Sky TV should have been enjoying kudos this week for launching a sports show fronted by a woman — Bernadine Oliver-Kerby.
Of course, it didn't play out like that. One of the show's guests, Tony Veitch, took it upon himself to do his own bit of thoughtlessly-worded promotion on Facebook. And then all hell broke loose.
The episode illustrated two things.
1. Veitch is his own worst enemy. He couldn't help but put himself at the centre of New Zealand press box publicity. He seemed compelled to test the waters to see if public sentiment toward him had shifted.
2. The ever-growing power of social media. It took less than 48 hours of Facebook and Twitter maelstrom for Sky TV to announce Vetch had pulled out of the new show. Mainstream media coverage of the controversy took its cues from social media.(as it did with its accounts of Gareth Morgan and Sean Plunket's efforts to shoot themselves in the foot on social).
The controversy is probably not over yet. Sky TV referred to its panellist as "NZME's Tony Veitch" – a clever diversionary tactic and a pointer to where fire could be directed next (Veitch enjoys a lot of screen time, airtime and column across several NZME properties, including NewstalkZB, Radio Sport and the NZ Herald).
As for Veitch himself: I think everyone deserves a second chance if they've paid a price for their crimes, and have shown genuine remorse and empathy for their victim.
And I instinctively dislike the lynch-mob, pile-in mentality that can wash over social media for even minor infractions.
But Veitch got off very lightly in legal terms.
And in an op-ed on domestic violence for the Herald, the broadcaster was big on self-pity, barely mentioned his victim, didn't cover his attempt to keep her silent, and gave a minimised account of his offending compared to the police file.
If Veitch is to ever make it back on to mainstream TV screens on a regular basis, his public rehabilitation will start with a more genuine attempt to front up to his actions.
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