The decision to publish the story about Murray Cleverley in today's paper was not taken lightly.
And I accept that some readers will disagree with it.
Their arguments will centre around everyone's right to privacy, and that we can probably all think of occasions when our actions or comments, shown in another light, would cause us embarrassment.
They might also look at the context of the event as given by Mr Cleverley, including the setting, and how much alcohol was involved.
But the moment the photograph was supplied to us, it was no longer private.
And neither could we ignore it, because Mr Cleverley is chairman of the South Canterbury District Health Board. He could hold almost any other position and the photograph would not be relevant. As health board boss, though, the photograph badly compromises him, regardless of how much alcohol was involved.
Especially now, as the country addresses its binge-drinking culture, and health boards are to the fore in the debate.
Only last month the South Canterbury board discussed a report on dealing with alcohol-related harm across the South Island.
At that meeting, Mr Cleverley said that, unlike smoking, not all alcohol consumption was harmful. "... there's evidence out there to say the occasional glass of red wine is good for you."
How might The Timaru Herald report his comments on alcohol in future, knowing the photograph exists? We too became compromised the moment it landed on our desk.
The fact is, someone has a copy and is prepared to pass it on. If we had ignored it, the person who sent it to us could freely send it to someone else ... via social networking, through other news media, the minister of health, or board members here. And then it might have looked as if we had tried to conceal it.
So why not print the photograph itself?
As editor I am guided by public interest. And the public interest here is in making people aware of what they may or may not see as a conflict of interest. To run the photograph sensationalises the issue, and that may be exactly what the person who gave us the photograph wanted. And Mr Cleverley is human, just like the rest of us.
I'm sure too that some readers would not have thanked us for showing someone drinking from a beer bong, regardless of who it was.
Mr Cleverley has now given his side of the story. He believes he still has much to offer. At least now he does not have to keep looking over his shoulder.
And we can report board activities freely and frankly, as we do now.
- © Fairfax NZ News