Staff told to keep personal opinions to themselves - or else

Ex-BBC consultant Michele Romaine, on contract with TVNZ's news and current affairs department until the end of the month, has this week installed a rigid social media policy, dubbed "The Rules", which has some journalists and presenters claiming it's censorship gone too far.

TVNZ stars have been put on notice: follow The Rules or suffer the consequences.

A rep for the company said Romaine's Rules - which were emailed to news and current affairs staff on Tuesday and which replace the company's Social Media Policy - do not suppress or stifle the opportunity for staff to express their own opinions, but help to clarify boundaries.

"Like all news organisations we're learning as we go with social media and it's maybe not surprising that there's some confusion about where to draw the line," TVNZ's Megan Richards said.


"Currently, for world-wide media , the distinction between reportage and celebrity-type commentary can get very blurred. We want to avoid that blurring."

But The Diary has obtained a leaked copy of the document in which staff are expressly forbidden from "expressing personal opinions that could compromise NCA's [News and Current Affairs'] objectivity and independence".

Online observations or anecdotes by reporters must be "confined to matters of intelligent insight". Greg Boyed's tweet about a "chunky" woman at Wellington Airport wouldn't cut it.

Self-promotional comments and praise about the company are encouraged. Staff are permitted a Twitter account because "it is an effective tool for enhancing TVNZ brands and the personalities of our people".

But Twitter should only be used for "newsgathering, showcasing our news and current affairs content, and promoting TVNZ and your own professional profile". In other words: plug, plug, plug.

However, former head of news and current affairs Ross Dagan, who left TVNZ in March, was in favour of reporters and presenters showing more depth and personality by sharing personal opinions on Twitter and conversing with One News viewers.

He told The Diary that Seven Sharp journo Heather Du Plessis-Allan had found the right mix - strong reporting on the issues and fun, personal revelations on Twitter.

In this age of competitive news coverage, he believed it made for a more likeable and relatable news correspondent.


However, Romaine, who replaced Dagan while a new boss of news and current affairs was found (John Gillespie has been appointed and starts at the end of the month), is said to come from the old-school BBC approach in which personal insights should remain private.

Cracking down on Twitter is nothing new to the BBC which imposed an informal ban on staff last year for tweeting about the company's problems following the Newsnight crisis. Two workers were disciplined and two dismissed following behaviour the BBC deemed inappropriate on sites like Twitter and Facebook. But critics said sacking staff for social media misuse was wrong.

Romaine evidently disagrees.

Her new policy says, "failure to comply with the Rules will constitute serious misconduct and may result in disciplinary action, including termination of employment".

Sources tell The Diary the new policy is too restrictive and several top TVNZ reporters, producers and presenters have been admonished recently for online comments deemed too personal or inappropriate.

Reporter Joanna Hunkin was reprimanded for a tweet she posted last month in which she queried whether X Factor judge Mel Blatt appeared under the influence on live TV.

She did not want to comment to The Diary.

Matty McLean likened Blatt to ex-Idol judge Paula Abdul, who was accused of drunken behaviour. It's understood he was spoken to also.

Ruth Wynn-Williams was told off after filing personal holiday snaps from Rarotonga on her private Instagram page.

The striking blonde posted holiday pics, including bathing in a bikini and drinking cocktails with her boyfriend Matt Gibb, host of TVNZ's U Live.

Brodie Kane, no stranger to swearing on Twitter, breached the new rules this week when she referred to an X Factor decision as "bullsh*t" and described an outfit as "pink f**king pants". That's a strict no-no.

"The use of profanities," say The Rules, "are not acceptable".

While TVNZ's daily flagship current affairs show Seven Sharp has adopted a convivial, if not trivial approach to reporting the news and social media discussion, now it seems everyone must be beyond reproach online. The question is, what cost will this latest policy have on TVNZ - and I don't just mean the consultancy fees paid to Romaine.

Is Dan saying sayonara?

Rugby insiders have been asking whether Dan Carter will be flying to Japan after the Super rugby season or taking a sabbatical from the game and a well-earned break.

The man himself is yet to quash speculation.

But well-informed sources tell The Diary Carter and his wife, Honor, have been securing a passport for their 2-month-old son, Marco James.

Does this mean the tiny tot could be taking his first steps in Japan?

Carter's agent Dean Hegan could not be reached for comment.

This week, Carter and Richie McCaw announced they have re-signed as brand ambassadors to rugby corporate adidas for four years and an undisclosed sum.

"Great to be a part of the adidas family," he tweeted.

Brewer off to tie knot in Fiji

Orakei councillor Cameron Brewer is set to marry in an intimate ceremony in Fiji on July 17. Brewer, who has one daughter, will marry his partner Kate Barry at the waterfront chapel at the Sheraton Hotel in Denarau.

The couple have each been previously married.

"It's going to be a lovely day with around 40 family and close friends," the groom-to-be said.

"Kate's busy getting something made up by local designer John Zimmerman, while I'm in charge of getting the marriage licence".

Brewer will be in campaigning mode when he returns.

Ballot papers get sent out to voters in September.