Brian Edwards Media

Bouquets and Brickbats (An Occasional Series)

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 To Q & A for being a bloody good programme. (But see below.)

To TV3, the producers, cast and all concerned with Outrageous Fortune (again) for the most entertaining hour on New Zealand television.

To Media 7 and Russell Brown for demonstrating that intelligent and discursive debate of social and political issues can be both informative and entertaining.

To Sky Movies (belatedly) for Shine a Light, Martin Scorsese’s brilliant documentary on the Rolling Stones’ phenomenal charity concert in New York. If you’re a Stones fan and haven’t seen it, or even if you aren’t, rush to your video store.

 

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 To the Herald for publishing a picture of the body of Kashin the elephant being loaded by  crane onto a truck to be taken away and buried. Is this macabre sight to be Aucklanders’ last memory of a creature they had taken to their hearts and whose death many of them are grieving? Do crassness and insensitivity have to be the hallmarks of modern journalism?

To TVNZ for keeping Mark Sainsbury in a role to which he is patently not suited, as the host of Close Up. It’s simply a no-brainer that Paul Henry is the man for the job.

To One News for further desecrating the language by telling us that their reporters are “across” the story.

To One and 3 News and, I suspect, RNZ, for insisting on the nonsense of “an horrific, an hotel, an historic” and the rest, when the ‘h’ in such words is sounded. Only Cockneys and the French, who don’t pronounce the ‘h’, can properly say “an ‘orrific’, an ‘otel, an ‘istoric”. More to the point, no one uses this form in normal conversation. If someone says to me, “Where will you be staying in Wellington?” I don’t reply, “In an hotel in Lambton Quay, where I expect to have an horrific time.”

To TVNZ for continuing to marginalise Q & A at 10am on Sunday morning, when the programme not merely provides intelligent and discursive debate of political issues, but each week provides One News with several political news exclusives.

 Your bouquets and brickbats are welcome.

38 Comments:

  1. Brian – I must take issue with your brickbat four. Not all media do this by any stretch of the imagination. When the Herald still had subs I was one of them, and the rule was if the “h” is sounded use “a”, if the “h” is silent use “an”. Certainly, on the subbing shifts I still do for HoS, that is the rule that is applied (at least when I’m there). Which is as it should be, and most certainly how I write and edit for any publications I contribute to today.

    The marginalisation and devaluation of subbing has led to many rules being overlooked – the one you mention being the least of them. The confusion of “who” and “that” is much more common (and disturbing!)

    • Brian – I must take issue with your brickbat four. Not all media do this by any stretch of the imagination.

      You’re quite right, Ashley, and I will correct that error at once. Also interested to hear about your subbing experience and would welcome more from you on “who/that” and any other linguistic bêtes noires you have.

  2. The “across” one always conjures up often-revolting mental images for me, thank you for pointing it out. Funnily enough, I bumped into Paul Henry last week at a function and he also expressed his hatred for it.

  3. Brian, what would your professor of linguistics (Ruth) on Top of the Morning have said…

    so I went to this link

    http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-anh1.htm

    [Q] From Tym King; related questions came from many other subscribers: I was interested in your use of an before heraldic in a recent issue because I’ve never known the “rule” for using an with words beginning with h. The famous example of course is an hotel. Though I admit it’s just an affectation, I also use an with hilarious and several other words. But I wouldn’t think of doing it with homily though I have no idea why. And I always pronounce the h in these examples. What rules do you follow?

    ….

    The respondent to this question appears to suggest that if the emphasis is on the second syllable, then an could come before a pronounced “h” as in hilarious…

    • Brian, what would your professor of linguistics (Ruth) on Top of the Morning have said… so I went to this link: http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-anh1.htm

      Thanks logie97. The link is useful and more or less follows Fowler’s Modern English Usage. However, I think common usage is the best guide for broadcasters who shouldn’t be speaking a different language to their audience.

  4. Ah, who/that is one of my current gripes, not least because the confusion is everywhere. Fundamentally, it appears common to use the personal pronoun “who” for companies, governments, organisations, anything as long as it’s not human. Meanwhile, humans appear to be lumped together with all manner of inanimate entities referred to with “that”, which is not strictly incorrect but is dreadfully impersonal. I expound at length (some might say rant) in one of my Writer’s logs, here http://bit.ly/4DZoMR

    While I’m not an uber-pedant and have no problem with splitting infinitives or starting sentences with conjunctions, I do believe that certain basic rules of grammar – such as verbs agreeing with their subjects and pronouns agreeing with their nouns – are actually important for comprehension and ease of reading. It seems to me that even people who write professionally aren’t taught to do this any longer, which can make for an extremely jarring, and frequently confusing, read.

    I don’t actually buy the “but they don’t teach grammar in schools any more” argument. I was right on the cusp of the change between drumming grammar into kids and ignoring it, so I got the basics in primary school but no formal English grammar tuition in secondary school. I did, however, do three years of French, which helped. But most of my learning came on the job, learning from very experienced subs who took the time to point out what I was getting wrong and what I should be doing, which also made me a much better writer. You will find very few newsrooms in which that happens nowadays, because there are so few subs left, and those that are there are just shovelling it through to get the paper out.

  5. Bouquet to Prime for screening “Spike Lee’s When The Levees Broke” about New Orleans & Hurricane Katrina. Compelling, moving and horrific viewing.

    Brickbat to Prime for putting it on Sunday at 09:35PM and me for missing the first half hour. Part 2 is this week but I’d love a repeat please Prime.

  6. I elect to dissent. Bouquet to the Herald for publishing the pic of the elephant suspended on the crane. My recollection of my post, on the Herald’s “Your Views” column, under the name “The Apostate”.

    I’m of the opinion it complements the Monday pic (“ineffably sad”). There are strong elements to it which giving a dignified composition to it. The two supplementary pictures temper the rawness of the primary pic. Also, there is the solitary figure – zookeeper? – in hooded black, hands clasped in front and head slightly bowed, which affords a grieving and solemn regard as to what’s happening.
    The resting place is a green embankment with trees. The photo serves to address young inquisitive minds as to how the elephant is laid to rest. The picture is neither “crass” and/or “insensitive”. It is a natural follow-on to Monday’s pic.

    • I elect to dissent. Bouquet to the Herald for publishing the pic of the elephant suspended on the crane. My recollection of my post, on the Herald’s “Your Views” column, under the name “The Apostate”.

      Well OK, I guess this is a matter of taste too. In the photograph Kashin is hanging suspended in mid air, covered in sacking and with her backside and feet facing the camera. I’m not sure what the photograph was meant to be telling us, other than that it’s difficult to move an elephant. I suppose we could also have seen the diggers excavating the grave, maybe even watched Kashin being dropped into it. But I can’t really see the point of that either, other than to confirm that elephants are more difficult to dispose of than, say, hamsters. Some realities don’t need to be expressed. Sometimes it’s good for people, and kids in particular, to be left with pleasant memories.

  7. Good morning Brian
    I think I must be the only person in this country that doesn’t find Outrageous Fortune sublime. I consider that the acting is adequate at best and the programme features a bunch of characters who I would hate to have living next door. Mind you my dislike of commercial television generally could be colouring my viewing tastes. And don’t get me going on those shouting Harvey Norman ads

    • Good morning Brian. I think I must be the only person in this country that doesn’t find Outrageous Fortune sublime.

      Fair enough too, Baz. It’s all a matter of personal taste. I agree with you about people shouting in ads AND reporters who don’t seem to understand they have a microphone in their hands. Judy will have more to say about that later.

  8. A good reference work that everyone should have at the ready on a workspace is the New Zealand Government Printing Office STYLE BOOK. I use the Third Edition, which I purchased in October 1983.

    From Page 205

    11.64 “Which” refers to objects only.
    “That” refers to objects and persons.
    “Who” refers to persons only.

  9. To One and 3 News and, I suspect, RNZ, for insisting on the nonsense of “an horrific, an hotel, an historic” and the rest, when the ‘h’ in such words is sounded.

    Yes! A pet peeve of mine too.

    I think the annoying thing is it’s such a simple rule. Is there a consonant sound at the beginning of the word, or the vowel sound? If the former, it is ‘a’. If the latter: ‘an’.

  10. Oregono

    You are right, and as I said, referring to people with “that” is not technically incorrect. But it is horrendously impersonal. And with the exception of legal and academic writing, most writing attempts to engage the reader (and most certainly PR and marketing writing does). So referring to people as “that” is, quite frankly, appalling if the object of the exercise is to connect with your audience.

    Anyone who takes the time and the not insignificant money to engage a PR writer to pen an opinion piece, and lets the PR writer get away with referring to humans as “that” is not spending their money well.

    Because even though many readers may not actually quite figure out what it is they’re noticing about this writer, they *are* noticing it. And what they’re noticing is not complimentary.

  11. 11

    Soft light is your friend

    I agree that Sainsbury is not the right person to be fronting a show that demands some mental and verbal agility. I disagree that Henry is the obvious successor. Mike Hosking is the better choice, comes with less political baggage, and it’s time he was back on the telly. However, as long as Close Up’s ratings keep kicking Campbell Live’s butt, Sainsbury will probably be safe.

    • I agree that Sainsbury is not the right person to be fronting a show that demands some mental and verbal agility.

      You’re right – as long as Mark continues to rate, he will remain on the programme. You need to understand, however, that there is something called the “inheritance factor”. This means that a programme’s rating is affected by the rating of the programme before it and the programmes opposite it on other channels. One News outrates 3 News, so that Mark inherits a larger audience than John Campbell on the opposing channel. Not the whole story but significant.

      I’d prefer Henry to Hosking. Henry has a much better sense of humour and there’s a real sense of impending debacle when hhe’s on screen

  12. A brickbat for another pathetic showing from the Corrections – and the Police by complicity – over the hostage drama at Auckland Prison. It was a prisoner-on-prisoner incident without any firearms. The situation was contained, without immediate threat to either prisoners and/or staff. Yet the prison staff felt they had to call in the police to resolve the situation. Halfway through the standoff, news filters out that even MORE police resources are being called up. What were they hoping for? Police helicopters, armed checkpoints at both ends of the Harbour Bridge, personnel carriers etc etc? The prison staff lack “response procedures” to back themselves to go in and sort it out. No confidence. No balls. No initiative. No nothing. Call in the police and — just wait, wait, wait. Shades of the Napier and South Auckland shooting scenarios all over again. With masses of recourses to safeguard a state of stasis and inaction. At the end of it all, Bill ‘n’ Ben (Matthews and Broad) ring, beaming, to congratulate each other on a job well done. Useless.

  13. I also feel quite strongly about the appalling standard of grammar in the media and often get a ribbing for commenting on it because it’s “pedantic”. (Besides, I’m not a native speaker and apparently that makes it even less acceptable to point out such matters).
    But in view of some of the atrocious writing that we are exposed to – the Herald website being a case in point – I suggest that “an hotel” is the least of our worries.
    When a Herald blog includes gems such as “If you’re business isn’t an online business…” along with a host of other crimes against grammar and understanding, I think we’ve all but lost the battle.
    Read it and weep: http://tinyurl.com/ougtvr

    And Brian – re your comment that “common usage is the best guide for broadcasters who shouldn’t be speaking a different language to their audience” … isn’t that what’s getting us in this mess in the first place – sloppy grammar?

    PS – glad to see Outragous Fortune with a bouquet!

    • And Brian – re your comment that “common usage is the best guide for broadcasters who shouldn’t be speaking a different language to their audience” … isn’t that what’s getting us in this mess in the first place – sloppy grammar?

      That’s certainly not what I intended, Sylvie. I was merely suggesting that broadcasters should not use pretentious or overly formal language, not in common use by their listeners or viewers. They should still be grammatical.

  14. “Henry has a much better sense of humour and there’s a real sense of impending debacle when hhe’s on screen”

    Up to the point when a debacle happens, obviously.

    • Up to the point when a debacle happens, obviously.

      Depends on the debacle, I suppose. I didn’t much like the moustache comment. It was gratuitous and hurtful. I’m pretty sure he’d be kept on a much tighter rein at 7pm. For my general view of him, you could look at my post: What’s to be done with Paul?

  15. Mark Sainsbury comes across as a bit too jovial, with his distinct eager-to-please engaging persona. Sort of like a Santa Claus in civvies. Needs to be less “avuncular” and a bit more “go for the jugular”, with his interviewing style. Sporting a beard doesn’t help, either. (It’s not Mark Sainsbury-Day, today, is it?).

  16. I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.

    Sara

  17. First a brick through the window dressing of the mind of P.Henry. Why? Because he comes across as a very capable right-wing prick who has the makings of a first class bully.
    Bouquets? To J.C and B.E. I agree Sara, the couple make a fine and important contribution to the ‘sphere.

  18. After today’s SST’s headline, care to revise your remark “It’s simply a no-brainer that Paul Henry is the man for the job” — for Close up?

    • After today’s SST’s headline, care to revise your remark “It’s simply a no-brainer that Paul Henry is the man for the job” — for Close up?

      No. Henry is merely giving the paper what it wants, playing to his image. When I first started as an interviewer on television, I asked what I considered appropriate questions in an entirely polite and non-interruptive way. Viewers and reviewers started to describe me as “aggressive” while at the same time welcoming this new style of interviewing. So I gave them what they wanted and was soon interviewing even Rolf Harris as if he were a mass murderer. I could show you a whole raft of newspaper profiles of me from those days in which I’m saying the most outrageous things, such as “The only good interview is the one that ends with blood on the studio floor”. Very embarrassing in retrospect.

  19. Ashley,

    re use of “that”. Yes it is impersonal when used inappropriately.

    To quote The Book: “That” is not an exact synonym for “which” and “who”. It is used when the antecedent subject is related to a class, group, or species.

    (e.g.)
    He was the greatest sportsman that I had ever seen.

    Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.

    Thought of the day: Sigh; in a land of plenty it doesn’t hurt to pray for rain.

  20. Close: Agree wholeheartedly .. Henry is a far better (IMO) interviewer than Sainsbury. I recall the interview Henry did with a TransitNZ greyman regarding the bridge occupation in May He was not satisfied with the obsfuspeak being peddled and highlighted what was obvious to any viewer in a way that Sainsbury never seems to. But perhaps Sainsbury’s style is what the TVNZ news directors actually prefer ie gloss, style but no substance.

  21. Can’t decide on a bouquet for Maori TV for its decision to show 10 Conditions of Love or a brickbat for screening a Chinese government documentary immediately afterwards.

    • Can’t decide on a bouquet for Maori TV for its decision to show 10 Conditions of Love or a brickbat …

      A bouquet surely, if only for resisting Chinese bullying.

  22. I agree with your bouquet for Outrageous Fortune, last night’s cameo role by George Henare was an absolute gem.

  23. baz, make that two. I watched some 15 minutes of one programme of Outrageous Fortune in Series One, 5 minutes of another from Series two and on both occasions found other far more productive things to do. It ranks alongside of Coro St and Shortie St as “entertainment”.

    Probably why BE enjoys it, come to that.

    Top tv hour of the week for me is the doco hour on Maori. Unmissable.

    • It ranks alongside of Coro St and Shortie St as “entertainment”. Probably why BE enjoys it, come to that.

      Now that’s just plain rude, Probligo. And you’re starting to sound rather elitist. I’m also a fan of Maori TV and an avid watcher of documentaries. But sometimes you want a hamburger as a change from meat and two veg. Outrageous Fortune is well made escapist entertainment. And, for your information, if we didn’t have soaps, we wouldn’t have serious drama either. Soaps, from Close to Home to Shortland Street have been the training ground for our actors, directors, producers etc. Soap provides the essential base of the drama triangle.

  24. I also commend MaoriTV for showing the China Government film after the Uighur doco. NOT because I have any support or affiliation for the Chinese government; quite the opposite.

    By showing the “press release” (about the most polite and desriptive appelation I can find) anyone watching it should be able to see through the propaganda to the underlying truths. If they can not, then that shows the importance of broadcasting this and similar propaganda releases.

    Why? Simply so that we all can learn to recognise government propaganda when it appears on our screens. Whether it is government sponsored “analysis” of riots in China, or police action against Te Urewera in this country, we the general public must be able to recognise what we are being told for what it is.

    The structure, the language, the false and broken logic are all typical.

    We must learn.

  25. “Outrageous Fortune is well made escapist entertainment.”

    …for those who need the escape in that form. I read a book, have hobbies… Is that being elitist? Or is it simply a different way of spending an evening.

    “Soaps, … have been the training ground for our actors, directors, producers etc. Soap provides the essential base of the drama triangle.”

    Time was when people used to go to their local theatres, the local repertory… as audience or as players.

    BE, I don’t think it is elitist to take part, to do anything for the pure love of taking part. And you can learn one heck of a lot doing it as well.

    Spending an evening sitting in the lounge watching moving wallpaper…

    • “Outrageous Fortune is well made escapist entertainment.”

      My wife, a professional dramatist and television scriptwriter, tells me there was almost no professional theatre in New Zealand before television. Our best theatre people went overseas. Professional theatre is now in good health here and there is a lot of cross-fertilisation with television.

      Me speaking now: The elitism does not lie in your preference for reading and hobbies. Nothing wrong with that. It lies in your dismissing other forms of entertainment and other tastes as somehow inferior.

  26. And your wife is right. There were the likes of local dramatic societies and repertory, where anyone including local joes like myself could have their chance of learning the crafts of the stage. Well, in my case more a making an ass of himself. But there were the opportunities behind the stage as well.

    As for ” …dismissing other forms of entertainment and other tastes as somehow inferior.” I see only the difference in taste.

    That seems something that you are unable to accept. It seems that dissent from the Edwards’ approval is not to be accepted.

    Well, I’m off to my monthly meeting of the Luddites.

    Ka kite, Brian.

    • And your wife is right.

      I often wonder if people read what I write. That these things are all matters of taste is precisely my point. Cheers anyway.