Random Play by Graham Reid

Facts of the matter

This might be a belated response, but thank God for Eating Media Lunch which, even more belatedly, took the scalpel to Fashion Week and the fawning media coverage it received.

For weeks I have been telling my friends about the new low in New Zealand television when TV3’s late evening bulletin, with grim stories about Iraq, was beamed in from somewhere near a catwalk. Caroline Robinson (whom, despite this appalling failure of taste, is still the best television newsreader in the country) was dressed up like a dolly bird and behind her the shallow parade carried on.

Disgraceful, and who’s idea was that?

Lately, perhaps with the luxury of time out and a chance to consider, I have been alarmed by some of the lapses of common sense within news organisations.

The night the Walter’s Prize was awarded we were told again, by a young and previously unsighted television journo, that et.al who had just won it was the person who made the braying toilet which was going to be sent to the Venice Biennale.

Well, actually no sweetie. That work isn’t going to be sent there, and I thought that one had been cleared up long ago. But apparently the news hasn’t filtered through to a television reporter covering the arts.

Then there was the outrage about removing the white crosses from roads. But no one, other than newsreaders and then their misinformed public, said the crosses were going to be removed from roads. They were going to be removed from motorways. Which is a very different thing and had that man in Bluff been told that we might have spared him exploding all over talkback radio.

I have been on the pointy end of a couple of these misinformation ploys lately.

When author Craig Marriner abruptly quit the house in Albert Park he had been given to write in there were small detonations all over the place. He seemed to be being painted as some ingrate, and didn’t writer Graeme Lay sound like a prissy school teacher when he said good riddance, we didn’t much like him anyway?

Well, having met Craig and being one of the few who read his book before it was unexpectedly given some big award two years back I could understand he might not want to be there. The last time I spoke to him he told me about scribbling away in the backs of London pubs, and that’s his milieu.

Irregardless, as Pauly in The Sopranos says, here’s where I came in.

Late that afternoon I got a phone call from a reporter following it up who said that the story was going to be that this was life imitating art, that Craig had done a runner just like the character in his book Stonedogs.

I asked where he had got that information from and he referred to his seniors. I asked if any of them had read Stonedogs because there were no similarities at all. I told him to ring back in 10 minutes after I’d parked the car and I’d give him a rather more rounded picture of the book, Craig and the stand-off.

A couple of days later I was invited to appear on the show which has taken Holmes’ old slot. The debate would be about the new Eminem album and the fact that some record store had announced while it was selling the album it wouldn’t condone all the terrible things he said so it would donate some part of the profits to a worthy cause (women’s refuge or something).

I said to the woman researcher who called me that we needed to slow down here: you don’t have to be too smart to see what was in operation and I said that the cynic in me might have something to say about that, and how a record chain managed to get news coverage out of a canny ploy.

Then the researcher asked me about the censorship of the album. I pointed out that not only was the album not being censored but it was going to be advertised and sold widely. What censorship?

As it happened I was busy so Susan on the show was spared having to listen to me rain all over their parade of outrage, or whatever it was they were cooking up.

It seemed to me in that instance, the Marriner thing, and the white crosses affair that misinformation was usefully going to serve to make a story, at the expense of a few simple facts.

The story angle, the outrage and the artificially created controversy were all predetermined.

Unbridled enthusiasm can be dangerous, as dangerous as just believing what people tell you. For example…

Wouldn’t you like to know just how much Fashion Week is worth?

In three days I heard $30 million, $50 million and that no one could say because such figures weren’t able to be isolated in the general “apparel” export figures.

I quite like fashion, but that doesn’t mean my brain disconnects as so many people’s seemed to do when there was the chance of free champagne and a goodie bag.

And finally, because I have been away and busy I haven’t been able to say this, “I hate to say I told you so, but … “

It seemed tragically early in Dick Hubbard’s career in public life to be shown up as a noddy, but Bruce Hucker’s animal instincts managed to do that with astonishing ease.

This was always going to happen of course. It does when those who have sat so long in the wings finally command the spotlight. But Hucker’s fleet-footed manoeuvring followed by disingenuous pledges of support have been painful to watch.
Almost as much as the new mayor’s protestations that he was still in charge.

Well, we’ll see who has their hand on the tiller: the guy people voted for in one of the most negative mayoral elections in memory (anyone-but-Banks, wasn’t it?), or the group who have wanted this for so long they can barely contain themselves.

Auckland’s local body politics, always amusing for outsiders, will only get more embarrassing. I’m not looking forward to leaving town in the next few years. I might get abused, or miss something.