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The Game

Written By: - Date published: 12:09 pm, November 18th, 2008 - 52 comments
Categories: Media, spin - Tags:

The press gallery is ebullient at the moment and I can understand why. After years of having to analyse the same old government faces and drain the collective wisdom about political personalities to the point of seemingly-endless repetition they now have a new toy to play with.

No more do these journalists have to search their minds for some new take on Helen Clark or some fresh way to disguise their personal view of Michael Cullen into analysis. You can almost hear the sigh of relief in the articles about Paula Bennett or Steven Joyce. “Finally”, the gallery says, “we can show how much more we know about the game than the average punter. And we don’t even need to do any deep analysis!”

Let me be clear before I offend all of the gallery that I use the term generically. There are some very good minds in there and there are some hacks (I’ll leave you to decide which is which).

But disclaimers aside it needs to be said that the response by some gallery reporters is quite frankly giddy. Poneke has described their overuse of the term “bolter” quite nicely but I would add that the real issue is how clearly the rise of personality has come to dominate the political reportage.

There’s a reason for this. If you talk to anyone involved in the Herald online or Stuff they’ll tell you that political stories rank very low in the hit count. The big winners are entertainment and sex. Check out the “most read” of these sites (or “most viewed” in TV3) on any given day and the list is peppered with celebrity stories and stories with “boobs” in the title.

To compete with this, and with the cheap sensationalist copy that is the crime story, political journalists need a hook. That hook is personality. Issues that are too complicated are a turnoff to browsing readers but make politics a realm of celebrity and report on it as a soap opera of personality clashes and you’ve got something salable. Interesting, even.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think gallery journalists explicitly decide that is what works but I do think that it is a situation that the market has evolved toward and that is has come as a result of a news industry focused on profits at the expense of good information.

In the meantime it facilitates the sort of PR opportunities that Crosby Textor and outfits on the left are quick to take advantage of and I predict that over the next few years we will increasingly see politicians marketed like commodities in the style of the “brand Key” model.

Owns an ipod or hangs with King Kapisi? Or with a couple of ex-all blacks? Uses facebook or has a pretty wife/interesting husband? That’s good copy. And keep an eye out for greater use of social networking sites in the style of Barack Obama’s campaign as politicians are obliged spill more and more of their personal lives in order to “connect” with voters. What a game.

52 comments on “The Game”

  1. Ianmac 1

    It was suggested months ago that the MSM had indeed grown bored with telling the same old same old stories relating to the Labour Govt, and therefore were pleased to tote “Time For a Change.”

  2. Tigger 2

    The Paula Bennett rags to riches story has gotten old already. It’s been around for a while and much of the story that’s being run now appeared in NBR in January this year. So much for new information…

    If owning an iPod, having a facebook page and a hot husband is front page stuff then I put myself forward as breaking news…!

  3. Tim Ellis 3

    Interesting point IB. I think it’s always interesting to take a glance at the Herald’s “most popular” list, and I’m frequently surprised at how seldom the list is dominated by “Is Lindsay a Lesbian?” stories. Take the list at the moment:

    1. Banks predict cash rate could go to lowest level ever
    2. New test tells women how long to delay having children
    3. Key backs fresh faces to perform in Cabinet
    4. Sideswipe: Tuesday
    5. Cyclist dies in crash at intersection

    That’s a fairly typical list. Slightly at the sensational end, but not too News-of-the-World-ish.

    I disagree, though, with your inference that stories around the Key government will be driven by some big propaganda machine. The Labour Government had far more press secretaries and spin-doctors than any other government previously.

    I think what we’re likely to see over the next year or two is a different phenomenon, and it won’t be driven by Crosby-Textor or some other nefarious spin machine that some on the Left would like to demonise. It will quite simply be the Honeymoon effect, which Helen Clark held for a very long time–at least four or five years as I recall. As I remember it, Helen Clark really had the longest honeymoon of any Prime Minister I remember.

  4. gobsmacked 4

    I don’t mind the hacks getting excited about newbies. But you’d think that somewhere in the coverage they might get around to reporting – even asking – what the new ministers believe in..

    For example, the profiles of Paula Bennett tell us that she went to university and studied social policy. Good on her. So, what did she learn? How did this affect her thinking? Did it give her, like, ideas?

    I’m longing for somebody in the new Cabinet to say they’ve actually read books, and thought about stuff. They probably have (except John Key, obviously), but it would be nice to hear them talk about it. To be fair, ACT and the Maori Party talk openly about ideas. The Nats don’t seem to want to.

    Or maybe the new Minister of Social Development just thinks Beveridge is a flat white.

  5. Lew 5

    Gobsmacked: Await the maiden speeches. Then we’ll see what they believe (or what they want us to think they believe : )

    L

  6. gingercrush 6

    I think Tim Ellis really hit the nail on the head. Labour and Helen Clark got 4-5 years of a long-term honeymoon period. It should have been a year if that but the economy was running well, house prices were climbing thus that honeymoon period extended much further than it ever should have. Where I differ with him is that we are in stage where the world economics are receding. That points to 1-2 years of either no economical growth; actual loss of growth; very minor economical growth. Thus I don’t see National getting a honeymoon. I give it a year and if the economy doesn’t improve. Mass-media will become more and more critical of the National-led government.

    For now you people on the left are facing what we National and right wing supporters felt for a good five years and then was extended by not winning in 2005. Its incredibly frustrating and I do know what you’re going through. But its hard to not relish in a win.

  7. gobsmacked 7

    Er, Lew, ministers (except Joyce) won’t be making maiden speeches. 😉

    Yesterday Key said he wants results and outcomes. I was worried he might only want results, or outcomes, but no – he wants both. He’s ambitious for tautology.

    The content of their speeches is emptier than New Zealand cricket’s trophy cabinet.

    Gingercrush: a false equivalence, often trotted out by the right. Clark had earned her praise, after six years as leader, and one election defeat, and very, very low poll ratings in the 1990’s. She battled through, winning over media and public. Key has never had to. She then kept her promises in government, incuding unpopular ones. Key can’t keep his, because they contradict themselves.

  8. Lew 8

    GC: I give it a year and if the economy doesn’t improve. Mass-media will become more and more critical of the National-led government.

    In fairness, Labour got tipped out of government at least partly because of perception of their economic management and the coming crisis, and National did campaign on being able to steer a righteous course through the coming troubles. I wish them all the best in doing so. But given the policies so far expounded I’m not filled with confidence, and I won’t be going easy on Key and English if they fail to get results.

    L

  9. Tigger 9

    Can anyone point to researched evidence of this ‘honeymoon’? I remember a lot of dirt being thrown around early on in Labour’s last term. Any new government always gets a period where the press love them for the reasons expounded above – it’s the shock of the new and there are fresh stories and new policies to explore. This isn’t a right-left issue, its plain old public interest.

  10. Tane 10

    I’ve never understood why journalists do this whole honeymoon thing. Obviously there are reasons as explained above, but don’t they have, like, a job to do?

  11. Lew 11

    GS: Which means they’ve already made one, and you should know what they want you to think they believe, right?

    But yes, I think we can rely upon John Key to respond if his new ministers don’t deliver the resultcomes he wants. He might be many things but he’s not a soft-touch.

    L

  12. gingercrush 12

    Helen Clark had some problems in her first year with New Zealand moving out of very low economic activity during the Shipley era. But then from 2000-2003/4 until Don Brash’s speech about Maori, Labour enjoyed a unique honeymoon. Those reasons being:

    1.A successful Labour-led government.
    2.A good economy, consumer spending, rising house prices, low dollar meaning better earnings for exports and low interest rates.
    3.A National party that was useless in opposition. A National Party that kept Shipley for too long and then when they get in a new leader you have party members stabbing him in the back. That and their policies were too backwards looking. Labour had engaged the country with fresh policies from its 1999 campaign. National kept using the same ideas of the late 90s. And didn’t offer anything new.

  13. Tim Ellis 13

    I agree with some of the perceptions here that Key has set himself up as a strong economic manager, and he will have to fulfill the expectations the public have of him, by steering a clear path through the economic troubles New Zealand will face over the next few years.

    Secondly, Key has either been demonised on several fronts by the Labour Party, or been portrayed as wildly inferior to Helen Clark on other fronts, which has lowered expectations of him that Key has to only be mildly successful with, in order to remain more popular.

    The first element of demonisation was that Key represented a stark drift to the right through a secret agenda. This was the mantra that Labour chanted for over a year. If Key maintains a steady, centrist course, then the “fear factor” that Labour tried to apply to him will disappear.

    The second element, which was less about creating fear of the opposition, and more about boosting the reputation about Helen Clark, was the ability to manage in an MMP environment. Helen Clark was heralded as the first PM to really make MMP work, by cobbling together multiple coalition and other government arrangements to stay in power. Key was described as politically inexperienced and unable to match her on that front. The last ten days have shown otherwise: Key has moved at lightening speed to build the broadest government New Zealand’s had under MMP.

    The third factor, I think, was Clark’s relative expertise in foreign affairs. Over the next few years, pretty much all foreign affairs will be financial affairs. If Key is moderately successful on the domestic front in economic terms, given his expertise in financial matters he could well become as highly respected international figure as Helen Clark has been.

    It’s up to Key to deliver on the first element. If he does, I think he will be around for a very long time, and will be considered one of New Zealand’s greatest prime ministers. In the meantime, I think it’s churlish for anyone to try and deny him his honeymoon.

  14. gobsmacked 14

    Tim

    What do you mean by “deny him his honeymoon”? Key has set out (before the election, and repeated since) a programme for the first 100 days. He wants to do a lot.

    If people oppose (some of) what he wants to do, and think it would be bad for the country, is saying so – loud and clear – denying him his honeymoon? I’m sure you don’t think that.

    A law passed is a law passed. The date is irrelevant.

  15. Tigger 15

    This ‘speed’ of doing deals that the right are crowing about is nothing but a sell. Can you honestly tell me that National had not already done deals with the Maori Party and ACT prior to the election? It’s all to make Key look decisive – in fact the details were likely stitched up weeks ago.

    gobsmacked – I agree. Tim, you’re talking like a honeymoon is a right. It’s not.

  16. Lew 16

    Tim: You write as if a honeymoon, or a grace period of some sort before being held to account, belongs to a new government as of right, implying that criticism would be somehow unfair, or prevent him from doing the sterling job of which he otherwise might be capable. I disagree, and I think well-deserved ridicule will be heaped upon any who claim `hostile media’ as an excuse for any poor performance in the coming year.

    I agree that John Key has done a masterful job of setting up his governance arrangements, and he genuinely has worked well with the cards dealt him by MMP. However, that doesn’t validate Clark’s claim that he was politically inexperienced, for two reasons: 1. It’s comparatively easy to put together a coalition when you represent 85% of the votes needed to form a government, because those parties with whom you must deal can’t expect much from the arrangement. 2. It’s not forming a coalition which is hard – it’s keeping it together and making it work. This was most aptly demonstrated by National in 1996. This is where I think Key’s plan to involve both ACT and the māori party is both a blessing and a curse – he has twice as many options and his government is indeed broader and more inclusive than any before it. However, he is now subject to many of the very dangers he warned Labour would suffer from if they tried to `cobble together’ a government with the Greens, the Progressives, NZF and the māori party. Sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, so if that was a concern under the former arrangement, it must for consistency’s sake be a concern now.

    L

  17. Tim Ellis 17

    Gobsmacked, by all means oppose what you don’t like, I’m not suggesting you don’t do that.

    I do think there’s a risk for the Left in trying to oppose things for opposition sakes at this point. The electorate has voted and expressed its point of view. You’re right, Key has set out a clear plan for the first hundred days–a plan he announced before the election, and if he started implementing things contrary to what he planned before the election, then the Left would have every right to be kicking and screaming.

    Yet kicking and screaming when he’s only carrying out what he promised, and what people voted for, looks like sour grapes. I think that energy could be better used reforming and regrouping, looking at why you lost (and not just blaming the winners). I don’t think Labour has really begun to do that yet. I think Helen Clark and Michael Cullen made it much easier for Labour to change by stepping down immediately, but I think Phil Goff at best will be an interim leader and will never be PM, and far more change needs to be made before Labour is ready to govern again.

    Likewise as I see it there are real problems with the Greens in the years to come, particularly with respect to their personnel. Jeanette Fitzsimons, Keith Locke, Sue Bradford, and Sue Kedgeley are all getting on in years, and the Greens need to bring forward its new non-ageing hippie crew much more quickly. Russel Norman looks to be a positive step in that direction, but if the Greens are going to really survive they need a faster revolution.

    Once that is done I think there will be real issues around the Greens’ relationship with Labour and position on the Left generally. This will be much more stark if the Maori Party actually deliver good results to their constituents within a National-led government. Questions will be asked: if the Maori Party can do so much good by working with National, why did the Greens rule National out? Do the Greens really represent environmental interests, or are they just an exile ground for the most radical Left?

    These are some of the real long-term problems that the Left will face in New Zealand, in my view. I think it’s better that they start working on them now rather than failing to score cheap political points just because they’re angry with the public decision.

  18. randal 18

    I cant believe you wrote that tripe Irish Bill
    the press gallery is stuffed withoverpaid dolts who wouldnt know a story if it bit them in the bum
    they have never covered the issues
    they are beltway flunkies at best and hyenas at worst
    none of them have any education except funny writing at j-school and they have the brains of well trained fleas who only dance when somebdy turns up the heat on the hot plate underneath them
    just because they have plenty of disposable income to buy the right threads to swan up and down lambton quay in does not make them intellectual giants or even half way decent writers
    the corporates know what they are doing when they employ the sorts of hacks currently occupying these positions

  19. Tim Ellis 19

    Lew, I hope I’ve clarified my position for you.

    I disagree, and I think well-deserved ridicule will be heaped upon any who claim `hostile media’ as an excuse for any poor performance in the coming year.

    That’s a fair point. Equally, I think well-deserved ridicule should be heaped upon any who claim that the media are hostile to Labour as an excuse for not going after Key’s throat if his government performs moderately well. I don’t think Helen Clark’s first term was particularly brilliant–I think she performed moderately well, in a warm economic climate, and she managed to overcome many of the perceptions of her being steely, unapproachable, and unengaging, which she had inherited in her early political career.

    Yet she did benefit enormously from a long political honeymoon. That is going to happen for a new leader who does moderately well. The opposition won’t like it at all–National supporters hated it in the early few years of Helen Clark’s reign.

    I think that trying to paint a hostile anti-Labour media, which Labour has tried to do, over the last couple of years, hasn’t been in Labour’s long-term interests. Phil Goff understands this, but I don’t think many others in Labour do.

  20. randal 20

    well tim ellis I think that you think wrong
    the meedia here is bought and paid for and infantilised to boot
    if they were any more intelligent then they might be corrupt but at the moment they are just kids out of their depth but with sufficient power and backing from their employers to alliow their p[ost modern solipsistic viewpoint to affect everything they do
    we are now in the “crummy era”

  21. Bill 21

    Well, we can’t expect the media to examine the unquestioned assumptions that underpin the system that supports them and that they are a part of. Can we?

    And we can’t expect them to encourage others to do so. Can we?

    Any ongoing enquiry of more serious issues might over time develop into a situation where basic assumptions come under scrutiny. And we can’t have that for the simple reason that the media can’t have it.

    So, can we expect them to keep it quiet, keep it dumb and keep it moving along? Of course.

    So bring on the personalities and the boobs; the murders and the lost hand bags…not because it’s necessarily what we want but because it’s what the media needs us to want.

    Anything else might be a step towards democracy rather than the preferred dumbocracy.

  22. Lew 22

    randal: One word which quite categorically cannot be assigned to journalists, no matter how senior, is `overpaid’.

    Bill: I take it you don’t ever buy a paper; read the herald or stuff websites, or watch One, 3 or Prime news, then? Because to do so would be to support those media outlets’ decisions, and that would be inconsistent.

    L

  23. Tigger 23

    I see Farrar is quoted as saying this about Bennett “Having been a Maori solo mother herself, Paula will make it very hard for Labour to characterise National as heartless.”

    Um, so Maori solo mothers can’t be heartless? Clearly Farrar has never met any of the women in my family…

  24. I recall Duncan Garner’s ‘analysis’ of NZ Firsts policy on gangs was to go to Tauranga and ask two 12 year old Maori boys if they’d think it’d stop gangs. Amazing what passes for ‘in depth analysis’.

  25. Bill 25

    Lew
    “I take it you don’t ever buy a paper; read the herald or stuff websites, or watch One, 3 or Prime news, then? Because to do so would be to support those media outlets’ decisions, and that would be inconsistent”

    Some of that stuff I do. But I’m under no illusions as to the level of info I’ll get from them. As far as ‘supporting those media outlets decisions’….what tosh.

    Does my reading your comments mean that I support your decisions? No, of course not. Does my reading your comments make me inconsistent? No.

    Same goes for reading or viewing sections of the media.

  26. National kept using the same ideas of the late 90s. And didn’t offer anything new.

    So, why is it, if National’s ideas are fresh, and new, have they suggested reintroducing Bulk Funding, something that was never mentioned during the campaign as likely.

    Bulk Funding is immensely unpopular, something the right must know all too well, considering now all language around it is couched in terms of “choice”. Any progress on this front would almost certain doom National, or any government that initiated it.

  27. Rex Widerstrom 27

    Beyond the immediate and, in the scheme of things, fairly minor implications of the trend IrishBill so adeptly describes (the whole “should Key get a honeymoon” thing) the points he makes cut right to the heart of politics.

    The kind of superficial claptrap that parties can get away with peddling (and Crosby Textor can get away with amplifying, if you want to buy into that particular demonisation) only works because media coverage is, in the main, equally superficial.

    And that in turn is, as IrishBill points out, because the public seems to have the attention span of fruit flies and the intellectual depth of a puddle, judging by what’s popular amongst the majority.

    But then we come to a “chicken and egg” debate. Is the media dumb because that’s what the public really want, or is the public dumb because they’ve been conditioned to it by at least a decade of crap served up by media owners seeking low-cost programming?

    I suggest the latter. As Lew says, no journalist is overpaid. Airhead autocue readers and similar “personalities” (some of whom even get to do interviews), most certainly. Some talkback hosts who are qualified for the role only by the abiding depth of their ignorance and prejudice and their willingness to display it, also most certainly. But the people who toil to actually bring you news as opposed to opinion, certainly not. Nor is money spent on resourcing the nuts and bolts of news gathering, which the owners quickly realised was the single biggest cost centre in their operations – and so, obviously, the best place to start cutting.

    As a kid and young adult I grew up watching the likes of Ian Fraser, Brian Edwards, David Beatson and others make politics both exciting and intelligent. Without wanting to make this a lengthy essay, I believe that if NZ On Air could be convinced to fund an entirely new type of news & current affairs show – one that was not dumbed down but still entertaining – people could and would start taking an intelligent interest again. And that in turn would flow through to other media.

    It’d never generate the profit margin of, say, chucking a dozen mentally challenged bozos into a big house, taking away their celebrity mags and gameboys and seeing which ones are first to have sex, so – initially anyway – it’d need to be publicly funded. But something needs to happen before someone comes up with the idea, now we have cameras in the House, of nailing the debating chamber shut, lowering food and water in by crane, and seeing which politicians start having sex.

  28. randal 28

    Lew
    I think the press gallery get paid a lot more than the guy who carries the garbage out?
    and he is better at it!

  29. Lampie 29

    But something needs to happen before someone comes up with the idea,now we have cameras in the House, of nailing the debating chamber shut, lowering food and water in by crane, and seeing which politicians start having sex.

    there is a big problem with that!!

  30. gingercrush 30

    So, why is it, if National’s ideas are fresh, and new, have they suggested reintroducing Bulk Funding, something that was never mentioned during the campaign as likely.

    The agreement with Act says that they will have a look at bulk funding. That whole agreement is made up of what ifs, will review, will look at, will set up committee. The agreements are shoddily written and could mean many things.

    They had Anne Tolley on National Radio and while she said that they would look at Bulk Funding, she made it quite clear it wouldn’t happen under her watch.What that means I don’t know.

    —-
    There is one element that I’m surprised the left has not picked up and that is state housing and market rents. It was never declared policy but I don’t recall them actually saying no to market rents.

  31. randal 31

    lampie
    come on dude
    they are all bottle fed pillow clutching capons
    too many hormones in the rubber chickens

  32. Bill 32

    Anybody here ever see the C4 programme in Britain After Dark?

    “Live, late-night and – crucially – open-ended, After Dark was groundbreaking in terms of content, scheduling, format and presentation.”

    No soundbites, no possibility of mis-direction or evasion….good rigorous debate that ran until the participants stopped.

    Go here if you’ve never heard of it before. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/After_Dark_(TV_series)

    Personally reckon it was one of the best things ever aired on TV and a perfect foil to the crap that IB highlighted in this post…crap that many comments appear to agree with

  33. Lampie 33

    be sick TV randel lol

    Not much talent down there…………..eeewww

  34. gingercrush 34

    TV3 needs Linda Clarke to host a show like she did in the mid nineties. That was always interesting. Television needs Linda Clarke period. Her appearance on TV3 on election day(don’t have freeview) was refreshing and she still is one of the most politically astute commentator around

  35. Lampie 35

    SP, another cross on your to do list

    ultra-fast broadband to the home in a few years

    6 years, not a few years. looking forward to next term already. Better keep that list handy and updated if you want to illustrate your points.

  36. randal 36

    Lampie
    know what ya mean dude
    most of its too long in the tooth or been out in the sun too long
    p.s. if they do make the series throw epsinner in as the ball hog

  37. Lampie 37

    lol you and espinner Randel, hope your not stalking him mate geeezz.

  38. randal 38

    no I aint stalking him
    I just dont like him
    or his style
    or his manner
    or his intelligence
    or his political sympathy
    there is nothing about his person that I find agreeable at all
    I hope that it is still permissible to express my feelings about someone I detest?
    or are the members of the press gallery untouchable
    their jobs were never advertised
    and they sit there as unelected guardians
    I feel like Cato the elder who ended every speech in the roman senate with the dictum that carthage must be destroyed
    for the benefit of democracy in this country espinner must go
    can I put it any plainer than that

  39. Carol 39

    I was a bit disappointed in Linda Clark on TV recently (maybe on one of tghe post TV debate discussions (?)). She didn’t seem to have that much knowledge beyond what is covered in the MSM. She did make a couple of good points, but can’t remember what they were.

    I prefer Kathryn Ryan on Nat Rad nine-to-noon – always well informed and can ask searching questions in a fairly controlled way.

    I think back benchers on TVNZ 7 (freeview) is pretty good, though a bit slanted towards entertainment. And Media7 also on TVNZ is also good value. But will our new government follow their lead and develop such shows & freeview more? Or are they more interested in supporting pay TV?

    as Russell Brown blogged about today

    I also like a lot of stuff on Triangle & wish they would go to Freeview terrestrial. I watch AL Jazeera news hour most mornings.

  40. Quoth the Raven 40

    They had Anne Tolley on National Radio and while she said that they would look at Bulk Funding, she made it quite clear it wouldn’t happen under her watch.What that means I don’t know.

    That seems fairly clear and explicit to me, but I suppose you’re a National party supporter so wouldn’t may translate to probably wouldn’t and clear might translate to doubtful.

  41. gingercrush 41

    Well I was being fair to you lefties because you are saying all these ministers won’t have any independence and all directions will come from John Key and the far right. And also its the way the agreement was written up between Act and National that to me is shoddily written and could mean lots of things.

  42. Rex Widerstrom 42

    Bill:

    After Dark was, in fact, one of the programs I had in mind when I wrote the above. Elements of it would certainly transfer to today, and help to re-engage audiences with interesting TV. There’s a synopsis of the topics of each show (only partially complete, I think) on the BFI website.

    A key component of the series was that it rarely had the usual talking heads and, if it did, there were enough people on the couch with a real grasp of the issues to shut them up. So any resurrection of the concept would need to start from the perspective that if your name’s Willie Jackson or Matthew Hooton or Lockwood Smith or Sue Bradford then we’ve already heard quite enough from you already, thanks.

    Take, for instance, their discussion of prisons. No Attorneys General. No SST screechers. No “legalise cannabis” campaigners. The line-up was a man who’d served 15 years, a journalist who’d done 4 months, a therapist who’d served 3 years, a prison psychiatrist (now a notorious conservative commentator, but not so much then), a sociologist, a prison governor, a former prison officer and the mother of 18-year old prison suicide victim.

    Now that’s a debate I’d like to hear, still, 17 years after it was recorded.

  43. Lew 43

    Bill: Does my reading your comments mean that I support your decisions? No, of course not. Does my reading your comments make me inconsistent? No.

    Same goes for reading or viewing sections of the media.

    No, it’s not the same. By consuming commercial media, you earn those media outlets advertising dollars, thereby proving to them that their business model and their content choices are valid and legitimate.

    Rex: Is the media dumb because that’s what the public really want, or is the public dumb because they’ve been conditioned to it by at least a decade of crap served up by media owners seeking low-cost programming?

    Yes, both. It’s a feedback loop. People want tits and goss because that’s what’s available, and it’s available because people have always wanted tits and goss. I agree that the emphasis of such trivia has grown stronger with time, and partly it’s to do with the disintegration of the barrier between `news’ and `events’. But to an extent the old adage is true: news is what makes a reader say `gee whiz’. Attempts to privilege some sorts of events over others and call them news might be well-intentioned, but ultimately will be futile. As late as the 1980s the BBC referred to their comedy and other lightweight shows as `ground bait’, juicy chum to draw the viewers in and make them watch the `important’ content – news, documentaries and stuffy period drama, mostly. Paternalism does nobody any favours. If there’s genuinely demand for hard news and analysis done right (and I think there is) then existing outlets are missing an opportunity if they fail to provide it. That means there’s an opportunity here.

    We are seeing the emergence of some interesting competitors. Back Benches is somewhat constrained by its short format, but it’s a good show and while not really the stuff of analysis, it’s a good forum to see MPs under some pressure (mostly from each other). Media7 is pretty good too, and both would benefit greatly from being re-run on the main TVNZ channels. Māori TV’s Native Affairs is the second-best current affairs show on TV (after Agenda), and is done on a tiny fraction of the budget any of the others have – it’s a genuine treasure. A lot of people mistake Campbell Live, Close Up, 60 Minutes, Sunday and 20/20 for current affairs – and make no mistake, they are occasionally. But their mandate has been eroded by the ratings war, and they no longer fulfil that function well enough. The answer isn’t to make them fail by enforcing Meet The Press or HardTalk rigour upon them – the answer is to cede the prime time post-news slot to the infotainment and produce alternate shows at more suitable times.

    Bill: After Dark looks fantastic. Thank you.

    L

  44. randal 44

    lew
    in a post modern world “NEWS” is what you say it is
    post modernism is worse than Orwells “1984” because the authorities dont even have to do anything!
    the world is filled with solipsisitic, infantilised, co-dependent noo noo heeads who will swear to you that black is white if it suits them at the time
    tommorrow white may be black
    in the meantime
    save democracy
    espineer must go!
    hehehe

  45. Lew 45

    randal: Yes, in the loosest sense news is what you (not YOU personally) say it is. The rest doesn’t follow.

    Oh, and re. the rubbish men – journalists are paid a bit more than them – but only after they’ve done ten years in training and on-the-job experience.

    L

  46. Lew – you’d be surprised at how much gallery journalists get paid… and once they’ve been there for a while their access gets them some pretty plush “media training” deals…

  47. Rex Widerstrom 47

    Lew:

    If there’s genuinely demand for hard news and analysis done right (and I think there is) then existing outlets are missing an opportunity if they fail to provide it. That means there’s an opportunity here.

    I think drawing other threads together, like Bank Benches and Media7 and weaving them together with something like After Dark, along with other elements I’m keeping to myself right now (because I run a TV / video production company as part of the way I earn a crust) is on the right track. I agree there’s a missed opportunity, which might one day even make enough money to be self-supporting.

    So… (if you’re a righty) – anyone up for investing in a pilot? Or… (if you’re a lefty) – anyone got a mate at NZ On Air? 😉 😀

    The answer isn’t to make them fail by enforcing Meet The Press or HardTalk rigour upon them…

    Not all of them, but do they all have to strive to be simulcrums of one another? (i.e. a vehicle for a presenter who thinks he or she is a “star” to constantly make themselves the subject? And if you think I’m wrong, how many times have you heard discussion of such shows centre not round what the guest said but how rude / soft pedalling the presenter was?).

    We have more than one channel now. Why can’t we have a gamut of after-the-news shows ranging from good satire (Clive James, “The Daily Show” or even, for a closer example, “Good News Week”) to some serious analysis?

    After all, Australians get to choose between the worthy but dull “7.30 Report” and the vacuuous “A Current Affair” or “Today Tonight” (which make NZ’s equivalents look positively cerebral) and gets The Daily Show and Good News Week at other times. GNW is even produced by a commercial channel, as is Meet the Press!

    You’re also dead right about the “feedback loop”, IMHO.

  48. Lew 48

    Sod: Yeah, but that’s not for journalist work, and if not handled right it can impact on their credibility as impartial jouirnos. But yeah, some of them make decent incomes once they get to the peak of their careers, after a decade’s monkey-work, a decade as a rank-and-file gumshoe reporter, and a decade of arse-kissing 🙂

    Rex: Excellent, I wish you all the best and I’ll watch with interest. I don’t know anyone either loaded enough to invest in such a project, or anyone at NZOA, but let me know if you want it analysed 🙂

    I think the celeb-journo problem is both better and worse here than elsewhere. Other places have them too, but they’re competing with a much wider range of others so they either have to perform more luridly (and damage their hard news cred), or they have to put up the goods, so there’s usually a passable option in there for the discerning viewer. This will change in NZ as our media ecology grows, but it sure is a pain in the arse in the mean time.

    L

    Captcha: `coming ELECTIONS’ <— recaptcha is way behind.

  49. Pascal's bookie 49

    “recaptcha is way behind.”

    Or slightly ahead of the curve. cf randal

  50. Lew 50

    PB: Depends whether you consider randal to be on the curve or off the curve.

    L

  51. randal 51

    lew
    out here on the perimeter there are no stars!

  52. Rex Widerstrom 52

    Out there on the perimeter no one can hear the rest of us scream, either 😀

    Lew: Might just do that. I’ve put a few current affairs-ish props up to the ABC but had them turned down in favour of what most people seem to agree were inferior, and are certainly very much “softer”, shows. I clearly don’t speak bureaucrat, so some hard nosed analysis might well do the trick.

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