Brian Edwards Media

Relatives of victims of the Carterton balloon tragedy write to me about the Herald

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post highly critical of the Herald for its coverage of the Carterton balloon tragedy in which 11 people lost their lives. The tabloid had interviewed a clinical psychologist, one Barry Kirker, who speculated not only on what would have been going through the minds of the victims as they faced certain death but on how their friends and loved ones might be feeling as well.

The children who gave their parents a ride on the ill-fated balloon would, he said,  ‘be consumed with feelings of guilt and regret despite others telling them it was not their fault.  They would also be thinking that other family members would be blaming them for their parents’ deaths, even though that wouldn’t be true at all.’

Mr Kirker’s speculations also included the observation that ‘the scenario was similar to that of the 9/11 victims, and the terror attacks might have put the thought to jump in Chrisjan Jordaan’s and Alexis Still’s  minds.’

And, in case Herald readers were wondering who jumped first:

‘Mr Kirker said it would usually be the man who would take the lead in that situation and would suggest jumping from the basket to the woman.’

I expressed myself disgusted with the rank insensitivity of this piece of crass sensationalism. Most followers of this site agreed.

Since the post appeared, I have received emails from Wayne Hopping, a cousin of balloon pilot, Lance, and from Vidi Chandra whose parents Howard and Diana Cox died in the disaster: Their comments about the Herald speak for themselves.

 Wayne Hopping wrote:

Thank-you, Mr. Edwards, for your article revealing evidence of how the mainstream media conflate entertainment with news. It is no wonder they’re in critical care and on life support, waiting for someone to pull their plug. That couldn’t happen soon enough!

Some of my family members are haunted by Lance’s last few moments of life without The Herald employing staff whose emotions supercede logic and covet pseudo-science flatulence to disguise that as news. They only add to our grief. Shame on them!

This is the email I received a couple of days ago from Vidi Chandra:

Dear Brian

Your post on the unhelpful and unseemly speculation on the balloon crash last moments by the ‘expert’ filled me with hope that there it’s not just me that finds this outrageous and disgusting reporting.

I am one of the children mentioned in the article which speculates I will be  ‘filled with the natural feelings of regret’. I neither gave my parents the balloon ride as a gift nor ‘watched in horror as it erupted in a ball of flames’. Never let the facts get in the way of a good story.

My partner complained to the NZ Herald but they have not replied. I am about to ask them to take the article down again.

I found a reporter hiding in the garden of my mother’s house who identified himself as working for the NZ Herald in the days after the tragedy. They are truly scum.

Thank you for sticking up for standards of reporting and decency, I have always valued your opinion and respected your work.

Kindest regards




  1. I can’t agree with you more, Brian, but I am very skeptical that your (or anyone else’s) comments-pieces on the standards of journalism in New Zealand will do very much good. It seems to me that too often the reporting is as much about the reporter as it is about the ‘news’ they are bringing to our notice. Sadly they can’t even argue that their insensitive stories are written (or brought to TV)is about circulation- we’re a captive market that has to take the bad with the not-so-bad if we want to stay informed.

  2. There seems to be a media mentality that any means is justified to get a story, it’s become all about them and nothing or nobody else counts.

    Maybe their worst excesses should be collated and publicised online.

  3. This be the reason, a year after graduating and working in journalism, I want out.

  4. Kudos to you Brian, appreciated your original article and this follow up.

    Best wishes for 2012!

  5. Hid out in a garden?
    Get his name and publish it.

  6. If only the effort that went into this emotional porn went into actual newsgathering.