Brian Edwards Media

The Canterbury Earthquake – A Bouquet and (Oh Dear!) a Brickbat


Herald/Simon Baker

A bouquet to the New Zealand Media – television, radio, the press – who have done such a superb job in bringing us coverage of the Canterbury earthquake and its aftermath. Informative, responsible, humane and never sensationalised.

And a brickbat – well, you might have guessed it – to Paul Henry.  Judy and I are speaking at a conference in Queenstown. We rarely watch breakfast television on any channel, but today we caught Paul Henry talking to Christchurch mayor Bob Parker. This, it turned out, was a case of the gracious meeting the crass. 

Parker’s concern is the human plight of the people he represents. Henry wants to know what will happen to those people who have not been ‘responsible’ enough to have insured their properties. The tone of the question quite clearly suggests that such people are undeserving of support. Parker replies to the effect that this is a community which will help everyone who has suffered. It’s not a matter of money.

Henry than wants to know whether Parker has been doing ‘a Rudy Giuliani’, whether he thinks this will improve his chances of retaining the mayoraly against Jim Anderton. Parker quite proplerly dismisses the question as inappropriate. But Henry can’t leave it alone. He tells Parker that he’s sounding like Giuliani [after the bombing of the World Trade Centre].

It’s hard to find anything strong enough to say about the crassness of wanting to talk about whether uninsured people deserve to be helped or a public figure’s chances of re-election have been improved two days after an earthquake when you’re standing in the middle of a devastated city.

My god, Paul, what else have you got in your compendium of horrors?

, ,


  1. Because the “Major NZ city devestated by natural disaster” angle isn’t exciting enough, eh Paul?

  2. Paul wasn’t the first in the media to mention either, and probably not first to put either to Parker. While his tone on the insurance issue may have been insensitive, it is a serious issue. And people in the media have been making the Guliani comment since mid-Saturday, it’s hard to ignore.

    Instead, why not look into the bogus, and widely reported, “Jim Anderton said it would take a earthquake to lose to Parker” story.

    • Paul wasn’t the first in the media to mention either, and probably not first to put either to Parker.

      The issue here was quite simply an issue of appropriateness. This was an utterly inappropriate occasion on which to ask these questions.

  3. agree- concerning the interview with bob parker,he was a block, an impediment, an insensitive amateur. he was obviously in his pretend tv bubble and not the real world.

  4. Henry is paid to be provocative, so has been given a long leash. However he seems to has lost perspective here, and imagines, once again that the interview is about him and his persona, rather than the subject and the context.


  5. Another reason he must go!How many will it take?

  6. i like him in the studio generally as i get a flick of the tv on the way out to work because he entertains(for me anyway) as it is a variety show, isn’t it? but he’s not the righ personality to do the serious interviews and i don’t think he’s retrainable.

  7. Informative, responsible, humane and never sensationalised.

    I assume you missed the Herald on Sunday. Just because it’s in a tabloid format, but the front page was a disgrace. Irresponsible, hyperbolic and the exaggeration of “looting” in Christchurch was a flat out lie.

  8. The words ‘widespread looting’ were used ok Sky coverage. Made me cringe.

  9. I feel honour-bound to say I’m not bagging the HoS reporters were in Christchurch. Don’t know if I’d have the presence of mind to be on the job, rather than looking after my own home and loved ones.

    But they didn’t decide to go with the frankly appalling front page (the kind of tabloid disaster porn that would do The Sun proud) or the offensively stupid editorial (

    Government ministers Gerry Brownlee and John Carter finally turned up at the Beehive at 8.30am – four hours after the quake. Carter, the civil defence minister, said he had not yet spoken to the Prime Minister.

    It could have been an episode of Dad’s Army. We’re going to have a conference call, said Carter. “Don’t panic.”

    By the time the Government finally put John Key on an Airforce plane to Christchurch yesterday afternoon, any chance of demonstrating real, unifying leadership was gone.

    Yesterday, the authorities didn’t lead – they followed.

    On Saturday morning, John Carter didn’t have a Star Trek style teleport machine to beam him from Northland to Wellington. Flying the Prime Minister into Christchurch wasn’t the number one civil defence priority. And the media strategy wasn’t upmost in anyone’s minds — people’s lives were, and trying to get the response right rather than doing it right was what mattered.

    So what was the Herald’s excuse?

  10. 10

    Paul Henry must be thinking you’re waging a hate campaign against him. You always seem to be on his case.

    • Paul Henry must be thinking you’re waging a hate campaign against him. You always seem to be on his case.

      No hate campaign. But I am certainly ‘on his case’. He invites it.

  11. Damn – “trying to get the response right rather than doing it RIGHT NOW was what mattered.”

    I’d also like to hand out a brickbat for this bizarre blog post from Dom-Post political editor Tracey Watkins:

    Yet the extent of the government response yesterday – outside of the meeting between officials in the Beehive bunker – was press releases from Agriculture Minister David Carter, Civil Defence Minister John Carter and Social Development Minister Paula Bennett, though John Key did eventually respond to Fairfax questions late yesterday evening.

    So, apparently Watkins is trashing the Government because they didn’t have a detailed, long-term response signed, sealed and approved by Cabinet inside of thirty six hours? Or was the real issue that the Government wasn’t viewing keeping the Press Gallery primed with copy as it’s major responsibility?

  12. I wonder if your quite justified distaste for Henry might be occluding the possibility that his Parker = Giuliani comments were yet another of his remarkable attempts at humour. The original Giuliani reference came earlier from Bob Harvey on the Q+A show, and I don’t think it was meant to be particularly complimentary. Being the clever wit that he is (who can forget the “retard” and the “moustache” one-liners?), Henry may have simply tried to be funny. Henry is, after all, closely aligned to those National Ltd™ comedians who like to crack wise – remember how we all rolled in the aisles with John Key’s “Tuhoe are cannibals” and, just last week, Maurice Williamson had us in stitches with his “New Zealanders are all racists” routine. White, middle-aged male humour – goes down a treat in the provinces I’m told.

  13. It is reported that Anderton on Friday said that the only thing that could stop his being elected as mayor would be an earthquake. Nature duly obliged. Parker appears to have done a great job (as has John Key) and will probably be re-elected because of this. Henry as usual articulated what many were already thinking, including Anderton i would imagine.

    The matter of lack of insurance is interesting. If my house burns down and I am not insured I am on my own; the is no Mayoral fund to compensate me for my lack of foresight.

    However because it is a wider event receiving national coverage I can expect the taxpayer and donors to rebuild my house for me.

    Yes, those who were uninsured should be helped. But they should also be required to repay at least some of the money in the form of a charge on the property. As regards TVs, computers, play stations, etc, if they are damaged but uninsured, tough. Again Henry articulates what many are thinking.

    Whether you like it or not Henry serves a useful purpose. While the rest of the media pussyfoots around terrified that they might upset you or others with an inappropriate question, Henry sparks some debate.

    As regards the media coverage in general it was certainly comprehensive but it consisted of the usual cliched shroud waving rarely rising above the “what are you feeling” type of questioning.

    • Henry as usual articulated what many were already thinking, including Anderton i would imagine.

      Possibly, but there’s a time and a place. The issue here is one of appropriateness. When I was a young, callow reporter, I asked Norman Kirk on the day of the Wahine disaster who he thought was to blame and whether heads should roll. Appalling and totally inapporpriate in the midst of this terrible disaster. I had at least the excuse of being young and callow. Henry does not.

  14. Perhaps earthquake insurance requires some debate but the appropriate time is not when people have suffered catastrophic damage to property and only somewhat fortuitous timing has prevented loss of life.Henry is a square peg in a round hole.Send him to Seven Days where inappropriate humour is a way of life.

  15. I too think the HoS was appalling in its coverage – Doomsday is such an overplay – but I our readiness to criticise all media so readily I’d like to take a leaf out of BE’s book and send a bouquet to the Sunday Star-Times. BE himself regularly gives them a hard time but I thought their coverage of the quake was amazing. Lots of coverage, graphics, pics and more importantly, the right tone.

  16. Brian I told you this guy is a poisonous dwarf

  17. I think this singling out of Paul Henry is showing signs of a vendetta, the Giuliana comparison and the issue of the uninsured were mentioned by several others. Even the PM described reimbursing the uninsured as a “moral hazard” on Saturday, not that I agree with him.

    I thought a few of the TV reporters on the spot in Christchurch seemed to be in a state of near panic and should have been pulled off the air until they could calm down, and several others played up the drama and looting excessively.

    I get the Herald on Sunday delivered – when I saw the huge “Doomsday” headline I nearly went straight to the phone to cancel my subscription.

    • I think this singling out of Paul Henry is showing signs of a vendetta

      I’ve no idea why I would want to conduct a vendetta against Paul. I’ve actutally written favourably about him on this site in the past. The issue here was simply the inappropriateness of his questions at the time. This is not to say that the question of what will happen to people with no house insurance or the effect of the disaster on Parker’s chances of retaining the mayoralty are not legitimate. They are. But not then and there.

  18. And today, even worse: a gun is an essential item in a disaster survival kit – repeated several times. Fortunately the Avonside earthquake survivors standing with Tamati (who naively joined in on the “joke”) couldn’t hear Henry.

  19. Ben – In case you dont know already…Jim Anderston said nothing of the sort….yet another right wing beat up….nice to see that a disaster like the earthquake doesnt stop the right from trying to score cheap political points with their lies!

  20. “Brian I told you this guy is a poisonous dwarf”

    What, because he put into words what a large section of the population is already thinking, and what the mainstream media is too terrified to say?

    As Steve commments in his more rational response others have also raised the issue of lack of insurance and made the Guliani comparison.

    Stop being so bloody delicate and precious.

    On another matter did anyone hear John Carter on Saturday morning say that “this is a significant disaster”? What is an ‘insignificant disaster’?

  21. “Ben – In case you dont know already…Jim Anderston said nothing of the sort….yet another right wing beat up”

    Kerry, you are off your head. Left/right has nothing to do with it; I was merely commenting on a news report I had heard. If he did not say that, fine. You are the one who choses to put a political slant on the event.

  22. Kerry, I am told, although I have not seen it, that there is a You Tube clip of his saying this in an interview with CTV. Please check it out and tell me what the truth is.

  23. The remarks allegedly made by Anderton were taken out of context then sliced into a video and uploaded to YouTube by none other than Blubber Boy from Whale Oil . . . and then repeated across the media by Hooten, Farrar et al.

    For the real story behind the earthquake, you’d be best to check this site out.

  24. What is an ‘insignificant’ disaster?

    Any comment from you, Ben.

  25. My god, Paul, what else have you got in your compendium of horrors?

    A question I fear will be answered all too soon.

    As for the media (TVNZ, Radio NZ, Granny herald)beating up the false story put out by Cameron Slater as news, when are the media’s public apologies to Jim Anderton going to turn up?

  26. Paul Henry is provocative all right – he’s provoked me into not listening to or watching any programme he is associated with.

    I doubt the loss is mine.

  27. @Sean: With all due disrespect, I was more offended by Christchurch Police feeling the need to tell the media to STFU about “widespread looting” that just wasn’t happening. This was being picked up and repeated overseas, so it did matter.

  28. What Jim Anderton actually said is a minute or so into the video here from CTV

    Cheers all!

  29. I’m afraid that when we make comment about Henry’s actions it does exactly what he (and by proxy TVNZ) wants – gives attention to him. We should treat him as you would a child throwing a tantrum in the supermarket, ignore him and perhaps he will go away. I really wonder what TVNZ are thinking and I for one voted with my remote a long time ago.

  30. Anderton’s alleged “earthquake” quote was a complete fabrication, courtesy of a right-wing blogger and some laughably ham-fisted editing. As dirty tricks go, it’s up there with Nixon’s bungling plumbers.

    So naturally, it was widely reported, and is now accepted as gospel. Turns out you can fool a lot of the people a lot of the time.

  31. I agree Craig, the attempt at the ‘looting’ story was dreadful. It was seemingly the media reporting a story it would liked to have reported, because it was more exciting than the headline “Large earthquake: no fatalities, everyone being rather adult about it all”.

    My concern about the Slater youtube clip is it indicates that more than one media outlet is accepting a story unquestioned from an online source (Whale Oil?) without checking the quality of the information, or seeking an independent confirmation. That isn’t professional.

  32. without checking the quality of the information, or seeking an independent confirmation

    Just another example showing that credibility doesn’t depend on who you are any more, but on whether what you say fits my agenda.

  33. “Brian I told you this guy is a poisonous dwarf”

    What, because he put into words what a large section of the population is already thinking, and what the mainstream media is too terrified to say?

    As Steve commments in his more rational response others have also raised the issue of lack of insurance and made the Guliani comparison.

    Stop being so bloody delicate and precious.

    Ben my 4 year old daughter does the same thing when she sees a woman with a moustache. Or an Indian gent wearing a turban. “Is that man a genie dad?”
    I dont think its clever or witty from a guy who is a presenter on the state broadcaster and I dont buy the “hes just saying what everyone is to polite to say” bollocks either

  34. Ben, in an interview on the day before the earhtquake about the Chch mayoralty on CTV, Jim Anderton did make mention of a ‘seismic shift’ but he was referring to something earlier in his career (cant remember exactly what it was.) It wasnt a comment directly linked to the current mayoral race, although plenty of people have tried to make the link.

    As for Mr P Henry, his comments about criminals and the uninsured certainly leave alot to be desired, but I guess he is playing to his base ie. the lowest common denominator.

  35. Regarding the Anderton interview on CTV, Russell Brown (Hardnews) furnishes the relevant quote:

    “It would have taken a pretty earthquake, seismic shift to get me to move from the Labour Party. And the seismic shift was Rogernomics.”

  36. On Campbell Live tonight Parker was asked about how his visibilty would affect his mayoral campaign. Parker again brushed the question aside. I assume John Campbell is also crass for raising the matter.

    On the matter of those who were uninsured Mr Brownlee has been quoted as saying that only those who can show ‘genuine hardship’ would get government support. Presumably Mr Brownlee was crass in saying that.

    Paul Henry just asked the questions before anyone else got the chance and they were quite legitimate questions even if they did get under the skin of of the more squeamish amongst you.

  37. Which is always the excuse, Ben, that journalists use to justify asking the most inane and insulting questions. Just because Joe Blow down the road wants a particular question answered does that mean our journalists have to ask the same? Personally, I would rather that the media exercise a little bit of discretion and try to elevate the discussion to a level that is informed and intelligent. Less knee-jerk pub-talk and more probing and insightful.

  38. Quite frankly, I’d like to see all of these egoistical and/or over-groomed males close their mouths and roll up their sleeves.

  39. In that case Greg let’s get rid of journalists altogether because that is what everyone of them does; ask the questions that ‘Joe Blow down the road’ wants answered. Some of the Joe Blow questions are less invasive than others but that is the purpose of reporting events like this to inform and ask questions, and yes, ask questions that make people uncomfortable.

    On the matter of insurance or lack of it this is an issue that does need to be debated. It arises time and time again when there is a wide scale natural disaster. It has to be asked why those who do not bother to insure, and incidentally do not contribute to the Fire Service Levy or EQC should get a free ride when disaster strikes. If that offends a few sensibilties that’s tough. I suspect that the main reason for this outrage is solely because it was Paul Henry who asked the question. Had it been one of oour more sobeer commentators that matter would have passed unnoticed.

  40. I agree Little Toot.Im prepared to forgive Paul Henry as long as he gets behind a shovel for a few days.

  41. I-predict betting site says Parker has shifted from about 15% likelihood of being Mayor to 50%.
    Under the Parker regime all inner city will be banned to cars and replaced with stainless steel blocks for poor people, Henderson facades underneath, OMG Brian Edwards loves you Bob,

  42. Here’s a question for the squeamish:

    Who are the mystery foreign investors in SCF for whom John Key broke the rules to accommodate in the bailout, when did they get involved with the company, how much was paid out, and how does their moral hazard equate to the citizens of Christchurch?

  43. donald trump, queen elizabeth and paris hilton?
    i feel particularly squeamish when you mention paris hilton.
    what’s this got to do with paul henry? he’s on telly now. better go.

  44. Well, if Henry is going to ask the questions others are too afraid to broach, he could at least ask the important questions rather than tie Parker into some inappropriate comparison with a failed celeb.

  45. The insurance question…? Bang on.This taxpayer wants an answer to that and good on Henery for asking it.Thats his job.

    The Gulliani question…? Maybe not at that time but a fair enough comparison in the NZ context.People were making that comparasion so fair enough to raise it.

    Boy do the Left hate anyone who stands apart…socialism must crush all individuality.

  46. Recently a friends house burnt down(accidental).He had no insurance.The community immediately rallied with assistance.People with or without insurance should be assisted .This doesnt mean rebuild their house but it should allow them to continue with their lives.Its not only the left that finds Paul Henry’s comments unacceptable at times ,its anyone with a sense of fairplay.If helping people in a natural disaster is wrong perhaps the taxpayer should reconsider its aid to canterbury finance.600,000,000 has to be in someones pocket.It doesnt just dissapear.

  47. If folks are too stingy to pay property insurance to indemnify themselves against damage and loss from the wrath of the Lord, then let them wear the loss themselves. It’s not up to the Government to play benefactor. The question asked by said gentleman was pertinent.

  48. “Recently a friends house burnt down(accidental).He had no insurance.The community immediately rallied with assistance.People with or without insurance should be assisted.”

    Assisted…by whom,by what obligation imposed by what right? By benevolant voluntary action as see in your example?….or by state taxation (theft)and force via the welfare state?

    Rushing to help is what people do in situations like that.. it comes from the benevolant, rational self-interest of the human individual.People don’t actually need a gun held to their heads to assist their fellow man.

    Socialism poisons human relationships by making it a dog eat dog society where one persons gain comes at someomes elses expense making that person a threat to ones life and wellbeing..Thats the result of tax and spend redistribution policies.

    Capitalism works in exactly the reverse way…people trade values for mutral gain…otherwise the trade would not takes place.

  49. What a black and white world some people live in … when we supply foreign aid to drought/flood/tsunami/fire ravaged communities these people rail that “charity should begin at at home”, then when someone who is probably unable to afford insurance in the short term loses ‘the gamble’ and the structural integrity of their home, a rabble of punitive bigots rise up to wish them more suffering.
    Stingy? Captalist vs. Socialist? Try common decency and compassion … although I suppose sociopaths may be excused for their missing gene in denying the existence of altruism and social responsiblity as mutually beneficial responses for evolved social cohesion.
    However, I do feel for the inherent social poverty revealed by these critics … while remembering that ‘there but by the Grace of the Goddess go I’. Alas, apart from a highly punitive upbringing being redressed in adulthood by projecting ill-will, one may perhaps explain this phenomena as either a self-serving narcissistic impulse or a paucity of imagination/life experience that they just cannot possibility imagine the ‘uninsured’ as anything but seedy malingerers trying to rip off the taxpayer. Our response is part of the social contract that forms civilization and community. Paul Henry appears to have exercised an anti-social siren call to the like minded.

  50. neither Capitalism or Socialism can be used as excuses for a lack of humanity in society.Taxes ,welfare, etc can be used to further our sense of humanity.Little Toot you took the words right out of my mouth.