Today the New Zealand Herald’s waning tantrum over the Electoral Finance Bill has been relegated to Page 5. Perhaps Granny has paused, had a cuppa, and is coming to her senses. The Herald reports today, a tad ingenuously, that the government might be about to “change tack”. Anyone paying attention to the noises coming out of the Beehive would have been aware of that for some time. Helen Clark and Michael Cullen (and now Pete Hodgson) have been signalling for weeks that there will be changes to the legislation. The Herald’s caterwauling on Monday about the imminent death of freedom and democracy will make a strong claim for the silliest media outburst of 2007. Last year the Herald brought itself much credit in providing a platform for the Auckland stadium debate, as it embraced the concept of “distributed journalism”, and provided an outlet for the opinions and energy of citizens who were interested in the stadium issue. But this week the Herald simply launched into an editorial rant, and set out to manipulate its readers, rather than serve them. The Herald’s treatment of the stadium debate was about grassroots journalism. On the EFB this week, it resorted to propaganda techniques. Many New Zealanders despair at the way big anonymous donors try to pervert the course of elections in this country, and at the way elections are threatening to become the preserve of the rich and well-connected. The New Zealand Herald is obviously happy for it to stay that way.