Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: The humanity

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  • Kumara Republic,

    Dover Samuels said on NatRad this morning that Labour lost because it "lurched to the left". Knowing Dover, who party voted for Winston this time round, I'm not even sure he's right or not.

    Journalists are not, with a few exceptions, biased in a partisan sense. But the collective culture (especially with male journalists) is quite often about the pursuit of the weakened.

    I reckon Paddy Gower isn't so much biased as he is a journalistic soldier-of-fortune. In fact, he claims to be a non-voter on impartiality grounds, which nominally puts him in the same camp as Colin James and Robert Samuelson:

    "People ask all the time do I vote, and I just don’t, because I like to be independent as possible. I understand a lot of other journalist here can vote and personally I think that’s fine. And being fair to both sides is important, and always giving a fair go to everyone and letting them have their say is absolutely crucial. Ultimately the best guard against bias is just by doing the best stories in the best way that you can. If you’re following the news then you never have to worry about being biased."

    Still, is such a soldier-of-fortune ethos of Gower and his compatriots a mere reflection of their boardroom higher-ups, who are desperate for click-bait and dramatic headlines?

    "I was watching the television program Borgen, a Danish drama which is based on a Proportional Representation System, and they’ve managed to make a pretty good drama out of it. The characters in that, which are made up, are nowhere near as good as the characters in New Zealand’s political scene right now. If you take everyone from Kim Dotcom through to Winston Peters through to John Key, and everyone in-between, you’ve got a pretty good cast of characters for a drama. And it actually plays out in reality."

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5418 posts Report Reply

  • bob daktari,

    Failed party leader or victim.... of dirty politics?

    I'm sure the past few weeks have been very taxing on some of those in the media... but buggered if I'm going to give them any sympathy

    auckland • Since Dec 2006 • 537 posts Report Reply

  • John Morrison,

    Well said Russell with a couple of things I would add.
    Looking at Paddy last night and the Stuff headlines this morning there is simply too many sensational and misleading headlines/comments when battles arise. The pundit may feel better but it does the public a disservice

    Labour is right to shut all comment down for as long as possible just to take the heat out of the current situation. The media will hate it but there may be a chance of quiet assessment and analysis coming from this period. Let's hope so.

    Cromwell • Since Nov 2006 • 85 posts Report Reply

  • Tristan,

    An excellent analysis, words like out of control, rampage, all out war, were used yesterday to describe an all day meeting that you would expect a defeated party to have after an election to plan their next steps.

    Sure the last hour of that meeting should have been dedicated to 'how do we address those people with sore bums outside' but when John Key talked about business as usual i didn't think that would apply to the press gallery.

    Oh and one more thing journos trying to goad Cunliffe into apologising is giving me the shits he knows and we all know what your headlines would be if he did so just stop it

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 221 posts Report Reply

  • Raymond A Francis,

    So it was ok when the PM was being given a hard time before the election, I certainly don't remember you calling for an easing of the questioning but not ok when the Leader of the opposition who has just lead the party to a historical defeat is trying to be tricky, is called on his actions

    And by being tricky will not resign but wants his colleges to vote no confidence in him so he can rort his own re-election!

    45' South • Since Nov 2006 • 576 posts Report Reply

  • Peter Green,

    Gower really didn't do a "decent enough job" in his report. He made multiple important factual errors with regards to the Labour constitution, and he claimed Cunliffe said something seconds after a clip of him emphatically not saying that thing.

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2011 • 21 posts Report Reply

  • Michael Meyers,

    I have got a little tired of the style of political journalism that TV3 is following at the moment.

    On their election night coverage it got a bit tiresome. Trying to get the scoop from the party leaders as they walked in to give their speech didn't really add anything for me. I'm aware a journo needs to be pushy but it just got to be a farce.

    I've also got tired of the manufactured scoop:

    Journo: "Will you work with Winston? Will you work with Winston? Can you confirm or deny that you'll work with Winston?"

    Poli: "Well, we don't have any intention of working with Winston but we'll have to see how the public votes"

    Journo: "There you have it! Mr Poli Tician will be lining up to call Winston Peters on Sunday morning."

    I'm aware that journalists need to work hard and there is less money in any sort of media these days but creating a narrative that only just fits the facts seems to be happening more and more. I'm not in the press gallery so obviously the journalists see a different side to the story than I do. If there really is a story, show me the facts rather than the fantasy.

    I'm also aware the politicians are often pretty economical with the truth when it suits them but asking the same loaded question twenty times in a row doesn't achieve very much. Hearing Guyon Espiner badger John Key with "Is it OK?" is one of the few circumstances where that style of questioning really works.

    Wellington • Since May 2014 • 56 posts Report Reply

  • linger, in reply to Raymond A Francis,

    In case you simply don’t see it, the two cases are not symmetrical.
    The role of journalism should be to hold the powerful – i.e., the government of the day – to account. Not the powerless – among which number we should include Cunliffe at the moment. The problem is not that journalists "attacked" Key at one point in the election campaign: rather, the problem is that they largely failed to do their jobs in the preceding six years.

    And what exactly should the public call him to account for? That’s THREE baseless accusations (“tricky”, “tricky”, “rort”) you’ve managed to crowbar into one comment. You must be feeling so pleased with yourself.

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 1889 posts Report Reply

  • krothville, in reply to Kumara Republic,

    If you’re following the news then you never have to worry about being biased.

    Except that thanks to Dirty politics, we've seen that that is not the case.

    There's absolutely no such thing as unbiased reporting. Every journalist (or media boss, whatever) carries their own opinions and experiences around with them, and that informs everything they do, and every angle they frame the story with.

    Since Sep 2014 • 73 posts Report Reply

  • MxDEJ,

    One minute I'm worried that our journalists don't have enough time to get up from behind their desks and burn shoe-leather chasing the big stories; the next I'm worried that they might get bored sitting on the floor for 7 hours straight.

    Auckland • Since Feb 2012 • 24 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to linger,

    In case you simply don’t see it, the role of journalism should be to hold the powerful – i.e., the government of the day – to account. Not the powerless – among which number we should include Cunliffe at the moment.

    Oh, what a load of bullshit. Unless I’ve missed Key declaring that Parliamentary democracy is over in this country, Cunliffe is still the leader of a significant Parliamentary grouping that I hope isn’t going to just fuck off to the pub for the next three years. I DO think there’s a hell of a lot of over-excited hacks trying to beat up a story that isn’t really there (Labour’s leadership is going to be an open question for at least three or four months, as I understand it) let’s not throw too big a pity party here.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Michael Meyers, in reply to Raymond A Francis,

    So it was ok when the PM was being given a hard time before the election, I certainly don’t remember you calling for an easing of the questioning

    Yes, that was ok, because the actions of Judith Collins (which I expect you are referring to) did need some sort of explanation to the public. As did questions around the GCSB. There is a public interest here.

    The leadership of Labour Party however isn't a matter where they need to be accountable to the public. They should be working in the best interests of the party at this point, when looking at going forward. The interests of the country come later once they have sorted themselves out. They could put anyone forward as leader as long as that person had a reasonable shot of winning the election and can convince the country that the Labour Party is working for New Zealand.

    The media can ask all they want but I don't feel an obligation to be told what is going on behind these closed doors. But I do want to know what Judith Collins was up to, in the same way that I'd like any Labour or Green MP in a similar situation to be held accountable.

    Wellington • Since May 2014 • 56 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle MacDonald,

    "Perhaps a little humanity is in order."

    Well said Russell, and captures the discomfort I've felt, and my subsequent disengagement exactly. They lost, they have to make changes, but no need to kick a man when he's down.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 81 posts Report Reply

  • Keir Leslie,

    The leadership of Labour Party however isn’t a matter where they need to be accountable to the public.

    Actually it kinda is a job where they need to be accountable to the public. And the Party. And MPs. And that's why it's a really hard job, and why people who can't meet the demands should consider moving on.

    Since Jul 2008 • 1452 posts Report Reply

  • Euan Mason,

    "It was no coincidence that John Key got the most onerous grillings of his leadership exactly when he was knocked off balance by Dirty Politics."

    Yes, "when he was knocked off balance". The issue hasn't gone away, but as he's no longer off balance he's not being grilled. This is a failing of the fourth estate. The issue is still there and yet it has disappeared from the media.

    Canterbury • Since Jul 2008 • 258 posts Report Reply

  • Felix Marwick,

    It's always interesting to note the views of those who were not actually there to witness what happened.

    Yesterday's caucus meeting was not run of the mill in any sense. Nor was it disciplined. Cunliffe's leadership and authority was being directly challenged before the meeting even happened. You could gauge it from the comments MPs were making to media on the way into Parliament, and from how MPs gave interviews to reporters on the way into the meeting despite their leader giving them a clear directive not to speak to reporters.

    It is not over the top, nor inaccurate, to use the terms "disarray" or "divided" when the majority of the caucus has taken active steps to block the leader's desire to have a leadership contest before the end of the year.

    Labour's caucus is divided. The gallery is reporting that fact. It's that simple. I know there are those on the left that are uncomfortable with the state Labour is in and are looking for people to blame. But I can assure you it's not the media's fault. The blame for Labour's predicament lies fundamentally within its own ranks.

    I think I have the advantage over some of you in that I have had the opportunity to speak directly with Labour's MPs. It is not misleading to say the divisions are deep and the grievances are bitter.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 200 posts Report Reply

  • Dean Wallis,

    So,so tired of political reporting in NZ. Standards are incredibly low currently - does/could anyone disagree? Armstrong's piece in the Herald yesterday - "absolute mayhem" - trumpeted wild headlines and then completely failed to describe any factual basis for those headlines. Thank (your deity of choice) for Russell Brown, I say.

    Point Chevalier • Since Jan 2013 • 44 posts Report Reply

  • Sofie Bribiesca, in reply to Raymond A Francis,

    So it was ok when the PM was being given a hard time before the election,

    Yes it was. He as leader of a corrupt Government was doing his best to lie to us yet again and avoid telling us any truth about his staff. we pay their wages The man is useless as a Leader and a liar.

    not ok when the Leader of the opposition who has just lead the party to a historical defeat is trying to be tricky, is called on his actions

    It's not ok to question the Labour Party when John Key has slimed into Parliament as the Government and lets Collins and Williamson back in and still wont tell the truth. He even lied about Jason Ede resigning of his own will. Yeah right and I'm an alien. How about the press ask Key again to explain. That's the Leader that needs to stop being tricky? (his word, he can own it)

    And by being tricky will not resign but wants his colleges to vote no confidence in him so he can rort his own re-election!

    Oh stop it. What do you care about Labour's selection process. Grasp that straw. Pathetic.

    here and there. • Since Nov 2007 • 6796 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell,

    The thing is we all know that what happens in caucus is a process and secrecy is part of the process, all those people camped out outside the caucus rooms knew this, they're essentially there in case they can catch someone slipping - hearing the media this media this morning ragging on Cunliffe because he just can't come clean with them and continue to be a good leader seems just a bit silly - creating tension for tension's sake - rather than just reporting what the process is and explaining why no one is talking

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2606 posts Report Reply

  • linger, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    Would you still agree that when the media is being used to attack the opposition, democracy as a whole suffers?

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 1889 posts Report Reply

  • Euan Mason,

    "Journalists are not, with a few exceptions, biased in a partisan sense."

    Two notable exceptions: Mike Hosking & Paul Henry.

    Canterbury • Since Jul 2008 • 258 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Raymond A Francis,

    So it was ok when the PM was being given a hard time before the election, I certainly don’t remember you calling for an easing of the questioning

    Because he had questions to answer that cut directly to the heart of government, and gave evasive and disingenuous answers for weeks. Because he stood accused of secretive and unethical behaviour, and refused to condemn such behaviour by a minister, and by his associates. Remember, the Espiner interview hinged on his point-blank, repeated refusal to answer a reasonable question about the conduct of a Minister of the Crown.

    but not ok when the Leader of the opposition who has just lead the party to a historical defeat is trying to be tricky, is called on his actions

    Did you actually read the post, Raymond?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22754 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell,

    I'm tempted to think that someone who runs a daily talk show doesn't have the time to do real journalism

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2606 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Felix Marwick,

    It is not over the top, nor inaccurate, to use the terms “disarray” or “divided” when the majority of the caucus has taken active steps to block the leader’s desire to have a leadership contest before the end of the year.

    No, those are reasonable words. Having Shearer running around flouting his party leader’s instruction not to speak to the media certainly indicated that. "All out war" is probably going a bit far, though.

    Labour’s caucus is divided. The gallery is reporting that fact. It’s that simple. I know there are those on the left that are uncomfortable with the state Labour is in and are looking for people to blame. But I can assure you it’s not the media’s fault. The blame for Labour’s predicament lies fundamentally within its own ranks.

    Yes. But that’s not the same as demanding an apology from Cunliffe to the country. That’s just silly.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22754 posts Report Reply

  • Richard Aston,

    But the reporter who missed the moment would not be very popular with his or her boss.

    That’s where the problem sits , with the editors, news-editors, producers etc who are driving this hyper sensational reporting. They want dramatic tensions, characters -heros and villains, plots, excitement, tragedy and Poetic Justice. All the elements of theater, film and TV.

    I shall get down off my pedestal now and stop ranting.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 509 posts Report Reply

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