Maverick who likes to bend rules

THE New Zealand-born reporter who caught Alan Jones in the act of grave robbing has a Chaser-like knack of skirting the rules in search of the bigger picture.

Jonathan Marshall's journalistic exposes back home were occasionally unbalanced by a sort of manufactured tabloid trashiness where facts bleed into fiction.

His secret taping of Jones's repugnant mutterings to a Sydney University Liberal Club dinner 10 days ago was in keeping with his modus operandi.

For Marshall, 27, was something of a journalistic tyro in New Zealand who made a career of not telling people they were being subjected to his reporter's gaze.

The Chaser team go for irony and their 2007 expose´ of the pomposity of APEC's security arrangements in Sydney gave Australia a good laugh, but Marshall's journalistic japes palled so much that he was eventually forced to cross ''the Ditch'' for a job.

For instance, three years ago he took a leaf out of The Chaser's book and donned a hard hat to show how vulnerable New Zealand's Rugby World Cup venues were to terrorist attack.

Previously he had taken a fake gun and knife on a plane.

He famously (in New Zealand) lost his job on gay television magazine show Queer Nation in 2003 after it was revealed he and his boyfriend had been stalking TVNZ personalities Mike Hosking and Paul Holmes.

Last year he was in trouble after it emerged he approached a student at Victoria University and asked him to lie to university officials in order to gain private information about a fellow student who had accused an ex-Labour MP, Darren Hughes, of a sex crime.

Over the years Marshall has been comprehensively done over in the New Zealand media.

He reportedly suffered from ADHD but even so had his first radio show on an Auckland community station at 14.

He was dumped after questioning whether a ratepayer-funded Asian Lantern Festival represented value for money but moved onto a talkback show where, as a fifth-former at Rangitoto College, he was again dumped for phoning the Auckland City mayor at 3am.

Quitting school, Marshall alerted the media that he was taking the college to the Privacy Commission for refusing to release his records. A job on Investigate magazine followed where he wrote about school suspensions for drug use and then he discovered paparazzi photography.

He reportedly made ''great money for a kid'' from magazines such as Good Idea. Videotaped with teenagers smoking pot for a story, Marshall was the subject of a drug bust in 2003. He then started nztabloid.com.

In an article that year called ''Dangerous Liaisons'', New Zealand's Metro magazine said the website gave Kiwis their ''first taste of true, titillating tabloidism''. It featured prying pictures of Bronwyn Fitzpatrick, former All Black skipper Sean Fitzpatrick's wife, gardening in her sarong. There was also a snap of separated father Hosking carrying a pack of nappies; and it accused then prime minister Helen Clark of something unrepeatable.

Marshall then lay low for a number of years before he started producing his ''gotcha'' brand of journalism for mainstream New Zealand papers.

But last year he left town and landed a job on Rupert Murdoch's The Sunday Telegraph.

Marshall defended his Alan Jones story, denying the broadcaster's claims that his speech was made under the convention of Chatham House Rules, a principle that allows for the confidentiality of sources of information received at a meeting.

''Even if there were, I think the public interest in this would greatly override any of those concerns,'' Marshall told the ABC.

''I think you've got a group of people, who many of them plan one day to be an MP, there are people in that room who want to be the prime minister and lead this nation. None of them got up and left when the comments were made and I think that the public have a right to know what Alan Jones said and that these people who want to lead this country thought it was so appropriate they would remain in the room.

''You'd like to think that most of the people in the room were shocked and gasping but there is lots of laughter."

Last month Marshall, together with The Sunday Telegraph editor, Neil Breen, won the inaugural Kennedy Awards for Excellence in NSW Journalism's Splash of the Year award for their scoop which led to the Australian Olympic Committee banning athletes from using Stilnox before the London Olympics.

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