TV news hounds losing the scent

BLOODIED BUT NOT BEATEN<br>The Stories Behind 40 Years of Investigative Journalism<br><b>Rod Vaughan</b><br><i>David Ling</i>
BLOODIED BUT NOT BEATEN<br>The Stories Behind 40 Years of Investigative Journalism<br><b>Rod Vaughan</b><br><i>David Ling</i>
When I was asked to review Bloodied But Not Beaten, my first recollection was of Rod Vaughan's noteworthy television encounter with hard-man millionaire Bob Jones.

That 1985 episode on the Tongariro River resulted in Vaughan, seeking an interview with Jones about the decision to disband the New Zealand Party, receiving a king hit between the eyes and a broken nose. That blow was courtesy of the pugilistic Jones, thoroughly irate at Vaughan, brought in by helicopter, for disturbing his peaceful fishing activity.

That Vaughan, veteran television journalist, has chosen to introduce the memoirs about his action-packed life with a detailed description of his beating-up by Jones - now a friendly acquaintance - surely indicates that the episode remains high indeed on his list of perilous assignments.

From that notable starting point, Vaughan goes on to provide details of the many assignments he has undertaken in a career that has spanned more than 40 years. Some of his investigative tasks took him overseas, where conditions were less than salubrious and often perilous.

But he also covered stories in this country which tellingly directed the spotlight on subjects that deserved to receive detailed attention.

As most of us are probably aware, life in New Zealand's television milieu can often be fraught indeed.

Vaughan makes it plain that he suffered considerable anguish when panjandrums exerted their authority to do him down. TVNZ executives Ian Fraser and Bill Ralston, for instance, come in for a severe drubbing: ... "unlike American television where old hands are highly valued, here they are seen as dinosaurs who belong to another era," Vaughan writes.

"In New Zealand little or no account is taken of the considerable knowledge, experience and wisdom they bring to an industry that today is largely staffed by 'twenty somethings' straight out of journalism school. And that does not augur well for the future of investigative journalism in this country."

Vaughan writes: "It's been said that investigative journalism is all about shining bright lights into dark places and exposing the murky secrets they contain. Regrettably the lights are becoming dimmer and dimmer but the dark places are proliferating.

"But does anyone in the television industry really care?"

The author has delivered up an excellent compilation of the noteworthy investigative assignments he has fulfilled over many years. The book's subtitle is "The Stories Behind 40 Years of Investigative Journalism". Although he possesses a quite fluent style (rather too many "myselfs" rather than "Is"), his publishers have been remiss in not providing proper punctuation, which is notable for its absence.

Monochrome photographs are included in the book.

- Clarke Isaacs is a former chief of staff of the Otago Daily Times


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