Hard News by Russell Brown


Media Take: In the Eye of the Storm

I'm flying solo on this week's Media Take -- for a very good reason. My colleague and co-host Toi Iti had an engagement in the Urewera on Sunday. He was present when Police Commissioner Mike Bush visited six whanau -- including that of Toi's father, Tame Iti -- to apologise for the raids seven years ago in Ruatoki that traumatised families and were ultimately deemed unlawful by the Independent Police Conduct Authority.

A great deal has been written and said about the investigation and attempt to prosecute Tame Iti and others under the Terrorism Suppression Act, but in a media context the story is particularly notable for the apparent attempts by some in the police to leak and spin the most inflammatory elements of the evidence they had gathered. Some news organisations really got played.

It was into this media storm that Toi and his brother Wairere were thrust as family spokespeople. To this extent, the report Toi presents in tonight's show is his story as well. I say this not having seen the report itself -- the timings meant we had to record the show yesterday evening without it. But I'm very confident it will be worth your while watching.

Also in tonight's programme: I talk to Katherine Reed, Associate Professor at the Missouri School of Journalism, about the new face of serious reporting: Buzzfeed and Vice. As big media organisations have withdrawn to some extent from foreign reporting, unlikely players -- a website founded on amusing listicles and cat pictures; and the spawn of a snotty fashion mag -- are diving in.

Former AP Moscow correspondent Max Seddon was Buzzfeed's first hire foreign correspondent hire, a year ago, and his work at and around the MH17 crash site has been pungent and readable in a way you could never imagine him being as an AP correspondent. In particular, reading his tweets in real time has been quite a vivid experience:

Vice News's video reporting from the same place has also been notable. It upends the grammar and pacing of traditional TV news reporting in favour of a kind of first-person immersion in events.

It doesn't always work out. Both Vice and Buzzfeed have had reporters taken hostage by Ukrainain rebels. And back home, Buzzfeed has just been obliged to sack its hyper-ambitious "viral politics editor" Ben Johnson after it became clear he'd been committing plagiarism on a substantial scale. It might reasonably be observed that the line on plagiarism is not exactly clear at Buzzfeed, which has built its fame on "re-purposing"others' content.

But it's very definitely a thing. One of Reed's former students, Chris Hamby, caused quite a shock in announcing just after winning a Pulitzer Prize for a series of stories on chronic heath problems among miners that he was off to work for Buzzfeed. But it's not like he'd been working for a traditional media organisation when he won his Pulitzer. He'd been with a non-profit called the Centre for Public Integrity. Perhaps the real key here is that journalism's future might not necessarily be a job at The Daily Bugle.

And finally on the show, a great chat with film-maker David Blyth, who dropped Angel Mine on middle New Zealand 36 years and has taken his own path ever since. We recorded an extra 10 minutes for the Media Take website and even then David wasn't done. Here he is afterwards, holding court with a group of film students who'd been in the studio audience.

So, we have a really good show for you tonight, at 10pm (note the earlier time) on Maori Television. Tell your friends.


Friday Music: Why anyone does it in the first place

Florian Habicht’s Pulp film is warm, funny, satisfying and true. And its first few minutes are just brilliantly, awesomely exuberant. They're why people buy records and go to gigs and obsess over bands, and why people play in bands in the first place.

By the time we'd seen the whole film and had Jarvis Cocker himself join us by Skype for a Q&A afterwards, the audience for last night's first New Zealand screening of Pulp: A Film About Life, Death, And Supermarkets didn't so much leave by the exits as float out of them. This is a life-affirming film and you should try and see it at the Film Festival.

I knew a little of the territory, having seen Eve Wood's 2009 Sheffield music documentary The Beat is the Law, which you can watch online here. Sheffield people have an idea of themselves that is borne out in both films. They're funny buggers and it was a pleasure to meet them.


I have previously mentioned here a forthcoming Shayne Carter "piano album", for which Shayne deliberately took himself out of his comfort zone by putting down the guitar and writing on the piano, an instrument he'd never played before. Well, it's still forthcoming, but near, and Shayne is doing a little crowdfunding to get him over the line with mixing, mastering and manufacturing. You can read more and make a contribution here. There's also a video ...

And there's that book of Chris Knox's art and graphics still being crowdfunded too. In that case, you can have the satisfaction of pre-ordering the product.


You know there are ways in which a dreamy rap about getting it on with a Greek god could go wrong, but Coco Solid's new (here on iTunes) single 'Oh My Zeus' gets it really right. It's meta-clever and funky.

Bristol-based New Zealander Sammy Senior has posted this thumping ghetto funk take on The Fatback Band's 'I Found Lovin'':

A dazzling bit of Latin dancehall reggae from the Auckland-based Chilean vocalist Jah Red Lion, produced by New Zealand's Dub Terminator and released on the local label Soul Island.

You can buy the 100% Aotearoa-produced EP (which also includes the cracking 'Never Leave Me Alone') here on iTunes.

Also on out today and on iTunes‘This Love’, by Dave Dobbyn with the Orpheus Choir of Wellington, is a tribute to the Pike River 29. Not at all what I usually post here, but I'm a sucker for Dave's big, wide, essentially civic tunes. Is there an emotional equivalent to "public intellectual"? Poet, I guess:

Aaaand ... something comes out of that Lorde-and-Diplo partners-in-crime thing. A terrific remix of 'Tennis Court' that has "feelgood anthem" written all over it. Release or download please.

Artist of the week at TheAudience: Kaine Harrington, aka American French Fries, a solo project born in a bach. His guitar sounds sweet:

Thanks to Paddy Buckley for the tip on this post about Ibiza's Glitterbox club night (where the roster includes Hercules & Love Affair, Kenny Dope, Joey Negro, Late Nite Tuff Guy, David Morales, Todd Terry and Dimitri From Paris), which features a free download of Late Night Tuff Guy's disco-delightful 'Do You Wanna Get Down'.

And finally ... I'm not going to shit you, if the name Fonzi Thornton came up in a pub quiz, I'd be guessing. But he turns out to have an incredible career as the "vocal contractor" on a string of classic records from Chic's 'Good Times' to Roxy Music's Avalon to every gold or platinum album Luther Vandross ever made. My curiousity was triggered by this joyous rework posted this week by Yam Hoo?:


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Te Reo Māori in schools: let's just start

I was born 52 years ago today, on a date that seems unnervingly close to the 1950s. I caught the end of the free school milk years (they really did just leave it out in the sun) and I like to think I got the best of a New Zealand liberal education. We were well served by the state, with one significant exception.

The primary school where I spent most of my time now keeps a copy of the Treaty in every classroom and offers to "take all reasonable steps to provide instruction in tikanga and te reo Māori for students whose parents request it." When I attended, this was not the case. The only Māori content then was provided by a Pakeha teacher who had his kids build a matchstick and papier-mache pa each year and was regarded as something of an eccentric for his troubles.

In the couple of years I attended Greymouth Main School in the 1970s, I was lucky enough to be taught by George Wynyard, a lovely man who had just begun his career. George would eventually become the Senior Kaiwhakaako at Waikato University's Pathways programme, but 40 years ago on the West Coast there was no means for him to teach us te reo Māori. It simply had no place in the school curriculum.

Today, I feel the lack of that.

Duncan Garner wrote a tremendous column this week about being born in 1974 (young pup!) and moving through schools on the North Shore of Auckland which, if anything, seem to have been more monocultural than those I attended -- and his pride now in his two daughters, who speak te reo Māori fluently because they have received an immersive education through kohanga reo and kura kaupapa.

His older daughter is at a mainstream school now and doing well not only in her further study of the reo, but in French and Mandarin. Her brain seems, he says, "wired for language". We know this to be the case for all children -- learning multiple languages is a virtue in itself.

Duncan also records the disdain for his daughters' path from some Pakeha he knew, who "looked at me and asked what on earth was I doing? 'Why bother?' 'They’ll never speak it overseas.' 'It’s a waste of time!'."

We've all heard this argument: "They're better off learning Chinese!" (or Japanese, as the same argument used to run). The two are not, of course, mutually exclusive, but complementary.

But there's a bigger flaw in the utility argument, and it's this: if you fancy that your child will become a lawyer or a business leader or enter public life in any way, it's a given that they will need at various times to introduce and give an account of themselves in a Māori setting, and to want to have some idea of what's going on around them, both in terms of the tikanga at play and the words being spoken. It's an absolute advantage.

Not everyone needs to be able to converse fluently and, indeed, to gain that ability as an adult is a considerable achievement. (My Media Take co-host Toi Iti and his wife Tipare took a year off their jobs to take a full-immersion course to get themselves to the level of their kura-educated children.) And that's really a separate argument, one focused on redressing the slow decline in the number of Māori able to have an everyday conversation in te reo.

But it behoves us all to be able to give an account of ourselves, and even getting to that point is difficult as an adult. I'm fortunate that as a broadcaster, my pronunciation is reasonably good (much credit to Moana and the Moahunters' 'A.E.I.O.U.' for that) and I've been able a handful of times to whaikorero, and really loved doing so. But I can't really summon my own words, and I feel powerless for that.

I know things are better now than when Duncan and I went to school, but let's not leave it to chance. Let's include te reo Maori and a grounding in tikanga in the primary school curriculum, for every school. Let's use the resources we'd free up from dispensing with the dumbed-down National Standards (which, by the way, is an active barrier to schools embracing te reo) and start. It wouldn't happen overnight -- first we'd need to teach the teachers. But let's bypass the fearful and the bigoted, and just start.


Over the paywall?

This time last year, it seemed a cert that both our big newspaper sites -- Stuff and the New Zealand Herald Online -- would adopt paywalls. That is, stop being free and start charging for access, probably after a set number of free visits per month -- the so-called "metered paywall" approach taken by the New York Times.

Well, it still hasn't happened. And maybe it won't. Senior editorial staff at Stuff's owner, Fairfax, have been told there will be no paywall and the model will not be the New York Times but the eyeballs-and-data-capture strategy of Daily Mail and Buzzfeed.

I asked Fairfax Media managing director Simon Tong for comment and received a reply from marketing director Campbell Mitchell. He said Fairfax has developed a "paid content strategy" but isn't in a position discuss it right now.

Mitchell formerly helped run the metered news paywall at Murdoch paper The Australian, which starts at $4 a week for web and app access and moves up through various print subscription bundles. The paper was an early mover but currently still has only 70,000 subscribers, which isn't sustainable. One solution may be dividing up and selling particular categories of content, rather than just selling the paper en bloc.

If Fairfax was to abandon or rein in its paywall plans, that would put the Herald in an interesting position, given that the assumption has been that the two would watch each other like two match-racing yachts and reveal their paid content plans at roughly the same time. (At one point there was even talk of Stuff and the Herald sharing a paywall.) No one wants to be the outfit that started charging while the other guy is free and easy.

But I suspect the Herald doesn't need such a prompt. They've considered a number of strategies this year without apparently coming to a conclusion on the exact way forward. Going paywall just doesn't seem the no-brainer it did a year ago.

So what are the choices? And why are clickbait headlines, listicles and sidebars-of-shame apparetly grabbing the momentum? I'll be talking to digital analyst and strategist Eric Rowe about how it all works on this week's Media Take.

After that, I'll be asking NZ On Air chief executive Jane Wrightson what the agency is taking from the results of Where are the audiences?, a fascinating and well-constructed media use survey commissioned by NZ On Air and conducted by Colmar Brunton. The survey has rankled some digital-frontier types who imagined that using a VPN to watch Netflix is normal behaviour, but I'm not terribly surprised by its finding that broadcast TV and radio still have overwhelmingly the greatest reach.

The show will open with Toi Iti's look at the imperatives of Te Wiki o Te Reo, followed up with an interview with Pita Paraone.

The show screens on Maori Television tomorrow night (Tuesday) at 10.30pm, but you're welcome to get an early look and come along to our recording this evening. Just be at the Victoria Street entrance of TVNZ (it's a building site at the moment, but it's there) at 5.30pm.


Friday Music: Good ideas and grumbles

Ian Jorgensen, aka Blink, is a remarkable man: principled, organised, creative and willing to work to put his ideas into practice, be they the Camp A Low Hum Festivals, his Wellington music venue Puppies or a string of domestic and international tours, done right.

He has poured a good deal of that ground-level experience into his new book of essays The Problem with Music in New Zealand and how to Fix It & Why I Started and Ran Puppies. The essays each identify a problem -- 'Shows Run Too Late and Band Changeovers Are Too Long', 'Live Scenes in Small Towns Are Close to Non-Existent', 'The Alcohol Industry Uses the Music Industry to Further Dominate Its Presence and Influence Over Youth Culture'.

The best parts of it are chock-full of practical advice, much of it inspired by cooperative environments like the US punk scene (although the first wave of Flying Nun acts also worked in quite communal ways 30 years ago). He also takes on NZ On Air and Music Commission funding and proposes a focus on building grassroots infrastructure rather than funding recordings and videos.

I think there are some issues with some of the ideas -- do we really need a whole lot of barebones recording studios? Is there really a shortage, and how will people with existing businesses feel about the government handing out money to start-ups to compete with them? -- but they're worth looking at. I'd give Blink money to try out his ideas and see what worked in practice.

But the chapter that's been causing a stir is 'Apra and PPNZ Are Ripping Off New Zealand Businesses in the Name of Songwriters Who have No Idea What's Going On'. The first thing to note is that the title is really patronising to all the songwriters who do know what's going on and understand why they're Apra members. Pretty much all the people I know who've stayed in music rely to some extent on music rights income via Apra.

Although PPNZ doesn't exist any more (it has been merged with Rianz into Recorded Music New Zealand), the essay does cover OneMusic, the joint set of rights fees (Apra and RMNZ) collected from businesses using music. The fee schedules range from $12.65 per day live music is featured at a small venue to $19.55 for a big room. This doesn't seem as unreasonable to me as it does to Blink, but I guess I'm not running a music venue.

Where Blink does have a strong point is in the way money collected for the use of background music is distributed. I don't have a problem at all with these fees existing. They're provided for in law and if you're using music in your business -- to make your shop or cafe more congenial -- you should be prepared to pay a modest annual fee to the writers and copyright owners. But who gets the money? That's where the problem is.

Apra's radioplay logging system is really effective for distributing performing rights income from radio -- but it's a terrible way of apportioning revenue from background music fees. And that's currently what happens. Upshot: Fat Freddy's Drop, heard in a hundred cafes, don't get the income they deserve, because the revenue is assessed on radioplay.

Blink answers his own question with the same idea that occured to me: we live in the age of Spotify and Rdio. It should be possible for a businesses owner to use a streaming service that that logs exactly what gets played -- be it the Bats or Race Banyon -- and ensures the money goes to the right place.

There's potentially a further problem if the live music fee is levied and the acts that play on the night aren't Apra members. But there's a way around that, even if the artists are members: both users and creators of music can opt out in various ways. It's quite a flexible system. Not all performing rights organisations do this kind of thing.

But I don't think any of that justifies the repeated use of phrases like "crooks and gangsters" and "extorted", or the outright pissiness about other Apra activities: its various scholarships and grants and the Silver Scroll Awards.

Here's the key fact here: most of the rights revenue handled by Apra accrues to offshore copyright owners. It's not some indie band in Wellington who's paying for the scholarships, it's Katie fucking Perry. Would Blink really prefer that Apra and RMNZ completely turned their backs on the New Zealand music scene, did no good deeds and sent the money offshore instead?

The reference to a the Silver Scrolls as "a lavish, alienating joke of a ceremony celebrating ONE song" is ridiculous. The great thing about a Silver Scrolls ceremony is that each finalist's song is reinterpreted and performed on the night by another act -- often a young band or singer who gets a good fee for doing so. The event itself is free for members, but it's not really "lavish" and calling it a joke is pretty much trolling.

In my experience (I sometimes get invited, but more often see things from the press seats) it's a really soulful evening. Scribe performing Dave Dobbyn's 'It Dawned on Me' with Mark Vanilau last year was special in a number of ways. Happily, the New Zealand Herald streams the awards live now, so everyone can see them. 

Unfortunately, that perspective got further garbled in a Sunday Star Times story that contained more errors than facts (Blink himself and Flying Nun's Ben Howe posted their respective lists of corrections on Facebook) and reverted to ye olde NZ On Air-bashing (which Blink doesn't really do in his book).

But there has been some fruit borne here. Apra's Anthony Healey sought a meeting with Blink as soon as the book was published, Blink invited some other people he thought should come along and everyone seems fairly happy with what went down. That's good. Apra does account to members, but there's never any harm in being accountable to your critics too. And on the other side, it's harder to demonise people you've met.

Anyway, that'll do for now. If you're in a band, or your kid's in a band or you want to make something happen in your town, get Blink's book. I suspect he'll be along to join the discussion, as well Samuel Flynn Scott. I'll also post some other relevant material in the comments.


Here's something we can all get behind: a crowdfunding campaign for a book gathering together and contextualising all Chris Knox's visual art and graphic work: album covers, posters, cartoons, comics, paintings, the lot. Proceeds from sales go to Chris himself. I'll be contributing today and I hope and trust some of you will too. I'd like to see some businesses kick in towards the $50,000 goal as well.


New from Jordan Reyne, "'Dear John' is the tale of a Prime Minister invited to a feast where all the guests are mysteriously absent. A song about the impact of people who don't recognise their own privilege on the lives of others."

Rock'nRolla Soundsystem have made their brilliant mix CD a free download again.:

A new Tiny Ruins video:

Trick Mammoth live, from their King's Arms show last December:

There are two more clips and some background here.

Some nice, laconic indie-guitar from Miss June at TheAudience:

And Terrorball is back with another funky house tune. Very cool! (Click through for the download)

And finally - Courtney Barnett is coming! She plays the King's Arms on September 17. I'll have a giveaway or two and hopefully an interview. Cheers!


The Hard News Music Post is sponsored by: