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.

Rural Delivery reprieve

January 26, 2018

Last year Rural Delivery failed to get NZ On Air funding which threatened its ability to continue.

An email from NZ On Air told me:

Rural Delivery was successful in a resubmitted bid for funding at the end of last year. My understanding is the programme will return to screens in 2018. They are securing third party funding in order to receive just under $300,000 funding from NZ On Air.

This is very good news.

Rural Delivery provides a much needed window on the interesting and innovative work being done in rural New Zealand.

Does mainstream media help or hinder farming?

January 23, 2018

Key findings from Nuffield Scholar, Anna Jones’ report Help or Hinder?  How the Mainstream Media Portrays Farming to the Public were:

The urban/rural disconnect is real, more so in Western and urbanised societies, and both the media and farming industry are contributing to it.

Some mainstream media coverage is clouded by urban bias, knee-jerk distrust of agribusiness, failing to differentiate between campaigners and informers and an over-reliance on too few sources with an overt political agenda. There is a severe lack of agricultural specialism among general news journalists.

Farmers and industry are fuelling the disconnect through a lack of openness and transparency, disproportionate defensiveness in the face of legitimate challenge, disunity among farming sectors and a sense of ‘exceptionalism’ or entitlement to positive coverage.

The public debate and narrative around agriculture is being dominated by farming unions and lobbyists. Politics at an industry level is drowning out individuals at a farm level, contributing to more distrust.

Her full report is here.

Jones visited USA, Kenya, Denmark, Ireland, France and Belgium. Would her findings be very  different here?

New Zealand has some very good rural journalists in the print media including the Otago Daily Times’ Sally Rae; Stuff’s  Kate Taylor, Gerald  Piddock and Gerard Hutching; NZ Farming Weekly’s Neal Wallace, Annette Scott, Richard Rennie, Tim Fulton, Alan Williams; Pam Tipa and Nigel Malthus at Rural News and RNZ’s  Alexa Cook.

We also have a good variety of rural shows on radio and television.

Jamie Mackay does an excellent job of covering farming and wider rural issues on The Country as does Andy Thompson on The Muster.

Country Calendar seems to cover more lifestyle and alternative farmers now but still does very good work. Rural Delivery was always interesting but now it’s failed to get NZ on AIr funding probably won’t be back.

RNZ  has Country Life and its Friday night and early Saturday morning slots don’t matter so much when it’s easy to listen online at a time that suits better.

We are generally well served by rural media and rural journalists in general media.

The problem is other journalists outside rural media who don’t understand farming and wider rural issues.

They’re the ones who buy the anti-farming propaganda often wrapped in faux-green wrapping; the ones who pedal the emotion and don’t have the inclination or time to check the facts.

They’re the ones who serve farming and the wider rural community badly and undo much of the good rural media and journalists do.


Bias only wrong when it’s right

January 16, 2018

Green Party candidate Hayley Holt is to join Jack Tame as a host on TV1’s Breakfast show.

Holt, 36, stood for the Green Party in John Key’s Helensville electorate in last September’s general election. At 17th on the party list, she missed out on a place in Parliament.

A former New Zealand snowboarder, she previously hosted alternative sports news show The Crowd Goes Wild on Prime and the breakfast radio show on More FM. . .

If this was a National candidate there would almost certainly have been an uproar from the left.

They petitioned against Mike Hosking hosting pre-elections debates because of his views but he’d never been a candidate.

The left won’t be campaigning against her appointment because in their eyes and ears political bias is only wrong when it’s right and it’s alright when it’s left.

She’s not the first former candidate to front such a show. Paul Henry who fronted breakfast shows on both TV1 and TV3 once stood for National.

Many years before that, Brian Edwards who had been a Labour candidate, was an interviewer on political programmes.

Bias doesn’t necessarily make people wrong for such work and if  they are politically biased it’s better to be out in the open than hidden.

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