Herald's John & Bronagh holiday pics a privacy invasion without news merit?

KeallHauled

Chris Keall

Privacy Commissioner John Edwards

The NZ Herald's exclusive paparazzi pics of John and Bronagh on holiday in Hawaii appear, on the face of things, to be a privacy invasion without any news merit  — "news activity" being a criterion for a newspaper to be exempt from the Privacy Act.

They capture the former PM reaching for a cup of coffee, squinting at a stack of brochures and standing around while his car fills with petrol.

None of it seems in the national interest (or indeed, of any interest; those intent on seeing John Key at leisure photos would be better off hitting his son's Instagram account. The story ends with the line "Key could not be reached for comment" though it's not clear what comment he could make; perhaps: "Yes, I did stand there as my car filled with petrol.")

The Herald bought the photos from AKM-GSI, a celebrity photo agency based in LA.

I asked Privacy Commissioner if the fact the sneaky photos were taken in the US, by a US company, would hinder the Keys' chances of making a complaint to his office, should they choose to go that route.

"The bigger obstacle the Keys would face would be the news media exemption from the Privacy Act. The Herald would claim that it received and published the photos in accordance with its 'news activity'," Mr Edwards replied.

The Act defines news activity as:

(a) the gathering of news, or the preparation or compiling of articles or programmes of or concerning news, observations on news, or current affairs, for the purposes of dissemination to the public or any section of the public:

(b) the dissemination, to the public or any section of the public, of any article or programme of or concerning—

(i) news:

(ii) observations on news:

(iii) current affairs

"In terms of going after the photographers, or the agencies that supplied security cam footage, it would depend on the laws applying in Hawaii, which I am not familiar with, but they would likely come up against the very strong First Amendment protection in the US," the Commissioner said.

"It would be open to the Keys to make a complaint to my office about the Herald, and to advance the position that you suggest, that is, there is no news merit in the story. I would need to approach that with an open mind," he says.

"However, if 'news merit' were the criteria for the exemption, I suspect a great deal more of the NZ media would be opened to my jurisdiction than was intended by the legislators in enacting the exemption."

An alternative option for them would be to use the self-regulatory complaint mechanism provided by the Press Council, the Commissioner added.

Poor comparison to a simpler time
"When the John Key holiday pap snaps made their way into my Twitter feed the first thing that sprang to mind, of course, was the iconic 1970s photograph of Rob Muldoon mowing the lawn at his bach," social media marketing expert Vaughn Davis tells NBR.

"Even though it’s clearly posed he's sweating like a bastard, his puku is hanging over his Stubbies and his lawn (mostly kikuyu, I reckon) is a shambles."

He adds, "I don’t know the back-story, but I’m guessing it cost the paper that took it nothing more than some gas for the staff photographer’s Morris 1800 and maybe a pie at Orewa on the way back to the office. Those Hawaii pics probably cost a bit more than that. I doubt we’ll still be looking at them in 40 years, though."


POSTSCRIPT

Last night, after Vaughn Davis tweeted that pic of Muldoon mowing his lawn, Herald columnist professional Millennial Lizzie Marvelly replied:

Feeling old yet?


44 · Got a question about this story? Leave it in Comments & Questions below.


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44 Comments & Questions

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Does anyone remember when the Herald last published news?

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JK in Hawaii is definitely not news. It's only a matter of time before the Herald front page will be reporting a cat stuck up a tree. Or baked beans on special at Pak n Save.

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Well the front page today was about peoples bikes being stolen, so we are already there.

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Just more quality reporting by the Herald !!

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In 2015, the Herald led with a story about a former NZ Cricketer who was having some personal/financial problems. It included the names of his young kids and pictures of the person with his kids (pixelated).

It was one of the most disgraceful bits of "journalism" I have ever seen and it was (and will be) the last time I ever looked at the Herald website.

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If someone who is doing no harm is being filmed in a private capacity without their knowledge, that is always a privacy breach: and that stands if Key was still Prime Minister.

News (capital N) seems to believe they own our private lives. Even if photos like this are legal, for those who are working on that assumption, they are scum.

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Lizzie Marvelly - who on earth are you? (In my defence I was born with an interest in real journalism).

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I think you know the answer, but if you really don't she works in media and is young, Maori and female – three things most of us on this thread are probably not.

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I love the "works in media".

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It was a bit front-foot to include that tweet as a Postscript (sorry LM, generally a fan of your work). Partly I suffer from suppressed rage as a member of Generation X, the generation once lauded by Douglas Coupland but now forgotten as the Millennial vs Boomer war rages above our heads.

But Lizzie not even recognising Sir Rob also makes me wonder if Millennials have any appreciation for what the Muldoon era was like; the wage freeze, the price freeze, the gravel for breakfast, car-less days, the 1981 tour, the drama of the anti-nuke standoff with Marilyn Waring that lead to the 1984 Schnapps election; the decade of Trump-like bullying of journalists and an entire nation.

When I went through high school in the 1980s, local history and politics were taught with a light, sheepish hand, while we went heavy on Elizabethan England and Northland Ireland. Curious if it's still like that.

And I'm not sure how much of Muldoon's legacy survives in popular culture. Maybe not much, it seems. Those who forget history ...

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You forget you mention how Gen X was on the front foot when it came to acceptance of non-binary folks. eg https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carmen_Rupe

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Analogue?

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I remember my seventh form final history exam still asks question about Elizabethan King and Queens...

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I have pondered on my own lack of knowledge on how things were politically and economically back then, and how much I didn't know (until I watched the Revolution series - was stunned). But none of this was covered in my school curriculum, and having immigrated to the country in 89, I lacked the anecdotal evidence from family members who'd experienced it first hand.
I think this is something that should be covered in school. Albeit at a higher level.

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.. NZ economic history is almost completely ignored in this country .. universities have dropped the topic in total ... we are populating business and government (esp Treasury) with grads that have very little understanding of own economic past ... true negligence

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Alsio self-righteous, tedious and overexposed.

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At least it took Muldoon 40 years to reach nonentity status - Ms Marvelly has actually achieved this in real time.....

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Well at least she doesn't resort to ignorant, smart-arsed comments like yours.

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That's exactly what her original comment about Muldoon was.

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Really? My impression from stumbling across an occasional column in the Herald was that she did very little else.

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I was also born in 1989, my question is who on Earth is Lizzie Marvelly?

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Lizzie is a New Zealand Herald columnist, TEDxAuckland speaker, founder of the #MyBodyMyTerms campaign and founder and editor of http://www.villainesse.com/

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Apparently she once sang a song.

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Ms Marvelly should indeed hang her head in shame. One would have thought that given her willingness to offer an opinion on virtually any topic she would be well versed in history. But obviously not.

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Just the other day she labelled Bill English as being wet behind the ears.

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If you google "tree cat NZ herald" or "baked beans special NZ herald" you will see they have done a few stories on both subjects.

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Yes and not mention Stuff's ongoing obsession with Cherry Ripe being the least favourite bar in Cadbury Favourites, RNZ reading a porn site's press release this morning or various covering Richie and Gemma's non-wedding. Could do a Top 50 inside of a Top 10 silliest silly season stories ... but life's too short.

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hey...Cherry Ripe is my favourite...

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Mine too, even if it is Cadbury's
( what ever happened to Fry and Hudson?)

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There is a whole thread on Geekzone about ridiculous Stuff and Herald articles. 418 comments and going strong. http://m.geekzone.co.nz/Forums/48/Topic/195076

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Well, this has ruined my productivity for the day!

Best NBR comments section I've seen in quite some time. Keep it coming! :)

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Sadly the Herald long ago became the poor man's Facebook.

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My god! Only one of the most impactful NZ prime ministers of the 20th century (and not in a good way either)

Ignorance is bliss, huh?

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He was fun to chat with though.

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The exemption for news reporting is one possible defence; but it's not the best defence to a privacy complaint. The best defence is the fact that there's nothing "private" about someone standing at a gas station *in public*.

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I don't agree at all.. NZH is surely crap, but not the click-bait page SMH has turned into.

It IS news that Bronagh can look so appalling when not expecting a camera, and John's physique has taken a toll from all that smoked salmon & cream cheese..

'Tis feel-good journalism & we're gonna need it in 2017 - are you ready for Obama's squelch tomorrow ??

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If Ms Marvelly knows who Howard Morrison is (born 1935), she should be able to recognise NZ's most infamous face of a Prime Minister (born 1921).

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The Herald is truly Newtonian in regard to its reporting - news stories have to pretty much fall on its head to be reported.

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The more the large news sites print this type of crap, the better the proposition for smaller niche sites like the NBR. Don't question it Chris, endorse it! BTW this isn't new for the NZH. Ever since Glucina got the job of creating Spy they have been invading the privacy of celebrity NZers.

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As someone who is perhaps slightly "pre-boomer" who actually appreciates Lizzie Marvelly's Herald columns I can understand her failure to recognise Rob, especially as that shot is so different from the most used photos of him.

Been an interesting discussion but for my two pennyworth I think the photos are justified - JK has dominated the news scene for 9 years and, having surprised almost everyone with his departure, the fact that he is actually having a relaxing holiday is worthy of coverage (just as the Clintons going to the theatre last week was news).

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His face is the same. As is his body.

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yeah, but not pics in their unashamed nakedness..

click bait

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The pictures were actually the most un-touched up or photoshopped and at least an honest reflection of Mr Key taht I have seen in any mainstream media for a long time. I agree the accompanying narrative unfortunately without much news merit, as the description barely matched.. As for the privacy issue?.. When celebrities, politicians or sports people go out of their way to bait and court the infotainment industry, as it is well known to be, at zenith of their success, or pinnacle of careers, then surely they might expect this to happen even when they retire? Was such a fuss made when he was captured in a towel in a hotel as I seem to remember, or when Max published family pictures at home over and over and they viralled ? No. Do people really still buy NZ print media here for anything other than gossip and opinion with a smattering of what may or may not be truth dependent on whether fact verified or where it originally syndicated from? How quaint at a concept when Twitter and Facebook have usually viralled or deconstructed much of it hours or days before? This is 2017 not 1977 and Key was an utter media junkie from selfies to locker rooms golf courses to catwalks.. Is the upset because he wasn't 'groomed'?

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Great reporting here from the NBR. Clearly the last bastion of decent journalism. As an aside great to see that Rob is taking great care of his toes in that pic. Ahh the simpler times before tabloid journalism and OSH.

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