“Public interest” – the magic phrase that permits crime and now entrapment


Coming to a newspaper near you, without a doubt, is this journalistic practice

As a middle-aged minister keeping long hours in the social maelstrom of Westminster, Brooks Newmark was clearly flattered to receive the attention of a striking blonde public relations worker calling herself Sophie Wittams.

After a series of tweets from the self-styled “twentysomething Tory PR girl” linking to his own online musings, the 56-year-old MP followed her on Twitter and sent a private message expressing his satisfaction that “you appreciate my humour”.

Unbeknownst to the Minister for Civil Society, he was in reality swapping increasingly flirtatious banter with a male freelance journalist looking for a scoop about MPs seeking assignations via social networks. The true nature of the four-month subterfuge became painfully clear to the millionaire married father of five when the Sunday Mirror called.

He was asked to comment on his increasingly graphic messages to “Sophie”, accompanied at one point with a picture of him exposing himself. Speaking after his resignation, the MP for Braintree, Essex, told BBC News: “I have been a complete fool. I have no one to blame but myself. I have hurt those I care about most.”

However, the Sunday Mirror was under pressure to explain the details of its sting after it emerged that Newmark was only one of at least six Conservative MPs contacted by “Sophie” from a fictional Twitter account, now deleted. The website Buzzfeed retrieved details of the account, which suggested that the journalist behind the story had cast his net wide.

That story didn’t exist until the “journalist” created it.   New Zealand politicians and celebrities… learn your lesson.  We already saw earlier today that Peter Dunne fell for a Twitter prank by retweeting the photo of a serial murder.

Such methodology has been the subject of many rulings by the Press Complaints Commission. One, for example, stated that papers can employ such subterfuge “only when they have a public interest justification for doing so and there are no other means of gathering the required information.”

We’ve seen the NZ Media use “public interest” as a defence for publishing criminally obtained private conversations.  It appears “public interest” now extends to entrapment and then reporting on what happened.   If you do it often enough, you’ll catch someone.   Yay.  “News”.


– Cahal Milmo, The Telegraph, via NZ Herald

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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

To read Cam’s previous articles click on his name in blue.