Backlash over media favouritism

Written By: - Date published: 11:10 am, May 4th, 2010 - 52 comments
Categories: afghanistan, Media, spin - Tags:

Tracey Watkins is less than chuffed over the way the media were used on John Key’s ‘secret’ Afghanistan trip*:

Forget the confidentiality agreements and “need to know” rules of engagement, John Key’s trip to Afghanistan was the worst-kept secret in town.

Rarely has a prime ministerial trip been surrounded by such farce.

Details of the trip had leaked out so widely in advance that Key’s office had to fob off demands from an Auckland-based public relations professional and National Party insider that room be made available for him in the Prime Minister’s light armoured vehicle. The justification was a weekly radio slot and column.

The Prime Minister’s Office was terrified of the story breaking early and threatened media that any advance publication would result in Key’s trip being cancelled because of security concerns.

But even the Labour Party knew days in advance from loose talk around town although decided in the absence of any contact from the Prime Minister’s Office to treat the information as confidential.

Oddly, the Prime Minister left with television reporters and cameras in tow despite knowing that there was a good chance of his cover being blown.

Equally troubling was the control exerted by the Prime Minister’s Office over access Key refused to make room for journalists from the country’s two biggest media companies, Fairfax and APN. Even state broadcaster Radio New Zealand was left in the cold. But the two television channels had three people accompanying the Prime Minister between them, while Key also had a press secretary along for the ride. Journalists from Newstalk ZB and the New Zealand Press Association completed the media party.

When Prime Minister Helen Clark made a secret visit to Afghanistan, it was without a media entourage although her claims that a TVNZ Close Up team were in the region by coincidence were always treated with suspicion. She also copped flak for the secrecy.

But like the secret trip to New York by Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples when only Maori TV knew in advance the use of handpicked journalists always raises troubling questions about whether Governments think that that will allow them to control the way information is presented.

Key’s secret trip with selected journalists also raises the question of who paid for what? Did his media entourage meet all their own costs or did the taxpayer pick up the tab?

52 comments on “Backlash over media favouritism”

  1. Richard 1

    Funny what two weeks can do. Tracey was gushing like a teenager after her White House junket. Hell hath no fury like a jilted hack.

  2. ianmac 2

    It continues to smack of media manipulation if not of control. Does it follow that should a reporter write a negative view, that person would be unwelcome on future trips? Incentive? Think of Tom Scott and the recent rejection of Rod Oram’s attendance since he had asked searching questions.

    • Lew 2.1

      If that particular line of reasoning held, how would you explain the absence of anyone from the NZ Herald, so often derided in these parts as a craven mouthpiece for the government, from the attendant press corps?

      The thing I can’t understand is Newstalk ZB going instead of Radio NZ. That’s just bizarre. And it is arguably APN representation.

      L

      • the sprout 2.1.1

        The thing I can’t understand is Newstalk ZB going instead of Radio NZ

        gosh, could it have anything to do with Steven Joyce’s past employment?

  3. the sprout 3

    well to be fair, this government was never about keeping the NZ public fully and accurately informed.

    i see btw from his flak jacket that our PM is O+ blood type.

    • Bright Red 3.1

      relentlessly positive, that man.

    • Anne 3.2

      ‘i see btw from his flak jacket that our PM is O+ blood type.’

      That would be right. It’s the most common one.

      • bahandhumbug 3.2.1

        ‘i see btw from his flak jacket that our PM is O+ blood type.’

        That would be right. It’s the most common one.

        So ?

      • Jim Nald 3.2.2

        Haha, Anne … luv your subtle, quiet, understated sense of humour (if I’ve got you right?)

        O+
        Reflecting zero plus .. and aspirationally aiming for zero super plus

        captcha: values
        (incredible anti-spam prompt!)

  4. The thing I can’t understand is Newstalk ZB going instead of Radio NZ. That’s just bizarre.

    Radio New Zealand has a ban on international travel due to budget cuts.

    My wife was one of the print reporters on the trip. Her organisation (NZPA) was asked to go because it’s co-owned by Fairfax and APN so could provide copy to both. Her bosses sent her because she’s reported from conflict zones before. I also kind of doubt the PMs office asked Soper and Garner along because of their excessive loyalty to the National Government.

    • Bright Red 4.1

      she’s pretty bloody gushy, mate.

      “Wearing body armour and a helmet, Prime Minister John Key has spent the past three days in war-torn Afghanistan on a top-secret visit to New Zealand troops.”

      he’s sooo dreamy and he looks so cute all dressed up like a soldier.

      No overview of the war, no objective look beyond repeating what Key and McCrystal have to say about it. No geo-strategic context. No analysis of Key’s objectives in going to Afghanistan – does it advance the situation at all or is it just a PR exercise for the voters at home?

      • No overview of the war, no objective look beyond repeating what Key and McCrystal have to say about it. No geo-strategic context. No analysis of Key’s objectives in going to Afghanistan

        News stories tend to be a couple of hundred words long and focused on breaking news (hence the name). I think she wrote that one on a helicopter in the middle of a thunderstorm.

        • ghostwhowalksnz 4.1.1.1

          Not like there is time stuck on a plane for 15 hours there… and back to turn on the laptop and actually write more than 5 words an hour.

          Of course what they tell their friends and family could fill … a book

          Now theres a breakthrough, some journalist who could put words and thoughts in print

  5. tc 5

    Says it all really, the ever helpful govt tv, that other network struggling with debt no doubt on ‘play it nice’ terms (Required anyway as having a few key demographics nailed over TVNZ) and some docile compliant mates from radio as those other annoying radio people will not be there and the duopoly person.

    That’s all bases covered as far as CT would be concerned so that’d be good enough for the sideshow to roll on with.

    Former PM does it in secrecy and divulges little actual details throughout thus minimising risk…..current PM treats it as just another photo opp and when pushed reveals details of forces and operational situations….I feel for our top brass as sadly he’s the boss currently.

  6. Choice…it’ll make a nice change seeing our dear leader smile and wave in some military gears with tanks and shit against some desert background as opposed to the stuffy suit and drab kiwi scenery…

    …bet it’ll look wayyy cool in the scrapbook.

  7. freedom 7

    key is such a wannabe it is embarrassing
    it just keeps getting worse and he is oblivious, truly oblivious to the tween-idol status he brings to the legacy of his role as PM, thankfully it will be short*

    *power of positive thinking people

  8. ghostwhowalksnz 8

    Its funny that the Nazi leaders could visit Paris during their occupation and probably had less security.
    Maybe Key will get the message : The war is lost, we are there because we are there.
    The military will still face big cuts in the budget though

    The blood type thing is interesting
    Key can donate to A or B types but only receive from Type O
    At last he is useful for something

    • bahandhumbug 8.1

      “It’s funny that the Nazi leaders could visit Paris during their occupation and probably had less security.
      Maybe Key will get the message”

      Ye Godwin !

      “Key can donate to A or B types but only receive from Type O”

      Yes but probably not wise if they’re Rh-ve… also not sure why it’s interesting ?

  9. Josh 9

    John Key is such a try hard. This is all just self promotion and photo op. The whole farce of a ‘secret’ trip is yet another tragic attempt by Key to act like he’s Obama and that terrorists might actually know who the hell he is.

  10. Loco 10

    Didn’t both APN and Fairfax publish the pictures of the SAS earlier in the year? Possible reason for not getting the invite? Seems a little petty though. In general the advice the Prime Minister is given is to keep the entourage as small as possible, for both security and for political reasons (smaller group = tighter coverage)

  11. Fisiani 11

    Bang away at this all you like. What a total non story to get all worked up about.
    Don Quixote was a fictional Spanish idealist who was often the victim of his own imagination.
    The phrase “tilting at windmills” to describe an act of attacking imaginary enemies derives from an iconic scene in the book.
    This is why The Standard is fondly regarded as the Quixote Blog.
    Come on you can surely do better?? How about another tilt at modern surgical mining?

    • Jim Nald 11.1

      This is just pee-ing at foot of windmills, dear.
      I reckon The Standard should allow itself to have some entertaining pieces now and then to take the piss.
      Tilting? Well, the Government is ambitiously doing a good job at tipping itself: see Rob’s at http://www.thestandard.org.nz/backlash-over-media-favouritism/

      And the people and opposition parties have hardly begun working up the rhythm to give the Govt a good bang.

    • Maynard J 11.2

      Modern surgical mining – funny you mention that in a post dedicated to decrying other people’s fictions.

      Even the Herald had a guy saying the idea is stupid. That’s saying something.

      I agree with your post in a sense though – smile and wave Key is indeed a non-story – and it looks like his puff pieces (incidentally the only ones anyone can recall) are about to be blown away.

      By the way, if you’re going to invent a meme, you might want to try harder. The adjective anyone would use is Quixotic, and it generally has enough positive overtones to not be considered much of an insult. Not in the blogosphere anyway 😉

      • Pascal's bookie 11.2.1

        “The adjective anyone would use is Quixotic”

        Maybe he didn’t get that far down the wikipedia article.

        • the sprout 11.2.1.1

          which Fis, just happens to be pronounced / key-zot-ic /

        • Lew 11.2.1.2

          Perhaps you jest, Bookie, but you owe it to those of us more dense than yourself to make clear that, in fact Fisi’s lines actually factually are a c&p job from that very wikipedia page.

          L

          • the sprout 11.2.1.2.1

            😆 awesome

          • uke 11.2.1.2.2

            Oh f**k, snapped!

            Maybe Fisi works for the MSM… wiki c&p is virtually NZ-Reporting101 eh?

          • Pascal's bookie 11.2.1.2.3

            I’ve developed surgical strike flame war capabilities in order to fuck with the hearts and minds of the insurgents.

            [lprent: There are only few people with those types of surgical push-button capabilities. I seem to have forgotten adding those buttons to your login?

            Personally, I think that Lew managed to highlight an abnormal inconsistency in your usual clarity of argument… ]

    • Tigger 11.3

      Yes Fisi, the prospect of a captured media is a non-story…

  12. randal 12

    so now it is john key hero…in afganistania an’ all.

  13. Details of the trip had leaked out so widely in advance that Key’s office had to fob off demands from an Auckland-based public relations professional and National Party insider that room be made available for him in the Prime Minister’s light armoured vehicle

    So Matthew Hooten wanted a trip to Afghanistan to shore up his NeoCon cred? Priceless.

    • bill brown 13.1

      Tempting to let him come along and push him out while no one was looking

    • r0b 13.2

      Dunno whether to laugh or cry really.

    • Bright Red 13.3

      he’s probably being pissed off about being suck in Saudi Arabia for a week with people ‘wearing a nightie, tea-towel, and sandals”.

      what a bigot that guy is.

  14. bobo 14

    John Key “in-action man”, full range of smile and wave hand motions, comes in beige , light beige, and shocking beige, has simulated speech of hardcore exciting commands, such as “umm !” and “yeeeaah !” and “kick up the backside!”, and his famous ” lets send the troops into Iraq!”
    Remember kids buy yours now from your local Crosby|Textor toy store, no batteries needed runs on hot air .

  15. No different to Helen Clark picking and choosing her journalists, and agreeing to only ‘soft’ interviews and interviewers. Key is all about being the star man, rather than the in-charge man.

  16. Salsy 16

    The pics are already up on his facebook page – before even the 6pm news… Grinning from ear to ear, how totally inappropriate… I wonder how many other world leaders use Afghanistan for personal promotion…

    • the sprout 16.1

      G W Bush is the only one I can think of who was quite that shameless

  17. gobsmacked 17

    Prime Minister arrives in Afghanistan, thinks he’s in Ashburton:

    “Mr Key tried to shake hands with one of the girls when he arrived, only to be gently rebuffed for what was deemed inappropriate contact.”

    It’s OK if he just embarrasses us. Don’t let him go overseas and embarrass everyone else.

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/3653840/Key-goes-walkabout-in-Bamiyan-province

  18. zonk 18

    tricky dick Key

  19. @ sprout

    Sorry to pop your conspiracy theory but Joyce’s background was with radioworks, not the Radionetwork (owner of ZB)

  20. Rodel 20

    Was John out of the country?
    Funny no-one noticed his absence. What does that say?

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