Red Alert

Archive for the ‘journalism’ Category

Nicky Hager: Uncomfortable truths, NZ foreign policy in the ‘war on terror’

Posted by on May 4th, 2013

Author and investigative journalist Nicky Hager delivered this year’s Capt Jack Lyon Memorial Lecture. He draws on his book Other People’s Wars, telling the story of New Zealand’s involvement in the war in Afghanistan over the decade of the ‘war on terror’.  As I say in my introduction, I think it is a cautionary tale for any future Labour-led government with a progressive, independent foreign policy. I am proud of the determination shown by Helen Clark and the Fifth Labour Government to keep New Zealand out of the invasion of Iraq. Nicky marshals some persuasive evidence that the military and intelligence establishment saw the ‘war on terror’ as an opportunity to work their way back into close operational engagement with our former ANZUS allies and worked assiduously to make this happen, in a way that at times undermined the Government’s foreign policy position.

Here’s Nicky Hager delivering the fifth Capt Jack Lyon Memorial Lecture.

On behalf of the North Shore committee of the Labour Party thanks to Nicky for adding to the Jack Lyon tradition; and thanks also to all the volunteers who made this year’s event a success: Frances; Michelle, Heather and the kitchen team; Syd for the PA, Kane for recording the speech; as well as Mark, and Danielle at Paradigm for the programme.

Lobbyists and Transparency

Posted by on June 4th, 2011

Tracy Watkins has an interesting column in this morning’s Dominion Post about the rise of lobbyists and the lack of rules and transparency around them in the New Zealand political sphere. I agree with a lot of what she writes. Now unlike my friends and colleagues in the Greens, I don’t think a Minister’s decision-making is going to be swayed by a ticket to the rugby and a few sausage rolls, but I am concerned about the increasing number of lobbyists who seem to have unrestricted access to Parliament buildings and the lack of transparency around that.

I’ll be upfront right here and now and say that I’ve been to several sporting events at the invitation of corporate box owners, often joining MPs from other political parties. But I think MPs, and particularly ministers, need to be careful about which invitations they accept. For example, it would be a very bad look for Steven Joyce to be seen in a Telecom corporate box around the time he is making significant decisions on broadband. On the other hand, I can’t see there being any issue with National backbenchers accepting corporate hospitality from government banker Westpac. They’re not going to have any influence over whether the government banking contract is renewed anyway.

I think New Zealand has come a long way in recent years on issues around transparency. Our elected representatives are now subject to a quite stringent declaration of interests process, and some of the loopholes (for example the ‘annonymising’ trusts that Tracy refers to in her column) have actually been closed so that MPs can’t hide where they have their money stashed, unless they truly don’t know where it is themselves (in other words it’s in a blind trust, although I myself remain skeptical about just how ‘blind’ those trusts actually are).

However, I’d also point out that those who report on our activities aren’t subject to any such transparency, and I think that’s an area that we should also look at. I’ve met just as many press gallery journalists in corporate boxes at the Westpac Stadium as I have other MPs. Given they have huge influence over what the public get to know about the decision-making of elected leaders, why shouldn’t the journalists also have to be transparent about that? When journalists receive free travel, which they often do from the airlines, why shouldn’t they have to declare that? (I do acknowledge that many will put a small statement at the end of an article of someone else has paid for their airfares, but they are not obliged to do so by anything other than their own ethical standards).

With the government increasingly using military aircraft to get around the country and around the world, why shouldn’t the journalists who travel with them on those same flights have to be transparent about that? If we as the Opposition were to critiscise a Minister for using an airforce plane rather than a commercial plane, and the journalist covering that critiscism had also been a passenger on said military aircraft, surely their readers are entitled to know that?

I’ve had quite a bit to do with a number of press gallery journalists in my time working in politics and, for the most part, I think they’ve got incredibly high ethical standards. But I think most politicians do as well. If the fourth estate want to argue, as they do, that we can’t rely on a politician’s word and sense of ethics and we do, in fact, need more rigid and transparent rules around personal interests, why shouldn’t the same argument apply to those who report on our activities?

I think this is a really interesting area of discussion, and I congratulate Tracy for bringing it up. I’m looking forward to the phone ringing off the hook over the next 24 hours as her colleagues stampede to report my call of greater transparency on their part. Oh wait…

Frost of the Caucus

Posted by on April 12th, 2011

Over the past few days I’ve been feeling rather sad about the announcements of NZPA and TVNZ 7. It has been tough to see that more voices in our media are being lost.

But I cheer up whenever I listen (online) to a community radio show that you probably didn’t even know about.

For a community radio show it has pulled in some pretty big guests like Te Radar, Roger Kerr (of the Business Roundtable), Economists Bernard Hickey and Rod Oram, Political columnists Chris Trotter, Matthew Hooton, Bomber Bradbury and Colin James, Auckland mayors John Banks and Len Brown, New Zealander of the Year Ray Avery, Rocket Man Peter Beck, League Legend Stacey Jones, Former Governor General Dame Cath Tizard and Aotearoa Republican Lewis Holden.

Now you are wondering, with guests that good, why haven’t you heard about it? Well wonder now more. Ladies and gentleman I introduce to you the David Frost of the Labour caucus, David Shearer.

The show is live Thursdays at 9.05am on Thursday or listen online [link has been fixed]

Politics, media and the internet

Posted by on February 15th, 2011

Now that I’m the new spokesperson for broadcasting, there’s a few things I should say upfront:

First, thanks to Brendon Burns for his efforts in the portfolio. He and I worked well together; he’s done some fine policy work and has stood up for the craft of journalism and the ethics of public broadcasting.

Second; I believe passionately in the craft of journalism and the importance of public media.

Third: I am also the spokesperson for communications and IT. I see a rapidly changing media landscape and despite the continuing need for good journalism and content, many of the traditional institutions that provide platforms for media are struggling to survive,  dispproportionately dominate, or struggle for relevance.

The internet is the key. Whether you work in print, radio or TV, our news is rapidly being delivered via the internet, along with other content, such as music, video, movies and access to opinion and social media.

We are witnessing the rise of the citizen journalist. Blogs, facebook and Twitter are rapidly making their presence felt in how people consume information and communicate. Mainstream (traditional/old) media is struggling to adapt.

A few weeks ago I gave  a talk about politics and the internet. I said (because it’s true) that despite the crisis for many media outlets about how to adapt, the content that they produce and the craft they practice  is still vitally important.

Consider this:

The paradigm of New Media vs. old Media is now overstated.  New Media and Traditional Media need each other to survive.

Blogs still rely heavily on mainstream media for content. A recent study by the Pew research Center  found that 99% of stories linked to in blogs came from legacy outlets such as BBC, CNN, The New York Times and the Washington Post.

Two quick examples: 

The tragic events in Tuscon on 8 Jan 2011, which killed six and left Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords fighting for her life -the news broke first through Tweets, blogs and Facebook status updates. Newspapers first put their stories online and then followed with more detailed print editions. Journalists and publications joined and added to the conversation with their own Tweets and Facebook pages. Broadcast and cable TV networks broke the story simultaneously on the internet and their stations. 

And then the incredible sequence of events in Egypt, which broke on Twitter (that the Egyptian government had effectively shut down the internet) and sparked a storm of response from within Egypt, and outside. Social media was critical for spreading information,and as an organising tool, but the amazing and admirable efforts of Al Jazeera TV should not go unnoticed.

Of course there were other media outlets, including some of our own, that did a very good job.

What this tells me is that the medium is alive and kicking. It needs propelling into the new century (a decade or so late) in how it embraces new technology, and it needs support. A strong democracy needs strong, independent modern, public media. It also needs a competitive and active commercial media. In a modern context, across all media platforms.

This requires a regulatory framework which spans the traditional telecommunications and broadcasting sectors.

Quality journalism cannot be manufactured in a production line with cheap materials. It’s a product that adds value and should be nurtured and valued in any society. Governments don’t always like it, but they need it, and citizens cannot and should not be without it.

Time for change? This is an opportunity.

And the thing is, it doesn’t have to cost government a lot to make it happen.


Systemic Market Failure?

Posted by on September 22nd, 2010

When this country is in recession and Kiwi families are doing it bloody tough, I cannot bear to stand by and see rich and powerful private interests – whom I will not name at this point and this post is not about SCF – rorting the rules and using their clubs and networks to finesse processes.

It makes Godzone look like “the coldest banana republic in the world”.

For goodness sake interests associated with the Natural Dairy Crafar farms bid (potentially with Nat links) reportedly gave $200,000 to the National Party while the Natural Dairy application was still before the OIO and while National has a ministerial policy review underway. 

National should IMMEDIATELY reject that bid – otherwise what is left to separate this from complete corruption?  Brown envelopes?  Is David Garrett really the only sick or crooked puppy on the Govt benches? 

Was it OK for the OIO-overseeing Minister of Finance to lease his (trust’s) house to the govt for a staggering ministerial rent, or accept hours of free TV for his “Plain English” ads?  Isn’t it time we Kiwis stood up and demanded that the tories do sweat the small stuff like the rest of us?  Isn’t it time John key held SOMEONE to account for SOMETHING rather than smile, wave and make excuses?

The Fendalton and Queen St methods are different from the Crafar one but they are even more dangerous and subversive: very polite circles of influence in the clubs and boardrooms – with massive flows of funds through anonymous trusts that violate the intent of the Electoral Finance Act.  Prestigious law firms and lobbyists.  This is up with the worst sort of influence peddling  I saw in Washington D.C. –  One dollar one vote:  permanent plutocracy unless we fight back.

Beyond political donations, look at the ability of the rich and powerful to get their way while the poor and middle struggle: $2 billion a year of tax avoidance through LAQCs and trusts that National in government has refused to touch.  Half the top 100 welathiest NZers are still not on the top tax rate!

This post is not about SCF, but researching that issue has opened my eyes to the complexity of the company and accounting structures in daily use around the markets.   One prominent international investment broker told me he tells his clients never to invest in NZ other than through an ASIC-regulated (Australian) vehicle, because our market is a wild west.

Well what is the point of getting our savings rate up (and asking hard working families to go without consumtion) if the investment vehicles we need to get the money to our struggling firms are being milked and siphoned by fees and sweet deals to the cronies in the markets?  Why would any sane Kiwi sweat 80 hours a week to build a real business here?  Where will our kids choose to live?

We are talking the need for a full scale root and branch reform.  For example, is the Trustee model not a fiction?  Issuers want tame trustees; trustees want clients.  How do you prevent a race to the bottom?  I will wager now the FMA Bill will not do the job.  We have BIG problems here folks. 

It might have been cool to point the finger at Labour when the champers was flowing during the bubble hype days; but corporate influence peddling is about as attractive as a bucket of sick in the middle of a recession.

There is a real risk of systemic market failure in the NZ financial markets.     They remind me of telecommunications markets in the 1990s – time for a big cleanup.

It is not right and not fair on the silent majority who play by the rules and who are getting absolutely screwed. 

It will only get worse until we have a Govt with the guts to stand up to it.   The smiling millionaire from Bankers Trust is hardly likely to do that!

The news is crap #2

Posted by on September 3rd, 2010

I want to believe in our media. I believe the craft of journalism to be an extraordinarily important thing.

It is a critical part of our democracy. And it distresses me that I am so critical and that it has so deteriorated.

I believe that most journalists believe in their craft. And many are good. The institutions they work for have morphed and twisted so much to adapt to a changing world without being able to catch up, that the quest for market share has become so much more important than reflecting back and challenging our society, our culture and the issues that beset it.

So I am heartened tonight to discover this piece, a speech written by Mark Scott, the managing director of Australia’s ABC TV and radio. He is reflecting on the Australian election and the role played by media. By social media. How it could change. For the better.

It gives me hope.

Though we have to focus on our media.

Here’s an excerpt. I urge you to read the piece

The ABC hosted Jay Rosen for a day while he was recently in Australia. He is always good value on the role of social media and the nature of politicaljournalism – in some ways quite a contrarian – and full of encouragement about things we could do better.

He had two suggestions for the ABC, which we are exploring and will likely pursue.

The first is to provide more background, detail and context for members of our audience who are coming fresh to complex stories: like an ETS, or the NBN, or the operations of a hung parliament. The ABC has a role as a patient explainer of these complexities, to help people catch up with the conversation, understand what is being said and to make a contribution if they wish. It plays nicely to our Charter role to provide an educational service to the community. It makes policy more accessible and can bring important issues into the mainstream.

And Rosen said we should plan more thoroughly and consult more widely around what national issues are at play in an election campaign. Long before the campaign starts, talk with the community, engage with experts, undertake polling, think about national challenges: the immediate and the far-reaching.

Charter? What’s that? Planning? Backgrounding, education? Explaining complex issues? making policy accessible? Conversation? Golly. Doesn’t really feel like our media.

Hat tip @abcmarkscott (twitter)

Book burning and now Key uses harpoon on whaleoil

Posted by on July 16th, 2010

John Key was encouraged by Anne Tolley’s success at suppressing a research report on national standards.

Now he has apparently gone another step – pulled Cameron Slater’s media accreditation for the National Party conference this weekend.

I don’t like much of Cameron Slater’s work. The arachnephobic blowhole is sometimes a good case for the reintroduction of criminal libel.

But banning him for telling the truth about Key’s mate the party president and caucus attempts to engineer his re-election is not the good old liberal national party of Ralph Hanan and John Marshall and won’t be that way when Simon Power is the leader.

Update – now The Nation is being pressured to stop Slater appearing.

And btw what has happened to Kiwiblog’s defence of Whaleoil. Interesting values that lets the penguin blog on lunch but not stand up for his mate when the boss puts the boot in.

Update II  Slater has now confirmed see below:-

Boy have I upset some peo­ple. per­haps I have hit too close to the bone.

Today has been full of hurly-burly, lies and bullshit.

I applied to go to National’s con­fer­ence as Media. I used the same accred­i­ta­tion that has seen me reg­is­tered as media for two Daivd Tua fights and a num­ber of other func­tions. It was rejected, I then reg­is­tered as an observer mem­ber, which I am enti­tled to do.

When I was asked to go on The Nation again this week­end I called the new Gen­eral Man­ager to enquire as to the broad­band facil­i­ties that were avail­able for the media. I was then told that I wasn’t media and there­fore any facil­i­ties that were pro­vided to the media were off-limits for me. I told him that I was appear­ing on The Nation, blog­ging from the con­fer­ence and they could be help­ful or not, and pointed out that not wasn’t going to be a good look for any­one, but I didn’t care about my look so it was up to him. The ban was re-iterated to me.



Posted by on July 7th, 2010

TVNZ is wrapping up further staff cuts in silk stockings with its ‘biggest changes to television news and current affairs in 20 years’ announcement yesterday.

The ‘multi-media’ approach will see reporters become their own video editors and sometimes camera operator, as well as working for programmes from Breakfast through to late news bulletins and the web too boot. All very ‘efficient’, extracting the most from staff as a  resource and assisting our state-owned television network to maximise its returns to the government, now the only requirement of TVNZ. The last line of the media release identifies the drive: annual savings of $3m.

And yes, it parallels what is happening in other news operations where falling revenues have seen newsrooms decimated and reporters required to file incessantly for a variety of outlets including web services and blogs.   All of these changes are turning too many journalists into churnalists. Where once there was a capacity to dig, do the research, speak to a variety of sources, check the facts – now there is constant pressure to meet another deadline. The head of an aid organisation I spoke to this week complained without prompting that journalists no longer ring and ask her a series of questions – they just want her to voice a grab so they can get it to air or on-screen.

So it will increasingly become with TVNZ. The reporters it still has that could, until now, expect the time to work on a story for a dedicated programme, will now have to file for a range of programmes and platforms.  And edit (and increasingly) film their own stories too.

All of this will mean TVNZ scatters its resources more thinly across an increasing range of platforms. My pick is that some core viewers will notice the lesser fare and the audience-pull that TVNZ gets from One News, Sunday, Fair Go will diminish.  That ultimately is bad news for TVNZ and for those of us who believe it has a crucial role to play in ensuring New Zealanders are truly well-informed.

Who holds the media accountable?

Posted by on June 19th, 2010

I’ve been musing a bit lately about accountability. How important it is. Labour’s new OpenLabourNZ policy process is about being accountable and open with New Zealanders.

When you become an MP you know you are accountable to your Party, your caucus colleagues and to your constituents. And of course, to yourself and your family.

Media are an important part of our democracy. We need them, we need them to be vigorous and to scrutinise, investigate, probe beneath the surface and critically analyse. We need them to be intelligent and wise, responsible and have high standards of quality, to be ethical. And we need them to hold elected representatives accountable.

Here’s the NZ journalist code of ethics, produced by their union the EPMU. It makes interesting reading.

Two questions I’ve been grappling with.

First, is the spotlight on MPs expenses all about accountability? Or is it something else? It certainly has taken people’s attention away from how public money is being spent  and how significant cuts and changes are happening in health, education, social development.

This week, Contact Energy put its electricity prices up by nearly 10% in Dunedin. Gerry Brownlee sat on his hands. Despite his govt having pledged to do something about high electricity prices. Is anyone watching this?

On the Foreshore and Seabed, John Key and Ministers promised most NZers that they wont notice any changes, and yet tell Maoridom they are delivering them what they want. I’m not seeing much scrutiny here.

In social development Paula Bennett talked recently about the  possibility of the welfare reform debate turning ugly. Thankfully John Armstrong in the NZ Herald picked this up and wrote about it. But it got lost in the maelstrom around MP spending.

Tony Ryall manages to continue to get away with calling cuts to frontline health services “changes”.

And then we have Judith Collins who has the Police Association onside after settling a wage claim arguing that cuts to policing in a number of regions is ok because those regions are overpoliced! Not sure Otago is going to feel safer after losing 22 police jobs.

There are many more issues. Rhetoric vs reality.

Delving into the issues is time consuming. It’s worthy but not always sexy. It requires resources, determination and investigative skills. And motivation. Not many news organisations have extensive resources, or skilled practitioners for this and there has been a growing trend for journalism to syndicate material and concentrate on day to day stories.

And second, who holds the media accountable? For their motivations and their methods? Is it the Broadcasting Standards Authority? The NZ Press Council?

Here’s a list of useful websites for anyone interested in seeing what’s available. Complaints can be laid, but they take a long time to be processed. The results of investigations are printed in newspapers (not usually the front page) and sometimes read on air.

Is it enough? Media coverage can be hugely unforgiving. Once it’s out there it creates an impression which is hard to shift, even if the reporting has been found wanting.

And what about the role of citizen journalism? Blogs have become sources of news and we are seeing more and more claims made by bloggers portrayed as “fact”. I think the rise of citizen journalism is fascinating but it carries dangers and distortions.

In the spirit of OpenLabourNZ what role does the media play in our democracy? Could it be different? Better, Stronger? Are they too powerful? Are they equipped? Or have we got it about right?

Edwards says TVNZ suppressed Serepisos story

Posted by on May 2nd, 2010

Pretty serious allegation on Brian Edwards blog that TVNZ Close-Up held back a story on Terry Serepisos debts because it would hurt the TVNZ Apprentice programme.

Sir Robert Jones has his say in SST.  Does seem to be a bit strange that someone claiming to have net worth of $140m doesn’t pay the rates bill or the guy who installs the TV set.

Hat tip Kiwiblog.

PM Off-Key with Tiananmen Square comments

Posted by on April 18th, 2010

I have a brother who lives in Tokyo and I was able to catch up with him when I visited there last year when I attended a Japan-New Zealand Partnership Forum, on behalf of Maryann Street our trade spokesperson.  It is a real positive in terms of international trade that the opposition is able to send our counter-part to such events – regardless of who is in government.  I think it enables trade ministers-in-waiting to have a good overview of the role, which is important because you do need to be able to hit the ground running straight after the election result is declared and the portfolios allocated.

One of the events I attended was a breakfast in the fabulous Rugby Ball that showcases New Zealand in a spectacular way.  When it comes back to New Zealand for the World Cup, it is a ‘must see’. 

I called my brother recently to wish him a happy birthday and we chatted about the occasion.  He said ‘what was it the PM said that stopped us in our tracks?’    I hadn’t forgotten what he said. In fact I remember looking at my brother at the time and saying ‘did he say what I just thought I heard him say?’ and he nodded. We were gobsmacked.  I reminded him what it was.  After the call I googled the NZ journalist who was there that morning and I found nothing.  So here’s what happend:

John Key was talking about how easy it is to travel round big cities like Tokyo when you are a Prime Minister – indicating he was getting used to the cavalcades – no problem.  But then he sidetracked to tell one of his kid stories, which he usually does – there is a John Key formula to these off the cuff speeches.  This story was about how, when he and his daughter were in Beijing, she had indicated how she would like to go to Tiananmen Square.  So this was arranged and they were taken down there.  When they got there his daughter asked him why there were no people in the Square – he looked around and then – as he told the assembled crowd of expats and Japanese guests – he thought to himself that he almost expected to see a tank – oops – and then said he realised that the Square had been cleared so he and his daughter could visit – laughter.

I assumed this would be reported, because it is the sort of casual remark that could cause offence and, even though he had only been in the job for a year, no Prime Minister should take that risk.  But as I said nothing was reported…maybe the journalist didn’t hear him…maybe she did…maybe she didn’t think the public of NZ are entitled to know the sort of gaffes that inexperience allows…maybe she thought it was ok because he had only been in the job a year.  Unless she owns up, we will never know why she let him off the hook. Personally I don’t think she should have done so. 

It’s the one thing we never had to worry about with Helen, because she never let us down on the international stage.  Tragically this is only one example which could well become the norm with someone who knows nothing more than to smile and wave when they are out of their depth.

Time to plead guilty bill

Posted by on March 8th, 2010

Yet another inquiry into the Brash email leaks doesn’t find quite enough evidence to name the Deputy Prime Minister.

BBC is the genie?

Posted by on February 18th, 2010

Further to my Rupert and the genie post the other day, about how Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp is said to have dropped the ball on social media, the BBC is taking a different tack.

BBC news journalists have been told to use social media as a primary source of information by Peter Horrocks, the new director of BBC Global News who took over last week. He said it was important for editorial staff to make better use of social media and become more collaborative in producing stories.

The Guardian, which is obviously taking a keen interest in the relationship between mainstream and social media, goes on to say that the BBC is doing its best to adapt to the changing technology and the way that people interact with media.

Following the creation of a social media editor post in October, this marks another fundamental change in the Beep’s attitude towards social media.

I note that Fairfax in NZ recently appointed a social media editor. Good on them.

My point is that no matter what the organisation, the ability to understand the reality of changing human behaviours and methods of communication is critical to any business model. Adapt or die? And then there’s innovation and good ideas.

Goes for political parties too.

Backhanded compliment to TV3

Posted by on February 2nd, 2010

Last night I watched TV3 News at 6pm. A not-so-common occurrence these days. Not TV3 particularly; just TV.  Find myself more often watching and getting my news online, as is the global trend.

However, as is usual for TV news, the first two stories were about crime. And yes, the crimes were awful and the stories had validity. Whether they were justified as the lead items is another matter. And is not the subject of this post.

Though I would be keen for some research to be done (if it hasn’t been done already) into how often our two main TV stations run crime stories as their lead items.

The reason for this post is that I was pleasantly suprised to see a positive piece as the third item about a 15 year old boy from South Auckland named Kyrone Toko who had found a wallet with $2500 in it and taken it to the police. The wallet belonged to a guy who is undergoing extensive physio so he can walk again. The money was his ACC compensation and much needed.

Great little story and a brown face doing a good deed. Instead of a depressing story with brown faces committing crimes and reinforcing stereotypes.

It was a welcome reprieve from the usual negative stigma attached to our youth by the media (particularly Maori and PI youth).  So congratulations TV3 News – keep up the positive responsible reporting.  I think all New Zealanders would like to see more of this type of news.

Most nights when I watch the TV news I despair at the sameness of the formula we are dished up. Crime, more crime, entertainment story, political story and often more crime.

Making us feel afraid, think that crime is endemic and that we must constantly become tougher and harsher in our response. It’s rarely reflective, thoughtful, analytic or challenging. Instead it’s more often fear-inducing, conflict-based and negative, or mindless drivel.

Forgive my cynicism, but it’s based on dismay and a hankering for a robust, modern, public media service that is truly based on news values and not ratings.

Tell us Mark and Anthony (that’s ironic) that the TV news is based on news values. Please.

PS: For those who don’t know. Mark is Mark Jennings TV3 Director of News and Current Affairs and Anthony is Anthony Flannery TVNZ Head of News and Current Affairs. Both smart guys. But I have witnessed the two of them at a conference acknowledge that TV news is based on ratings, not news values.

I get it, though I don’t like it, for TV3. But TVNZ?

PPS: I do so love that phrase; “backhanded compliment”. Not sure where it comes from (my mother in my case).

Blowhole breaching

Posted by on January 12th, 2010

I think there is too much celebrity name suppression. But sometimes name suppression is justified.

I think Whaleoil (Cameron Slater) is an idiot and his reported breaching of a suppression order designed to protect an abused kid is just unfair.

The Herald on Sunday is not much better.

Summer school VI – Herald + nats = bipartisan foreign affairs approach

Posted by on January 11th, 2010

Every now and again we all take a risk with our relationship with people who are friends as well as having a different role in their employment. I’m doing it now but there was one of those moments during the summer school that was too good to let past.

Grant was leading a discussion around the pros and cons of a bipartisan approach on Foreign Affairs and Trade, where it works, where it is inappropriate etc.  Obviously it is a real advantage to a government in having the major opposition party onside – and it is a big thing to oppose your own government offshore.

We were looking at a few quotes clippings and the media approach etc when the penny dropped for all in the room.

We do have a bipartisan approach to Foreign Affairs and Trade. Two groups where you can’t see daylight between them.

The NZ Herald and the National Party.

Auditor General’s report – tories should read it

Posted by on December 22nd, 2009

The Auditor General’s report on conflict of interest on Canterbury water issues is out.

All members of parliament should read it – but especially Ministers who own parts of NZ based companies that benefit from their decisions.

Someone should read it to Melissa Lee who continues to vote on Radio New Zealand legislation both in the house and worse still in select committee despite having a direct conflict when competing for NZ on Air funding.

Standard evidence on Lee’s lies

Posted by on December 6th, 2009

The Standard has new material which shows that Melissa Lee lied even more than we knew earlier. Will be interesting to see if her mentor John Key continues to back her or whether he has the backbone to sack her.

I bet he will do neither but will be relaxed as he does.

Nats Auckland list might have a winnable spot with Worth gone, Blue, Mapp and now probably Lee going.

And isn’t it a pity that Tim Ellis is banned. Watching him trying to defend this one would have been entertaining.

How to future-proof news?

Posted by on November 14th, 2009

Can you future-proof newspapers?  Rupert Murdoch says his NewsCorp will soon start charging for news. Perhaps it might work – he does have some good papers amid the dross – but it would go against the Internet’s dictum of being free and ungovernable. There have been many site wrecks where charging has been attempted and failed. It may work on tightly focused interests such as financial information but there is an public expectation that news should be free.

The expanding power of the blogsphere will meet some of the gap as newspapers wither. Sites including this one do provide some good information.  But citizen journalism is not the same as independent journalism. At the  25th anniversary forum of the CPIT Broadcasting School, the academic blogger Radical Martini acknowledged the volume of cell phone images out of the Iran protests but said it was impossible to ascertain their authenticity, location and write a comprehensible news story based solely on the material received. You need a reporter on the spot to do that best.

As a recovering journalist, I continue to value good journalism and generally respect those who work hard to uphold its values. I favour cock up over conspiracy when it comes to news judgement and errors, though the pressure is explicit to run stories that rate rather those that count.

Making it worse, I am detecting a crisis of identity among good mid-career journalists, particularly but not exclusively in newspapers, who are unsure if there is a job for them within journalism until their retirement. This is feeding into people considering journalism as a career.

All of this leads into the increasing importance of television and radio journalism and how we achieve that into, sadly, an increasingly print-free New Zealand.  But that’s a separate blog…

The future of journalism

Posted by on November 12th, 2009

As a former journo, I was recently asked if I’d recommend journalism as a career to a young person. I had to say I can’t.  Sure, if you have a passion to become a reporter, then follow your dreams. My principal reason for being less enthusiastic – certainly about newspapers as a career – than even a year or so ago is the viability of newsgathering. On a recent visit to Australia, I picked up a copy of The Sydney Morning Herald. Five or fewer years ago, this, the largest broadsheet in Australasia, was groaning with pages, ads, supplements and inserts.

On the day in question it consisted of 22 pages and a sports tabloid insert and bugger all ads. During the seven years I edited The Marlborough Express I cannot recall many days where we published fewer than 16 broadsheet pages. Marlborough’s population is less than 1% of that of Sydney. 

Several years ago, Fairfax (owner of both the huge Herald and tiny Express) made a strategic decision to purchase TradeMe. The reason was that even then, the so-called ‘rivers of gold’ – the newspapers’ classified advertising – were drying up. We are now all advertising our personal wares on TradeMe or elsewhere. That loss of revenue is now being followed by some losses of display advertising. TradeMe now has jobs and more recently homes. Ok, so NZ papers are faring better than their Aussie counterparts for display advertising but for how long?

Of course newspapers have two revenue streams – ads and circulation. But note how the figures now quoted are for readership, not as it used to be for circulation. I still get The Press and Sunday Star Times home delivered but you can’t but observe that a lot of newspapers are being given away – at places like universities and airport terminals. This suggests a marketing strategy to raise readership (and hold some ad revenue even if it costs casual sales.)

When you combine this with a recession, the impacts on newspapers and therefore journalism are pronounced. And that’s a worry for everyone with an interest in democracy.