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Reviewing the media coverage of the leadership race

Written By: - Date published: 9:20 am, September 11th, 2013 - 67 comments
Categories: labour, Media - Tags:

The Labour leadership race has been remarkably well-behaved and it has led to a larger party that is pledged to unite behind its first democratically-elected leader… much to the chagrin of many in the press gallery. Where’s the bloodbath that they promised themselves? Where’s the deepening disunity? They’ve tried to talk it up, they’ve tried to gonzo it. It hasn’t happened.

The Dompost have had the funniest coverage. They decided from the outset that Robertson was going to win. The first articles had in as ‘favourite to win’. Then facts came in – polls, union endorsements – and they all went against Robertson. The Dompost couldn’t just acknowledge these data as revealing the pre-existing truth because that would have meant they were wrong to call Robertson the favourite. So, we had a series of stories about ‘momentum’ shifting to Cunliffe and away from the ‘initial frontrunner’ Robertson. Nothing had actually changed (the very first poll had Cunliffe well in the lead) but the Dompost couldn’t admit that, so they had to create a narrative of change.

The Dom’s Tracy Watkins was a laugh in her own right. Desperate, desperate, desperate for any sign of infighting. Two days into the campaign she declared that the contenders were in an ‘ugly twitter row’ – were they fighting with each other? No, they were each asking their own parody/unofficial campaign twitter accounts to cut it out, which they did. Then, there was her ‘gloves off metaphor’. It began with ‘signs that the gloves are coming off’ in the leadership contest. Next, we were assured that the ‘gloves are off behind the scenes (I’m not sure how the gloves can be off behind the scenes in a public contest…). Finally, she seriously intoned that the ‘gloves are well and truly off’. But it all amounted to a hill of beans, tiny wee disagreements in a positive, uniting campaign.

Lastly, there’s the media jocks – or should that be the wannabe gonzos – Gower, Garner, and Guyon. They saw from the start that Cunliffe was going to win and nothing was really going to change about that. So, they invented the story of their mate Shane Jones as the ‘darkhorse’ candidate who was going to come through and win. They knew it wouldn’t happen. Mathematically, it couldn’t happen. But it was so fun to pretend and it let them put themselves in the story again and again. They got to play Hunter S in their production of ‘fear and loathing in various town halls’, and they definitely seemed to have been smoking something a lot of the time. But, ultimately, they showed the limitations of journalism – you can have the led political reporters of the largest media network in the country interviewing each other across multiple shows and formats reinforcing their own narrative and, in the end, it hasn’t amounted to a hill of beans.

Paddy Gower, gets the prize for having the hardest time understanding how a preferential voting system works – he declared Jones the kingmaker, as if Jones can assign the second preferences of people who make him their first preference. That happens in Australia because of their unique ‘above the line’ system for senate races. This isn’t an Australian senate race.

And, as usual, if you wanted real top-quality political coverage and a chance to actually hear the candidates themselves speak, instead of the journalists, then your only choice was Radio New Zealand… but how boring is that?


67 comments on “Reviewing the media coverage of the leadership race”

  1. shorts 1

    is it just me or do others feel these political reporters seemingly would rather be covering sport, given the language set they employ – they really need to lift their game (sorry)

    • Vagabundo 1.1

      It’s not just you. Dunc and Paddy are particularly egregious in that aspect.

    • Bunji 1.2

      they really need to lift their game (sorry)

      😀 beautiful!

      and very true – it’s all a sports match to them, bugger the consequences to the country…

    • Draco T Bastard 1.3

      The reporters still seem to be in the FPP mindset which really is much closer to a sporting context than actual politics.

      • shorts 1.3.1

        shame they can’t met us the public, the politicians and the farm animals of this fair land in the present day

    • Rodel 1.4

      In sport they have real mathematical scores to report on..hey real facts and heaven forbid . …real numbers.! In their politojournalese they haven’t got such facts so they have to make them up.
      It’s called fabrojournalism. Sort of 100 shades of grey.

  2. Pete 2

    If there’s one thing New Zealand journalists know, it’s that you sell papers (or get ratings) by confirming an audience’s pre-existing prejudices. That way the audience gets to feel good about itself when the media confirms its prejudices. The narrative that has been built up around Labour since Clark’s departure is that the party is disunified and Clark was the only one holding it together.

    So the media bought into its own narrative, first by inventing an attempted coup last year and now looking for some viciousness in this contest. The fact is the three candidates are professional politicians. They all have experience at winning and losing and can take whatever comes in their stride. I must say, when I saw the candidates at one of the meetings, Robertson and Cunliffe appeared to be having friendly chats with one another and on several occasions each responded approvingly to points their counterpart had made.

    Further, this whole process will give the new leader more legitimacy in the eyes of the party. This is strengthening the party, far from being a destructive process.

  3. Crunchtime 3

    The camaraderie between the candidates was clear right from that very first 3-way interview on… I think it was The Nation? Cunliffe actually came to Shane Jones’ rescue and backed him up on one question.

  4. Tracey 4

    I’m still trying to work out what Cunliffe sacked his advisor for? Where was the interview published and ow was it an attack on sexuality?

    • Colonial Viper 4.1

      It was a political decision. Team Cunliffe was not going to tolerate even the appearance of an activist campaigning on the basis of Robertson’s sexuality.

      • Enough is Enough 4.1.1

        Why am I being identified as SPAM

        Jennie answered a direct question from Smalley with a direct and straight answer.

        How should she have answered that question?

        • Sanctuary

          Cunliffe clearly decided that Curran’s ill thought out idiocy will be dealt with another day. Here is a prediction:

          Jennie Mitchie will still be around the leadership of the Labour Party post election 2014. Clare Curran will not.

          • Anne

            Cunliffe clearly decided that Curran’s ill thought out idiocy will be dealt with another day.

            Yes. That’s about it.

        • Bill

          Maybe…and ain’t hindsight a shite?…”I’m not an oracle, if you really want to know the leanings of NZer’s on that question, then you have to ask NZer’s. Personally, it’s just not an issue.”

          Strikes me that a lesson can be learned here for others who may find themselves in a similar position to Jennie. Never assume to speak for others and refuse to do so when asked to.

      • Tracey 4.1.2

        Thanks CV, read the other thread and some links and am understanding. Has Curran apologised for making it an issue?

        • Bill

          No. According to a TVNZ report she reckons members of caucus should be allowed to speak their minds with no threat of reprimand or whatever.

          “Clare Curran says she stands by her comment. She says she does not believe someone who speaks their mind should then be punished by the party.”


          • Colonial Viper

            Except there was a very clear process to be followed if any MP had concerns with the conduct or communications of any of the leadership campaigns.

            Twitter was not part of that process.

            • felix

              “Twitter was not part of that process.”

              Even on the piss? Surely twitter’s ok when you’re on the piss.

              She’s only human.

            • felix

              “Twitter was not part of that process.”

              Even on the piss? Surely twitter’s ok when you’re on the piss.

              She’s only human.

              • Colonial Viper

                “Clare Curran says she stands by her comment. She says she does not believe someone who speaks their mind should then be punished by the party.”

                I also find this pretence of hers incredibly ironic. I could use other descriptions of course 😈

                • mickysavage

                  I seem to recall a prominent member of the party in Dunedin who was given a hard time by Clare for exercising their right of free speech …

          • Tracey

            does that means she supports Michie’s comments then? 😉

          • Tangee

            Then why in hell is she on about Jennie because Jennie was speaking her mind

        • Colonial Viper

          Not that I have seen, even though the incident has reflected badly on her own Team Robertson. And on Labour in general.

          • Craig Glen viper

            Currans an idiot, mouth like a torn sack. Amazing how someone so disloyal to the Party gets to be in Parliment as one of its representatives.She should find another job!

    • Enough is Enough 4.2

      She answered a straight question with a straight answer.

      I have no idea how Cunliffe expected her to answer this question:

      “Okay, Grant Robertson Jennie says that he wants to be judged on his ability, not his sexuality. How do you think the socially conservatives might view Grant Robertson you know in the year 2013?”

      • Enough is Enough 4.2.1

        funny things happening to my message. I thought 4.2 had dissapeared, so apologies for the double message.

      • The easy answer is to say you’d have to poll them. 😛

        • karol

          Yes, with the benefit of hind sight, I would answer such a media question with:

          “Grant’s sexuality has nothing to do with his ability to be leader. It’s not an issue for me. I have no idea what goes on in the minds of social conservative. Why don’t you ask them?”

    • weka 4.3

      “I’m still trying to work out what Cunliffe sacked his advisor for?”

      AFAIK* she wasn’t sacked (she’s not an employee in that capacity). She was stood down. There is a difference.

      *being less inclined to believe the MSM version of the story, and more inclined to believe what some ts commenters have said. http://thestandard.org.nz/cunliffe-shows-leadership-steel/

      • Comrade Coba 4.3.1

        Probably a little ploy, Curran & Hipkins has caused a fair bit of distracting attention away from the issues of the day. Jenny stepping aside exposes Curran as a bitch & shuts her up immediately, apart from txting Radiolive this morning. Anyway she’s toast (1 down) as will a number of others be. The quicker the clean out the better.

      • Anne 4.3.2

        I don’t know what you can say to some people commenting here Weka. It has been said at least a hundred times in the last 24 hrs.

        She. was. not. sacked.

        She was stood down and only for the remaining days of the campaign. David Cunliffe made that clear. It was also with Jenny’s agreement because she understood only too clearly what the MSM would do to Cunliffe if she stayed on the campaign team. In reality, it was only for the last few days and most of the work has already been done.

        If Cunliffe wins you will see Jenny Michie in a senior position – maybe in the leader’s office. That’s if she wants it of course. Jenny Michie is pure gold. Clare Curran is tin.

    • big bruv 4.4

      Cunliffe used the 90 day trial law to get rid of his advisor. I can only applaud Cunliffe for embracing what is a great law.

  5. Crunchtime 5

    Seen the dompost coverage today? Awful. Absolutely awful.


    “Cracks” “Attempts at presenting a united front hit the buffers”

    …later on “Cunliffe, seen as the most divisive figure”

    …and most of the quotes in the article from Jones, who had the worst quotes on the subject. Ugh.

    • Yep, that is definitely how you do misleading the public. Thank you, Andrea Vance.

    • miravox 5.2

      Strangely Audrey Young in the Herald plays it rather reasonably, I thought.


      Ending with – (aside from the debatable numbers scenario)

      Despite the bickering, the candidates were civil among themselves. Mr Cunliffe believed respect for each other’s skills had grown between them over the course of the campaign.

      “The winner will be the people of New Zealand if we can bring those talents together into an unstoppable team that can change the Government.”

    • BrucetheMoose 5.3

      Journalists seem to have forgotten the fundamentals of journalism. The article by Vance reeks of subjectivity. If Miss Vance can’t be impartial in relation to the subject matter, she should perhaps try another avenue, such as The Woman’s Weekly.

    • big bruv 5.4

      ““Cunliffe, seen as the most divisive figure”

      That is a statement of fact. Would you prefer that the Dompost said that Cunliffe was highly popular and the man that the entire party want as leader?

      You lefties really do have a problem with a free press.

  6. Delia 6

    It does not matter what they say, the only result that matters is on voting day (now that is boring, but it is the truth) To see journos desperately trying to influence Labour voters is a joke. It is not quite the same as influencing the general public –party members are not so easily got at. Must be so frustrating for the right wing media.

  7. Blue 7

    I particularly liked the article that assured us all on day one of the campaign that Robertson had it in the bag and the only thing left to decide was how to convince David Cunliffe to temper his ambitions and take the deputy leadership. It was rather like suggesting that Bill Clinton become deputy to Al Gore.

  8. Sable 8

    No one trusts the mainstream press anymore, they have repeatedly shown themselves to be disingenuous. If Labour starts taking their job and it is a job, seriously, listens to what people want and professionally implements those policies they may find they have nothing to worry about this election or the next.

    Lie, dissemble, sell out Kiwis to foreigners, act like children and behave like dictators (Clarke and Keys) and see how quickly they land back in the opposition.

    Personally I’m sick and tired of the bullshit and bad behaviour demonstrated by politicians in general over the last 30 or so years. They have ruined this country. Time to shape up and do the job you are paid handsomely to do and do so humbly and honestly or get lost.

  9. aerobubble 9

    The caucus gave Labour Goff and Shearer, and now with the rule changes, the first time they’ve been used, will ignore the decision of the party and unions….

  10. Craig 10

    The weird part is that I got so tired of the rhetoric and undeclared and unsubstantiated personal opinions within the straight/mainstream media that I ended up citing (of all people!) Kiwiblog’s David Farrar (!!!), who seems to have at least provided a concise summary of Labour leadership contender policy platforms, even if his own description was slanted in a specific political direction. While I obviously don’t share DPF’s politics, I’d give him credit for that, at least. I wish newspaper and television coverage was as concise and focused.

    • Colonial Viper 11.1

      That’s actually quite funny.

    • billbrowne 11.2

      That Barry Sopa? Guy’s clearly a nut – is he, like, paid to write that drivel.

      Glad I’ve not listened to 1ZB since the ’70’s – stopped then because of all the ads – and shitty muzak.

      • big bruv 11.2.1


        If you have not listened to Soper since the 70’s then you missed his nine years of total adoration for the corrupt Clark government.

        • One Anonymous Knucklehead

          Back on Earth, Graham Capill and David Garret set the benchmark for corruption.

  11. Poem 12

    Patrick Gower was particularly disgusting tonight on TV3 making up the news instead of just reporting it. Gower must be a follower of Don Brash and used the same tactic Brash used in the 2005 election to discredit Helen Clark. Patrick Gower seems to think Cunliffe greeting an audience in various languages “is talking down to people” and further still a poll saying Cunfliff is dishonest where the majority of respondents said that they didn’t know was a most pathetic attempt by the desperate and like John Key most dishonest right wing media to sway voters away from Cunfliff.

  12. Belladonna 13

    Yes Poem I quite agree, a sickening display of media bias. Gower is a creep.

    • geoff 13.1

      martin lutha cunliffe…..popcorn……..

      • geoff 13.1.1

        lprent, is it possible to stop this person using my handle?
        I’m sure you’ll agree, one geoff is more than enough.

    • Arfamo 13.2

      Paddy Gower’s a moron. It’s probably about time Opposition parties just ignored the prat and spoke only with and to other journos. With a bit of luck eventually TV3 would get rid of him as he’d be useless to them then.

  13. xtasy 14

    The “media” is the “7 headed serpent” and a force that is much more to damn worry about than even John Key and his gang (NatACT)!

    This is where the prospective Labour leaders and the whole caucus as a whole, even many members, yes the left as a whole, have NOT woken up yet. They are the ENEMY, they are not going to “assist” Labour, Greens and others into government!

    I see with total despair and dismay how leading opposition members make knee falls and kowtows to the media, once any “critical” comments are made by totally arrogant, biased, manipulative and biased media “personalities” like this loud mouthed, apparently “speed” talker Duncan Garner, that rotten Patty “Cower” – “the Coward”, certain talk back hosts and newsreaders and wannabe “political commentators” in this small country.

    I cannot believe that David Cunliffe overreacted to sack his senior campaign worker Jenny, while she did not even say anything sexist, just stated (before the campaign for leadership even started) that some in the public may have reservations to having a gay PM. She herself was supportive of having a gay PM – at least at some time.

    Also I cannot believe that Metiria Turei tonight made a ridiculous “apology” for a comment she made on “The Vote”, where she said she would be happy about lower house prices, so first home buyers would have a chance to buy homes.

    No, we live in a kind of dictatorship, where unwritten rules and codes exist, where capitalism as it is applied in the neo-liberal manner we have had for nearly 3 decades now, is the “holy gospel”. Almost all media persons, certainly their bosses, the companies that employ them, that drum endless commercials into people’s eyes and ears 24/7, even the “public” media remnants, “competing” for ratings and market share, join in, they all staunchly defend the same crap that has been, and is destroying this country and society.

    The younger ones are not even aware of it, as they have been so brain-washed, they know none else, having been raised with all this commercialisation, commoditisation, division, competition at all leves, that sharing and unity are alien words now.

    Yep, Metiria Turei was forced to “apologise” for defending housing policies that may be risking the “equity” of the middle class, largely baby boomer property owners, and supposedly expose the country to economic volatility. What a ridiculous development, and shame on you Metiria, to giving in to media pressures, that serves again only to manipulate, to defend the same old upper middle class most of them belong to.

    What the hell is wrong with New Zealanders and migrants living here, putting up with all this crap? Equity, that is like giving the gambler at the casino gambling table permission to cling to the pile of chips he bought on credit to continue gambling, that is what most equity in NZ households and in housing is, none else.

    What about putting equity into value added production and some other “investments”, that bring the country ahead, oh no, we have to be mindful of the middle class, that shits on people like me, who live off benefits, of these “unaffordable handouts” they have to pay us.

    The left, if there are any truly “left” left in NZ, better bloody wake up, stand their ground to the absolute crap media in this place, and stand in for policies that are better for ALL NZers, not just the upper and upper middle class, not just the property owners, who want to use “equity” to borrow more, to buy consumer products on credit and what else.

    I am in a bloody nightmare here, seeing this go on, like on “The Vote”, interspersed with endless commercials, to feed onto the same mindset, “invest”, “speculate”, join the game, and carry on as usual, as opposition is just “too risky” and “dangerous”.

    Attack the media, and do not fall for it, do not serve them, bring in a strong public media once Key and gang are voted out, to create some balance to the shit we get. The news on TV3 tonight, with Gower’s new “polls” and “surveys” was just disgusting even more. They are already working overtime to discredit Cunliffe, or who else may be Labour leader.

    • Colonial Viper 14.1

      Yep. Points well sustained.

      • xtasy 14.1.1

        They tell us, if there was no “advertising”, we would not have any media, or would have to pay a lot to get “news”. Few people realise, we pay for the supposedly “free” media anyway, as the products and services advertised are sold to us at a price, that covers the costs of advertising.

        With that, we get media, that is now largely “commercialised” media, who are themselves dependent on the advertising businesses, and therefore biased towards them (“do not bite the hand that feeds you”). So they present us “biased” news, that is news that will not offend, yes probably “serve” the interests of their paymasters.

        So no “independent” media, indeed a “corrupted” media, informing on a bias, and delivering a “corrupted minded” society. That is what we get.

        If the opposition manages to win the next election, which they should do, we need a revolution in reestablishing a solid public broadcasting service, and also allow operators, who are independent and not just commercially focused, to broadcast and communicate, on airwaves, and via the internet, without being excluded by excessively high fees for frequencies and access.

        Only informed people in the public ensure a true democracy, which in NZ has not existed for 10 to 20 years.

        So yes, the media coverage started off OK re the Labour leadership contest, but it soon got very bad, too many just looking for “news” that were not there, and if anything wrong, like Curran’s silly “twit” “tweets” came public, there another opportunity was exploited, to discredit Labour. Labour and Greens, get your media people fine-tuned and into top gear, it is essential for your survival.

    • GregJ 14.2

      Nice rant xtasy! 🙂 Salient points though.

    • karol 14.3

      I was also pretty disgusted that Turei was forced to back-track on the lowering of price of housing.

      I think many left pollies do know the media is the enemy. But that also know that declaring war on the media is probably electoral suicide. So they tend to go for appeasement. If an MP attacks the media or individual jounralists, the most powerful in the MSM would go after them.

      At what point do they decide such appeasement is not worth it?

      And how can the media be turned around so they become a true Fourth Estate? Or at least, stripped of their political manipulations?

      At least it requires all of us with the will, to stand up and say, “ENOUGH!”

  14. George 15

    The weirdest thing would be if any of the three colleges come up with a different third place contender. I assume the three colleges are being lumped together, with appropriately weighted votes, into one super-college for the actual count (the only way the preferential vote will be able to come up with a winner). But if each college result is to be declared separately as well then it could be quite revealing. How out of step are our caucus? And if they are truly out of step, do they really deserve the pronoun “our”? The majority of the caucus seems to think, as have caucuses done for many decades, that they are law unto themselves. Times have changed comrades …..

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  • A good night for Labour’s local government candidates
    It has been a good night for Labour in the local government elections. In Wellington, Justin Lester became the first Labour mayor for 30 years, leading a council where three out of four Labour candidates were elected. Both of Labour’s ...
    2 weeks ago
  • More contenders for fight clubs
    Allegations of fight clubs spreading to other Serco-run prisons must be properly investigated says Labour’s Corrections spokesperson Kelvin Davis. ...
    3 weeks ago
  • Minister runs for cover on job losses
    Māori Development Minister Te Ururoa Flavell’s refusal to show leadership and provide assurances over the future of the Māori Land Court is disappointing, given he is spearheading contentious Maori land reforms which will impact on the functions of the Court, ...
    3 weeks ago
  • Kiwisaver contribution holiday not the break workers were looking for
    The number of working New Zealanders needing to stop Kiwisaver payments is another sign that many people are not seeing benefit from growth in the economy, says Grant Robertson Labour’s Finance spokesperson. "There has been an increase of 14 ...
    3 weeks ago
  • Fight Club failings
    The Corrections Minister must take full responsibility for the widespread management failings within Mt Eden prison, says Labour’s Corrections spokesperson Kelvin Davis. ...
    3 weeks ago
  • Rethink welcomed
    The Labour Party is pleased that Craig Foss is reconsidering the return of New Zealand soldiers buried in Malaysia, says Labour’s Foreign Affairs spokesperson David Shearer. “For the families of those who lie there, this will a welcome move. The ...
    3 weeks ago
  • Disappointment over UN vote
    Helen Clark showed her characteristic drive and determination in her campaign to be UN Secretary General, and most New Zealanders will be disappointed she hasn't been selected, says the Leader of the Opposition Andrew Little. "Helen Clark has been an ...
    3 weeks ago
  • Māori need answers on Land Court job losses
    Māori landowners, Māori employees and Treaty partners need answers after a Ministry of Justice consultation document has revealed dozens of roles will be disestablished at the Māori Land Court, says Ikaroa-Rāwhiti MP Meka Whaitiri. ...
    3 weeks ago
  • Key’s ‘efficiencies’ = DHBs’ pain
          John Key’s talk of ‘efficiencies’ ignores the fact the Government is chronically underfunding health to the tune of $1.7 billion, says Labour’s Acting Health spokesperson Dr David Clark.       ...
    3 weeks ago
  • More than 1,300 schools to face budget cuts
    The latest Ministry of Education figures reveal thousands of schools will face cuts to funding under National’s new operations grant funding model, says Labour's Education spokesperson Chris Hipkins. ...
    3 weeks ago