A difference between gossip and a leak

The Herald reports:

The TVNZ journalist Paula Bennett’s press secretary leaked to was Rebecca Wright – a journalist with whom the Social Housing Minister has crossed swords in the past, including taking an unsuccessful complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority.

The minister’s press secretary told Ms Wright about a police investigation into the handling of a case by Te Puea Marae chairman Hurimoana Dennis, after Mr Dennis informed the minister about the matter in a private meeting last week.

The police investigation is not a criminal investigation into Mr Dennis personally, who could not be immediately reached for comment today.

Opposition MPs have claimed that the press secretary, Lucy Bennett, must have passed on the information with the minister’s permission. Paula Bennett has denied this, saying the first she knew about the leak was when a Radio NZ reporter asked her about it on Tuesday.

She has described the leak as inappropriate and has apologised to Mr Dennis, who is on leave from his role as police inspector and iwi liaison officer while the investigation is underway.

RNZ was the first to ask the minister about the leak. It is not known how RNZ found out about it.

Ms Wright has not responded to requests for comment. Lucy Bennett, who is not related to the minister, declined to comment or confirm Ms Wright was the journalist she spoke to.

My understanding is that what happened was gossip, not a deliberate leak. Press secretaries and reporters exchange gossip all the time. In this particular case, many in the media were already aware of the investigation into Mr Dennis, and an assumption was made Rebecca Wright already knew.

It was an error of judgement on Lucy Bennett’s part, but not any sort of deliberate act.

For those convinced it was some sort of deliberate strategy signed off by the Minister, well if so the last person they would choose to deliberately leak to is Rebecca Wright! As in even if every other journalist in NZ had Ebola, Paula would still not choose to deal with Rebecca Wright, let alone leak to her.

If TVNZ and Radio NZ had revealed immediately that the journalist talked to was Rebecca, then I doubt any one else in the media would have taken seriously the accusation that this was a deliberate leak. The ill will between the Minister and Rebecca is well known. You wonder if it was a deliberate decision not to reveal this, so the story would be more potent.

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