Hard News by Russell Brown

329

Never mind the quality ...

Well, hold the top of the post. Before you read on, the update on what's written below. New Zealand Herald editor Shayne Currie has tweeted the following:

I never like the feeling of doing anyone out of a gig, but this does seem an appropriate decision. The Herald has also emphasised that Bryce Edwards will continue to write for the paper's website.

Also, I didn't connect it at the time, but althgh he set Twitter a-flurry, Bryce didn't really "reveal" anything. Audrey Young's column of July 28 was about the paper's campaign lineup and included this:

Guest columnists will include the acerbic Cactus Kate from the radical right, former Labour candidate Josie Pagani and broadcaster Mark Sainsbury.

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Bryce Edwards revealed on Twitter last night that he hasn't been invited back as one of the New Zealand Herald's outside columnists for the election campaign. Instead, the paper of record has opted for Josie Pagani and Cathy Odgers.

Yup. Cathy Odgers.

I presume the decision was made before Nicky Hager's Dirty Politics cast its unflattering light on on her character. (Well, let's be frank: on her humanity.) But the Herald's editors presumably believe the value of her dull, clunky prose and facile zingers outweighs the reputational damage of showcasing someone who solicited a journalist's address in the hope of "vicious" retribution.

Pagani, on the other hand, seems more popular with the mainstream media than amongst people on the "left" she'll be nominally representing in the paper and spends a lot of time justifying herself. (Last week on Pundit, she somehow managed to make an outraged post on Dirty Politics be about people being mean to Josie Pagani.) She writes serviceably well but I wouldn't be looking for any dazzling distillations of the political zeitgeist.

The pair have been picked for the printed paper, but will also presumably have their columns online. Odgers will say stupid shit and commenters will reply by quoting passages from Hager's book at her. Pagani will dispense her usual third-way nostrums and Martyn Bradbury will write three posts a day denouncing her. Both will be boring.

But here's the dirty little secret of newspaper opinion columns. Tendentious, partisan arguments generate more traffic via comments than finely-worked theses and sparkling prose.

At which point I should confess: you know what else drives traffic? Angry political conflagrations like that generated by Nicky Hager's book.

I was out of town working last Thursday and Friday and my Wednesday evening post about the book wasn't much more than a way of launching a topic I knew people would want to discuss. We're now at 738 comments on that post and Analytics is showing 119,000 page impressions off 47,000 user sessions in the past seven days.

This is gratifying, but also a bit of a pain. The fact that this place works as it does is a matter of active moderation, almost all of which is done by me. You're a great bunch, but I've had to remonstrate a lot more than usual. It's going to be a busy four weeks.

But I am interested in receiving pitches for informed commentary during the campaign, especially on policy, but also on the political process. I can't promise I'll want to run it, but send me your best shot and we'll see how it goes.

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