News Limited solicitors were in touch with
the Campbelltown Police last week after Crikey published the story about Mark
Latham’s stoush with the Daily Telegraph (item 3, 15 February).

Detective Senior Sergeant Michael Cook told
Crikey that News Limited seemed concerned that the eye witness we
interviewed, Pia Cunningham, might have changed her tune between
providing a statement to
the police and talking to Crikey.

Cook said the matter had been “checked out”
and there was no important factual discrepancy in the accounts Cunningham had
provided. News Limited seemed concerned mostly about the opinions Cunningham
had expressed, according to Cook.

We contacted Cunningham again yesterday to
ask her whether she had changed either her version of the facts, or her
opinion. She said she had not.

Meanwhile questions are being asked about
how the media always seem to know when it might be worth turning up outside
Mark Latham’s house in Glen Alpine.

In particular, on 3 February.
On that day, the police had planned to interview and probably charge Latham. The
date was known, presumably, only to Latham and the police. The interview didn’t
go ahead but nevertheless Channel Nine and the Tele were at the foot of Latham’s driveway as he drove his kids to
school that morning. Channel Nine used the footage a few days later.

“It’s not the local cops,” says Channel
Nine’s Sydney news director, Tony Ritchie, but he acknowledges Channel Nine and
other media got a “tip off from a news
source.” Naturally he won’t say who it is. “No journalist is going to give away
their sources.”

It is a newsroom commonplace that police
tip off certain reporters and as a result those reporters tend to be reluctant
to write negative stories about the police. But in this case, it seems the
source of the information is higher up than the local bobbies on the beat.

A spokesman for the NSW Police Minister,
Carl Scully, categorically ruled out suggestions from some quarters that the
leak could be coming from that office.

Of course the NSW Police force leaks like a
sieve. But which hole are these tip offs springing from?

Peter Fray

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