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MSM: you supply the spin, we publish it

Written By: - Date published: 3:59 pm, December 22nd, 2009 - 80 comments
Categories: john key, Media, spin - Tags:

There’s a Youtube clip on Stuff of Key talking on The Edge. Presumably filmed by one of Key’s people. It’s run as headline news.

Yup. You got that right. It’s now news when Key appears for a soft interview on other media. Not the first time. A month or so ago Stuff ran his video diary as a news article. Unedited, uncommented on. Just ran it as news. The start of a worrying trend.

Can’t help but notice in 9 minutes of interview on The Edge Key doesn’t say a word about the quarter of a million Kiwis heading into Christmas without a job, or the record-length queues at the foodbanks. The whole thing is about how he’ll be swanning off to Hawaii for another two weeks’ holiday. That’s about seven weeks off since he became PM.

The Edge DJs are beside themselves when Key gives them a bottle of expensive plonk with his name on it. Armstrong and the other journos have also been all aflutter about their bottles. A journalist with any integrity would return it with a “thanks, but no thanks” note. But, apart from the lone political journo who turned down Key’s offer of a free Bledisloe Cup ticket earlier this year, it looks like those professional standards are long gone. Then the media cry when people say they’re biased.

All I want for Christmas is a fourth estate that believes in its duty and tries to fulfil it.

80 comments on “MSM: you supply the spin, we publish it ”

  1. Con 1

    In other news, “Methane increasing over New Zealand”. Coincidence? I think not.

  2. sk 2

    The age of celebrity politicians .. . it started with Blair, and continues with JK but one example right now. History will portray them as clowns, but that doesn’t help us now . . .

  3. Scribe 3


    This is news because we now have a PM is willing to show off his personality rather than act like a political machine. This is the sort of behaviour that makes John Key so popular with regular New Zealanders — that’s why you hate it.

    Sure, you’re a policy wonk and want this and that from Key, but you’re in the tiny minority. Hundreds of thousands of voting Kiwis sing along to Snoopy’s Christmas in the car; maybe John does too. Cool.

    • sk 3.1

      Great, so where is an example of populism delivering great outcomes?

    • Tigger 3.2

      Scribe, I’m all for Key showing off his personality so when he does that, let me know. What I see here is someone desperate to be liked, to be loved. So he puts on this ‘blokey man o’people’ voice to deliver lines that are obviously following a script (“don’t deny you’re off to Hawaii but tell them you’ll be working while you’re there…) and gives gifts so he can show how generous he is.

      And sorry if wanting Key to actually lead the country is asking too much. I thought that was his job.

    • Bright Red 3.3

      actually, Helen Clark displayed heaps of personality. ZM once said they would spare the Christmas Turkey if she rang them up and pardoned it and she did. Just one example, similar to what Key did on the radio.

      But that wasn’t a news story, nor should it have been.

      deep down, I suspect you’re just happy not to have a woman in charge anymore, scribe. You never would make the accusations of being a ‘political machine’ etc against a man who attacked like Clark. And you wouldn’t be so loving of a woman who attacked like Key.

    • Zaphod Beeblebrox 3.4

      Nice guys make lousy managers and leaders. They want to be liked too much.

    • Ron 3.5

      You see, that is such a stupid comment on all sorts of levels.

      Apart from the dubious value in a PM “showing his personality” (is that not an oxymoron in Key’s case?) I am asuming you’re comparing this aspect of the job with Helen Clark’s.

      You know what? It’s not him – it’s the media’s response to him.

      I had the opportunity to see Clark in action in several “soft” public environments. She was funny, intelligent, personable. The people there warmed to her and commented on how easy she was to talk to.

      The difference? She wasn’t followed around by fawning sycophants hanging on her very word so they could publish in the blogs.

      Then people like you Scribe, buy the media “story” and then treat it as reality.

  4. lukas 4

    “Can’t help but notice in 9 minutes of interview on The Edge Key doesn’t say a word about the quarter of a million Kiwis heading into Christmas without a job, or the record-length queues at the foodbanks.”

    I can’t help but notice that The Edge is not a serious news driven station. They play music all day Zetic! They are not a current affairs or news station like RNZ, ZB or Live.

    • Bright Red 4.1

      Key is asked to talk about his year in power. All he can talk about it the places he travelled to and makes some passing comment about the recession not being that bad.

  5. prism 5

    Listened to a fellow called John Liddie? on Radio 97? rave on yesterday about how he cleaned up his flat and wanted to drop the rubbish off somewhere and tried to leave it outside a neighbour’s but someone caught them and they got into trouble and….
    If this is what the young public like then they lack any little grey cells inside their smooth-skinned faces. Hearing about Key going to Hawaii would probably be riveting after listening to the guy who repeated his little tale again. I was in a shop so was captive audience. I did complain but assistant said what I think must be general, that she just tunes out. So many places are full of music or wailing women being broadcast. I think Peter Ustinov called it wallpaper for the ears. What a load of S!!T.

  6. CrosbyTextor 6


    FROM: HQ

    TO: Prime Minister

    21 December 2009


    We share your frustration at being bumped from the “Debate Of The Century” by the BBC but as you know we were unable to secure a promise from the corporation that no “difficult” questions would be asked concerning the environmental policies handed to you by us in November 2008 would be asked. We have been able to create an equally important and equivalent opportunity for you to appear in the media.

    While on air, please don’t mention that you will be holidaying in Hawaii, that your cutting anyone’s allowance, don’t describe the job as “fun”, try not to sound sleazy, don’t mention cutting anyone’s bonus, stay away from mentioning “after politics”, don’t make fun of the ordinary New Zealanders in the calander, bear in mind the dignity of your office, do not slag off the previous prime minister, and do not describe your wife as a Hobbit.



  7. BLiP 7

    The man’s an embarrassment!

  8. mike 8

    Lighten up you boring prats! Its Xmas ffs. Hels had a boring, childless existence that’s Xmas indulgence revolved around ‘Mr’ Davis having an egg-nog instead of a cuppa back in 05.

    JK lets his hair down and shows he’s human on a shock-jock show and somehow this is corrupting the 4th estate…. now thats a joke

    • Pascal's bookie 8.1

      Fuck. If that’s letting his hair down the man is in desperate need of something a hell of a lot stronger than eggnog.

  9. Peter Wilson 9

    I’m of two minds about this latest spin. I accept that our media is undeniably lazy, aside from a few notable journalists, who interestingly, seem to be pushed to the margins in reward for their hard work (former columnists from the Listener for example…). The Hollow Men proved that, both with Hager’s book and the fact that none of the mainstream media even bothered to publicise it, because it made them look bad. So, a lazy media can be taken as a given, and I don’t think it’s much better elsewhere either. Symptomatic perhaps of rundown newsrooms and under-staffing, rather than biased journos.

    What that means then is that’s the political reality – lazy media, and the sheer easiness of getting shallow spin stories onto the front page. National then has obviously worked this out and has mastered it, to its own electoral advantage. Having a guy like Key makes it easier, but there will be a solid strategy behind this.

    It’s harder for Labour, earnest and serious, and not historically inclined to take that approach. But still, a prudent Labour Party would recognise that reality and plan their media strategy around it. Which basically means writing the articles for the journos, slipping them by the editors etc, and couching everything in friendly sound bites. That doesn’t mean dumbing down the policy, but it does mean recognising media realities, however crap they are. It’s either that or develop alternative means of disseminating information, which bypass the mainstream media. And for the middle classes, that doesn’t yet include blogs like this one.

  10. TB 10

    I remember the first couple of xmas’s Helen Clark was PM she did xmas good-will cameos of the likes of ZM to show she was cool & hip and a lot of Labour people I know were raving about it….. so when a National PM does it its some sort of sisniter “Crosby-Textor Plot”… WTF. This is what all politicians do when they are popular…. Don’t worry, although National will win the next election, about six months into the next term the main stream population will start realising that “this lot are just a bunch of self serving politicians just like the last lot, I’ll never vote National again” and labour will starting to become popular again. like spring follows winter the cycle continues…..

  11. Cam 11

    This guy is real life David Brent. Why do so many people just eat this crap up?

    • GFraser 11.1

      Cam, you just hit the nail on the head!
      You can see the future, nightclub appearances dressed up as Austin Powers with failed Big Brother contestants 🙂

  12. George.com 12

    I wonder why many people think Key is more show than substance.

  13. Zetetic 13

    sigh. the problem isn’t with the apparence on The Edge. It’s with the fawning coverage of it on stuff.

    • BLiP 13.1

      Painful, ain’t it? I sometimes wonder if the trolls do actually understand the point of most posts and are simply playing at distraction to avoid discussion or are really just *that* thick. A mixture of both, I suspect.

    • sk 13.2

      But it is the appearance on The Edge. It was so cringe-worthy. He talks down to NZ’ers and no one notices. He is off to Hawaii, and tells the rest of us losers to enjoy NZ. He disses those kiwis heading off to their campsites. You just have to wonder when we will wake from our trance. That show was just appalling . . . .

      • Zetetic 13.2.1

        yeah. he’s a dick. I’m not arguing.

        You’re right that no-one notices his attitude through the laffs.

        My problem was with the fawning though. Not that the Edge gave a soft interview.

        • Scribe


          I’d hardly call Stuff’s coverage of Key’s appearance on The Edge “fawning”. It looks like a fairly straightforward retelling of the events that took place. That’s kinda what journalism is.

          Please point to the parts of the story that are “fawning” and post them here. Thanks.

          • Bright Red

            Why would you cover it at all? It’s fawning just to replay and celebrate a soft interview given to him by another media outlet.

    • lukas 13.3

      what, you want them to lay into him for making an appearance on The Edge and not discussing the hard hitting points of politics for the day?

      I suggest your vile hatred of JK clouds your judgment somewhat Zetetic, perhaps you should stick with your tried and true posts about how much NZ sucks?

      • BLiP 13.3.1

        What point studying “communications” to diploma level when you can’t even recognise propaganda when its pointed out to you?

        • lukas

          BLiP, what point studying anything can you not recognise an entertainment show? Not everything is about the evil Mr Key out to get you BLiP

          • BLiP


            Its not about the radio show, its about the coverage of the radio show, geddit? Odd then, don’t you think, that an “entertainment show”, recorded by the Goober’s own PR staff, is getting front page virtual felatio from the print media?

            • lukas

              BLiP, I suggest you get out more if you seriously think that there is an issue here. Go find a friend for Christmas

              • BLiP

                Where did you study “communications” – Disneyland?

              • lukas

                oh BLiP, you try so hard… kind of cute and sad at the same time really.

                Do you still think mining the conservation estate is comparable to the death of a child?

              • BLiP

                going to be kicking in any public hospital emergency department windows this Christmas?

              • lukas

                seriously bud, you are like a broken record playing the same sick tune over and over. I guess that is a yes to the question about mining and the death of a child then?

  14. Ben 14

    VERY dangerous direction for New Zealand to head in. Ah, it’s bloody late, I can’t possibly assess and source right now. But look up early Reagan archival footage, very telling on this issue, because it was the great transition. By the time Bush got here, this was the “normal” way for the media to act. But Reagan was the first (then Thatcher), setting the style of monkey-see-monkey-do journalism, prepared all the way back to Roosevelt. Which was a whole different world, and the scene for the great struggle for which way the media battle would go. Factual journalism, and public invovlement on Roosevelt’s side, Public Relations and celebritism (a.k.a the attitude of I concern myself with characters, hopes, and values, and am thus excluded from matters of policy, and decisionmaking) on the side of Business. Very revealing history.

    And very unsettling to see it take placein New Zealand.

  15. J Mex 15

    Just heard a radio station discussing their interview with Phil Goff this morning (which I missed):


    Announcer 1: And a thanks to our special guest earlier this morning, Phill Goff
    Announcer 2: (Snoring noises)

    Announcer 1: What did Phil Goff want for Christmas again?
    Announcer 2: Um,…World peace, equality for the rich and the poor… [drifts off]
    Announcer 1: A trip to Hawaii? For John Key to get stung by a jellyfish?
    Announcer 2: I wish he’d said something like that. I’m not sure if Phil Goff should be Prime Minister or a boy’s brigade leader.
    Announcer 1: Yes, but we thank him for coming in anyway…

    I’m sure we can all imagine how that interview went.

  16. Tim Ellis 16

    There seems to be two schools of thought on Mr Key.

    The first is that he’s a dishonest, “money trading”, shallow, evil man who is the puppet of some nefarious international conspiracy.

    The second is that he’s a nice, intelligent, friendly guy that people will relate to.

    According to Roy Morgan, if you’re in the first camp, only a very small minority agree with you. Still I suppose it’s better that you vent your rage before christmas online rather than at your families.

    • Tigger 16.1

      Actually, there’s a third school of thought – that he’s an embarrassing, smug douchebag. There’s probably some other schools too. And some pre-schools. A day care. University. Polytech. Maybe even kohanga reo.

      • BLiP 16.1.1

        And a fourth school of thought that he is a bored multi-millionaire playing at politics to amuse himself because it “seemed like a fun thing to do”.

      • Tim Ellis 16.1.2

        That third school of thought has even fewer students than the Labour Party at 27.5 percent in the last roy morgan poll Tigger.

        • Tigger

          This just in, Anne Tolley has closed the second school of thought. Typically closing a school would be done only after consultation and for good reason but Tolley decided to forget any sense of fairness, justice and common sense and close it anyway. Bummer.

  17. There seems to be two schools of thought on Mr Ellis.

    The first is that he’s a dishonest, “money trading’, shallow, evil man who is the puppet of some nefarious international conspiracy.

    The second is that he’s a nice, intelligent, friendly guy that people will relate to.

    According to Mr Ellis, if you’re in the second camp, only a very small minority agree with you, but he is pleased that the sham is working at all.

    • J Mex 17.1

      If only John Key had an honest unmanufactured image. He should take a leaf out of that nice sheep carrying, triumph riding, campground staying bloke, Phil Goff.


      Often these type of blog discussions remind me of a bunch of young schoolkids arguing that WWF is full of fake sham wrestlers and that only the WWE is the real deal. Alongside another group arguing the opposite.

  18. Tim 18

    Actually Mr Ellis, more accurately the general perception of Mr Key is that he is a non-committal, do-nothing though friendly and rather irrelevant ‘shop assistant’ kind of guy.

    After the 100th ‘have a nice day’ one actually wishes we had a Prime Minister who actually ‘did’ something.

    Something… like a real solution to the leaky homes fiasco that was triggered by the former National government in the 1990s deregulating the building industry safeguards.

    Dont you think?

    • Tim Ellis 18.1

      Hi Tim,

      If you think that is the general impression of Mr Key, perhaps there are some poll results you might want to look at.

      As for the leaky homes fiasco, this would be the same leaky homes crisis that Helen Clark said was a beat up, and which she criticised the Herald for “banging on” about it.

      After nine years of Labour Government, it is a little bit disingenuous to blame Mr Key for the problem.

      • Pascal's bookie 18.1.1

        “it is a little bit disingenuous to blame Mr Key for the problem.”

        He didn’t do that Tim, stop lying.

        Still I suppose it’s better that you lie about that here than about your age in some other chatroom.

        • Tim Ellis

          I hope you’re not as angry next year as you’ve been this year PB. Perhaps you’ll get beyond the first two stages of grief, denial and anger, and start to focus on how to deal with Labour no longer being in government.

      • sk 18.1.2

        Mr Ellis

        On the day that we hear that Chris Liddell is being given the job of saving the US auto industry, we have this tape of JK acting the idiot. Sure he is a fantastic guy to have a beer with, and he is still popular according to the polls, but we hoped for so much more.

        The only thought in his head about his year as PM is all the great trips he has had, such as going to Copenhagen for a bacon buttie. . .

        If this is as good as it gets from our leaders . .. .

        NZ is surely capable of more . . .

        • Tim Ellis

          sk, just in case you didn’t know, the edge is not a serious news programme.

          For somebody who was a big supporter of Helen Clark, who famously preferred to see Shrek the Sheep rather than meet people on the hikoi for the foreshore and seabed bill, you seem to be very angry that Mr Key would do anything entertaining around Christmas time.

          • sk

            Who says I was a supporter of HC? No argument from me on Shrek. (And thanks for explaining the bit on the Edge, at least I am young enough to listen to the Edge, which from the sounds of it you are not).

            It is not the entertaining, it was the cringe-making performance and the way he talks down to NZ’ers, and what it says about how he sees his responsibility as NZ PM.

          • BLiP

            That’s your idea of entertainment? Sad.

            BTW – the point of the post, as has been repeatedly pointed out on this thread, is not the radio show, its the fawning media falling over themselves to make The Goober seem at least part-normal. Geddit?

  19. Tim Ellis 19

    It seems the people who dislike Mr Key going to Hawaii for Christmas were quite comfortable with Ms Clark climbing mountains in Africa for her Christmas. What a small minded, joyless bunch you are.

    • sk 19.1

      Ms Clark also spent a lot of time in the mountains of NZ. While Mr Key thinks that is fine activity for us (along with camping), it clearly isn’t for him.

      There is just a sense, that when he is done with being PM (notice on that point, he could not name one PM who quit while ahead; what about David Lange or Harold Wilson?), he is out of here.

      There is also a sense – that he is happy to confirm – that the highlight for him is foreign, not domestic, policy. But the required game changer is needed in domestic policy .. .

      • Tim Ellis 19.1.1

        Who knows what Mr Key will do when he’s no longer PM sk. It looks from the polls like he’s going to remain PM for the next few years at least. But as you say it is possible that he might be out of here straight away. He might follow Ms Clark’s example and get a job at the UN.

        • sk

          A depressing thought .. . .I keep coming back to that bacon buttie, as the highlight of Copenhagen. JK had no idea the significance of what was happening around him. Read this . ..


          • Tim Ellis

            In case you didn’t notice sk, Copenhagen was a failure. About the only constructive thing to come from it was Mr Key’s announcement of the science investment group.

            • sk

              You missed the point .. . .If China is positioning itself as such, Mr Key flying around the world humming “we are the happy happy people” is not going to defend NZ’s interests. I wonder what the Chinese made of Mr Key’s tape. Hardly evidence that he is a serious player . ..

              • gitmo

                Ummmmm the Chinese leadership don’t give a fuck about Key or NZ or anyone or anything outside of China unless there’s something of benefit in it for them, this is why any global carbon trading ETS scheme is doomed even if the Chinese sign up to it they’ll lie and obfuscate about their figures.

              • Tim Ellis

                That’s true sk, all of the Chinese websites are reporting how the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party are pouring over every detail of Mr Key’s performance on the Edge.

              • sk

                Mr Ellis, you may jest . .. .

              • Bill

                “Ummmmm the Chinese leadership don’t give a fuck about Key or NZ or anyone or anything outside of China unless there’s something of benefit in it for them, this is why any global carbon trading ETS scheme is doomed even if the Chinese sign up to it they’ll lie and obfuscate about their figures.”

                Unlike those nice honest western leaders who never lie about anything or obfuscate on any matter……ever.

                White is right and yellow is peril, eh?

              • gitmo

                UMM Bill shouldn’t you be having a afternoon nap in the old age home ?

                If it’s a choice between the western governments and China I’ll take the western governments thanks very much….. but feel free to make your case how the Chinese government is better or no worse than govts in the west.

              • Bill

                It’s not about which government is better or which government you’d rather have in control.

                It’s about your bald assertion that the Chinese government would lie and obfuscate; it’s about that assertion being based on an implicit assumption that ‘ours’ wouldn’t.

                It’s about naive racism at best and cynical racism at worst

              • gitmo

                Bill are you completely fucking retarded ?

                How do you get from

                “Ummmmm the Chinese leadership don’t give a fuck about Key or NZ or anyone or anything outside of China unless there’s something of benefit in it for them, this is why any global carbon trading ETS scheme is doomed even if the Chinese sign up to it they’ll lie and obfuscate about their figures.”


                “It’s about your bald assertion that the Chinese government would lie and obfuscate; it’s about that assertion being based on an implicit assumption that ‘ours’ wouldn’t.”

                “It’s about naive racism at best and cynical racism at worst”

                There’s no implicit assumption that our government present or past or future doesn’t lie ….. I think they lie all the time. Fact China is the biggest CO2 emitter in the world. Fact they are far more concerned about their economy and face than reducing CO2 emissions. Fact that they are are a government that’s well known to bend the truth and fabricate data.

                Don’t accuse me of being a racist again please you fucktard.

              • Bill

                There’s no implicit assumption that our government present or past or future doesn’t lie ..Yes there is. Otherwise you would not have stated that a trading scheme was doomed because of the characteristics you highlight but assign to the Chinese and only the Chinese….I think they lie all the time. No you don’t. You apparently think they would be honest on issues related to an ETS for oneFact China is the biggest CO2 emitter in the world. true.Fact they are far more concerned about their economy and face than reducing CO2 emissions.That’s not a fact. Merely an opinion. Again, why single out China? The same can equally be said of European countries and of the US and Canada plus a whole pile of others Fact that they are are a government that’s well known to bend the truth and fabricate data. WMD, War on Terror/Drugs and so on and so on

                Don’t accuse me of being a racist again please you fucktard.

                What would you term it Gitmo? You do see how I get from your initial comment to my response don’t you? You follow the logic, yes?

              • gitmo

                Bill I don’t know how anyone can follow your logic you’re a class war relic and self loathing whitey.

              • Bill

                Jeez Gitmo.

                I thought the mapping out of my thought process as a reaction to your comments on this thread was fairly explicit. If you care to pinpoint which part you find hard to follow I’ll endeavour to make it clearer for you.

                But Gitmo. In return, you care to explain how you came to your conclusions based on our exchange in this thread, ’cause I can’t see any sign of logic whatsoever?

          • Bill


            That article screams desperation…is he being serious, or expect to be taken seriously contending that the US had “put serious cuts on the table for the first time (17% below 2005 levels by 2020), and was obviously prepared to up its offer.”

            Really? A (whatwasit…3%? ) reduction on 1990 levels is serious when the science demands 50%? And as they were ‘obviously’ prepared to up the offer, we know what the upped offer was and the conditions surrounding it. Right? Oops. Apparently not. How strange.

            Then again, perhaps I missed the intentional irony of that link appearing in a thread titled “MSM: you supply the spin, we publish it.”

            Mr Mark omnipresent Lynas’s interpretation is a clear country mile distant from anything actually said in any of the reproduced conference speeches, but strangely reflective of the spin being attempted by Messrs Brown and Obama.

      • Scribe 19.1.2

        There is just a sense, that when he is done with being PM …. he is out of here.

        Hmmm, kinda like Miss Clark?

        I wonder if John will increase donations to whatever organisation he wants to work for next in order to grease up the appointment committee…

  20. sk 20

    Mr Ellis

    You may jest . .. but Mr Key is the jester

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