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Desperation from the Herald

Written By: - Date published: 10:59 am, January 18th, 2008 - 31 comments
Categories: Media - Tags: , , , ,

17email.jpgYesterday’s supposed scandal over an email exhange between Michael Cullen and a National Party activist was an absurd piece of political activism from the Herald.

Recently the paper has been running almost daily attack articles on the government, but this was surely scraping the bottom of the barrel. Nat activist John Middleton was painted as a concerned citizen who just “wants to see the country go in the right direction”, while his email consisted of little more than childish abuse that was apparently on the topic of New Zealanders moving to Australia, but seemed to encompass a range of grievances including the Electoral Finance Act, families being split up and his desire to see Labour removed from Government.

Cullen, with remarkable wit and restraint, simply responded “Please join them” and left it at that. Clearly it wasn’t the wisest political move on his part to engage with people like Middleton, but it’s certainly not scandalous in any way and nor is it newsworthy. The article became even more ridiculous when it quoted Bill English breathlessly suggesting the exchange (which chances are he passed on to the Herald himself) was evidence Cullen had just “given up caring”.

That the Herald’s editors considered this desperate non-story worthy enough to lead the National News section of their website for most of yesterday says a lot about their warped news judgment. Is it any wonder no one takes the Herald’s political reporting seriously any more?

UPDATE: Via DPF, Hawkes Bay Today has come out backing Cullen.

Dr Cullen is unrepentant: “Rude writers can expect that kind of response,” he said. And who can blame him?

What did the writer expect? It’s bit rich sneering at someone then complaining when he replies in kind.


31 comments on “Desperation from the Herald”

  1. mike 1

    Attacking the media is good sign you are in trouble. Imagine Key had done a similar thing – you lefties would be all over the Rick Prick.
    But Cullen is under pressure and must be shitting himself about his conditional promises on tax cuts given the latest inflation figures..

  2. Aj 2

    Dr Cullen has more humor and wit than all his detrators combined.

  3. dancer 3

    i had heard that some of the herald journos are feeling quite uncomfortable with the degree of editorial activism. Will be interesting to see whether that combined with the demands of “balance” in an election year shift things around.

  4. i can’t see the issue.
    if the Listener can describe Richard Prebble as “Former Labour Cabinet Minister” (but nothing else) while attacking the Govt:


    and the Herald can describe National party staffers as apparently neutral academic experts:


    then Middleton clearly meets APN’s “independence standards”. i’m surprised he’s not an “expert” too.

  5. mike 5

    Dancer – the media have always had a left bias due to journo’s tradionally being low paid and bitter about it but because the Herald are now reporting on a bad government you say they are out of ‘balance’
    When more media hopefully start following the Herald we will actually see some real balance.

  6. Tane 6

    To be fair they did point out he was a National Party member, it’s just they then used the article to shamelessly run a National Party hatchet job.

  7. Tane 7

    the media have always had a left bias due to journo’s tradionally being low paid

    Journalists have only been low paid in the last few decades. Back in the day their pay was tied to that of police officers because it was understood journalists were just as vital a part of our society.

    And while various studies claim to show working journalists tend to have a left-liberal bias, that’s largely irrelevant as it’s the editors who make the decisions in the newsroom – including assigning stories, deciding the editorial angle, picking columnists and choosing the prominence of stories in the publication – and it’s well established that editors tend to be overwhelmingly conservative and right-wing.

  8. outofbed 8

    To be fair the line from English “The trouble is that New Zealanders are leaving the country in planeloads, and Australians are coming here in kayaks.” was really funny

  9. Sam Dixon 9

    outofbed – yeah, it’s a good line. Short lifetime though, fortunately.

  10. Sam Dixon 10

    When I ‘ve worked for Government agencies the rule has always been that you are courtous to the public but if a person is rude or abusive (as middleton was) you have the right to be abrupt back.

    In fact, I remember hearing the story of a policy officer replying to a particularly rude letter. She made an effort to be very polite and carefully deal with the writer’s outragous statements and when the letter went off for ministerial approval (this was back under National) it came back with a note from the Minister instructing her that she need not bend over backwards to be polite to someone who is rude, and was told to rewrite it more robustly and tersely.

  11. Kimble 11

    Holy crap, have you seen this???


    DPF is agreeing with Cullen! He is supporting what he did in fact!

    Even though Bill English said,

    “… the exchange showed Dr Cullen did not have the interest or patience to find a solution to the growing number of people moving to Australia.”

    Not only that, DPF compliments Cullen!

    “I think it is great the Deputy PM and Finance Minister responds to public e-mails.”

    Wow! Is this the first and only time DPF hasn’t gone by script supplied by the National Party? What will this do to his future income. Will he still be paid to write a blog for the National Party?

    Is this the first time that he has even agreed with Labour or said anything good about them at all?

    No. He does it all the time.

  12. dad4justice 12

    Really Sam, so when Trevor Mallard asks another opposition member out from the chamber for a smack in the face he will be ever so “courtous”.
    Really Mr Dixon, I would have expected better spelling from a lawyer who worked in government and I am being rather courteous in saying that.

  13. Matthew Pilott 13

    That’s why you have highlighted this one example, and didn’t respond last time I asked you to give a few more examples…

    Sure, Kimble.

  14. merl 14

    Yeah, DPF has said things that complimented the government before, several times.

    He’s usually made a reasonable effort to appear to be a centrist in his posts, but I think that the rabid dogs that inhabit his threads are too much for him to moderate (and his natural tendencies to be a libertarian make this an unpleasant task for him).

    I dunno what the shift to the right for him has been over the last year or so. Maybe he’s exploring a new business model (i.e. getting paid to be a michelle malkin type figure). Maybe he’s letting slip his mask of neutrality. Maybe the EFB campaign has got away from him slightly and made him look partisan.

    I just don’t know.

  15. dad4justice 15

    “rabid dogs that inhabit his threads’

    Nice anthrax line merl .

  16. Kimble 16

    Thats why I have highlighted this most recent example. It is easy and it destroys your whole “DPF just parrots Nationals talking points meme”.

  17. merl 17

    Sorry Dad, what’s that got to do with anthrax?

    I used to frequest the threads there, but they have become quite toxic recently, and to my mind, fairly extremist.

    I also don’t like how the reasoned debate when someone posts something you disagree with seems to be ‘fuck off and die’. Just attacking the poster or essentially trying to shut down their discussion is a real turnoff for me, regardless of the affiliation of the poster who’s doing it (I commented on some people appearing to be doing it to Michele in a thread on this site as well).

    I’ve stopped going to Kiwiblog, since toxic comments will quickly overwhelm any reasonable discussion, leaving on the the most obnoxious posters and the people who don’t mind them left. The only way to change that is to have fair-minded but active moderation to clearly set limits on acceptable posting, and that’s one of the things that I think this site does fairly well.

    I hope it continues to be a place where people can voice different opinions without attacking each other, outing their internet identities, drawing up the baseless straw men over and over etc.

    Or if you think an arguement by someone is wrong, exploring why you think it’s wrong. Finding where you agree on an issue and where you disagree.

  18. merl 18

    Actually Kimble, my personal take on it is that DPF has much closer spiritual links with Act than National. Both are essentially libertarian (although Act needs to appear socially conservative to appeal to it’s ‘base’).

    By that I mean that he’s a socially liberal (like most left parties) and economically liberal (like most right parties).

    It’s just that DPF prefers to hitch his horse to National as more of a player in politics.

  19. sounds like a fair analysis merl

  20. Matthew Pilott 20

    Kimble, I have a genuine challenge then, given it’s so easy it shouldn’t be much of a challenge.

    Where, recently, has DPF supported Labour on a substantiative issue (something like this isn’t exaclty a big tick in favour of Labour you know, a cynic might say he does this to appear to be somewhat neutral, when it’s a pretty small thing. It’s not exactly a vote of confidence for Cullen’s economic management, if you know what I mean?), or opposed National policy (you said in another thread he regularly opposes National policy). I’d be very interested in any where he has a more left-wing opinion than National.

    Merl – intersting musings. I’d have thought it would be for the opposide reason that you gave though – ACT being more socially liberal.

    Rodders (Hide) & co should have voted for a lot of Labour’s social reforms to be true to their agenda of ‘personal choice’. Do you think their conservative policies and voting is to appeal to the social sonservatives, as there are very few people who are very socially liberal and extremely economically right-wing in New Zealand?

  21. Matthew Pilott 21

    Merl – intersting musings. I’d have thought it would be for the opposide reason that you gave though – ACT being more socially liberal.

    “it” being DPF being closer to Act

  22. merl 22

    Sorry if I was confusing. Yes, I meant that both DPF and Act were both socially and economically liberal, while national is economically liberal but not socially.

    Yeah, I definitely think that Rodney is basically saying what he thinks his base wants to hear on social issues (that is, conservative talking points), not what he thinks.

    And yes. I think that there aren’t enough libertarians to make the act a significant party. Or if there are, some would vote for the greens instead of Act (a party which is socially liberal but economically conservative).

    Put another way, I think that Act has decided that ‘big business’ is their key demographic of support.

  23. Kimble 23

    So the only way to prove that DPF doesnt blindly follow National is to find an example of him supporting Labour? Labour is ying to National’s yang, you know.

    To avoid admitting you are wrong, according to what you have written, you could say it is too old, not left wing, the criticism of National doesnt mean support for the Labour idea…

    “a cynic might say he does this to appear to be somewhat neutral”

    This shows that you simply will not accept the alternative. Either he never said it, or if he did say it he was lying and didnt mean it. Why would I waste my time? Go look up the party pill issue and how the voting went on the civil union bill.

    I am sure if you address both these issues you will equivocate, quibble and sidestep them both.

    Follow Kiwiblog for a decent amount of time and you will see them come up.


    As a counter challenge I propose that you try and find a post on the Standard that is complimentary of National, any National MP, the US Republican party, or any free market economist.

    If you manage to do that, try and find one that is critical of Labour.

  24. Tane 24

    If you manage to do that, try and find one that is critical of Labour.

    Try this one:

    And this one:

    There are others, but I’m not your researcher.

  25. Draco TB 25

    …as it’s the editors who make the decisions in the newsroom…

    That’s becoming less true as well.

    Rupert Murdoch has admitted to a parliamentary inquiry that he has “editorial control” over which party The Sun and News of the World back in a general election and what line the papers take on Europe.

    News media being independent is pretty much a myth. They do as their owners tell them.

    Rupert Murdock owns most of the news media in the world by the way. APN, the owner of the NZHerald, is part owned by News Ltd.

  26. Jum 26

    Draco TB

    Thanks for that information.

    Send it to Joanne Black at the Listener who seems to think he’s Mr Wonderful and doesn’t interfere in media at all. She obviously hasn’t read any biography of him and his agenda. Now we have Australian sub editors controlling our magazine content, home of the grasping world order seeker Rupert Murdock. He is the most dangerous man to threaten our freedom of speech, not Labour.

    That’s why informative and free-debate blog sites are now more important for disseminating facts on the people behind newspaper stories. On a blog site there is much dross, but out of the mass fiction/faction/fact there is eventuallly a clear truth to people who are not blind to it.

    We actually need to know all their affiliations, when people attack a government. Just as Investigate’s Ian Wishart was an excellent investigator for about six months before he showed his true religious agenda to get rid of a woman leader and his bending/shading of the facts to suit his beliefs. Breakfast’s bank economists are a perfect example of vested interest.

    The printed media is no longer to be trusted.

  27. Phil 27


    If you manage to do that, try and find one that is critical of Labour.
    Try this one:
    And this one:

    So, let me get this straight… you guys rail DPF when his only criticism of National comes when he believes they arent ‘right’ enough, yet your only criticism of Labour is when it isn’t ‘left’ enough…

  28. Tane 28

    In my opinion DPF’s posts tend to rely heavily on the official National Party spin, differing only occasionally on trivial matters or (again occasionally) when the party’s not being right-wing enough.

    Some commenters on the right obviously beg to differ, but we don’t run the Labour Party line. Part of that’s because we’re independent, but it’s also because their spin is so god-awful. When you read something here it’s not just a regurgitated press release, it’s our personal analysis based on our obvious preference for a Labour-led government over one led by National.

    If our criticisms of Labour tend to be when it’s not being left-wing enough then that probably just says something about how far right NZ’s political spectrum has swung.

  29. Phil 29

    Or, maybe its just that you’re stuck in with an outdated view?

    I agree that Labour has swung toward centre ground, but don’t you think that is due to its successful reading of the political viewpoint of “middle” New Zealand?

  30. Phil 30

    Sorry… On reflection that was a low-blow.

    Second point still stands though; Would Labour have moved toward the right in recent times if they really thought the unwashed voting masses weren’t there already?

  31. Robert 31

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