The Radio NZ journalist who has been stood down for editing stories to include “pro-Kremlin garbage” says they have been editing stories “that way” since they started working for the state-owned media organisation.
“I subbed several stories that way over the past number of years, in fact, since I started [at] Radio New Zealand,” they told the Checkpoint show in a statement read by host Lisa Owen.
“And I have done that for five years and no one has tapped me on the shoulder and no body told me I was doing anything wrong.”
RNZ CEO and editor-in-chief Paul Thompson also told Checkpoint an audit checking stories was ongoing.
“Apart from that, we’re feeling shocked and stunned,” Thompson said.
“Personally, I’m so gutted by it. We’ve let our audience down. I need to make sure we have a robust process.
“I think this is a time for us working together to fix the problem. There have been breaches of our editorial policy. It’s really disappointing.”
He said the audit had already revealed the problem was isolated to “one area”.
The audit was being conducted by senior staff from their web team, where the employee worked, and senior staff in the newsroom, Thompson said.
He said the independent review, which is yet to get underway, would be the best path for making sure there weren’t any other issues.
An error in a news story, published in May 2022, was detected and edited, but Thompson said he was not made immediately aware. Thompson said “of course” the employee at the centre of the scandal would have been notified of the issue, contrary to the employee’s admission to Checkpoint.
Earlier, Thompson called the editing in of “pro-Kremlin garbage” to stories “inexcusable”, saying it breached the news organisation’s standards.
RNZ yesterday released a list of stories discovered in its probe so far after an employee was placed on leave on Thursday when it emerged a story by international wire agency Reuters had been republished on RNZ.co.nz with Kremlin-friendly language.
Speaking on the radio station’s Nine to Noon this morning, CEO Paul Thompson said there had been a “serious breach of our standards, which is really disappointing”.
Thompson said there wasn’t any evidence more than one person was involved in adding incorrect information to the stories, but the “editing systems are not as robust as they need to be.
“They [the changes] are all really, really serious and we obviously did not have the robustness of the systems to pick up on those problems,” he told Nine to Noon.
“It is so disappointing. I’m gutted. It’s painful. It’s shocking.
“We have to get to the bottom of how it happened, but clearly, we have had those breaches happen and we haven’t detected it,” Thompson said.
He apologised to the public “who rely on us to be a trusted source of news and information. We’ve let them down”.
Thompson also apologised to RNZ staff and the Ukranian community.
“It’s so disappointing that this pro-Kremlin garbage has ended up in our stories. It’s inexcusable,” he said.
He revealed RNZ didn’t respond to a complaint made to the Minister of Broadcasting about Russian “propaganda” in October last year, saying it was typical to maintain a “church and state” separation between the organisation and the minister.
“In hindsight, perhaps it was something we could’ve thought about at the time more than we did,” Thompson said.
“To be frank, ideally we would’ve looked into that at the time, but as far as I’m aware it didn’t happen, but that’s one of the things we’re looking into.”