RNZ turning off comments

July 12, 2016

RadioNZ is turning off comments on its website RNZ.co.nz:

Comments on news websites are a fraught topic. For a long time they seemed like the way forward, a way to bring the audience into the stories, and let’s face it, comments are still what media analysts like to call “content”. In the social media, mobile-driven world comments are the ultimate in “engagement”.

But for as long as there has been comments, “don’t read the comments” has been a common refrain. If you’ve spent any time in discussion forums, you’ll be familiar with the pedantry and bad behaviour often found there.

As far back as 2012, Gawker Media founder Nick Denton said the promise of thoughtful discussion hadn’t been fulfilled.

“I don’t like going into the comments … For every two comments that are interesting – even if they’re critical, you want to engage with them – there will be eight that are off-topic or just toxic.” . . 

Sad but true.

Even on a blog like this with a handful of commenters, a contribution occasionally crosses the line of acceptability and it takes me a while to catch up with it.

News websites with many thousands more readers  and hundreds of comments require full-time monitoring, the cost of which must far outweigh the value of providing the forum.

 


Meanwhile in other news

May 12, 2016

While the Panama papers and examining the entrails of The Bachelor are getting headlines the government books are in a healthier state than forecast:

The $167 million operating balance before gains and losses (OBEGAL) surplus for the nine months to 31 March was $334 million better than forecast, Finance Minister Bill English says.

Core Crown revenue was $206 million higher than forecast, largely due to core Crown tax revenue being $702 million higher than forecast by the Treasury in December.

These aren’t big numbers in relation to the government’s total finances. But given the global financial position and the impact of low dairy prices, this is an achievement.

This was partially offset by core Crown interest and dividend revenue being $456 million lower than forecast.

Mr English says because of sustained, moderate growth in the economy, the Crown accounts are in good order ahead of the delivery of Budget 2016 later this month.

“We’ve been successful in turning an $18.4 billion deficit in 2011 to a surplus last year. In Budget 2016 our focus is shifting more to repaying debt.

“Budget 2016 will reflect this Government’s continued commitment to responsible fiscal management. At the same time it will build on the good progress we’ve made over the previous seven Budgets, with further investment in a growing economy and public services.

“We measure success by results, rather than the level of spending.”

It’s not what they’re spending but the impact that spending that matters.

One area that always takes a lot of spending is welfare.

The government is taking the investment approach which means spending more in the short term for longer term social and financial gain.

A report from Deloitte and NZIER says that the investment approach needs to become a mainstream way of working across more of the social sector.

State of the State New Zealand 2016: Social investment for our future advocates broadening the use of the social investment approach to manage New Zealand’s future fiscal challenges and support better outcomes for Kiwis.

NZIER Deputy Chief Executive John Ballingall says the State of the State takes a close look at government finances and the burdens New Zealanders could face in the future.

“A combination of our ageing population, low productivity and revenue growth, and the need to reduce government debt will impose huge fiscal pressures in coming decades – particularly in social spending. More importantly, too many people in New Zealand are experiencing poor life outcomes and too many of their children are at risk of following them,” says Mr Ballingall.

Deloitte partner and public sector leader Dave Farrelly says it’s the sum of these factors which drove us to focus the report on social investment, an approach to funding social services focusing on root causes to prevent the need for these services in the future.

“For example, with social investment the task is not to deliver the next 100 prison beds for the same cost as the previous 50. It’s to remove the need for those new prison beds altogether,” says Mr Farrelly.

“Today social investment is like a start-up – a small number of people are working incredibly hard to bring a big bold vision to life. Tomorrow, social investment needs to become a mainstream way of working,” he says.

In the six months of research for the report, Deloitte and NZIER spoke to some of the most senior and influential leaders in the public, non-government and private sectors – all of whom provided a unique perspective on social investment.

State of the State proposes a package of bold reforms to realise the aspiration for social investment in New Zealand. The recommendations are:

1. Release, every four years, a government-wide statement to define the outcomes and targets for at-risk New Zealanders
2. Establish a new agency to commission specialist social services for people at risk of poor life outcomes
3. Embed the social investment approach to funding quality and sustainability in the new agency’s operating model
4. Enable better access to government-held data and detailed evaluation reports

“We suggest a structural reconfiguration that some will find challenging, while acknowledging we don’t yet have all the answers,” says Mr Farrelly.

“But we must be bold in tackling these challenges today to maintain our way of life in the future,” he concludes.

Social investment is working and the reforms Social Development Minister Anne Tolley is promoting will do more.

Trans Tasman notes:

. . . The reform being pushed through by Tolley is perhaps the most far-reaching undertaken by the Govt and could stand as its greatest legacy if it achieves its goals. Already it has made some headway in improving the lives of Maori children who are more than twice as likely as Pakeha children to grow up in households experiencing hardship, and fare worse in most indicators. A report by the University of Otago-based Child and Youth Epidemiology Service shows increasing numbers of Maori pre schoolers are getting early childhood education. There’s also been a halving of school suspensions for Maori students, an increase in immunisation rates, fewer young Maori smoking,and falling hospitalisation rates for Maori children for injuries from assault, neglect or maltreatment. Tolley is understood to have secured an additional funding, probably of the order of $500m in this year’s budget for the reform. . . 

Turning around benefit dependency and all the financial and social costs that go with it will not be neither easy nor cheap but the investment approach is working and it’s a much better story than many of the others which are getting attention at the moment.

 


Age of umbrage

May 10, 2016

Example  1:

A businessman posted a photo on Facebook with a comment. Twenty minutes later he realised it was a stupid thing to do and took down the post.

He also contacted the people to whom it referred, admitted he’d made an error of judgement, accepted responsibility for it, apologised, and made amends by refunding the money the people had paid him. They accepted his apology and the refund.

It should have ended there but someone had a screenshot of the offending post and it went viral on Facebook then became a news not-news story in the mainstream media.

Example 2:

A business sent an email with “your mother sent us her wish-list” in the subject line. A couple of hours later it sent a second email apologising after some customers, including one whose mother had died 16 years earlier,  had contacted them saying they’d been upset by it.

I got the email in a week when Mothers’ Day was going to be particularly poignant owing to the death of a dearly loved friend who was a second mother. I treated it like the marketing exercise it was and deleted it.

I haven’t named either business deliberately because they’ve had more than enough publicity over matters that should have had none.

Jim Mora referred to this being the age of umbrage on The Panel on Friday,

He was right. Too many people are taking umbrage at things which aren’t, in the grand scheme of things, important and because of social media they get far more attention than they deserve.

These two examples are relatively petty but there’s a third more serious one:

One Seven Sharp, host Mike Hosking added his opinion to a clip on the abuse New Plymouth mayor Andrew Judd received for proposing a Maori ward for local government councils.

“Sad to say I’d never personally attack him obviously but he’s completely out of touch with middle New Zealand,” Hosking said. 

He went on to say: “There’s nothing wrong with Maori representation on councils cause any Maori that wants to stand for a council is more than welcome to do so and you can sell your message and if you’re good enough you’ll get voted on.”

You can agree or not with his view but several took umbrage at it:

In a statement Radio New Zealand received from TVNZ, a spokesperson for the broadcaster said a formal complaint had been laid against Hosking and a committee would review the complaint in the coming days.  . . 

One complaint on Seven Sharp Facebook page came from a medical student called Kera May. 

“Deeply offended by the racism exhibited by Mike Hosking on your show tonight. If anyone is “out of touch with Middle New Zealand” (which includes many Maori like myself thank you very much!) it’s you Mike.” . . .

Offended by a comment that disagreed with the mayor’s proposed policy without in anyway criticising Maori?

Hosking’s comments have been condemned by his own colleagues Miriama Kamo and Scotty Morrison on TVNZ show Marae.

Kamo said the comments had upset her and told of her own struggles with a previous employer firing her when she corrected him on the pronunciation of her name. 

Sacking for that would be grounds for unjustified dismissal but the example as explained here is not in itself racist.

Lots of people find lots of names difficult to pronounce but that’s nothing to do with racism.

I’m called Ele because it’s preferable to dealing with mispronunciations of Elspeth which have ranged from, and I kid you not, albatross to Elizabeth.

Racism is abhorrent and anyone is justified at taking umbrage at it.

But attempting to stifle debate by taking umbrage at someone’s opinion, correct or not,  and calling it racist is ridiculous.

I think Maori seats in parliament have generally served Maori poorly and I would oppose any attempt by a local body servicing an area where I was a ratepayer, to give seats with voting rights to anyone who hadn’t been elected democratically.

That is an opinion with which some may agree or not, but it is not a racist statement.

Taking umbrage rather than countering an argument is yet another example of emotion replacing reason.

 


Thanks Frank Torley

March 28, 2016

Veteran broadcaster and the man who for many was  the voice of Country Calendar, Frank Torley, has died.

Frank retired as the narrator on Country Calendar in February because of problems with his vocal cords. . . 

Frank helped on his uncle’s farm as a teenager and was employed as a stock and station agent.

In addition to his broadcasting career, Frank was a small-scale kiwifruit orchardist in the 1980s.

He also owned a lifestyle block in Rangitikei.

Frank was committed to the craft of television. He loved words, his family said. 

“He’d be on the road shooting stories, then spend hours in his home office tapping out scripts on his computer or setting up the next story over the phone.” . . 

The news comes just weeks after the well-loved New Zealand farming series turned 50 years.

After working on farms in his earlier years, Frank he joined a stock firm.

He was plucked from the Feilding saleyards to join the NZBC as a rural broadcaster.

That eventually led to a job on Country Calendar. He has remained with the show ever since.

Frank became producer in the early 1980s, a role he continued until 2006.

He then went back to his first love: back on the road directing programmes.

In 2014 and 2015, he narrated all the Country Calendar episodes.

 He as a wonderful broadcaster.

He made country life and work accessible and interesting  to people who never stepped foot on a farm without dumbing-down the subject.

In doing so he made a significant contribution to bridging the rural-urban divide.


Tweeting for The Nation

March 12, 2016

I’m on The Nation’s Twitter panel at 9.30 this morning.

#nationtv3

… In the week that Landcorp pulled back on dairy, the milk price dropped and the Reserve Bank cut the OCR to a record low, we bring together the leaders of Labour, New Zealand First and the Greens to debate the state of the economy. How worried should we be? Or is it just a blip? Labour’s Andrew Little, New Zealand First’s Winston Peters and the Green Party’s James Shaw are live with Lisa Owen.

Then, an exclusive TV interview with Nobel Peace Prize winner Jose Ramos Horta. New Zealand spent millions and lost five soldiers helping bring peace to Timor Leste, then East Timor. What difference did we make? How real are concerns that it could become a failed state inside a decade? And does Helen Clark have much chance at getting the top UN job?

And, we look at the battle over Auckland housing. Is it being driven by NIMBYism or are we trying to cram too much into our biggest city? Phil Vine reports on the inter-generational battle for the soul… and density… of Auckland.

We’ll discuss all this and more with our panel: economist Shamubeel Eaqub, NZME Business Editorial Director Fran O’Sullivan, and Sunday Star-Times Editor Jonathan Milne.


It had to happen

February 15, 2016

When Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce sent a tweet suggesting someone should send footage of  him being hit with a dildo to John Oliver, some sort of response was inevitable:


366 days of gratitude

February 2, 2016

If you subscribe to the Otago Daily Times you can get an app which allows you to download a digital edition of the paper each day.

The digital edition is particularly handy when travelling but I often read it at home too because our paper comes with the mail in the afternoon.

You can just subscribe to the digital edition but you need the print edition to do Sudoku and code cracker.

Today I’m grateful that the app lets me read the ODT anywhere, any time, and I have the paper edition to do the puzzles – even though I rarely complete any but the easy Sudokus and am often stumped by the code cracker.


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