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Beltway blues: serving the public interest?

Written By: - Date published: 12:00 pm, March 10th, 2014 - 32 comments
Categories: accountability, business, child welfare, class war, david cunliffe, Hekia parata, labour, news, poverty, same old national, tv, workers' rights - Tags: ,

Truth to Power: serving the public interest

A 4th Estate media should be, in Hagar’s terms, serving the public interest, informing the public on crucial issues. This often means speaking truth to power on behalf of the less powerful section of the public.  There are many pressing issues for New Zealanders that should be front and centre of most political coverage: the inequality gap, low wages, high power prices, child poverty and abuse, unaffordable housing, the possibility that NZ’s rockstar economy is actually built on sand…..

As geoff posted yesterday, too much of the media coverage of politics is in a B-Hive-Media Loop (otherwise known by the more US-relevant term, the “the beltway”).  Too often, they cheerlead John Key, failing to challenge him or mention that he is very polarising; more often than not they endlessly repeat the NAct spin on the economy and other issues.

The mainstream media has had a horror start to the year. These days, too much political coverage by the mainstream media (MSM) is focused, US-style, on politics as a game, a chessboard of strategic maneuvers, and a personality contest of its leaders.

Once one Hive-Media journalist starts a headline grabbing attack, the rest seem to follow like a pack of baying hounds. So it has been over the last month or two, with opposition leaders being  subjected to more distorted attacks and beat-ups than government ministers.  Often Patrick Gower has lead the running with his vindictive, distorted persecution of David Cunliffe.  The focus has been on over-exaggerating relatively trivial issues, such as an omission in one version of the Best Start policy for young children, Metiria Turei’s clothes, and Winston Peters’ and Russel Norman’s perfectly understandable visits to the Dotcom Mansion.

B-Hive-Media Loop: From The Nation to Qu & A

Having become fed up with Patrick Gower’s attention-getting, “gotcha” reporting, I am now focusing more on TV One‘s news and current affairs coverage.  That said, Gower has gone some way to providing balance by doing his gotcha interview of Key on The Nation.  He continued to take that line in reporting on it on 3 news later on Saturday, saying that Key, like Cunliffe, is also being “tricky”.  However, for me to return to watching 3 News, Gower and TV3 need to do much better, be more informative on a range of significant issues, continually hold the government and Key to account, not just the opposition, and move away from the sensationalist focus on personalities and game playing.

This weekend, it turned out that, while One News and Qu & A aim to be a bit less one-dimensional than 3 News, they also follow similar lines within the Hive-Media Loop, with a strong focus on the perceptions of “Business” and the comfortable middle classes.

It was hard to keep watching this weekend’s Qu & A after the first few minutes: it was a B-grade-Hive-Media recycling of pro-John Key spin – of his (allegedly) uncontested “popularity”, Nationals’ (allegedly) great handling of the economy and David Cunliffe’s media- manufactured “problems”.

There was an attempt at balanced debate, but it still oozed comfortable middle class condescension, not helped by Susan Woods’ smug charmlessness.  Then we had Hekia Parata given much leeway to spin her education policies, with Dann being far more lenient on her than he  later was on Cunliffe. This was followed by the panel: Fran O’Sullivan, followed by Raymond Miller and Nick Leggett unashamedly cheerleading for Parata. TV One needs some fresh blood from outside the Hive-Media Loop – some of the young, the marginalised and the precariously discontented.

The Cunliffe Interview: speaking through the Hive Media for the less powerful

David Cunliffe meeting

Then came Woods’ negative introduction to the David Cunliffe interview. Corin Dann’s opening questions focused on Cunliffe’s alleged “horror” last week.

DANN: Going back and researching this interview, all the interviews seemed to be about this conundrum of David Cunliffe. Where is, where does he sit on the political spectrum? He comes from a business background, and he’s got wealth and yet he’s championing the working class?  Can you understand that the working class voters, perhaps a lot of the affiliates who put you in this job,  are looking at you going, why does he have all these trusts?

So, Dann shows he has only looked at previous media interviews, or maybe media representations of these interviews.  He seems to have done little research on issues important to the less well of and less powerful sections of the “public”.  The question he asks about Cunliffe’s politics, has already been answered many times by the Labour leader.

There seems to be a stubborn Hive-Media spin: that it is incomprehensible that someone with money can’t campaign against poverty and inequality; can want to do public service to help other people; and work to provide more opportunities for all New Zealanders, especially for “working and underprivileged New Zealanders”.  Why is that such a mystery to the Hive-Media mind?

Short clip from the Cunliffe interview.

Cunliffe did well to patiently repeat his statements about his politics, while also outlining his values and referring to various Labour policy areas.

Chauvel-Cunliffe-2 maritime union

Dann went on to ask why “people” are confused about where he stands politically, then emphasised it by saying,

Why is Business confused?

He quoted Doug Heffernan, chief  executive of Might River Power, reportedly saying that, “he wasn’t getting enough information” from Cunliffe on Labour’s Power policy. Dann doesn’t seem to have looked for the views of  “working and underprivileged New Zealanders”.

Dann continued in an increasingly combative mode, while Cunliffe continued giving clear and non-confusing answers, showing how he is approaching making New Zealand a fairer place.  Dann continued to contest Cunliffe using points of view expressed from those in powerful positions in the Business world.  Cunliffe, unfazed, answered with reference to some of his plans to provide digital access to New Zealanders and protect them from invasive surveillance.  He mentioned using services like those of the People’s WiFi networks and public libraries.

Corin Dann’s report of it on One News last night was a bit of an improvement on Gower’s one-dimensional sensationalism.  Dann’s report followed another report on rising power prices – definitely an issue in the public interest. The anchor’s introduced Dann’s report by saying that Cunliffe talked about Labour’s ICT policy and providing internet access for all Kiwis. Dann then said the start to Cunliffe’s year had been a “horror” one.

No, Mr Dann, it has been the MSM that has had a horror start in their political coverage. However, Dann gave a fairly full report of the content of the interview, including mention of Cunliffe foregrounding his move to front big policies, such as Labour’s ICT policy. Nevertheless, Dann still framed this in terms of B-Hive-Media issues, focusing on Cunliffe’s current position within the game of politics.


Out of the Hive Media Loop, towards the (working class and underprivileged) public interest

We need a strong (new?)media stream that steps outside the B-Hive-Media loop, and reports by, from, and for the public interest, – and especially in the interests of working class and underprivileged Kiwis.  The comfortable middle and Business classes have far too much say within political discourses.


32 comments on “Beltway blues: serving the public interest?”

  1. Enough is Enough 1

    His response to the question about business being confused should have been.

    I don’t care if they are confused. The Green/Labour Government will serve the workers and unemployed. If business don’t understand that they need to change their excutives within the next 6 months so that they are across what is coming. They need to prepare themselves for real change.

  2. blue leopard (Get Lost GCSB Bill) 2

    Hi Karol, great article, thanks. I believe the subject matter of your article can’t be repeated too often.

    I find TV1 News far more balanced than TV3 ‘News’ (yeah, this isn’t hard to achieve , however many political programme appear to ‘struggle’ to do so). I agree that they do still appear to focus on ‘business’ opinion and do not balance such out with information and comments of the realtime effects of this current government’s policies for people.

    I do not, however like Q&A. The interview style – is too aggressive; interrupting the interviewee so much that they rarely manage to get anything said. The interviewers come across as more delighted in and promoting their own selves rather than interested in eliciting information out of the interviewee for the viewers.

    Incidentally Susan Wood was provided as an example of someone with a very unprofessional – i.e. ineffective – interviewing style in a media course I attended a few years back.

    As for the choice in their ‘panel’ it begs the question is there so few people who are knowledgeable and capable of analysis in this country that they have to rummage up right wing spin doctors for the job? (Who provides neither knowledge or analysis – solely spin). The panel come across as being full of people who don’t want to ‘rock the boat.’ If someone does break out of the mould and challenge the banal tract the conversation is flowing along – Susan Woods interrupts and brings the conversation back to mediocrity.

    It appears that this programme is not intended to inform viewers – rather ensure that any interviewee doesn’t get to inform the general public and that the programme’s director gets to shape their opinions instead. What a bore.

    [I just posted a very similar comment and it completely disappeared – if it shows up I would appreciate you deleting one of them]

    [karol: done – and thanks]

    • blue leopard (Get Lost GCSB Bill) 2.1

      Cheers Karol 🙂

      • Tim 2.1.1

        God strewth!! don’t get me started on some of our supposed ‘interviewers’. You’re correct in that Susan Wood is a good (i.e. BAD) example.

        I have to say that many of the media pundits who make proclamations as to who and what good interviewing styles are, do so mostly on the basis of said interviewer’s longevity.
        I’m thinking Brian Bloody Edwards for example – quite a good interviewer himself if you care to go back to “Gallery” days … but holding up the likes of Paul Holmes as a good example. How is it they usually put it?? …. something like “the consumate broadcaster” – which generally means a self-promoter and egotist.

        Holmes: the foreskin of the leading question more concerned (like a Mora) of promoting themselves through appearing empathetic with an interviewee. Like asking the rape or burglary victim … “I suppose you’re feeling violated?”. God how I used to wish said victim would have said “No, not at all Paul …. because I realise this is all about YOU and my feeling violated would merely be violating your headspace and God-given right to promote yourself to star quality”
        Unfortunately there are fuck all good interviewers left in NZ – we’re now even exporting the dross.

        Part of it of course is environment – particularly the fact that their is no PSB platform (other than MTS and RNZ – excluding Natrad afternoons – which is more like an old ZB commercial network sounding board for the cult of bloody boring personality)

        • Tim

          “something like “the consumate broadcaster” above ….. looks like I left out an “M” in “consummate:.
          That’d be the “M” that stands for ME ME ME I I I ME ME ME ME ME

  3. Tracey 3

    thanks karol.

    replace the sun with money and all this makes perfect sense.

  4. Ad 4

    I can sense your frustration Karol. I see vast reams of commentators about how unfair the media is. Please. We know its stacked, work within that context.

    And the alternative has arrived, and it’s us.

    There was an interesting exchange yesterday on Open Mike about the future of progressive blogs that are more populist than this one, as compared to the growing power and MSM competitiveness of Waleoil. Whaleoil is a dump truck more powerful than Mike Hoskings.

    Imagine a Whaleoil for the Left (is it really The Daily Blog? It sure ain’t Scoop).

    Imagine the power it would have, to contest not only newspapers, but tv itself.

    That is the opportunity.

  5. JustLikeTigerWoods 5

    Yeah, it’s all the media’s fault. I mean, they never – never, ever – have a go at National.

    It’s just not fair.

    • karol 5.1


      I didn’t say anything like “they never – never, ever – have a go at National.” I also did say there were some good things about One News last night.

      Did you read the post about how Qu & A was slanted to a particular perspective? Anything to say on that?

      For instance, why do you think Dann and the rest of Qu & A were following a lot of the recent media lines, and only addressing the interests of “Business”?

      • JustLikeTigerWoods 5.1.1

        You mean Dann isn’t a Labour Party member? He practically winces each time he reads out poll results.

        I think you hear what you want to hear. You ignore the bias and hyperbole against National, but only pick it up when they’re talking about Labour.


        • blue leopard (Get Lost GCSB Bill)


          You are attempting to present the view that the media contain rightwing bias as a case of opinion vs facts You require some proof to present this case plausibly to avoid doing exactly what you are accusing Karol of: ‘hearing only what you want to hear’.

          Please supply links or information to when National had stories that attacked them based on nothing other than fantasy or opinion or both.

          Labour and the Greens have recently been accused as being ‘hypocrital’ and/or ‘Tricky’ throughout most mainstream media sources – based on very implausible -unfactual – grounds. This is understandable if it were reported on National propaganda sites or presented as National Party spin – this was not the case though – it was presented as a genuine issue – which it was not.

          Please supply an instance for when this has occurred for National since they have been in power.


        • Tim

          Christ JLTW!!
          Next you’ll be trying to convince us all that Kathryn Ryan is a leftie (whereas we all know she’s utterly fair and balanced and just you’re really work-life-balanced regular gal).
          I’ll admit there’s something about her that’s definitely not right, but she sure as hell isn’t left. Dann – same shit different stink.
          Perhaps one of the biggest problems with our MSM journalists is that (either by luck, or personality, or salesmanship, or other), they’ve simply managed to carve out a comfortable little niche, and like the used car salesman … they’ve learned all the buzz.

  6. fender 6

    Great post Karol.

    I genuinely believe the msm organisations and reporters are scared of critiquing Key and his policies in a thorough manner because they are afraid of the consequences of exposing the lack of substance.

    Even when Gower interviewed Key about him being ‘tricky’, Key got that ‘I will have you killed’ look in his eyes to remind people that he’s an ‘assassin’.

    • Chooky 6.1

      Fender…..agreed msm are scared of critiquing Key and his policies

      +100 Karol for a great post …this needs to be sent to Editors of both paper and air/tv and radio

      …New Zealanders are sick of the media beat-ups on David Cunliffe and the Left ..It undermines democracy in this country …and it undermines the taxpayers and voters rights to get a fair hearing from politicians and get the facts !

      (…on the positive side there was a hell of a beat up on Winston Peters and a pollster beat up as well….and his voters were not fooled !….but the pollsters and the political commentators were shown up for the spinning fools they were)

  7. TightyRighty 7

    If labour didn’t fuck up so much, the media wouldn’t be able to report all the fuck ups. Hardly rocket science. Key and co fuck up less, so less gets reported. Alternatively, labour plays gotcha politics and fucks it up because either they get themselves too or get it wrong. Getting themselves: accusing jk of living in a leafy suburb and being out of touch. Dc lives in a leafy suburb and talks bro to try and fit in. Getting it wrong: what’s the government going to do about the manufacturing crises? What manufacturing crises?

    • Enough is Enough 7.1

      What does “talks bro” mean you racist waste of space?

      • Anne 7.1.1

        There seems to be a stubborn Hive-Media spin: that it is incomprehensible that someone with money can’t campaign against poverty and inequality; can want to do public service to help other people; and work to provide more opportunities for all New Zealanders, especially for “working and underprivileged New Zealanders”. Why is that such a mystery to the Hive-Media mind?

        Why is that such a mystery…? Simple. People tend to judge others by themselves. It happens all the time both at a collective and personal level. In this instance the “Hive-Media mind” is turned in on itself. They have no compassion, they don’t care if others are hung out to dry… they care least of all about the true facts of a case. All they care about is climbing the slippery media ladder and getting a cushy number in a cabinet minister’s office as a press secretary.

        They simply cannot conceive of someone like David Cunliffe actually caring about the people he purports to represent.

      • TightyRighty 7.1.2

        it’s a dialect of New Zealand english. plenty of people of all colours speak it you dumb shit.

        it’s even been exported to places like london, hong kong, marseilles and bondi. it’s spoken by the “power kiwis” those who have taken the most identifiable parts of new zealand yoof culture with them. A love of all bands kiwi, shapies, katchafire, shihad etc. prominent displays of kiwi tattoo’s, southern cross, stylised tribal symbols, outlines of NZ. kiwi beer, kiwi movies. shit, sounds like prime labour territory. the only thing they have in common though is the fact they are from NZ. And David Cunliffe tries to talk like them when he thinks he’s in the right spot for it. yeah boi.

        if you weren’t so quick to be offended, you might not look like a total arse. too late though.

        • framu

          yeah, your describing kiwi culture, which pretty much all NZers who are overseas do to some extent – especially the young OE-ers – and thats not “talking bro”

          talking bro would be using words like… um… bro, cuz, chur – that sort of thing. And yes, given that, and possible past statements from yourself, could you see how someone might think your being a bit racist-y?

          nice try – but i would rather be accused of talking bro than sounding like ive had a few at lunch – you do know who sounds like that dont you?

          this “cunliffes faking his accent” thing is really weird – i honestly dont see where you lot get it from

          • RedLogix

            this “cunliffes faking his accent” thing is really weird – i honestly dont see where you lot get it from

            It’s a social marker, snobbery thing. Very important to righties.

            • framu

              yup – sure is. I just dont see how they actually joined the dots on that one

            • Anne

              It’s a social marker, snobbery thing. Very important to righties.

              And yet every time they open their mouths they expose themselves for the cretins/philistines they really are… starting with their beloved idol, John Key.

          • TightyRighty

            But they do use those words framu? bro, cuz, chur, yeah boi. i hear it all the time from people in professional occupations in london, sydney, hong kong, paris. so what i’m describing is what i’m describing. not just kiwi culture, but POWER kiwis. it almost seems a parody until you realise they are serious. it’s not limited by the colour of their skin. these are people my age too. late twenties, highly educated, from all kinds of back grounds.

            i don’t really care for what you would rather be accused of. if you want to talk like that fine, but David Cunliffe doing it? seems very much at odds with the face he likes to present to the rest of New Zealand.

            • framu

              starting to sound like a race thing buddy

              “A love of all bands kiwi, shapies, katchafire, shihad etc. prominent displays of kiwi tattoo’s, southern cross, stylised tribal symbols, outlines of NZ. kiwi beer, kiwi movies”

              hmm – looks like a kiwi expat culture description to me. (words being a subset of that)

            • felix

              So now your issue with Cunliffe is that he talks like “people in professional occupations” do, like “POWER kiwis” do?

              It’s still not clear. Keep explaining please.

        • Enough is Enough

          I wasn’t offended. Stop being presumptuous.

          One can identify racism without being offended you ‘dumb shit’.

          Now back to your bollocks.

          Where the fuck are these ‘bro talk’ examples of David’s?

          • framu

            “Where the fuck are these bro talk examples of Davids?”

            yes – please point them out

            if anyone could be accused of “talking bro” surely len brown would be further up the list than cunliffe

        • Murray Olsen

          TR – to be offended by you, someone would have to care about your opinion. I don’t. I think you’re a pathetic racist, but more than anything else, I think you and the other fools who run off to WhaleSpew and KiwiBog telling how they dealt to the Liebour retards at the Standard are just a joke. A bad joke, but the punchline is coming on the 20th of September. I suppose you’ll always be able to move to far north Queensland and impress the bogans with stories of the old days, “when we…”

    • framu 7.2

      “Key and co fuck up less, so less gets reported. ”

      yeah – thats bullshit mate

      “Alternatively, labour plays gotcha politics”

      Exactly who pays whalespew and the penguin again? Just who do you think has been playing a very active role in the media feeding frenzy about cunliffe? Just who said they had a whole drawer full of interesting info?

      yeah the ABCs are probably in there to – but come on man, you do your self no favours

      This “labour are the nasty party and national are totes honest and play a fair game” meme is rediculous

      yes labour have some clangers – but to sit there and pretend that national dont, and the media havent been giving key a soft ride for years is staggering in its lack of connection to reality

  8. ianmac 8

    How soon will it be before John Key be interviewed again by Paddy?

    It was the first Key interview where he was actually held to the topic and none of his deflections worked. Imagine if we had interviewers who knew their subject and pressed Leaders for credible answers. For instance the shallowness of the “recovery” would become evident.

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    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 ...
    2 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. ...
    2 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.       ...
    2 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. ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Speculation fever spreads around country
    House prices in Wellington, Hamilton and Tauranga are going off as a result of uncontrolled property speculation spilling over from the Auckland market, says Labour’s housing spokesperson Phil Twyford.  “Speculators who have been priced out of Auckland are now fanning ...
    2 weeks ago
  • New Zealand lags on aid targets
      The National Government needs to live up to its commitments and allocate 0.7 per cent of Gross National Income on development assistance, says Labour’s spokesperson on Pacific Climate Change Su’a William Sio.  “The second State of the Environment Report ...
    2 weeks ago
  • War on drugs needs more troops
    The Minister of Police must urgently address the number of officers investigating illegal drugs if she is serious about making a dent in the meth trade, says Labour’s Police spokesperson Stuart Nash.  “Answers from written questions from the Minister show ...
    3 weeks ago
  • Doctors strike symptom of health cuts
    The notice of strike action issued by the junior doctors today is the result of years of National’s cuts to the health system, says Labour’s Associate Health spokesperson Dr David Clark. ...
    3 weeks ago
  • Government starves RNZ into selling Auckland asset
    Just weeks after TVNZ opened its refurbished Auckland head office costing more than $60 million, RNZ (Radio New Zealand) has been forced to put its Auckland office on the market to keep itself afloat, says Labour’s Broadcasting spokesperson Clare Curran. ...
    3 weeks ago
  • Government must be more than a bystander on the economy
    Despite what he might think John Key is not a political commentator, but actually a leader in a Government who needs to take responsibility for the conditions that mean a rise in interest rates, says Labour’s Finance Spokesperson Grant Robertson.  “John ...
    3 weeks ago
  • Māori Party all hui no-doey on housing
    The Māori Party should stop tinkering and start fixing tragic Māori housing statistics in the face of a national housing crisis, says Labour’s Māori Development spokesman Kelvin Davis. ...
    3 weeks ago
  • Labour committed to eliminating child poverty
    Labour accepts the challenge from Children’s Commissioner Andrew Becroft to cut child poverty and calls on the Prime Minister to do the same, says Leader of the Opposition Andrew Little. ...
    3 weeks ago