"Too many people in the media cannot seem to tell the difference between reporting the news and creating propaganda."
— Thomas Sowell (@ThomasSowell) December 18, 2018
Two men retired this week.
On the face of it they are very different – Peter Williams a newsreader and television frontman, Chris Finlayson a lawyer and MP.
But both are consummate professionals who leave their places of employment the poorer for their going.
Tonight I’m grateful for their contributions and examples.
Too many interviews? Once a month too much?
What happened to openness and transparency?
People not worth her time?
What happened to kindness ?
Leader of the Opposition is reputed to be the worst job in politics.
It’s certainly not an easy one, especially early in the term of a new government when few outside the politically tragic are interested in what you do and say.
The media doesn’t help by fixating on poll results and interviewing their own keyboards to write opinion pieces forecasting the end of the leader’s tenure.
They carry on, drip, drip, drip like water on a stone in the expectation they will eventually be proved right.
They did it to Phil Goff, David Shearer, David Cunliffe and Andrew Little and it worked because the Labour caucus was too fixated on itself and its divisions and the party panicked.
They did it to Helen Clark but it didn’t work. Even when all she could muster in the preferred Prime Minister poll was only 5% she stared her would-be coup leaders down.
They didn’t do it to John Key because he polled well from the start and he became leader towards the end of the Labour-led government’s third term when it was looking tired and stale.
They didn’t do it to Jacinda Ardern but she took over the leadership at the very end of the National-led government’s third term and so close to the election she got far more attention than a new opposition leader normally would.
The drip, drip, drip is happening to Simon Bridges but none of the pundits give their gloomy analysis context. He became leader only a few months after the election when it’s almost impossible for an opposition leader to shine.
Jami-Lee Ross’s sabotage didn’t help but at least for now, it makes Bridges’ leadership stronger. The National caucus has learned from Labour’s bad example that disunity is electoral poison.
It is the caucus who decides who’s leader. None of them will want Ross to claim the leader’s scalp and anyone with the political nous to be leader would know that this early in the government’s term, it would be almost impossible to make headway in the preferred PM polls and no matter who took over, he or she too would be subject to the drip, drip, drip of negative columns.
What the columnists don’t see, or at least don’t write about, is what I saw yesterday – Simon Bridges speaking confidently and showing his intelligence, sincerity and warmth.
This is not the dead man walking about whom they opine.
He has, to borrow a line from former Invercargill MP Eric Roy, had a very bad lambing.
I don’t know how much tough stuff he’d faced before, but yesterday convinced me that like good farmers after bad lambings, Bridges has got up and is getting on, in spite of the drip,drip, drip that’s trying to take him down.
To name or not to name the MP who was Jami-Lee Ross’s lover and is said to have sent a very nasty text to him? This is the question exercising minds on Kiwi Journalists’ Facebook page.
RNZ gave considerable coverage to the text but published only a few words, Whale Oil published it in full.
Apparently most political journalists believe they know who she is and she has been named on social media.
A few years ago this question would not have been asked.
But times, and journalism have changed.
Do the public, which will include people whose votes might be influenced by the knowledge, have the right to know which MP behaved this way?
Whether or not it’s ethical to name her, I have no doubt her name will become public soon.
Whether it’s on a blog or in the mainstream media will be irrelevant. Once it’s published somewhere other outlets will follow.
Tell Tale Tit,
Your tongue shall be slit;
And all the dogs in the town
Shall have a little bit.
This rhyme was a schoolyard taunt aimed at children who told tales.
It’s come to mind often lately as I’ve come across stories in the media that are far more tittle-tattle than news.
One yesterday, that I’m not going to dignify with a link, breathlessly reported on a text obviously sent in anger.
Passing quickly over the ethics and judgement of all involved who thought it was okay to use something from someone sectioned for mental illness and risk the other party feeling victimised and abused again.
With this sort of reportage, it is very hard to raise above a he-said-she-said exchange of insults without understanding the context and circumstances that provoked it.
Even if that can be established, is it anyone’s business but those directly involved?
Making public a personal exchange, even it it’s between public figures, should rarely, if ever, be considered news.
As one of my lecturers at journalism school said, and the first editor I worked under reinforced, whether or not the public is interested in something shouldn’t influence the decision on whether it’s in the public interest to publish it.
Telling tales is rarely in the public interest.
My farmer spotted these signs in Sydney a couple of months ago:
They were part of a campaign to raise money to help drought-stricken farmers.
”Would we get that sort of support in cities here?” my farmer asked.
When relatively few people now come little closer to farms than a glance out a window as they drive down a main road, and the anti-farming lobby is so vocal the answer could well be no.
But this gives me hope: the ODT opines that the All Blacks are not our only winners:
. . . Rugby experts suggest New Zealand’s winning formula is not as dark an art as our black jerseys suggest. Instead, they say, it is a result of hard work and good management, of understanding what the fundamental parts of rugby are, and ensuring players from a very young age learn those basics. In other words, cleverness and hard work.
So can we not dominate a global industry with our cleverness and hard work the way we dominate rugby? Imagine the benefit to New Zealand, to our economy, to our employment rate, to our tax take. The answer of course is obvious: we do. In farming.
I’m a fan of Fred Dagg and Wal Footrot but sad that those images are close to reality for too many people who don’t know farmers and understand farming.
Our farmers are the All Blacks of international agriculture. Our livestock herds roam farms of natural grass, grass fed by little more than rainwater and manure. The resulting products are the envy of the world, yet our farmers compete on price with factory farmers from other nations, despite receiving none of the tariffs and subsidies many of our competitors do.
Our world-renowned horticulture industry employs thousands, sending prime produce across the globe despite the genuine tyranny of distance implicit in an industry where fresh is considered best.
I wonder if there is still a lingering snobbery about people who get their hands dirty that means at least some urban people don’t recognise the many skills food producers need and excel at?
The irony is when the All Blacks win their innovation, hard work and brilliance is celebrated. When our farmers win, day after day, year after year, it seems a growing portion of New Zealanders feel nothing but resentment that farming is not just swaying grass and wildflowers. Instead they see a dark industrial evil, polluting rivers, producing emissions and ruining landscapes. Clearly there is an image problem needing fixing.
Mistakes have been made in the past which will take time to repair; and some by accident or deliberately, are still not using best practice.
But those are the minority. Most farmers take their responsibility to look after their stock, their land, waterways and the wider environment, and to treat their staff well, seriously.
Of course, animal welfare, land-use and pollution are serious issues; that is not up for debate. But it is hard to imagine another economically equitable industry without its own unwanted by-products.
Farming requires the landscape to remain covered in photosynthesising plant life. It is spread around the country, ensuring the ongoing existence of hundreds of small communities. In New Zealand, farming is cleaner, kinder and more efficient than virtually anywhere else on earth. It provides healthy, active, well-paid outdoor employment for thousands of Kiwis, and pays for the employment of many thousands more in support roles, including this country’s world-leading agricultural-science industry.
Thankfully many New Zealanders do still value what farming offers New Zealand. They know we are, as a country, world champion farmers and we are immeasurably better off because of that. It is right and natural to celebrate the exploits of our rugby players as they continue to do us proud on the international stage. But let us not forget that it is not the only international stage we excel on. Our farmers are proof of that.
This is high praise.
It is heartening to know that the hard work of farmers, their staff and the many people who service and supply them is recognised and celebrated.