve ever wondered  why journalists are down there with politicians and used-car dealers as being among the least respected and least trusted trades, these examples of sleaze reporting in publications which masquerade as responsible journals, but are really no different to The Mirror or The Sun, and considerably less honest, may go some way to making things clearer.

But remember, they’re catering for you, their readers.

, , ,

22 Comments:

  1. Two different stories – completely differnt

  2. What annoys me about this is the increased frequency of these and other bad news education stories that paint teachers in a bad light. It seems to coincide with the fact that we as teachers are renegotiating our employment agreements and in both primary and secondary sectors seem to be getting nowhere. So if we ask for anything remotely reasonable public opinion will be against us because of these stories.

    • What annoys me about this is the increased frequency of these and other bad news education stories that paint teachers in a bad light. It seems to coincide with the fact that we as teachers are renegotiating our employment agreements and in both primary and secondary sectors seem to be getting nowhere

      I can understand how you might feel that. But I really doubt that this has anything to do with your negotiations. These are just sensationalist sex stories designed to increase circulation.

  3. I drew my line in the sand – I’m sick of being sucked into the game of bringing readers to advertisers using lies, scandal and celebrity nonsense. I no longer get Saturday or Sunday papers nor do I subscribe to any others bar the one daily I need for work and the free community newspapers. I get my news and current affairs off the net and selected blogs. I don’t watch much tv for the same reason and have chosen to spend the money I save not buying papers and mags on MySky. I fast forward thru the endless ads and record only the programmes I want to watch when I want to watch them. Haven’t watched a single commercial for 6 months. Advertisers, it’s your loss if you choose to associate your products and services with this rubbish.

    • I drew my line in the sand – I’m sick of being sucked into the game of bringing readers to advertisers using lies, scandal and celebrity nonsense.

      Praise be MySky. Like you, I haven’t watched an ad in living memory.

  4. I agree with arandar.My sky has limited my ad viewing and I also get to watch what I want when I want to.I consider that eventually the ability to expose legitimate stories may be lost when censorship has to be instigated to protect people from this type of pointless dross.

  5. Great post. It’s good to see the papers being taken to task for this kind of crass garbage. I suppose it would be too much to expect change, thought. As we’ve seen with other recent “scandals” that wouldn’t exist if not for the media (Koran burning, anyone?) the more people see through the hypocrisy, the more they seem to trumpet it.

  6. Couldn’t agree more, Brian. I wonder if these were the reporters who were also responsible for the sexual harrassment charges against Bailey Junior Kurariki?

    • Couldn’t agree more, Brian. I wonder if these were the reporters who were also responsible for the sexual harrassment charges against Bailey Junior Kurariki?

      I don’t know about that, but I do know that the media coverage of Bailey Junior after he left prison made any hope of is his successful reintegration into society virtually impossible.

  7. “I don’t know about that, but I do know that the media coverage of Bailey Junior after he left prison made any hope of is his successful reintegration into society virtually impossible”.

    Can’t blame the media for what is essentially worthless trash. The sooner this scumbag “exits”, the better for all.

    • Can’t blame the media for what is essentially worthless trash. The sooner this scumbag “exits”, the better for all.

      You are devoid of understanding of what leads to criminal behaviour. Why don’t you find another site that suits your stone-age intelligence. I sure as hell don’t want you on mine.

  8. “But remember, they’re catering for you, their readers.”

    They ain’t catering for me ever since I discovered that I could but but lavatory paper at the supermarket.

    We now have News of the World (or as Private Eye prefers, News of the Screws) journalism in NZ and it works – just check the recent circulation figures. I fear that as the Internet puts the squeeze on newspapers this type of trash will become increasingly common.

    So it is now the Sunday Screws or the Screws on Sunday. What a choice!

    • We now have News of the World (or as Private Eye prefers, News of the Screws) journalism in NZ and it works

      Well, that was precisely my point. If there were no audience for this sort of stuff, they wouldn’t print it. Surprisingly, Ben, by ‘you’ I didn’t mean you personally. Cheers.

  9. “Surprisingly, Ben, by ‘you’ I didn’t mean you personally.”

    I did realise that; I am not that gormless!!

    My response was meant to be a general point.

  10. PS

    I think you are 100% right on the Bailey Junior case. If there was a chance of successsful rehabiltation the media killed it. And of course if he offends seriously again the media will forget their shameful role and scream for the sacking of the Parole Board and use expressions like throwing away the key.

  11. I have walked past the Sunday papers on sale recently and oft been reminded of the Truth or Sunday News..The front pages from the tabloid size one at least is very reminiscent of the old days. One can see why ‘the tabloids’ has become the generic term for rubbish papers in the UK.

  12. i’m sure it wouldn’t take much to expose the sordid life of a sunday papers journo by following them around, taking inappropriate pictures and haranguing them for a comment once a bit of dirt has been uncovered, then blogging it up with a bit of spin for maximum exposure…

    do these journos not understand they are subject to the same scrutiny they subject their ‘targets’ to and that when the shoe is on the other foot, having friends in the biz, who would have closed up shop previously, will now be baying for blood as loudly as those they once hounded ?

    my advice to them is, pray you’re truly squeaky clean in your glass house or risk becoming the next Darren McDonald or Tony Veitch

  13. What seems lost in all this is that the SST story about Owen Roper was about a teacher who was convicted (yes convicted) of assaulting his own children, that was the essence of the story – that he had set up house with one of his former students was a secondary point. I think Brian in your eagerness to find a story that suits your agenda you’ve taken a long bow to this one. I personally think it’s in the public interest for guys like Roper to be exposed: i certainly don’t want him teaching my daughter. The other story I can take or leave, it’s meaningless but a teacher convicted of assaulting his own kids is relatively important don’t you think?

  14. Natasha Miller is not the first teacher at Tararua College to fall for a pupil.

    During the 60s, when I was a pupil there, at least two such affairs were conducted.

    The teachers were men, one was married, and the other was a good 20 years older than the girl. They later married, and the last I was interested enough to check, they were still so.

    Some years later I was told of a third such affair at Tararua, and it concerned a woman teacher playing off another teacher and a senior boy against each other.

    I have also been told, anecdotally, of teacher-pupil relationships at the college in the 70s and 80s.

    Who knew that in cold, wet Pahiatua such passions could seethe and forment ….

  15. 15

    WASP (and proud of it)

    It’s not “Gutter Journalism”, (as you so quaintly put it). The crux of the story wasn’t so much about the nature of the teacher-student affair (to titillate prurient fantasies) as it was about the teacher not suffering censure and any consequences.

    You are way OTT, describing the Sunday papers as “tabloid”; hysterical, in fact.

    • WASP (and proud of it)

      I’m always amused by people who take pride in genetic accidents over which they had no control. You had no choice but to be white and Anglo Saxon. And you’re probably Protestant because your parents were.

  16. @pollywog

    “do these journos not understand they are subject to the same scrutiny they subject their ‘targets’ to and that when the shoe is on the other foot, having friends in the biz, etc.”

    I’m sure you know this but excuse me while I say it anyway. We cannot blame many journos in New Zealand. Journalism is long since professionalised. A lot of journalists are careerists, and this does not put them immediately at fault. The problem arises when careerists place themselves in the hands of networks and publications that – since 1984 especially – apply a business model to journalism, which we all know contributes to a dilution of journalistic integrity.

    I do not *entirely* blame the journalist of the Sunday Star Times or the Dom Post for a pap piece. Some blame must always be reserved for those who tell them where to go, and what story (and what narrative) to return with. To do otherwise would place their employment in risk.