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Marshalling the facts?

By Steven | March 31, 2011

You may recall that I blogged about a student who accused journalist Jonathan Marshall of trying to persuade him to lie to university staff to extract information from them. The Sunday Star-Times’ editor called it “complete fantasy”.

I’ve just had another long conversation with the student concerned. His memory of Jonathan’s approach is detailed. He says it happened after a tutorial at 2:30pm on Friday. He says a tall, lean, brown-haired man approached him as he left a university building. The man was wearing a dark suit without a tie, and was accompanied by another man, who was about 40, with brown hair and stubble. The first man looked familiar. The man introduced himself as “Jonathan from the Sunday Star-Times”. The student now recognises him as Jonathan Marshall.

He says Jonathan struck up a conversation about the Darren Hughes incident and asked him, among other things, where the complainant was likely to have his classes, whether there was a bar on campus, and which bars first-year students hang out in.

At one point, he says, Jonathan asked whether he would be prepared to go to the office and say he was a long-lost friend of the complainant, that he wanted to catch up with him, and find out where his classes were. (He refused, but didn’t say to Jonathan’s face that the idea was “morally bankrupt”: that was something he told me and I wrongly thought he’d said it to Jonathan, so I’ve deleted that from the original post).

The student has no reason to lie that is apparent to me. He says he discussed his experience with his father and flatmates before he told me.  I found him convincing. I note that Jonathan was himself seen in a nearby university office shortly afterward, wearing a dark suit and no tie.

I don’t think it can really be said that there is “nothing to suggest this supposed incident ever took place” or that it is “complete fantasy”. I think there are good reasons to suspect that Marshall did try to encourage a student to lie for him to get information about the complainant for his story.

I might add that, even if it did happen, there is an interesting debate to be had about whether it’s wrong (or always wrong) for journalists to do that sort of thing.

Topics: Media ethics | 10 Comments »

10 Responses to “Marshalling the facts?”

  1. metanarratives Says:
    April 1st, 2011 at 1:21 pm

    The reply from editor David Kemey is interesting, for its contradictions. He admits something did happen (“I have checked with people who were actually there”), but then states there is “nothing to suggest this supposed incident ever took place.” Something obviously did happen, he admits it himself. There was an appearance at the university – but he disputes the details? Perhaps Jonathan didn’t “ask” the student to go to a university admin person, but merely suggested. In your initial post you state the student was “asked” whilst in this post you state the student was “encouraged” or that “Jonathan asked whether he would be prepared” (not actually directly asking, but inquiring about his disposition towards it).

    One would think SST would be able to provide something to support their position, interesting that Jonathan has not replied (even though he criticised you for not seeking comment). When Jonathan approaches people does he carry some kind of recording device? He has had claims about the accuracy of his work in the past.

  2. AndyB Says:
    April 4th, 2011 at 1:20 pm

    Jonathan Marshall seems to be morally bankrupt, evidenced in many of his tactics and his apparent disregard for the lives of those he reports on, and their loved ones.

    Having said that, these tactics are obviously highly prized in his profession and I have no doubt he would be egged on and celebrated by his superiors at SST.

  3. Aaron and Andy.com — Gay reporter criticised Says:
    April 4th, 2011 at 1:29 pm

    […] lawyer Steven Price blogged about the events and stands by his version of the story, told by the student Marshall approached. […]

  4. metanarratives Says:
    April 6th, 2011 at 6:06 pm

    Steven,

    Any up-date on this? I saw nothing in the SST on Sunday.

  5. Steven Says:
    April 6th, 2011 at 6:16 pm

    No update. I’m not sure the SST has much interest in airing this issue any further.

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