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National and the media

Written By: - Date published: 10:29 am, August 14th, 2008 - 17 comments
Categories: Media, national, slippery - Tags: ,

A few mini-posts on National’s relationship with the media in light of the secret agenda tapes.
A signature Crosby/Textor move, seen here and abroad, is for their politicians to be matey with media as long as they run the lines, but, if they start to get critical, shut them out. So, a few months ago, John Key was taking Guyon Espiner and Duncan Garner out for drinks but Garner is probably off the invite list after last weeks secret agenda tapes. In fact, National has tried to punish TV3 as a whole for playing the tapes; all last week, Key refused to front on Campbell Live. Instead, National hoped to exploit the TV1/TV3 rivalry by putting Key put for what they hoped would be a soft interview from Mike Hosking, and we all know how that turned out. That’s got to be a worry for National, the C/T strategy depends on a media that is largely compliant and love-struck with the mysterious new leader.
Even John Key isn’t buying his lines anymore. Last week when Mike Hosking put it to Key that he had no evidence Labour was behind the secret agenda tapes, that Key was “just flying a kite”, Key admitted as much.

Yesterday, on Wammo, Key’s line de jour was that it’s not National that doesn’t have any policies but Labour. When Wammo said “they’re already working with the policy that they have.”, Key conceded “Yeah, I suppose that’s an argument”. Doesn’t really sound like he believes the lines he’s spouting.

That interview also included this little slip.
Wammo: You believe that [the secret tape recorder is] a Young Labour person. Is that what Nick Smith said?
KEY: Yeah. No, it’s come from much better sources than that.
Ouch for Nick! 🙂
A bFM listener has just sent me an email saying Mikey Havoc announced Key cancelled his weekly interview this morning on Havoc’s show after Havoc indicated he wanted to talk about the secret agenda tapes [Havoc says that’s incorrect]. You might remember this interview between the two when Key was unable to run his lines on Crosby/Textor. Since then, Key has been notably frosty towards Havoc.

TV3 with secret tapes, tough interviews on TV1, Barry Soper refusing to be bullied, Geoff Robertson hoping to go out with a a bang, Havoc and Wammo well-informed and probing, even Pippa Wetzell having a crack at some hard questions… The Nats must be praying for Paul Henry to make a speedy recovery so Key can have some nice soft interviews again.

17 comments on “National and the media ”

  1. ghostwhowalks 1

    Its not well known but these one on ones for most politicians allmost allways have “agreed” areas they will cover or otherwise not touch.

    This is what media minders are for, to pre screen the likely questions, and cut it short if the interviewer strays from the script.

  2. Rocket Boy 2

    ‘The Nats must be praying for Paul Henry to make a speedy recovery so Key can have some nice soft interviews again’

    Did I miss something? I thought Paul Henry was just on a couple of months leave.

  3. I thought that Mikey has been the best interviewer of Key so far. His last question to Key last week was to ask if he (Key) was confident that everything he told Havoc over the past few months was true.

    Key said that it was his view of it and he did not have a secret agenda.

    Then on Sunday the SST reported that Brash had been offered the role of High Commissioner in England essentially in consideration of his standing down as leader of the National party. The link is at


    The article contains this:

    “A week ago Radio bFM’s Mike Havoc followed up the Herald story and asked Key whether he had promised Brash a job for resigning: “So, there was no `here you go, buddy, you have this one and you leave’? It was a genuine step down?” Key replied: “It was a genuine step down.””

    I wonder what Mikey’s first question was going to be and if this is why Key refused to be interviewed by Havoc?

  4. Rex Widerstrom 4


    Do you have any evidence for that assertion? I was a journalist for 15 years and was never, ever told my questions would be limited to certain topics by any politician from any party. I spoke every week with the party leaders in fixed spots (only Bolger refused. I’ll never forget the surreal conversation I had with him in which his argument was basically “Ayyee am the Prime Minister. Ayyee answer to no one”).

    But of every other politician I’ve ever interviewed – Anderton, Peters, Moore, Clark, Richardson, Shipley, McKinnon, Cullen… and dozens of of others) none has never tried to put a limit on questions. Nor have their handlers.

    And no handler would dare cut short an interview… can you imagine the way the media would report that?!

    When I became a minder I wouldn’t have dared tell a journalist that he or she had to stick to agreed topics, much less cut short an interview. Nor would anyone working in the field at the time. The most “agressive” minder in those days was Dick Griffen, who’d lead on the Gallery office filing cabinets and harangue the poor hacks til their ears bled, presumably in the hope they’d be nicer to his boss next time round so as to avoid death by boredom.

    Spin doctors will certainly try various methods to ensure the interviewer is thinking the “right” way before the interview starts, so as to minimise the risk of their boss being treated in a hostile fashion. But setting “no go” areas just invites the revelation they’ve been set.


    I’d also challenge your assertion that Key and his minders went into the Hosking intrview expecting a soft approach, unless they’re even more inept than I give them credit for.

    One thing you quickly learn is that there are certain “journalists” whose performances are all about their own egos, and the quickest way to celebrity status is to appear to aggressively question anyone who’s sat in front of you (regardless of the fact that your questions are, in the main, unresearched assertions of opinions which you may or may not hold but which are designed to give your subject a rough time).

    To go into an interview with Hosking and not expect it to become a piece of performance art in which he plays “fearless interrogator of the evil politician” would be incredibly stupid.

  5. randal 5

    you said it dude… keys might be good at grubbing a few basis points on a “turn” and firing non-performers but when it comes to dealing with the real world and real people who want answers he is very very stupid. stick that in your “I was a journalist for 15 years” pipe and smoke it

  6. vto 6

    I just checked the Hosking interview for the first time and lordy knows why you think Key got pasted. Far from it from what I saw, with the sole exception of the Williams tape comparison. In what way did he get a bollocking again?

  7. randal 7

    he sat there and whimpered like a weasel in the headlights.

  8. vto 8

    really randal? I will sound like a die-hard Key fan, which I am most certainly not, but I thought the questions were answered well and clarified a lot of the tape stuff.

    I know this whole issue is getting done to death but sheesh when posts are made which are so far from an objective reality then they need taking to task. Lest the lie becomes the truth.

  9. Scribe 9


    I’ve just gone and watched the Hosking interview as well. I thought Key handled himself well in what was a very good interview from Hosking, asking tough questions that got clear answers.

    Honeymoon. Over.

    While SP/Randal et al will see his refusal to say “We won’t sell Kiwibank — full stop” as “whimpering like a weasel in the headlights”, he didn’t cave in to the temptation to make a promise he couldn’t keep. I’m sure other politicians wish they had such restraint at different times.

  10. mikey havoc 10

    Just to clarify

    John Key did cancel his scheduled interview with me on Bfm Breakfast this morning – fifteen minutes before we were due to go to air…

    However I didn’t say that the reason he cancelled the interview was due to the questions I was about to ask him .

    I actually said that it was a shame he couldn’t do it- because I had wanted to ask him about etc …

    I was REALLY keen to hear what he had to say this morning , but was not to be .

    Make of it what you will.

    In response to the claims made by Ghostwhowalks

    I have interviewed Helen Clark on radio weekly for more than 10 years and plenty of times on TV.
    I have spoken to John Key weekly on radio since he became Nationals leader.
    There are literally hundreds of interviews on TV and Radio I have notched up over the years and I can honestly tell you that not once have I had to provide a list of topics to anyone in politics or been restricted to certain topics by anyone in politics .


  11. Quoth the Raven 11

    Mikey Havoc brilliant.

  12. r0b 12

    fifteen minutes before we were due to go to air

    Interesting. You probably can’t speculate too much here, but unless Key had some genuine sudden reason to cancel, this smacks a little of panic.

    I was REALLY keen to hear what he had to say this morning

    Speaking as one of we the people – me too. But I’m sure you’ll get a chance to interview him again soon. National can’t possibly keep hiding when the real campaign begins…

  13. Felix 13

    Mikey I’d just like to say how much I enjoy your friendly chats with the leaders – they often provide the most enlightening insights of the political week.

  14. thanks for the comment Mikey. I really enjoy your interviews, friendly and well-informed, not rude but not willing to just let people run their lines either.

  15. Good on you Mikey.

    I enjoy your interviews more than any other interviews that I can think of.

    Shame that John Key has refused to be interviewed by you. I got the feeling that his initial desire to be interviewed by you was to counter the “benefit” that Helen received from being interviewed by a hip intelligent Student Radio station. The trouble is that she was willing to talk and Key wanted to use it as an opportunity to send out Crosby Textor constructed messages.

    He obviously did not like the fact that you wanted to talk to him about things that were actually important.

    Good on you and shame on Key.

  16. Rex Widerstrom 16

    randal: Have a read of what Mikey Havoc has to say (which entirely supports what I said – that politicians never limit the topics you’re allowed to ask them, though they might, like Bolger and Key, avoid being interviewed altogether) and then put that in your pipe and smoke it.

    Fact is I have been a journalist and a political advisor so while my opinions might be crap – as might anyone else’s – my professional knowledge isn’t. Though I’d happily debate politics with him I wouldn’t, for instance, argue programming with Lynn. I’d just look stupid. You’d do well to follow the example.

    Your hero and (judging by your sulky attitude) mentor now has a blog which, unlike The Standard, Kiwiblog and other genuine fora for debate, seems to allow comment only from easily confused sycophantic mendicants like yourself… I’m sure you’ll enjoy your time there.

  17. jaymam 17

    Rocket Boy, on 8 June it was stated that Paul Henry was having a two-month break from work to “recharge his batteries”. The two months is now up.
    On 13 June he went to London with Rich List businesswoman Diane Foreman, who used to be a very very close friend of Don Brash.

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