The lasting legacy of good journalism
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.”