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.