OnPoint by Keith Ng

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OnPoint: Beyond 'a bad look'

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  • Sacha, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Generosity of interpretation is not warranted here. The consistency between Bridges’ and Key’s lines (and Brownlee and Joyce’s before that) tells us this is no accident; it’s a planned tactic involving lying about figures, knowing that most of our media will regurgitate them unchecked without the slightest qualms. Currie would be a prime example.

    The immorality of editors and publishers allows the immorality of politicians to flourish. Who wins from that?

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19573 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Tristan,

    i think the interviewer knew he was bullshitting

    She did. Here’s her producer’s take on the matter.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19573 posts Report Reply

  • mic weevil,

    Great post, thanks Keith.

    Something else relevant to the discussion of John Key as pundit du jour:

    It is part of the strategy of the Nats to make Key an everyday guy who you could have a beer with. By constantly asking his opinions of all and sundry current affairs, he is given a platform to deliver his watercooler take in exactly this kind of way.

    It is the modern evolution of Roosevelt’s fireside chats: an opportunity for the PM to present as just a good old guy with an opinion like everybody else…

    auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 52 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Sacha,

    it’s a planned tactic involving lying about figures, knowing that most of our media will regurgitate them unchecked without the slightest qualms.

    It does remind me of the long, strange struggle to get the Herald to stop using false figures on TVNZ 7’s audience that were cited in the first place by the Minister of Broadcasting, Jonathan Coleman.

    I wrote this at the end of the linked post:

    But to the Herald’s editors I would say this: you were given a bogus statistic by a government minister looking to frame a story in a particular way. Instead of scrutinising it, you parroted it repeatedly via your editorial voice. That’s not exactly speaking truth to power.

    On the evidence of this week, I’d have to say there’s a place for public service broadcasting yet.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22584 posts Report Reply

  • Tinakori, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Well, David Fisher and Patrick Gower might have different ways of going about things and different motivations for what they do but to this viewer/reader the end result is exactly the same - sensationmongering. On Mathew Hooton there are left wing journalists with agendas just like there are liberal pundit/ journalists like Matthew, witness Gordon Campbell's continual petitions for sainthood for Jim Anderton. I also think Matthew's main agenda is excitement and the adrenal rush from mischief making rather than client interests.

    There's another structural reason why political journalists have less impact than Keith thinks they should. One consequence of changes in journalism, particularly print journalism, has been the departure of all but a tiny handful of specialist journalists who could report with some authority and would not be simple suckers for the leaker de jour. Political reporters know politics and almost nothing about the key output of politics, public policy. They are entirely dependent on what politicians - government and opposition - tell them about public policy which, - surprise, surprise - is often wrong or artfully misleading. Specialist rounds people provided a filter for that sort of crap and politicians and their advisors were a little more hesitant or a bit more skilful about saying things that were wrong. It's not that the specialists were giants of the trade but the simple fact that more eyeballs on the task provided more scrutiny. Political reporters have no subject credibility beyond politics and when reporting on anything other than the sheer horse racing side of politics their impact is accordingly limited. Within that limited role they fulfil a useful function but to expect much more from them as Keith Ng does is like asking a fish why it can't knit. Across the Tasman, Australia has mostly very bad political journalists but it has superb investigative journalists across a range of subject areas who can go deep into stories and catch some serious whales, like Edde Obeid. That's mostly a function of their market size and resources but also that they have a lot more dirty dealing, especially on the state level, to investigate. We have moderately competent political journalists but very few credible investigative ones with any subject knowledge. That's down to resources and a much more open culture with less to hide in both business and politics.

    Wellington • Since Jul 2013 • 118 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie, in reply to Tinakori,

    witness Gordon Campbell’s continual petitions for sainthood for Jim Anderton.

    ???
    Got a link? Just one example would be fine.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 4590 posts Report Reply

  • fraser munro, in reply to izogi,

    therres a second aspect to the "ill give you a quote" aspects of both key and clarke

    its not just the quote in and of itself - its the media news cycle that then runs from that quote

    Just how often have we seen day one of a story as" JK says x" - then for that to be repeated and requoted over the following days to finally end up as "x is true!"

    Its the habit of turning a quote or opinion into a fact, over several days that is the dangerous bit to me - by the time were reading the quote presented as a fact - all memory of it being just a quote in the first place has gone

    Did this happen with the media and clarke? Or is it a recent thing?

    ranui • Since Nov 2014 • 14 posts Report Reply

  • linger, in reply to fraser munro,

    I think it’s become worse as the news cycle has contracted.
    Today’s news cycle is so short as to leave
    no room for memory, no time for reflection;
    its creators live in an infernal eternal “now”,
    trapped in an ever-more rabidly, rapidly, spinning howling maw
    demanding more and more quantity,
    and delivering less and less quality.

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 1839 posts Report Reply

  • Phil Wallington,

    This is a great piece from Keith and an incisive dissection of our problem. Those who follow the investigative journalistic dredging of the swamp of NSW corruption would know of SMH journalist, Kate McClymont and her work exposing the Obeid family's decades of dodgy political dealings. Would that we has someone doing a similar job here and being backed by the financial and legal resources of Fairfax Media. Phil Kitchin (our last print journo dedicated to investigative work) has left the building and gone over to Ministerial PR for Paula Bennett. I was having a discussion with some old colleagues last evening and we were pondering the dearth of defamation writs against journalists, particularly those covering politics. Muldoon was always quick to sue and the Forth Labour Government turned it into a collective art form. The writs fell like autumn leaves in the wake of the questions raised in "For the Public Good". Nowadays none of the politicians need the defamation laws to stifle probing inquiry. It simply isn't happening. The investigative specialists and the passionate diggers and delvers have gone. There is now no money or appetite to fund and sustain such work. So journalists are mostly just churning out sausages and PR people are dictating the quantities, the flavours required and the recipes for making them. It will only get worse as attention spans shorten and collective memory forgets what good investigative work could do.

    Waikawa Beach • Since Sep 2013 • 41 posts Report Reply

  • izogi, in reply to linger,

    its creators live in an infernal eternal “now”,
    trapped in an ever-more rabidly, rapidly, spinning howling maw
    demanding more and more quantity,
    and delivering less and less quality.

    If only we could vote one the journalists off every week.




    Actually, to be honest, if we could then I'm not sure I'd appreciate the evental result.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 1139 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to JonathanM,

    Continuing to ask the PM for comment, regardless of which political stripe they may be, is ludicrous.

    No it isn't. It's good job security.

    Our PM actively excludes reporters who ask hard questions, so reporters are trained to never ask hard questions and never challenge the ignorant comment given. More importantly they are rewarded for giving the PM air time, both by their employers and by the PM himself (with more access).

    The PM benefits because he gets more and more free uncritical advertising.

    The reporter is rewarded for getting more time with the PM.

    It's a vacuous circle.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4432 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __,

    Does anyone else actually remember Helen Clark’s years as PM? Yes she made herself available for comment on all sorts of issues. But she made damn sure she was briefed by officials first, so she could speak knowledgeably and answer questions meaningfully.

    Remember Corngate? Clark was so angry because she wasn’t expecting the question and hadn’t been briefed on the issue.

    Her government used the public servants to work things out and keep the ministers informed. Key’s government uses public servants to produce advice which is ignored, and to take the blame when the minister messes up.

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3886 posts Report Reply

  • andin, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    It’s a vacuous circle.

    Yeah but its not life threatening.
    Not yet to those in the spin cycle.
    Whats that other circle thing ?

    raglan • Since Mar 2007 • 1746 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Phil Wallington,

    Wonder if NZonAir funding the investigative aspects of TV3's '3D' programme this year is a model across media more broadly?

    Let commercial media run its Glucinas and Hoskings without any 'journalistic' pretensions (or protections, in my view). Use targetted public funding for the expensive, non-lucrative journalism that commercial media is inscreasingly shunning?

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19573 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Phil Wallington,

    Phil Kitchin (our last print journo dedicated to investigative work) has left the building and gone over to Ministerial PR for Paula Bennett.

    and people wonder why she did so well on this last weekend's Q&A show.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19573 posts Report Reply

  • Ross Mason,

    Phil Kitchin??

    NNNNNNOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!! AAAAAGGGGGHHHHHHH!!!!!!

    Bugger.

    Upper Hutt • Since Jun 2007 • 1585 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Stowell,

    Great post and discussion - thanks Keith. Thanks PAS :)

    Whakaraupo • Since Nov 2006 • 2087 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie, in reply to Rob Stowell,

    Great post and discussion – thanks Keith. Thanks PAS :)

    +1

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 4590 posts Report Reply

  • Jimmy Southgate, in reply to Tom Semmens,

    The best journalism these days is on Comedy Central

    That crown has been taken by HBO with Last Week Tonight. Born of Comedy Central, but goes much deeper into a single story each week.

    Wellingtown • Since Nov 2006 • 103 posts Report Reply

  • Samuel Buckman,

    Public policy isn’t [objective] though.

    Driver behaviour is a lot less predictable [than physics]. Will people obey the law? Will drivers slow down where they expect enforcement and drive badly elsewhere? Or take less care generally?

    These are all objective questions, that can certainly be answered by experiment and can probably be answered already by examining previous cases.

    Then there are other, unintended, effects. How much does resentment at social control measures like zealous road traffic enforcement lead to a general lack of societal compliance?

    This is technically an objective question, but I agree that it is a difficult one to answer.

    And finally, there’s the question of what the populace wants. How much benefit do people see in being safer versus being allowed to drive faster? That’s an entirely subjective question.

    Each person’s opinion is developed subjectively. But finding out what the opinion is, and the proportions of each opinion that are held in the population, is another objective question.

    Public policy can, and should, be evidence based.

    Auckland • Since Apr 2014 • 16 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    So basically, in your ideal utopia, there would be no need for elections, as all decisions would be made through proper peer-reviewed scientific process to achieve optimal results for desired outcomes.

    In the case of designing a new flag for instance, international focus groups could be shown a range of computer designed shapes and measured on whether the flag made them more or less likely to buy NZ products, holiday here, or mount terrorist attacks on NZ citizens. The optimal selection of blobs could then be adopted.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Grant Taylor,

    After the election last year, I wrote this post on why the media failed over Dirty Politics. Not just because Key won the election, but also because Katherine Rich is still sitting on the Health Promotion Authority, because Jason Ede got swept under the carpet, and because Judith Collins didn’t actually face any consequences

    While I agree with your take (and those of the commenters) on the shortcomings of NZ journalism, I think that judging the value of journalism by its political consequences is rather undemocratic. Ultimately, politicians can only do what the people let them do, provided the democratic process is more-or-less intact. Journalists can only be held accountable for the outcomes you describe if they have failed to inform the public of the facts, their meaning, implications and context - after that, it is between the public and the politicians.

    Our journalists don't always do a good job of informing the public but I think it is a bit of a reach to ascribe the behavior of the current government to journalistic ineptitude.

    Auckland • Since Jul 2012 • 24 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Grant Taylor,

    I think it is a bit of a reach to ascribe the behavior of the current government to journalistic ineptitude.

    If you watch the TV news and read the daily newspapers then you'll see story after story that supports and enables the behaviour of this current government.

    The few times a journalist has dared to tread even close to describing faults in the behaviour of the government a legion of stories immediately appears to a) discredit said journalist and b) outright deny any fault regardless of the facts.

    So I disagree with you, our current batch of journalists in the MSM DO enable and support this behaviour.

    More importantly those same journalists enjoy privileges in law and society that they are given because society expects them to ensure our government behave fairly and honestly.

    I think there is a strong case to be made that journalism as a profession has failed New Zealand over the last decade.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4432 posts Report Reply

  • Grant Taylor, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    Let me clear that I agree that journalists have not served us well. I cancelled my Herald subscription during the last election campaigning (and haven't reinstated it) precisely because of this.

    But we can't, perhaps even musn't, take responsibility away from the electorate for the government we get. You don't like them, I don't like them, I didn't vote for them - but a decisive segment of the population did. And I don't see how the journalism we got, flawed though it was, could have been the decisive factor in either the election result or the behaviour patterns of the current government.

    Auckland • Since Jul 2012 • 24 posts Report Reply

  • Ngaire BookieMonster,

    Wow. Remarkable piece, thank you for posting it. Very much made me think of the ideas here http://pressthink.org/2011/08/why-political-coverage-is-broken/ and http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2011/08/what-if-journalists-stopped-trying-to-be-political-insiders/244167/ which builds on the same idea.

    NZ political journalism is suffering exactly the same sort of problems.

    At the foot of Mt Te Aroh… • Since Nov 2009 • 174 posts Report Reply

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