Bigger not better for media


Stuff and NZME have enlisted an unlikely ally in their quest to merge:

NZ First leader Winston Peters has thrown his support behind NZME buying rival news agency Stuff, saying such a deal is in the “national interest”.

NZME, publisher of the NZ Herald, has sought the Government’s support to buy Stuff, which is owned by Australian media company Nine.

The proposal is being considered by Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media Minister Kris Faafoi.

Peters today threw his weight behind NZME’s proposal saying it “is in the greater public interest and the national interest”. . . 

One of the commitments would be to keep a certain number of regional newspaper titles open, Peters said. Regional news was “as important as a hospital, as important as a school” in provincial areas. . . 

Business and media should know that if the government is the answer they’ve asked the wrong question.

Newspapers have been losing readers for decades and all mainstream media is struggling with so much competition from online news sources, but the answer is not for newspaper companies to get bigger, it is for them to get smaller and more local, as Karl du Fresne, writing about the Wairarapa Times-Age, said:

. . .if any papers could survive in the new media environment, it would be those that specialised in local news. Not only is local news important to people because it directly affects them in their daily lives, but it’s also the segment of the market that has been least disrupted by the internet. If you want local news, you must get it from a local provider. . . 

If the success of the Oamaru Mail is an example, smaller and more local is a far better way to go.

I started my journalism career on the Oamaru Mail way back when it was a daily paper and the first in the country to use computer printing.

It is now a weekly give-away, and its healthy size is evidence that it has the support of readers and the advertisers that fund it.

Its owned by Allied Press which also owns the Otago Daily Times (ODT), the only privately owned daily paper in New Zealand.

The Oamaru Mail succeeds because it concentrates on local news, written by people who live in and know the district it serves, its people and issues.

The ODT is following other daily papers with a drop in circulation, but it’s losing readers at a much slower rate than those owned by the companies wanting to merge.

One reason for the slower decline is that its hatched, matched and dispatched advertisements are available in the paper on the digital edition, not the free online version. This ensures older readers keep buying it.

Another reason is that it too has teams of local reporters throughout its circulation area ensuring that local stories get good coverage with the national and international news and views.

Rather than allowing the two big companies to merge and become even bigger while attempting to keep local papers alive by insisting some regional titles stay open, it would be better to sell the smaller titles and let them thrive as local papers, with local staff covering local issues for their local communities.

Who will buy?


APN has announced it is to sell its South Island titles and Wellington community papers.

Among them is the Oamaru Mail where I started my journalism career.

. . . In a memo to staff, APN describes the decision to quit the twice-weekly giveaway Christchurch paper, The Star, the Oamaru Mail and a clutch of other small, community titles in the South Island and Wellington as a “strategic decision to consolidate its publishing business in the North Island.”

The Star, published Wednesdays and Fridays, has an audited circulation of 71,644, while the Oamaru Mail is one of the country’s smallest, with a circulation of just 2,883. . .

The Mail was an evening paper when I worked for it, 30 years ago, and circulation was dropping then.

Competition from TV and more recently the internet and give away papers has further eroded its circulation.

A decision to make it a morning paper put it head to head with the Otago Daily Times which has fewer of the local and parish pump stories the Mail covers but a lot more other news and features.

There’s no mention of a price in the media release but APN will be dreaming if they’re asking for much.

Who would want to buy it?

There might be an entrepreneur out there looking for a challenge, and this would be a big one.

The Mail still provides a service for locals but a paper with low and declining circulation won’t be an attractive business proposition.

Lifetime achievement award for Bob Berry


The New Zealand Specialist Cheese Association has presented Whitestone Cheese founder Bob Berry was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award for his outstanding contribution to the country’s speciality cheese industry.

Bob started his working life as a stock agent before taking over his own farm. He and his wife Sue started Whitestone Cheese in 1987 in an attempt to overcome the ag-sag.

We were privileged to be at the company’s 25th anniversary celebrations and listened in admiration to the story of how the company started and grew. Whitestone now supplies delicious cheeses to outlets throughout New Zealand and has a growing export market.

The company has been a consistent winner in cheese awards since the early days and in last night’s Cuisine Champions of Cheese awards notched up another two wins – the Vintage Blue won the Ecolab Champion Blue Cheese Award and the Whitestone Range won the Caspack Champion Cheese Packaging Award.

The Oamaru Mail reports:

The company’s flagship cheese, Windsor Blue, has won more awards than any other cheese in New Zealand. Whitestone Cheeses have also been included in gift packs at the Oscars after-parties in the US.

Whitestone Cheese attributes its success to the use of locally sourced ingredients, including rich North Otago milk and traditional cheesemaking techniques.

Earlier this month son and general manager Simon Berry told the Oamaru Mail his father was often still on the road promoting the brand.

“Bob will never retire. He’s a bit like an old farmer; always tapping away at his fences,” he said.

He also acknowledged how Whitestone Cheese had become a proud North Otago institution, creating plenty of regional pride among his workers and the wider community.

“There is a bit of a culture of pride. We’re up there with the world’s best and we’re just from little Oamaru.”

The pride is justified, the cheese is delicious and most of it is named after North Otago localities or geographical features.

You can find out more about the company and order cheese online here.

If you watch the TV ad on the front page, you’ll  hear Bob and get an idea of his passion for his cheese.

The full list of 2012 Cuisine Cheese champions is here.

School “forced” to obey law


The headline in the Oamaru Mail (not online) says: Govt ‘bullies school’.

The story says:

Oamaru’s Pembroke School has been forced to include the controversial National Standards in its charter.

Pembroke principal Brent Godfery said yesterday the Ministry of Education had used the Education Act to make the school’s board of trustees amend the charter so it complies.

Shock, horror – the Ministry used the law to bring into line a school which was deliberately flouting it.

. . .  Mr Godfery said just because charters were compliant it did not mean the National Standards were acted upon.

“We will continue to educate our community on the dangers this policy is posing to one of the best educations systems in the world,” he said.

Schools are supposed to be educating its pupils not pushing a political point of view at its community.

No-one denies that our system is very good and that our best students are up with the world’s best. The problem is the long tail of low achievers among whom are the one in five who leave school with illiterate and innumerate.

National Standards won’t by themselves change that but they are a tool which will help identify the children who aren’t learning as well as they ought to be.

However, from what Mr Godfery told the Waitaki Herald,  it isn’t how well pupils are learning but how the school looks which is his main concern:

Like other principals, Mr Godfery was concerned that National Standards’ results would be turned into a league table, ranking schools against each other.

He said such tables weren’t a fair reflection on how schools performed compared to others, due to different decile ratings for schools and pupils who came from non-English speaking backgrounds.

This is the same tired argument too often used to oppose all sorts of innovations in schools and one which is of far more concern to teachers than anyone else.

It might be possible to compare schools as a by-product of National Standards but that’s not its aim. They are simply a tool to monitor children’s performance and progress to ensure teachers and parents know how well children are doing.

Success or failure of the tool won’t be in identifying children who don’t meet the standard but in what happens next to help those who aren’t learning as well as they ought to be.

Why the secrecy when it’s not a secret? – updated


Helen Clark is back in New Zealand and told the Bay of Plenty Times she wouldn’t be giving interviews and was “home on family business”.

She is perfectly entitled to visit her family and not give interviews, but I don’t know why she wouldn’t in this case because it was an opportunity for her to promote a very good cause. 

One of the reasons she’s back in New Zealand was to speak at a fundraising dinner for Project HHH – Hearts and Hands for Haiti. That was publicised in the ODT, Oamaru Mail and HHH’s website.

Oamaru nurse Robyn Coupler spent more than 30 years working in Haiti. She was back home when the earthquake which killed more than 230,000 people struck.

She and local supporters set up HHH to help survivors and the trust has sent several teams of doctors, nurses and physiotherapists to Haiti.

Robyn already had local networks and the teams were able to work with local people to give the help they needed most in contrast to the United Nations teams which some thought were doing little good and some harm.

A supporter of HHH contacted Ms Clark who was impressed by the work the charity was doing and offered to help.

That’s it – a good cause, no conspiracy so why the secrecy?

Hat Tip for the BPT link: Whaleoil

UPDATE: The ODT’s report on last night’s funciton is here.

Press Council upholds grieving mother’s complaint


The sudden death of a young woman might be news but in May the Oamaru Mail made the mistake of turning it into a front-page sensationalisation of a troubled life.

Her family, confronted with this just two days after the death, was understandably upset. So was the community which responded with a torrent of letters, phone calls and cancelled subscriptions.

The editor, who had written the story, apologised and explained the reasoning behind the decision to run the story. The family wasn’t placated and Elle’s mother complained to the Press Council.

The council upheld her complaint and in doing so said:

The council does not deny the newspaper its right to publish the fact of the death – but it is the way the newspaper went about it that has brought it into conflict with Elle’s family, the local community and the council’s principles.
Publications, particularly those serving small communities, have a particular duty to report tragic events with sensitivity. The untimely death of a young person is distressing to such communities as there is a greater likelihood of individuals being known to one another and, in the event of a highly publicised sudden death, the community becomes alight with speculation.
In this case, the front-page lead article and its accompanying photograph added fuel to fire. It contributed to increased distress and trauma of Elle’s family and friends at this time of tragedy.
The editor did not try hard enough to obtain positive details about Elle; the article was simply a list of her problems with the law.

The paper had tried to contact the family but they understandably had other priorities immediately after the death. Had the Mail stuck to reporting the bare facts at first then waited it might have had the opportunity for another and better story later.

Its haste and insensitivity, compounded by the use of a photo of Elle being arrested, cost it dearly in loss of reputation and readers.

The sudden death of a young woman might be news but the Press Council’s decision shows that coverage of it must be sensitive.

Happy to be a list MP?


The Oamaru Mail reports the Labour Party has selected its candidate to contest the Waitaki electorate next year:

Local building contractor Barry Monks has been selected as the Labour Party candidate for Waitaki, The Oamaru Mail can exclusively reveal.

The announcement was delayed because Mr Monks, 40, was standing for an Oamaru Ward council seat in the local body elections.

At the next general election he will take on National’s Jacqui Dean, who beat David Parker in the 2005 and 2008 polls. Mr Monks faces an uphill battle to overturn Mrs Dean’s 11,000-vote majority.

Taking any seat off a popular MP is never easy and the size and configuration of Waitaki make it even harder for a newcomer.

Oamaru is the biggest town in the electorate and tends to be red but Jacqui won every polling booth in the town at the last election. She also won all but two of the 89 polling booths in the more than 20 distinct communities over the 34, 888 square kilometres the electorate covers. Getting traction with voters across that large area is a huge task for a new candidate.

The more interesting part of this announcement is the implication that David Parker isn’t seeking a seat.

When he didn’t seek selection for the Dunedin North seat after Pete Hodgson’s retirement announcement some wondered if he was going to have another tilt at Waitaki.

He won what was then the Otago seat in 2002 but lost it to Jacqui three years later. Boundaries then changed making the electorate even bigger and it gained a new name, Waitaki,  for the 2008 election. David stood against Jacqui in the bigger seat but upset local party people by conceding the seat at a public meeting in Geraldine a couple of weeks before the end of the campaign.

That he didn’t seek selection for either Dunedin North or Waitaki suggests he’s content to remain a list MP.

Gate thief


The Oamaru Mail reported that an unexpected consequence of the recent flooding was a reduction in crime.

Unfortunately for us, one of the criminal acts was the theft of three of our gates.

They were just common or garden road side farm gates which cost about $100 each.

What concerns us most is that because the theft happened in the middle of the deluge when lots of roads were closed it almost certainly means the thief or thieves live/s locally.

Apropos of rural thefts – rivetting Kate Taylor is looking for stories of stolen stock.

The d word


The Oamaru Mail has headlined the d word: Drought declaration looms for Otago region.

We had a short, sharp downpour on Thursday which has taken the pressure off us but we’ve got irrigation, scale and diversity.

It was a very localised rain and even those who got as much as we did will still be facing some tought decisions if they’re dryland farming.

North Otago has been dogged by droughts since farming started here – and no doubt before.

This dry is unusual because it’s taken so long for public acknowledgement.

When there wasn’t much irrigation, all farmers stopped spending when the weather got dry and it didn’t take long for the town to fell the impact.

I think now there’s now enough irrigation to keep the money flowing into Oamaru so the town hasn’t been affected the way it was in the past.

We look across green pasture to dry paddocks in the distant and are grateful we’ve got irrigation. It must be hard for those on the dryland looking back the other way as they run short of feed and have to face up to quitting stock.

There was a dusting of snow on the Kakanui mountains yesterday morning. It was gone by lunchtime but it’s a sign that temperatures are dropping so even if the region gets more rain soon, it will be too late for pre-winter growth.

One good thing about the decrease in the sheep population is that there is plenty of space at the freezing works so farmers needing to reduce stock will have somewhere to send them.

Lambs are selling for about $75 dollars and ewes for around $55. Two year old beef cattle are fetching about $950.

It may not be a fortune but it has been much worse.

When the ag-sag of the 80s coincided with a drought some farmers got bills when they sent stock to the works because transport and killing charges exceeded the value of the animals.

PS Contact details for the Rural Support Trust which helps rural families facing an adverse event – climatic, financial or personal – are on this website.

Oamaru Mail goes online


The Oamaru Mail has gone online.

That was the paper which gave me my first job when I graduated from Canterbury University’s journalism school.

I wasn’t over enthusiastic about returning to the town I’d grown up in but it gave me a lot of experience I wouldn’t have got as a new reporter elsewhere. While classmates who started work on bigger papers got all the little stories I had three rounds of my own – farming, health and social welfare. I also had to do court and local body reporting when the chief reporter was away.

It was election year – 1981 – and among the people I interviewed were then deputy leader of the Labour Party, David Lange, and its president Jim Anderton.

The day the Prime Minister, Rob Muldoon was in town, Social Credit was having a meeting in Waimate. I had to go there to interview Bruce Beetham while the chief reporter covered Muldoon. 

The paper edition of the Mail is published Monday to Friday and it’s part of APN’s stable of regional newspapers.

Others are: Northern Advocate, The Aucklander, Bay of Plenty Times, Rotorua Daily Post, Hawkes Bay TodayStratford Press, Wairarapa Times-Age, Wanganui Chronicle and Star Canterbury.

We don’t know how lucky we are


In the depths of the 1980s ag-sag the Oamaru Mail decided it had a duty to cheer people up and announced a policy to put only good news on the front page.

That didn’t last long because it soon became obvious that it was more than a wee bit silly to give the front page lead to a story of little substance because it was “good” news and put stories of far more substance and importance on page three because they were “bad” news.

Highlighting the positive should be left to censors and propoganda merchants not the media, but that doesn’t mean they should go to the opposite extreme and be prophets of doom.

Alf Grumble has declared war on sad sacks  and I think he has a point – and not just because I was flattered when he saluted me as the bearer of glad tidings   and quoted from my opinion piece  in the ODT (though I don’t think he realised that  it was written by me).

Commentators, analysts and others whose opinions are sought by the media are painting a very gloomy picture and while there is no doubt we are in troubling ecomomic times, out here in the real world things aren’t that bad.

And maybe that’s part of the solution – the doomsayers are breathing the stale air of the big cities but if they got out into the provinces they might realise there’s no need to get depressed.

It worked for Colin Espiner who’s returned to work with a positive outlook after a few weeks out of Wellington and what he’s saying is a fairer reflection of what’s happening in rural New Zealand than the bad news stories which are making the headlines.

A small town retailer told me he’d had the same turnover in the six weeks to mid January this year as he’d had in the whole three months of last summer; the milk payout is down from last year’s record but Fonterra’s $5.10 is still the third highest yet; sheep and beef returns are well up; interest rates, fuel and fertiliser prices are dropping  . . .

I’m not saying we should break out the champagne but like Busted Blonde I can play Pollyanna and see plenty to be happy about so maybe what’s needed is a bit of balance in economic and social reporting so we don’t get talked into a depression.

And maybe we need to remember Fred Dagg and appreciate that we don’t know how lucky we are.

Norovirus strikes Dunedin Hospital again


Dunedin Hopsital is in code black – it’s highest alert – as it tries to contain its second major outbreak of norovirus in recent months.

The last outbreak, in August, led to a ban on visitors and a cancellation of clinics and non-urgent admissions.

Last week the Oamaru Mail reported a high incidence of stomach bugs in North Otago but the cause wasn’t identified.

Unofficial Undie 500 event this weekend?


Police reinforcements are being called to Dunedin this weekend in preparation for the probable arrival of the unofficial Undie 500.

The annual Undie 500, in which students drive from Christchurch to Dunedin in vehicles costing less than $500, would have marked its 20th anniversary this year.

The event was marred by disorder in 2006 and again last year.

Attempts to negotiate a revamped Undie 500 with authorities failed and traditional organiser Ensoc (University of Canterbury’s engineering society) cancelled the Undie 500 this year.

Legal advice also led to the cancellation of an alternative official event, Trek 08.

A rogue event has been talked about on social networking websites Facebook and Bebo since the official events were cancelled and an email was circulated among Canterbury University students this week saying an Undie 500-style rally was planned for this weekend.

It’s not just Dunedin that has problems. The manager of Oamaru’s KFC, Barry Baylis,  told the Oamaru Mail that previous Undie 500 participants have created chaos and left revolting messes in their wake.

I must be getting old because I can remember a time when it was possible to have fun even if alcohol was involved without upsetting other people and with no need for police.

EPMU rallies for work rights


The Engineering Printing and Manufacturing Union’s Work Rights Wage Drive stopped for a rally in Oamaru on Wednesday.

It attracted about 100 people  and was one of 25 organised by the union and launched its work rights checklist.

The Oamaru Mail quoted EPMU national secretary Andrew Little as saying the wage drive and checklist were to ensure working people understood the importance of their rights.

Oamaru EPMU delegate Dave Snow told the workers to make their voices heard at this year’s election.

How they do that and how much they spend doing it will depend on the outcome of the National Party’s High Court challenge of the Electoral Commission’s decision to register the union, which is affiliated to the Labour Party and one of their largest donors, as a third party under the Electoral Finance Act.

Murray McCully explained in his weekly newsletter that:

Registration will entitle them to spend $120,000 attacking the National Party, which, due to the constraints of the EFA, will not be able to respond.

The High Court case looks solid. The EPMU is claiming not to be “involved in the administration of the affairs”  of the Labour Party, within the meaning of the EFA.  If the High Court upholds the registration, there will be immediate applications from several organisations that are not “involved in the administration of the affairs” of the National Party Current favourites from readers are the Citizens Opposed to the Political Activities of the EPMU, and the Not The Spencer Trust. So, either way, the High Court decision will produce an interesting outcome.

However, until the court decides the union, and any other groups whose ability to campaign rests on the decision, are left in limbo. That’s not conducive to democracy at any time and even less so when the election is a maximum of 14 weeks away.

Oamaru Mail poll puts National ahead


An Oamaru Mail poll found 40% of people would vote for National, 25% for Labour and 22.5% are undecided.


Jan Howell 50 said she hoped that recent polls inidcating a rise by Labour would not be a continuing trend.



“I think the Labour Party is running the country into the ground. I think they have their priorities wrong. There are people really struggling in this country but a lot of their money seems to be going overseas.”



Adele Foley, 55, said…the country needed a change of leaderhsip and she would be voting for National and John Key.



Waimate accountant Tim Jones said he was confident his preferred party, National, would win the election.



“I prefer National’s economic policies. People want less control of the economy and Government spending to be reduced.”



Unemployed man Greg Petry, 34, also thought it was about the economy.



“Seeing the eocnomy is going down National will probably get in.”



However, he was undecided about who he would vote for, preferring to wait to hear which party “made more sense” closer to the election.



Health, education and the economy were the biggest concerns of most people spoken to. However not everyone thought National ahd the best answers.



One woman, 48, who did not want to be identified said she thought the economy was the big issue and that Labour were doing a good job of managing things. “I think they are doing as much as they can in a global environment.”



Pip Harrington, 74, said she would be voting for Labour because she didn’t trust National with her pension.



“I’m hoping Labour will catch up but it might be a bit late. It’s important for people on a pension.”


She said she was happy Labour had bought back the railways and was worried that National would sell them off again if they got back in to power.



But more common was a desire for change among people spoken to. One semi-retired man, who wished to remain anonymous, said that he wanted “Aunty Helen” out of Government.



“People must be sick of the granny state by now. People in government have ideas above their station. They are supposed to be looking after our interests not their own.



That level of support of support could be seen as good for National because Oamaru always votes red. But the poll is not scientific and only 40 people were questioned.


That is comforting because it means I don’t have to be scared that 7.5% of people indicated they’d vote for New Zealand First. 🙂

$3m or more for Opera House?


Minister of Internal Affairs, Rick Barker, is in Oamaru this morning for what the Oamaru Mail calls “a presentation” at the Opera House.

It is expected he will be announcing a grant towards the refurbishment of the historic building.

The Mail reports a rumour that it could be up to $3m but yesterday the grapevine was tipping as much as $3.5m.

The refurbishment began in March last year and is expected to be completed towards the end of this year.

Raising the $9.7m needed for the project is a huge task for the District but a combination of community fundraising efforts and grants has rasied nearly $6.5m so far.

No recession here


While city papers are full of stories of impending doom, The Oamaru Mail front page lead is headline: No recession here.

The Herald reports that motor vehicle retail sales dropped nearly 15% from April to May and 11.6% since last September.

But the Mail (not on Line) reports that North Otago sales are still holding up.

… Peter Robinson manager of North Otago Motor Group said Oamaru was bucking the trend despite rising fule prices and talk of recession.

“We are definitely going better here and talking with counterparts, it seems the rural and provincial guys are feeling better than the city guys…

He said the company had seen a  rise in sales since last year and had already sold 15 vehicle s this month.

“For us in North Otago it’s driven off the back of good agricultural returns. That puts a positive spin on everyone’s business and it flows through to us.”

Mr Robinson said he expected things to get even better due to good conditions in the agricultural sector and tax cuts expected later in the year.

A vehicle dealer we spoke to in Ashburton at the weekend was equally positive about business in Mid Canterbury and he too credited agriculture for it.

Heading Feds Requires Change from Sheep


Taking on the presidency of Federated Farmers is pushing Don Nicolson to change from running sheep on his farm to leasing it for dairying.

His 212 ha farm is too small to justify the cost of employing a manager but too big for him to run by himself while also serving as president.

“My intention is to give it [Federated Farmers presidency] 24/7 attention, but I can’t do both. There is no way given the economics of sheep farming that I can employ a manager.”

His experience illustrated one of the major challenges facing farmers and a reason he was looking at joining the flood of sheep and beef farmers changing to dairying.

Last year, he made a net profit of just $1 a stock unit over his 2500 stock units. Leasing to a dairy farmer would earn him a net profit of $200,000.

“It makes no sense to stay in the sheep industry.”

Even without taking on the presidency the difference in income from dairying or sheep and beef is a pretty compelling argument for change.  But even so, this is a reminder of the sacrifices made by people who take office in voluntary organisations.

The Oamaru Mail reported last week that North Otago Council of Social Services was disbanding because it had too few members. It’s the lament of just about every voluntary organisation be it sport or leisure club, religious, service or lobby group, or political party.

Yet the voluntary sector is still a vital part of our communities and society. We’re fortunate that there still are people willing to play an active role in them in spite of the cost in financial, and personal terms and the many competing demands for their time, talent and energies.

Bomb Scare Costs


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.

ODT re-launches on-line


There are a few disadvantages to life in the country, one of which is that our newspapers are delivered with the mail which doesn’t arrive until anywhere from 1ish to after 3. By this time we’ve usually caught up with national, international and big regional and local stories from radio, TV or the net.

 I’d suggested to the previous editor that because of this rural subscribers ought to be able to get free, or heavily subsidised access to the digital edition but was told that would down-grade the product for other subscribers.

 I happened to be speaking with ODT political editor Dene McKenzie a few weeks ago and said because of that we were thinking of stopping the paper and subscribing to the digital edition instead. He told me to wait because a new editor, Murray Kirkness, had a  different view and the paper was going to re-launch itself on-line. It has and introduces itself here.

 The digital revolution has just taken another turn for Otago Daily Times readers with the launch today of, an open and free source of local, national, international and sports news.

 We’ll update constantly throughout the day, bringing you the latest national and local news as well as features from throughout our region, New Zealand and the world.

And, of course, it’s all about you. We have designed the site for you, our readers. Now you can interact with the ODT in many exciting and different ways. So, let’s have a conversation at

You’ll be able to comment on stories, vote in polls, send us your photographs, create your own news stories.

Your opinions will help shape the news as never before.

Don’t be scared to contact us. We want both your feedback and your contributions _ stories, photos, events – and we now have the cyberspace to publish what we receive.

The ODT is rightly known for the depth of our local coverage, and we’ll carry that even further online.

Not only will we replicate online the hyper-local stories found in the Regions section of the print edition, but the site takes this further with a unique Your Town section.

Most of the towns in our area get their own home-page, complete with news stories, photographs, events, photo slideshows and weather.

The Southland Times competes with the ODT in Central Otago and further south but there is only one other local paper in the region The Oamaru Mail (owned by APN). It used to be an afternoon paper but is now printed in Ashburton in the morning so the only reason for getting it rather than the ODT has been for the parish-pump stories which will now be on line.

We have also taken into account the importance of tertiary students to the region by creating an On Campus section, complete with news, photo slideshows, blogs and a gig guide.

In spite of giving away subscriptions at orientation students most students don’t read papers, but may use the on-line version more.


Elsewhere on the site, our sport coverage will be as comprehensive as ever, ranging from grassroots local games to the most up-to-date news and results from around the globe.

For world news we have signed a partnership with international news giant Associated Press to deliver the latest news and photographs from throughout the world. Wherever news happens, AP is there, and we will be there with them.

We aim to provide depth as well as breadth. Make sure to check out our Opinion and Business section for independent thought and analysis.

Our bloggers will provide a slightly different flavour of opinion, but will certainly be entertaining.







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