OnPoint by Keith Ng

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OnPoint: Beyond 'a bad look'

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  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Grant Taylor,

    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.

    Except it is pretty clear that elections are now won and lost on the media-driven perception of the parties by the public. Journalists play a significant role in that perception whether they want to have that responsibility or not.

    If you don't believe that then ask yourself why would National spend so much effort to shape the way stories are told about politics by those journalists. Not just wooing them but feeding them stories from multiple directions in a deliberate effort to shape what and when journalists will publish.

    And believe me I have sympathy for the actual journalists. They are caught with mortgages just like the rest of us. they have limited employment opportunities and decision making is largely out of their hands.

    Any journalist who doesn't play by National's rules better have an independent source of income. And before Craig blasts me, Labour is only saved from similar criticism by their incompetence not their intent.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4432 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Grant Taylor,

    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

    Are you saying that's not the case here? I have great respect for what informed citizens decide. That requires, as you say, reliable information.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19573 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    Labour is only saved from similar criticism by their incompetence not their intent.

    Danyl ponders whether that is a permanent state of affairs.

    The Conservative Party’s strategy in the UK election was pretty much the same as National’s strategy last year. It’s because they have the same strategic advisers of course – the infamous Crosby/Textor, who are also very active in Australian Federal and state elections.

    Which gives their clients a huge advantage. Not only can they deliver data and market-research driven advice, they can trial-run lines and strategies across multiple separate-but-similar electorates, hone the techniques and sell successful ideas on to their other clients – who are all right-wing parties that want to see each other succeed.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19573 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __, in reply to Grant Taylor,

    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.

    Remember that almost as many people didn't vote as voted for the Nats. Don't tell me that the constant "foregone conclusion" touted in the media didn't put people off voting.

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3886 posts Report Reply

  • Grant Taylor, in reply to Lilith __,

    You might be right, Lilith. I really don't know what is behind the falling voting rate, here or elsewhere. Perhaps the news media have a big role to play in this - but I also get the impression that fewer and fewer people are consuming conventional news media and I wouldn't be surprised if the people who don't vote are also the people who don't pay attention to political journalism. The shallowness of analysis, and perhaps bias, that we are bemoaning here is perhaps a response to this loss of audience. Even if we had the Guardian or the New York Times in NZ, I doubt that the level of political engagement or dissatisfaction with the current government would be any higher.

    Auckland • Since Jul 2012 • 24 posts Report Reply

  • Grant Taylor, in reply to Sacha,

    Are you saying that’s not the case here?

    Well, as I have said, I don't think they did/are doing a particularly good job but I think they are doing a good enough job (a la Pareto Principle), such that a better job would not have made a huge difference to the outcomes that Keith stated at the beginning of his post.

    Auckland • Since Jul 2012 • 24 posts Report Reply

  • tussock,

    When it is said that John Campbell is on a crusade about something or another, what is meant in traditional English is that John Campbell has said a few things in the public interest instead of just blithely quoting the lines provided by PR companies for their advertisers.

    When it's said he might lose his job because of all that "crusading", what is meant is that media who say things in the public interest will lose those same sponsors and their employers will have little choice but to shut them down.

    We have people in government who do not believe in evidence or science in general, that it's all just someone's opinion, that's a matter of public record. They don't care about the public interest, they care about the donations needed to stay in power, which is where they have to be to earn those donations. Governing for the sake of being in government. Media, for them, is there merely to keep the sheeple calm as their funders take an ever-larger share of the public purse. Pick some random group with poor resources (and no media access) to blame everything on, single mums, beneficiaries, refugees, the working poor, none of them will ever buy adverting space.

    Hand more to the donors, "wonder" at the sudden deficit, cut all the social services, and repeat. Flick off public assets at bargain prices to the newly enriched donors. I don't know if I own a vineyard or I don't, and here, have a bottle of my vineyard's wine by way of apology, that's the "real story", the awkward prime minister and his bumbling finance minister, oh how superior we all feel.


    In light of this, you might note they only talk to reporters who can help them with it, Bill again failing with his math, John being an ass, aren't Labour a bunch of meanies for saying that! Also people who also don't believe in evidence and science and simply fawn before whoever pays them best while blaming everything on people who can't fight back. Henry gets interviews all the fucking time, to fawn over how marvellous the PM is at keeping everyone calm while he steals everything. Because he's "relaxed about that", you see. How often's he been on Campbell Live? Once a year? Less?


    Journalism is a private, for-profit company, most of whom graduate to work in PR and media management, serving for-profit companies under a for-profit party in government. That the odd one still manages to say anything at all in the public interest is a bloody miracle.

    Of course we should feed children. We're a massive food exporting nation. People not having money for food is a societal failure. But they don't buy ad space and they don't donate to national, so never mind. Because are they really hungry? I'm sure I could find someone else to say otherwise.

    Since Nov 2006 • 604 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Grant Taylor,

    thank you for clarifying.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19573 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to tussock,

    When it's said he might lose his job because of all that "crusading", what is meant is that media who say things in the public interest will lose those same sponsors and their employers will have little choice but to shut them down.

    Campbell Live retains the support of its advertisers, apparently. And it is profitable. Management must believe they can make more profit from the timeslot by putting other content in it - or they have a non-commercial agenda ..

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19573 posts Report Reply

  • izogi, in reply to tussock,

    We have people in government who do not believe in evidence or science in general, that it’s all just someone’s opinion, that’s a matter of public record.

    This may be true sometimes, but I’m guessing that for as much of the time it’s not a case of not believing in evidence or science. I think it can also be ideological differences about desired outcomes, which politicians and other elites don’t necessarily want to admit too noisily.

    For example, maybe they think it’s stupid to be spending tens of millions of dollars a year on protecting endangered flora and fauna–the problem could be solved by ignoring it and letting everything die out so that it no longer needs protecting. Maybe they think it’s acceptable for x% of people to be living and dying malnourished on the streets, as long another group of people excel in comparison.

    But outright stating these types of things as goals won’t usually make for great political popularity amongst much of the populace who vote. That’s a problem if it’s what you actually want because it makes it very difficult to get elected. Instead it’s necessary to pretend you care about stuff that it’s traditional to care about, but try to discredit research aimed towards those outcomes, and argue that some replacement strategy will do it better, even if someone who digs below the surface of that strategy might easily discover it’s unlikely or impossible.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 1139 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Hooton, in reply to Tristan,

    And by Muldoon before her. It is pretty common for PMs to be asked to comment on whatever is in the news. People are interested in their attitude to the topic of the day.

    Auckland • Since Aug 2007 • 192 posts Report Reply

  • Katharine Moody, in reply to tussock,

    Because are they really hungry?

    Very poignant indeed. Sadly, I've heard this argument, or inferences likewise, put up and reported so many times, we almost detach ourselves from the actual cruelty of the question.

    Wellington • Since Sep 2014 • 797 posts Report Reply

  • simon g,

    It is pretty common for PMs to be asked to comment on whatever is in the news. People are interested in their attitude to the topic of the day.

    That may be true, and in itself does no harm. But increasingly the Prime Minister is the media replacement for the relevant Minister - who should have a better grasp of the subject, and usually does. Ask the public to name (e.g.) the Minister of Defence, and most will offer only blank looks.

    It's bad enough that election campaigns are now Presidential, even though the votes are not. But if the Presidential Myth extends beyond the campaign to the government as well, then we might as well just change the constitution and be done with it. About half the country (call them the Hoskingites) seem to think King John shouldn't be troubled with opponents anyway.

    Alternatively, the media could just remember that we have a Parliament and Cabinet, and report the news accordingly.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1276 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz, in reply to izogi,

    That's broadly it. See, an honest argument against doing anything about climate change would run along the lines of NZ having the capacity to produce 20 times as much food as we eat, so even if that capacity is (literally) decimated by climate change, we'll still have enough food. And we have plenty of rock, so could build dams around cities, or just all go and live on the Central Plateau / Mackenzie Basin.

    But the "the rest of the world will be dying like flies, but we'll be fine here" argument seems a bit callous, so denial (or the alternative of pretending to take action) works better for politicians.

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

  • Russell Brown,

    Tova O'Brien's "Angry Andy" report on 3 News last night might as well be a picture of what Keith is talking about in the post.

    She doesn't actually even put the main claim in Little's speech – that the government knew well before last year's election that a surplus was unachievable – to Key, and instead makes the whole report about the other guys' attack line. Just weird.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22584 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Tova O’Brien’s “Angry Andy” report on 3 News last night might as well be a picture of what Keith is talking about in the post.

    It was bizarre. It was like she'd read Kieth's post and thought he was promoting that kind of content free reporting.

    It was mildly amusing in that it made both leaders look like plonkers.

    I guess the only plausible excuse might be that until the actual budget comes out we can't say there is no surplus.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4432 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    It was mildly amusing in that it made both leaders look like plonkers.

    I asked her on Twitter and apparently she did ask Key for a response to Little’s claim – and the “Angry Andy” nonsense was the response. Sure, “PM refuses to respond to allegation that public was misled over Budget” is a much better story than the silly one that went to air?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22584 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic, in reply to Russell Brown,

    I asked her on Twitter and apparently she did ask Key for a response to Little’s claim – and the “Angry Andy” nonsense was the response. Sure, “PM refuses to respond to allegation that public was misled over Budget” is a much better story than the silly one that went to air?

    Is Tova, like her colleague Paddy, a journalistic war profiteer? In other words, not necessarily taking sides, so long as they're gaining from the conflict.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5405 posts Report Reply

  • Alfie, in reply to Russell Brown,

    ...the “Angry Andy” nonsense...

    Audrey Young somehow manages to repeat the phrase five times in today's Herald. And she has this quote from Key.

    We've come from a $18 billion deficit five or six years ago to pretty much a surplus. I think most New Zealanders would say that's the right step.

    Pretty much a surplus? What's half a billion dollars between friends, eh?

    Dunedin • Since May 2014 • 1346 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Alfie,

    We’ve come from a $18 billion deficit five or six years ago ...

    A deficit they created by their ridiculous tax cuts

    to pretty much a surplus.

    Which would be pretty much the truth, much like being mostly a virgin.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4432 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Semmens,

    Audrey Young somehow manages to repeat the phrase five times in today’s Herald.

    This is an illustration of Keith’s point that objective reporting is never objective. There is no such thing in not taking a position, because not taking a position is a position all of its own. Journalists like Young and O’Brien take sides everyday, because their ambient values align completely with the neoliberal ruling project. They are just too stupid to understand their role as a cog in the machinery of neoliberal propaganda.

    There was woman on Mora’s show yesterday saying how she felt sorry for Labour, because Little couldn’t get any ’cut through” on issues important for the left. When Tova O’Brien makes it her job to repeat a government’s childish attack line rather than the substance of a speech, or Mike Hosking’s bullies Amanda Bailey, or everytime TVNZ leads with a story about the royal family instead of unemployment – these are positions, and they are positions designed to reinforce a right wing hegemony.

    At the end of the day, journalism in this country is dead. Not under threat, or forced into isolated pockets, but dead. Gone. A cursory examination of the 6pm news on any night will tell you that. As a left winger, I kinda welcome the death of journalism, because with it goes the myth of press freedom and the need to maintain the fiction of a free, fair or balanced media. The other side controls the news. Accept it. Celebrate it. And then realise that means that when or if the left returns to power it wil have carte-blanche to return the favour, in spades.

    Sevilla, Espana • Since Nov 2006 • 2204 posts Report Reply

  • izogi, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    It was mildly amusing in that it made both leaders look like plonkers.

    From watching that report I thought she made Andrew Little look like much more of a plonker than John Key. Right back to the introduction which set the stage by saying "it hasn't necessarily worked in his favour", then focusing on tengential detail and trying to make him explain, then repeatedly broadcasting the exact soundbite line the PM wanted broadcast, over and over again.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 1139 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Matthew Hooton,

    Asking a PM for comment is one thing. Letting them determine your angle is another.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19573 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Tom Semmens,

    And then realise that means that when or if the left returns to power it wil have carte-blanche to return the favour, in spades.

    I find it hard to get excited by the idea of that. Apart from being wishful thinking that might not eventuate, it's not that good of a thing to wish for, that the long run is that we'll get a lengthy period of left-dominated bullshit as some kind of revenge.

    I'd rather that public opinion was simply less swayed by the MSM in the long run, since it is a very, very weak and unreliable source. I think this is happening, too. But it's a long process. I definitely don't contribute by ever telling people they should use the MSM to get their opinions, any more than I'd tell them to eat shitty junk food to nourish their bodies. A little junk food is OK in a balanced diet, so long as you exercise it off with a bit of mental effort doing research, and get most of your nutrition from primary sources and proper robust debate of them.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10596 posts Report Reply

  • william blake,

    Jaded Jonny v Angry Andy

    Since Mar 2010 • 373 posts Report Reply

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