The last­ing legacy of good jour­nal­ism

Sunday Star-Times - - NEWS -

Sun­day Star-Times jour­nal­ist Donna Chisholm first met David Dougherty in prison. He was fes­ter­ing in a cell, the low­est of the low, con­victed of the ab­duc­tion and rape of an 11-year-old girl.

Ex­cept ... he didn’t do it.

“You can’t imag­ine the rage and im­po­tence,” she re­mem­bers. “His voice was so soft it was al­most as though he’d stopped scream­ing into the dark­ness.”

Chisholm no longer works with the Star-Times, but that cam­paign to prove Dougherty’s in­no­cence will al­ways stay with her.

DNA ev­i­dence showed he was in­no­cent. He was re­leased from prison, and awarded $868,000 com­pen­sa­tion. But when Dougherty died last year, it was as a bro­ken man − he was never freed from the trauma of be­ing wrongly ac­cused.

“He should,” says Chisholm, “re­ceive a post­hu­mous par­don.”

His sis­ter Va­lerie Rid­dell says his fam­ily would wel­come a par­don. “It af­fected a lot of his life.”

The bat­tle to fi­nally clear Dougherty’s name hasn’t ended − and nei­ther has the jour­nal­ism. That’s be­cause the job of re­port­ing is never cut and dried; it’s a sea­son-by-sea­son task to sep­a­rate the hon­est-to-good­ness wheat from the chaff.

The Sun­day Star-Times has a proud his­tory of that qual­ity of jour­nal­ism: we seek to in­form, to in­spire and to chal­lenge our­selves in our com­mu­ni­ties.

Think of the the de­bate over whether to switch off life sup­port for des­per­ately dis­abled Baby L; the cam­paign for Al­ge­rian refugee Ahmed Zaoui; the in­ves­ti­ga­tion into dog con­trol laws af­ter the at­tack on 7-year-old Carolina An­der­son; Ali­son Mau’s #MeToo NZ project; our work to track down French Rain­bow War­rior spy Chris­tine Cabon ...

But also, the week-by-week sup­port for our com­mu­ni­ties, whether through wa­ter safety cam­paigns, the Foot It walk-to-school project, or grass­roots de­ter­mi­na­tion to pro­tect the high streets of our small towns and sub­urbs.

The jour­nal­ism con­tin­ues.

Next week, we re­launch the pa­per as a fresh­faced com­pact. The new-look pa­per is all about pro­tect­ing and de­vel­op­ing the good jour­nal­ism, the beau­ti­ful writ­ing and pho­tog­ra­phy, the en­gag­ing food and fash­ion and puz­zles that have made the Sun­day Star-Times New Zealand’s na­tional pa­per.

Your favourite writ­ers will be there: Ali­son Mau, David Slack, Lynda Hal­li­nan, Damien Grant, Leah McFall, Guy Wil­liams, Kylie Klein Nixon, Adam Dud­ding, Danielle McLaugh­lin, Phil Gif­ford, Mark Rea­son, Sam Man­ner­ing, Jor­dan Ron­del and more. Our in­ter­na­tion­ally ac­claimed car­toon­ist Sharon Mur­doch is back af­ter at­tend­ing the As­so­ci­a­tion of Ed­i­to­rial Car­toon­ists con­ven­tion in Sacra­mento.

They will be joined by new voices: How-to Dad Jor­dan Wat­son, clin­i­cal psy­chi­a­trist Dr Hinemoa Elder, sports com­men­ta­tor Emma Keel­ing, se­nior busi­ness jour­nal­ist Hamish Ruther­ford, tech­nol­ogy guru David Court and food writer Anna King Sha­hab. We in­tro­duce those writ­ers to­day, on Fo­cus, page 9.

These are some of the writ­ers and jour­nal­ists who will be do­ing their best to up­hold the legacy of Sun­day Star-Times jour­nal­ism.

Va­lerie Rid­dell, for one, re­mains glad of the work done by the small group of lawyers, sci­en­tists and jour­nal­ists who worked to clear her brother’s name.

“I was so re­lieved to fi­nally find out the truth,” she says, “be­cause I didn’t be­lieve it from the start.”

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