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Musings on fluff

Written By: - Date published: 6:00 am, July 16th, 2009 - 15 comments
Categories: Media - Tags:

Claire Trevett wrote me a very cordial email in response to my criticism of her reports from Key’s trip around the Islands. I want to say from the start this reply is meant in the same constructive tone. Trevett points out that there were in fact two articles each day – one serious, one ‘colour piece’. Fair enough, as well as the fluff there was journalism. But couldn’t we have two journalistic articles?

Perhaps it’s unfair to ask a journalist to write two in-depth, well-researched pieces a day. Staff cuts in our major newspapers may well be the problem here. But there are some fairly pertinent questions relating to the trip that I never saw addressed – are we getting value for money from our aid? Should we be worried about Chinese expansionism? What is the Key Government’s policy towards it considering we’ve traditionally worked with Europe, Australia, and the US to shut out Chinese chequebook diplomacy as much as possible (one suspects Key’ll just do what he always does, nothing)

Did I go a bit harsh on Trevett? Yeah probably – one of the strengths and weaknesses of blogs is the immediacy means you get the rough edges. Trevett is one of our best journos. My criticism of her writing was a reaction to going to the MSM and seeing yet another day of fluff pieces crowding out the real issues. It wasn’t personal. Tracey Watkins came in for similar criticism.

It wasn’t about alleging any bias either. I felt the same way about the gushing pieces written on Key’s tour bus as I did about the secret diary one mocking him – like I had sat down to eat a meal but walked away hungry.

These kind of pieces push the issues that matter into the background and make politics all about who you would rather have a beer with. More than that, they taint real journalism. Can we take seriously the ‘serious’ pieces when we’ve already read pieces that, rightly or wrongly, suggest the journo’s been emotionally captured by the subjects of those pieces?’

Maybe the readers of The Standard and myself aren’t the target audience. Maybe it’s felt by the powers that be that things need to be more low brow to draw in the punters. But I can’t believe that. I think people turn to news outlets to be informed, not entertained, and the dumbing-down of news either dumbs them down too or switches people off entirely. Which is a real tragedy because if there’s one thing a successful country needs its a good news media producing informed citizens.

15 comments on “Musings on fluff”

  1. rocky 1

    It would have been nice to see more real journalism on Key’s pacific tour. I too wish there had been analysis of the value for money we are getting from our AID, and how much of a problem Chinese expansionism is causing in the pacific, among other things.

    However I’m not really sure that The Standard, including you Eddie, has all that much right to complain about humorous posts such as ‘the secret diary’ Trevett did. Not really my cup of tea, but certainly there is a market for it. Case in point – your post yesterday: Leak: Key’s next big plan revealed. It was a brilliant post, made me laugh for a good few seconds, and highlighted with humour some really valid issues. But likewise, Trevetts ‘the secret diary’ post had some real messages behind it.

    So yes for a news outlet the ratio of ‘fluffy’ posts was perhaps a little too high, and there most certainly should have been more real news and analysis, but I wouldn’t complain about ‘fluffy’ posts per se. Unless you’re suggesting humour should be solely the domain of the blogosphere?

  2. IrishBill 2

    I’m glad you’ve acknowledged Trevett as one of our best political journos, I’ve always found her to be pretty straight down the line.

  3. mike 3

    “Maybe the readers of The Standard and myself aren’t the target audience. Maybe it’s felt by the powers that be that things need to be more low brow to draw in the punters”

    You are so good at sounding like a pretentious twat lp

    • maynard J 3.1

      You do not think readers of political blogs are more likely to want in-depth journalism than those who do not?

      You big tuff righties can be so sensitive and precious sometimes, grow up.

  4. BLiP 4

    Have you been “got to” Eddie – has the New Zealand Fox News Herald uncovered some sordid episode from your past that has you face down over a barrel – or perhaps your vanity has been tickled by a schmooze-email apparently sent by a real life journalist?

    Get a grip.

    The MSM, and The Herald in particular, is the foe and your original post was fine. Nothing wrong with it. Yes, at The Standard we have the luxury of going at it tooth and nail and, yes, the heat of the immediacy sometimes causes real live people to get hurt feelings. And, yes, there’s also the added benefit at The Standard of remaing largely anonymous. Yet Trevett and co are the foot soldiers in the corporate take over of the Fourth Estate. They shovel truth into the ovens as entertainment blends with information, as accountability of elected representatives is blurred to better suit the version of reality that stimulates greater profits while media consumers are titillated with salacious tidbits and feeble cliche puff pieces like your new friend’s work masquerading as news.

    Trevett one of our best journos? Really? Okay, perhaps we can expect to read why National’s pet PI Sam “double dipper’ Lotu Iiga was left behind, or maybe greater scrutiny of why millions of our aid dollars are being paid direct to Air New Zealand, what about the politicisation of the dispensing of our aid money, and what about the touring dancers and clowns, were their expenses paid out of the aid budget or was that cost met from another source . . . I am left with more questions about the John Key Island Tour now than I was before The Herald coverage.

    There’s plenty of room for humour further in the paper than Page 2.

    Stick to your guns, comrade, and hold true to the tenets of the Fourth Estate for the bogosphere is the last bastion.

  5. Eddie 5

    little harsh on lynn, mike.

    considering I wrote the piece.

  6. Eddie 6

    Have I been got to or had my ego stroked? Not at all. BLiP. But I see value in journos not being turned off our message, and that means not always being confrontational

    • BLiP 6.1

      yeah, alright, fair enuff – I’ve been guilty of it and even apologised myself – and, sure, cultivating a civil relationship with some of the good ones (inluding Ms Trevett) could well help the cause – a sound, first hand glimpse into the machinations of the MSM from a trusted source should never be ignored – perhaps you could “turn” her, lead her to the light . . .

  7. You’re hard but fair eddie, and a thoughtful, provocative writer – keep it going, I say.

  8. Ianmac 8

    I read the “Secret diary” as a greater message than the humour. Was Claire sending a more significant message via the satire?

    • Bright Red 8.1

      I read it as trying to provide some humourous balance to her other pro-Key puff pieces.

      Sure, it paints him as a bumbling fool (I actually think it’s the third ‘secret diary’ about him, all along the smae lines) but it’s as a loveable fool, not a dangerous one or one whose foolishness is hurting people. As such, he actually comes out looking endearing.

  9. Kevin Welsh 9

    Why is a “fluff” piece even necessary?

    If the current state of the MSM is anything to go by, the “fluff” piece will be on the front page for mass consumption and journalism hidden on the inside pages.

  10. mike 10

    Ops… sorry Lynn I’ll take back the pretentious bit..

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