MPs’ families should be off-limits

April 24, 2018

Deborah Hill Cone’s column  asking why does Clarke Gayford bug me?, has not surprisingly caused an uproar.

Some media used to focus on former Prime Minister John Key’s son, Max, but that doesn’t make it right.

MPs’ families should be off-limits.

If, as in Gayford’s case, they have a public profile of their own, comment and criticism shouldn’t stray into the political and personal.

Rotary has a four-way test for thought, word and deed:

  1. Is it the TRUTH?
  2. Is it FAIR to all concerned?
  4. Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?

I would add is it NECESSARY?

This would be a good guide for journalism and commentary. Had Hill Cone tested her column against those questions would she have written it?

It is her truth, but it’s questionable if it is fair, it definitely didn’t build goodwill and better friendships, it wasn’t beneficial to all concerned and it simply wasn’t necessary.


Connie Lawn 1944 – 2018

April 3, 2018

Connie Lawn, whose voice would be familiar to RNZ listeners has died.

Ms Lawn was the longest-serving White House correspondent, having spent nearly 50 years covering successive US presidents.

Ms Lawn was born in Long Branch, New Jersey in 1944 and was a familiar voice on Radio New Zealand for more than 20 years, covering a range of topics including politics, scandals, wars, tragedies and arts and culture.

She has also promoted New Zealand tourism and skiing through many articles written for the US market.

She was awarded an Honorary New Zealand Order of Merit title in recognition of her services to New Zealand/United States Relations in 2012.

She also received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Press Club of NZ, and was also proud of having a champion local race horse named after her.  . .

Why lie?

March 28, 2018

Revelations about the meeting between Carol Hirschfeld and BroadcastingMinister Clare Curran has led to the former’s resignation and the latter’s belated admission it should never have happened.

And she says that calling it an unofficial, informal meeting was wrong, and it may have been naive to have had it in the first place.

“I considered it to be an informal, not an official meeting, and I got that wrong,” Curran told media this afternoon.

Even if we take her at her word that she considered it to be informal and unofficial, the whole debacle raises several questions

1. Why did Curran arrange it?

2. What was its purpose?

3. What was discussed?

5. Who leaked the information that it was planned and diaried to National’s Broadcasting spokesperson Melissa Lee whose questions in parliament made it public?

6. Why did it take so long to admit the meeting was official?

7. Why hide the fact that it was official?

And the most important question:

8. Why lie about it?

Hirschfeld is a highly regarded journalist.

She hasn’t resigned for having the meeting.

That was inadvisable but it’s neither a resignation nor sacking offence.

Lying about it is.

Whatever possessed her to describe the meeting as unplanned and to stick to that claim for four months?

She has lost her job. The Minister has not – yet.





What do we care about?

March 2, 2018

If a reporter asked you what issues do you care about, what would you say?

I’d say, in alphabetical order, those impacting on the economy, education, environment, health, security and welfare.

That’s not what Stuff thinks.

Its headlines says where new National Party leader Simon Bridges stands on issues you care about?

I took that to mean the most important issues but the story gives us the new leader’s views on the drinking age, marriage equality and euthanasia.

It then goes on to the environment, climate change, abortion, marijuana, and the regions.

This reminds me of the tiresomely repetitive focus on former Prime Minister John Key’s views on the 1981 Springbok tour which said a lot more about the questioner than the then-PM.

Stuff’s issues are ones on which many will have a view, and may care about deeply, but would most come top of mind if people were asked what they care about?

If you’re a socially liberal member of the media or wanting a debate in a university common room, maybe.

But I doubt they’d be listed by most other people who are much more likely to care more about matters which directly and practically impact their lives and their families.

Those matters are much harder to cover than most of the ones raised by Stuff which are conscience issues, with one-off votes. Most are not the issues which provide jobs, put food on the table nor do most produce policies which lead to a more productive country with happier and healthier people.

28 papers stuffed

February 21, 2018

Stuff has announced it’s ditching 28 of its papers:

The full list of titles being closed is:

AvenuesWaikato FarmerAdmire MarlboroughNZ Dairy FarmerDiscover MagazineSelwyn and Ashburton OutlookAdmire NelsonHastings MailChristchurch MailNapier MailThe TribuneKaikoura StarInvercargill EyeAuto XtraSouth Canterbury HeraldClutha LeaderWaiheke MarketplaceNewsLinkWairarapa NewsQueenstown MirrorNZ FarmerWaitaki HeraldCanterbury FarmerNorth Waikato NewsCentral District FarmerRotorua ReviewOtago Southland FarmerRuapehu Press.

This is very tough for the people whose jobs are at risk.

There might be opportunities for someone to take over some of the titles but print media is not a growing business and rural media is a very crowded space.

We knew farming was in resurgence when the letterbox started filling up with give-aways.

We now get several free rural papers a week, sometimes three or more in a day.

If we don’t have time to read them when they come they often go out barely read or unread because at least another has come before we get back to them.

Looks don’t matter

February 10, 2018

The name Megan Whelan will be familiar to anyone who listens to RNZ.

Her voice will be too.

Until I read this  I had no idea what she looked like and that didn’t matter.

I don’t remember the first time I realised I’m fat.

It might have been at 13, when someone left a pamphlet for a weightloss programme in my mailbox at boarding school. I can remember picking it up, excited that it might be a letter from my parents, only to feel hot shame, tears threatening to overflow, as I tried to hide the humiliating glossy pages from the girls around me.

It could have been at twenty, when an indoor netball opponent expressed surprise at my skill – because fat people can’t be athletic – and then anger when he realised I was running literal rings around him.

It could have been any number of small, slight, humiliations. The first time I realised that nothing in a clothes store would fit me, even with all the uncomfortable shapewear in the world. The first time someone yelled abuse from a car, calling me a fat bitch. The first time I ordered a salad, because I was too embarrassed to eat a burger in public. . .

How Megan looks still doesn’t matter.

Looks don’t matter on the radio and they shouldn’t matter in life.

Someone’s size, how they dress, the colour of their skin or hair . . .  those are all their business.

What matters isn’t how people look but how they are.

Megan’s story is also at RNZ from butt of the joke to kicking bullies’ butts.

She read an excerpt from it  on The Project.


Pat Booth OBE

January 31, 2018

Pat Booth, one of New Zealand’s great investigative journalists, has died.

Booth spent nearly 40 years at the now defunct Auckland Star, becoming editor, and is most renowned for his tireless work on the Arthur Allan Thomas miscarriage of justice case and the Mr Asia Crime syndicate.

The stories were scandalous and horrifying and were reported by Booth and a team of his reporters in a depth rarely achieved.

As part of the campaign for a pardon for Thomas, Booth wrote a book, Trial by Ambush. . . 

Booth’s eight-year crusade resulted in Thomas, wrongly jailed for double murder, receiving a full royal pardon.

Booth also helped reveal an international drug ring during the notorious Mr Asia investigations. He wrote a book on the international drug smuggling ring, The Mr Asia File: The Life and Death of Marty Johnstone. . . 

The Mr Asia File was compulsory reading at Canterbury University’s journalism school. The author was one whose example we were urged to emulate.

Journalism has lost a star and the loss will be even greater for his family and friends to whom I offer my sympathy.

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