Benefits of Blogging

June 27, 2008

Bernard Hickey has become an evangelist for blogging. 

Let me explain why after 19 years as a journalist I’ve never been so excited about being a journalist and why I think blogging will over time become the main venue for political and other debate.  It will also become another way for communities to form and for people to talk to each other about the things that matter.

I share his enthusiasm and agree with his reasons. But one advantage that he doesn’t mention is that what you write is what people read without editing by someone else.

I know subs are lovely people who sometimes save journalists from themselves by correcting potentially embarrassing, stupid and/or litigious mistakes. But sometimes they also take your carefully worded prose and leave it the worse for their intervention.

I was taught to write news stories so they were structured like an inverted pyramid with the most important points at the start. That meant if lack of space required some cutting the sub could start at the bottom without ruining the story.

Columns are different from news stories in that the point often comes at the end so the concluding words are as important as the intro.

The worst subbing of one of my opinion pieces was many years ago and simply chopped the middle from it so the intro was no longer connected to the end and the phrase which made sense of the headline was lost.

The cut to my offering in Paddock Talk  today was minor by comparison. I’d concluded it by saying:

The taskforce has hired PriceWaterhouseCoopers to prepare a strategy report which is expected to take 12 weeks. That may seem a long time for farmers desperately seeking a solution to their own problems, but as the cheese advertisement says, good things take time and a strategy which leads to a healthy future for the meat industry will be a very good thing indeed.

Somewhere between my outbox and publication the last 19 words disappeared, which probably doesn’t matter to anyone except me, especially now that events have over taken what I was writing about.

The Meat Industry Taskforce was disbanded today. Federated Farmers  has a press release expressing disapointment and the grapevine is buzzing but I haven’t been able to find anything in the media about it yet.


Bomb Scare Costs

June 27, 2008

Offices, shops, the museum, library and several shops in Oamaru’s CBD  were evacuated yesterday, about an hour after a phone call at 1.50 warned of a bomb in the Trust Power call centre.

A sniffer dog could have been sent from Christchurch by helicoptor but a policeman told some of the evacuees that they’d been told that would be too expensive so  the dog was driven down by road – a trip of about 3 1/2 hours.

It arrived at about 6.20 and the building was declared safe by 8pm.

The helicoptor, according to the grapevine which I accept is not a reliable source of information, would have cost $1,200.

I don’t know the cost of a seven hour return trip by road for the dog and its handler, and for the police officers who had to keep people at bay for nearly six hours. Nor do I know the cost to the businesses which had to close; the return trip a Dunedin accountant had to make today because he had to leave his laptop in an office when it was evacuated yesterday; the revenue lost by around 20 retailers, the call centre, a physiotherapist, and other businesses,  which were evacuated or closed beccause the main street was shut off; and the power from the lights, heaters, computers  and all the other electrical bits and pieces which were left on when people left their buildings and not turned off over night as usual.

The police did all they should have yesterday: the evacuation and street closure were prudent and the Oamaru Mail reports they are following “a positive line of enquiry” in the serach for the person who made the hoax call.

But had the dog come by air rather than land everything would have been back to normal nearly four hours earlier. Those people who lost time and business would no doubt think that the cost of the helicoptor would have been worth it.

Footnote: Poneke left this comment on a previous post:

For most of the 290-plus years I was a journalist, the media had a policy of not giving oxygen to bomb and similar hoaxers. We simply did not report them, except in the rare circumstance of them causing massive disruption such as to peak traffic in downtown Auckland, where the public deserved to know what had caused the chaos.

Now every piddly little hoax, of which there are several a week, is reported everywhere.

I wonder if the reporting fuels their frequency?

Yesterday’s court news in the ODT has a report on the trial of a man accused of making a hoax call about a bomb scare at an Oamaru Service Station a few months again, but police don’t think there are any connections between this and yesterday’s call.

The building where the bomb was said to be is directly opposite the ODT and around 100 metres from the Oamaru Mail so it was going to be noticed by the media; and shutting down about a third of the CBD is big news in a small town.

I don’t know whether reporting every little hoax fuels more. Do people who do this sort of thing take any notice of what’s in the news? 

In this case, the grapevine – which again I’ll admit is not always reliable – has many tales about the hard calls that are being made from call centres to people who can’t, or won’t, pay their bills. We’ll have to wait until the court case, if there is one, to know whether this was the act of an aggrieved debtor or not.


Bomb Scare a Hoax

June 27, 2008

No surprise here, yesterday’s bomb scare  which led to the evacuation of shops and offices in Oamaru’s main street was a hoax.

A bomb scare closed part of the Oamaru central business district for more than five hours yesterday in a hoax police branded “irresponsible”.

The business district in lower Thames St was brought to a halt just before 3pm as police evacuated buildings and cordoned off the area after a bomb threat was received at 1.50pm through a call centre operator at TrustPower in Tauranga.

The target was Oamaru’s three-storey TrustPower and Pulse Business Solutions building, which houses TrustPower’s South Island call centre.

 

 


Mugabe Could Try Gentle Dictation

June 27, 2008

Jim Hopkins offers some advice to Mugabe on a gentler form of dictatorship:

Oh, Robert. Robert, Robert, Robert. … You really haven’t got this dictatorship thing sorted, have you?

…See, Bubby, you don’t need all this unpleasantness. You don’t have to go ogre the top to rule the roost. You don’t have to be an oppressive tyrant – at least, not the kind of oppressive tyrant you are being – to get your own way.

..Look, me old China plate, if you really want to rig an election; if you really want to get the result you desire, then you don’t need a mad stare and an iron fist. You don’t need repression and terror and locking folk up. You don’t need to unleash your gangs.

You just need our Ministry of Justice. And you’re welcome to them, petal. Take ’em. They’re yours. Do with them what you will. They won’t let you down…

There’s no need to tyrannise people when you can get the same result just by worrying about their welfare.

Tell ’em straight, Bob. Say, “There, there, my dears. We can’t have you getting confused. That’s no way to run a free and fair election.”

And get our Ministry of Justice over there asap. With them on the case, you can guarantee there’ll be no voting ’til halfway through next year. And, bingo!! The world will have forgotten by then, old fruit.

So, pip pip! Chin up.

And never forget: what you can’t control, you can always delay – in the people’s interest.

 


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