Mediocre media management not for media to mind


Should the media mind if the government’s media management is mediocre?

Trans-Tasman doesn’t think so. In today’s issue (subscribe here) it says:

There’s been a lot of head shaking and tut tutting from the political commentariat about the Govt’s media management of late. . .  What is striking is how much of the commentary is basically saying the Govt – and John Key’s office in particular – is bad at spin.

It seems odd, to say the least, for journalists to write articles and broadcast lengthy pieces to camera saying the Govt is making a lousy job of manipulating journalists.

. . . we’re telling them how to even better use this machine to “spin” journalists and the wider public. Why?

More importantly, this growing trend of commentary serves the public very badly.  Firstly, because an analysis of Govt spin is pretty much irrelevant to most people.  But most importantly, the concern is the underlying attitude it betrays. Inherent in this kind of critique is a worship of power.  It basically says journalists will only write good things about you if you are good at “spin”, manipulation, and the general dark arts of power.

Which seems in itself a fairly major betrayal of what political journalism, is supposed to do, which is to expose such dark arts and hold politicians to account.

 I don’t think the government’s media management is bad. It’s just a change of style from that of the previous administration which micro-managed everything. This one tends to leave people to think for themselves.

But even if the media management wasn’t up to scratch, I agree with Trans-Tasman that that shouldn’t be the issue.

The media shouldn’t be complaining about the quality or otherwise of government, or any other, spin. It should be looking behind the spin for the facts and reporting on them.

Who’d be a politician?


P.J. O’Rourke explains to Bill Ralston why he wouldn’t want to be a politician:

“Meetings.” He stretches out the work in horror. “If it was just a matter of bossing people around, I wouldn’t mind so much. It don’t think any of us would. But to sit through meetings and have to be pleasant to everyone all the time. Can you imagine? I can’t do it around the house, with my wife and chidlren whom I love; how could I do it with the whole goddam public!”

The interview is in this week’s Listener. You can read a preview here, but you’ll have to buy a copy of the magazine if you want to read it all before it goes on-line next week.

Desert island date


The Herald is doing its bit to lighten the election campaign by running a series of character polls on the party leaders.

The current one asks: which of these politicians would you rather be stranded on a desert island  with?

Those upset by the furore over leaders’ debates on TV will be pleased to know the eight leaders of the parties in parliament are all there.


Hat Tip: Inquiring Mind

45 more sleeps . . .


. . . until the election and it’s official – politicians are dog tucker.

Clark Shoots Messenger


A tape of Helen Clark’s speech to a journalism conference in which she criticised the media has been released after an Official Information Act request by a member of the public and the intervention of the ombudsman.

On the tape, Clark is severely critical of journalists for their alleged lack of knowledge of world events, historical context, and “letting the facts get in the way of the story.”

Shouldn’t the criticism be for not  letting the facts get in the way of the story?

She claims TV3 political editor Duncan Garner had told a seminar that “politicians always lie”.

“I’m sorry, politicians don’t always lie. I’m quite appalled by that statement. I think it’s important that scrutiny is not confused with cynicism,” Clark said.

Of course politicians don’t always lie, but Garner says what he actually said was that the first instinct of politicians when cornered was to lie.

Clark says there are large gaps in journalists’ general knowledge, and in geography, sociology, and economic matters.

“Very few journalists have any comprehension of the range of relations New Zealand has, the range of issues New Zealand is involved in.”

Most journalists were too young to remember seminal events in the country’s history, she says.

“Today’s political editors of the two main TV channels were barely in their infancy, if born, when Norman Kirk brought the troops back from Vietnam, the Springbok tour, sent the frigate to Mururoa – events that to many of our age group were seminal events,” Clark said.

“Muldoon and David Lange are basically ancient history too and world war one and two are antedivulian.”

Lack of institutional knowledge in newsrooms is a concern but she’s got to remember that it’s not only young people who don’t share her memories of what she considers important. It’s 27 years since I started journalism and I don’t remember Kirk bringing the troops back from Vietnam – I would have been at high school at the time.  The Springbok tour happened a few months after I started work and I remember reporting on it, but it isn’t nearly as important to me as it obviously is to her.

Clark said trends in journalism included “making the story all about them”, a “rush to judgment” on blogging, a refusal to send journalists on overseas trips, and competition that was leading to inaccuracies.

“There wouldn’t be a day go by when something isn’t just plain wrong,” she said.

There are journalists who blog but not all blogs are journalism and not all rush – some of us take a carefully considered path to judgement 😉

I’ll concede that mistakes happen too often and it must be frustrating – but sometimes it’s not the reporting that’s wrong when it doesn’t reflect your own view.

Clark said New Zealand was fortunate to have a free media, however, and politicians still needed journalists as much as the media needed political news.  

Clark courted journalists when she became Prime Minister, and she got a pretty gentle run for a time. Now they’re reporting a different view of the world from hers and she’s taking it personally.

[Update: Karl du Fresne has another view on the media here]

Would You Trust This Survey?


I was wondering how some of the people even made it to the list of most trusted New Zealanders when I read the fine print – respondents were asked to rate 85 well know people on a scale of 1 to 10 as to how much they trusted them.

The ranking which put VC winner Corporal Willie Apiata at number one (replacing the late Sir Ed Hillary) is here. Peter Snell, Colin Meads, Margaret Mahy and Caroline and Georgina Evers-Swindell follow him.

 The list of most trusted professions is here.

Farmers are the 13th most trusted occupation, between dentists and police officers in 11th equal place and scientists and chidlcare providers in 14th and 15th.

Journalists, sigh, are at 34; between taxi drivers and psychics/astrologers.  I’m not sure there is any comfort in ranking just above real estate agents, sex workers, car salesmen, politicians and telemarketers who take the 36th to 40th slots.

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