Brian Edwards Media

The producer of Campbell Live responds to my criticism of its interview with Alasdair Thompson and I reply.

Pip Keane, Producer of Campbell Live, writes:

I produce Campbell Live and I would argue,  Brian, that we were being honest. Yesterday was a huge day for Christchurch and after the good work we have done there for the past two weeks (I would argue a combination of our caravan of complaint, compelling stories consistently night after night and John’s interviews over the past fortnight put some pressure on the Government to bring yesterday’s zoning decision forward.)

On a day that meant so much not just for Christchurch but for the rest of the country too, we’re hardly going to run a 27 minute interview with Alasdair Thompson. In fact, if we had you would probably have written a column about it! We had to choose the best part to put to air. That’s our job. When John does an interview with someone in the field, e.g. John Key on budget day, he might speak to him for 20 minutes. We don’t put the whole interview to air. We put the best bits to air. I had four spare minutes yesterday and now the whole interview is on the internet for people to watch, judge and draw their own conclusion. That’s what good journalism is all about (I think you taught me that during my journalism course?)

If it wasn’t on the internet, you wouldn’t have seen it. You wouldn’t have known what else Alasdair said or the context of the interview so to say we are dishonest I would argue is wrong. What didn’t go to air in the TVNZ interview? Would you have watched the first four minutes of Alasdair speaking with Mihi? The middle four minutes? The last four minutes? It was pure coincidence that he was interviewed by two TV3 female reporters. I asked Mihi to ring Alasdair and she did. She then went down to his office for an interview. At this point he had already done two other interviews. He had every opportunity to tell her to go away but he didn’t and instead spoke with her for 27 minutes. At no point did he ask for the camera to be turned off or the interview to be stopped.

Re the poll. The story had been around all day. John promoted the poll at the top of the show but people didn’t see Mihi’s interview until the last segment of the show. People were voting on what they had seen and heard all day and in the news. They must have been because 80 per cent of our votes were in by the time the story went to air. Others rolled in after the show and after the interview but were not included in the result that went to air. Interestingly, the percentages didn’t change.

I Reply:

Thanks for your response to my criticism of the Campbell Live item on Alasdair Thompson. I had not intended to reply to any more comments, since a majority seemed to be about Thompson’s opinions, which I had said in the post I disagreed with and which were not intended to be the subject of discussion.  

However, it was an episode of your programme which I attacked and you quite clearly deserve a response.

I should perhaps begin by saying that Judy and I have had numerous discussions recently about Campbell Live. We have been struck by the manner in which the programme has increasingly taken on the role of crusader on behalf of the dispossessed and of those unfairly treated by large institutions, including the Government. The “caravans of complaint”, to which you refer in your comment, are a very good example. I also said in the post that I regarded Campbell Live as “superior in almost every way” to its competitor on TV One and that I really liked Mihingarangi.

But the item on Alasdair Thompson was not in that category. It was, in my opinion, unworthy of you, and I do not resile from the judgement that it was unprofessional, unfair and (if not by deliberate design, then certainly through lack of judgement) journalistically dishonest.

Your response to my criticism of the programme is essentially based on television production values  rather than on journalistic ethics. What it comes down to  is that you didn’t have time to be fair – it was a heavy  news day, Christchurch was the big story and you only had four minutes to spare for Mr Thompson.

A similar appeal to television production values as justification for unfairness was advanced by Fair Go a year or so back when it  put the photographs of people who refused to front in the studio up on its ‘wall of shame’, even though several of those people  had completely put right any wrong they had done the complainant. The rationale for this was essentially that having the complainees in the studio made better television.  

The journalistic ethics question in this case is: could you do justice to Thompson’s argument and demeanour in the original, unedited, 27-minute interview with a 4-minute clip from the end of the interview during which Thompson loses his composure? Was that fair?

Your argument is, I didn’t have time to play the full interview, I only had time to play four minutes and so “we put the best bits to air”. The obvious next question is, “Why, in your judgement, were they ‘the best bits’?” I’m happy for you to respond to that question in a further comment. But I’m pretty sure I know the answer already: They were “the best bits” because the interviewee lost his cool, stormed off, came back, stood very  close to the interviewer – he’s taller and bigger than her – argued with her and accused her of telling lies. You might not have liked Thompson, but for 22 minutes he had been reasonable and calm and maybe a bit boring, and then suddenly there it was, the core ingredient in audience-pleasing current-affairs television: CONFLICT! 

Not quite Dennis Conner perhaps, but close. Careers have been made on episodes like this.

With regard to the poll, you suggest that viewers would have been largely uninfluenced by the four-minute clip since “people didn’t see the Mihi interview until the last segment of the show. People were voting on what they had seen and heard all day and in the news.”

You’re correct that many viewers would have been unsympathetic to Thompson as a result of the media publicity which his comments had received during the day. But you’re not entirely correct in your assertion that “people didn’t see the Mihi interview until the last segment of the show.” They did. Not the whole interview of course, but the bit that really mattered, the “really best bit” if you like: Thompson losing his cool, storming back, standing face to face with Mihi, arguing with her.  That short but oh-so-vital clip was shown right at the beginning of your programme, on the first of four occasions on which the poll was promo-ed during the show.

You place considerable emphasis in your reply on the fact that the interview could be seen in its entirely on the TV3 website. But this was not mentioned anywhere in the programme. Nor is it in fact particularly relevant. The Broadcasting Act requires broadcasters to provide balance on any particular issue either within a single  programme or over a series of programmes. It makes no reference to other media. The reason for this seems to me simple: the viewer or listener should not be expected to look for balance beyond  the programme itself; the number of those who do will be considerably smaller than the audience for the original programme; and the impact of any clarification will be considerably less than the impact of the original live programme. Something to do perhaps with first impressions.

Finally you say that “at no point did he ask for the camera to be turned off or the interview to be stopped”. I’m afraid I can’t agree.

There’s one very interesting aspect to all of this. In a live radio interview Thompson made a single remark that brought the world down on his head. He then agreed to two television interviews, and possibly other media interviews which I’m not aware of, in which he attempted to explain and contextualise what he had said. This had the opposite effect of increasing the outcry against him.

Though I did not agree with what Thompson had said, it was my view that he had been unfairly dealt with in one of these interviews – your interview on Campbell Live. My objection was to the way the interview had been edited which I considered dishonest. I said so. Almost no-one agreed with me and I came in for some heavy flak.

At that point pretty well everyone was on your side. That was until you decided to comment yourself. This was because, within your quite lengthy comment, there was one short sentence that you may now regret having written: “We put the best bits to air.” That single comment was enough to turn the tide against you. (Andi Brotherston may have experienced something similar when she opined that, in his interviews, Paul Henry was often just saying what most people thought.)

Over the last few years I’ve become very aware of an increasingly prevalent media phenomenon. A single unscripted comment,  often made during a media interview, frequently taken out of context and, in some cases at least, out of keeping with the speaker’s personal history or known views, can lead to calls for that person’s immediate dismissal or resignation from his or her job, with the resultant trauma and suffering that that will incur for the person and their family.  Every apology is dismissed as worthless and every explanation merely serves to provide further ammunition for the accusers. This is the mentality of the lynch mob.

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78 Comments:

  1. BE:”A single unscripted comment, often made during a media interview, frequently taken out of context and, in some cases at least, out of keeping with the speaker’s personal history or known views, can lead to calls for that person’s immediate dismissal or resignation from his or her job….”
    Except for Mr Key.

  2. The producer of ‘Campbell Live’ is falling into the same trap set for Thompson…the more you dig trying to explain yourself the deeper the hole becomes. As Mark Twain said ‘Better to close your mouth and be thought a fool than open it and remove all doubt’.

  3. I agree with BE that the lynch mob mentality is deeply unedifying. I detest the sensationalism Ms Keane and her peers imagine to be the “best bits”. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if they played it straight, and made a real attempt to present the issues dispassionately without trying to manipulate the feelings of the audience. I suppose that would be old school journalism.

    From the “strange bedfellows” department, Karl du Fresne at http://www.karldufresne.blogspot.com/ has essentially the same take on TV3’s performance as BE.

  4. Edwards: “…the viewer or listener should not be expected to look for balance beyond the programme itself; ….”

    Yes, yes, and yes.

  5. Well done Pip, please continue to bring us the best bits, which in this case might just contribute in a tiny way to the exposure and ultimate demise of blatant, arrogant bullying. Dinosaurs are old news; you quite correctly identified the real story and edited accordingly.

    And continue too, to spare us such pathetic waffle and bullying-by-bone-boring-browbeat as comprised the balance of the interview – and which is now being used against you.
    Keep up the good work,
    tootle pip.

  6. By deduction then the most productive section of the workforce are gay men Alasdair.

  7. When a subject behaves in a way in an interview that gives
    Iie to the message he is seeking to convey, of course you show that.

    Thompson’s behaviour was extraordinary. Any producer who did not recognise that as the story would be devoid of news sense.

  8. I would have thought the one thing the 27 mins of footage did show was that this wasn’t a one off comment from Alasdair Thompson, everything the man said demonstrated he believed he was justified in his opinions.

    He apologised for saying what he said on radio and then continued to say the same thing in more detail on TV. He was smarmy, overbearing and patronising to the reporter. Forbes didn’t have to do much during the interview because the man didn’t know when to close his mouth. Towards the end Forbes got angry, and I acknowledge some will think this inappropriate, but in the context of the full interview I can understand why.

  9. ah meg- so forbes got angry, did she? then they both got personal and both were unprofessional.

  10. Finally you say that “at no point did he ask for the camera to be turned off or the interview to be stopped”. I’m afraid I can’t agree.

    and again, i’ll reiterate what i said on the last post: he clearly asked to go back on air 1 minute & 45 seconds after he asked to go off air, and the 4 minute clip was after he asked to go back on. so whether or not you agree, it’s irrelevant. especially when he repeated exactly the same points on air which he had made off air.

    i also agree that his meltdown was entirely newsworthy, especially when it gave the lie to his claim that he was prepared to answer all questions, even the difficult one.

    pip’s job is danger? hardly. she aired the part of the clip that should have been aired. i completely agree with ak: this man revealed his true nature without provocation, and the public had a right to see it.

  11. “We had to choose the best part to put to air”. Unfortunately, this included (among other unprofessional passages) the part where Forbes misrepresented what Thompson had said earlier in the interview, personalised it so as to create the impression that it was a personal attack, and which (in my view, possibly justifiably) led Thompson to stand up and begin to leave the interview in disgust. Forbes did lie, whether consciously or unconsciously.

    These were the `best bits’ in terms of drama. They were the worst bits in terms of conveying the overall tenor of the subject matter of the interviews, and of journalistic professionalism.

  12. 12

    Born-Again Heretic

    Other than when Alasdair approached Forbes as if he were going to devour her, he seems to have been given the raw prawn.

  13. “Best bits to air”? This is appalling, since when does editing not run to representing the entire view of the interviewee in a concise fashion? Do i need to now advise my clients to ask how long the interview is and only respond for that length of time for fear of having only a subjective “best bit” going to air?

  14. Just a doggone minute.
    Brian, you know how the emdia works. Whether you like it or not you are and have been part of that shadowy beast for decades. usually on the side of the angels, but even so…
    Second: neither you nor Judy are wet behind the ears, or naive enough to assume TV “news” is about news.
    You guys would be the first to repeat the ancient tenet: NEVER assume a camera is off, or that a comment can be made to any media, anywhere, on the basis of it being off the record.
    By contrast, AT took careful aim and shot himself in both feet.
    It’s CE syndrome: these guys assume they are bigger than the media (typical symptom: declining media training, a topic close to your heart I know) and they don’t discern when they transition between advocating the position of their organisation and their own views.
    Last: whether he stands down, gets fired or stays on to drag EMA down with him, I am very sure the EMA does NOT share AT’s vagina phobia.

  15. I recall an episode where a hatchet job was done on Bridget Saunders a couple of years ago (she thought the camera was off but it was rolling and Close Up used the non-interview footage to make her look nutso). IIRC Media7 did a segment on it.

  16. I recall an episode where a hatchet job was done on Bridget Saunders a couple of years ago (she thought the camera was off but it was rolling and Close Up used the non-interview footage to make her look nutso). IIRC Media7 did a segment on it.

    I interviewed her about it, yup. The first question was along the lines of “what were you thinking?”. But the two incidents still aren’t really comparable. The Close Up track was mean-spirited and really just set out to make Saunders look silly.

    In the Thompson interview, his conduct WAS the story. And I’m still struggling to understand how Brian could think that was the fault of anyone else but Alasdair Thompson himself.

  17. Pip Keane mentions a poll. Those polls have little to no statistical value. They are simply a means to make money for TV channels.

  18. Brian, you wrote “Your argument is, I didn’t have time to play the full interview, I only had time to play four minutes and so “we put the best bits to air”. The obvious next question is, “Why, in your judgement, were they ‘the best bits’?” ”

    Isn’t that what all of TV news in this country based on? The best bit, the sound bite. You work in media so I guess you are deliberately pretending not to understand that.

  19. Not sure that it is relevant but it may be that AT has shot himself in another foot or two according to the Herald.
    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10734588

  20. 20

    Born-Again Heretic

    “Pip Keane mentions a poll. Those polls have little to no statistical value. They are simply a means to make money for TV channel”

    The poster has a point: a NZ Herald poll was split almost 50/50 as to whether the repondents felt that Alasdair should resign.

  21. As someone who is also a part of the ‘shadowy beast’, I find it amusing when I come here and read so many commenters moaning about witch hunts and lynch mobs. This is a ratings driven industry – people watch witch hunts and lynch mobs. If you don’t like them, stop watching them and encourage your friends to stop watching them too. Shows like Campbell Live, Close Up, the news, Fair Go, Target etc. decide to show the most COMPELLING parts of the interview (I believe that is what Pip meant by ‘best bits’) because that is what people watch. When people watch, advertisers pay.
    If viewers would watch nice, cutesy, friendly, let’s-all-have-our-say-and-then-shake-hands material then things would be different.
    Meanwhile, where would be a fantastic place for material that isn’t just part of a drive for ratings? On a public broadcaster. Oh, but that’s right. Our government is working its hardest to ensure that we don’t have one of those. I wish people would spend more of their time worrying about that.

  22. Russell said “Thompson’s behaviour was extraordinary”.

    Don’t you mean extraordinarily honest and accurate? He explained what was behind the gender gap but, alas, viewers were denied the opportunity to hear what he had to say. He explained that women were “mostly more productive” than men but, again, viewers were denied the opportunity to hear that. What viewers did see and hear was Mihi Forbes say, falsely, that Thompson thought she was less productive than men. Clearly, Russell, you support dishonest journalism.

  23. Mike, you know exactly what the reference to “best bits” means. It means the chaff, not the wheat. You might be unaware but we have a broadcasting code of conduct in this country. TV shows are required to be balanced and fair, not to mention accurate. Pip Keane’s production was none of these.

  24. Mark Baker said: “I am very sure the EMA does NOT share AT’s vagina phobia.”

    Wow, Mark, where did that come from? Clearly, Mr Thompson’s comments have touched a raw nerve. The fact that they’re correct possibly you irks so much. Women earn less than men. They take more sick leave. Menstruation is a serious issue for some women. These and other factors influence the gender pay gap, but you don’t seem the least bit interested.

  25. Ianmac, I read that piece in the Herald [On Line] and certainly thought – in blog parlance – WTF? That is in my mind fairly serious stuff – totally pathetic on the part of AT to even go down that path.

  26. Where are all these ‘sick’ women? After nearly 30 years in the workforce, working with a number of women, I have not come across any who took more than a minimal amount of sick leave.

  27. I admit AT and the EMA are not to my liking. The broadcast interview didnt capture his entire position .He appears to contradict himself with his productivity veiws.He admits to being aware of the editing and cutting of interviews.He appears to be in control of the interview. I dont think my opinion of him and his views would change dependant of which edit I watched .I think
    Mihingarangi provided us with an opportunity to further consider the matter.

  28. 28

    The question in my mind is not whether or not Alastair Thompson is a dinosaur but whether I need TV3 (or anyone else) to tell me that this is so or whether I should be provided with the evidence to work it out for myself. I’ve looked at the material at issue here and I’ve to say that it all adds to Cretaceous behaviour, but I’m damned if I want any media to predigest all of this for me.
    In this case the argument doesn’t seem too difficult to work out, but that is not always true and I’d like some confidence that I’m seeing a nominally objective interview albeit edited.
    So of course the clip should have some of the ‘best bits’ but how about some of the rest of the interview. Wouldn’t that have made a better story anyway?

  29. It just doesn’t help AT’s case that in the interview, he had the ogre-ish charm of an angry Shrek advancing on the helpless princess.

  30. I understand what Pip is saying with the ‘best bits’ comment, even if it wasn’t phrased quite the right way.

    You have to remember Mihi wasn’t interviewing a blank canvas. It was a man trying to defend comments he had made on the basis of either anecdotal evidence or no evidence at all. In that environment, of course he’s going to try to placate people and say things that contradict the growing view he is a sexist dinosaur. The ‘best bit’ about the interview is that he couldn’t even do that without resorting first to intimidation and overbearing control tactics and then to an outright tantrum when confronted with his most controversial comments.

    Those first 22 minutes are Alasdair trying to get out of a situation he put himself in. That’s not that revealing. It’s revealing he never took back or apologised for what he said, even while spouting the ‘feminist’ statement you quoted in the opening to your article, Brian. It’s revealing he went off the handle when Mihi even mentioned the word ‘period’. It’s most of all revealing that when challenged on his facts, he resorted to bullying, stand over tactics to get his way. Those last five minutes say more about Alasdair Thompson than the 22 preceding them.

  31. I only saw the 27-minute version. I found most of it to be absolutely stunningly awful, given that AT was supposedly the public face of the EMA.

    Yes, MF did take it personally after a while, but this goes to a core journalistic problem: if an event is stunningly bad/ good /dramatic /awful/ beautiful, at what point does it become editorialising to *avoid* calling it any of those things?

    Essentially, Thompson made assertions about sick leave contributing to the gender pay gap that he had no evidence to support (indeed, since then as far as I’m aware his supporters have only found one study of Italian bank employees which found a slightly higher incidence of 28-day intervals of illness in female staff over males, and arbitrarily attributed this to periods. Total portion of pay gap attributed to periods by this “study”? 11% of the gap, or 2.2% of the observed 20% gap in that workplace, using doubtful assumptions). The more he tried to justify his position the more clangers he’d make. To some degree, Forbes personalising it on herself as a mother of three was a nice technique of forcing him to confront the absurdity of his position. He couldn’t handle being challenged (by a woman?) and popped a fuse. This is more illuminating than 15 minutes of greasily-applied condescension, which were his best efforts in the interview.

    Great “productivity” by a PR professional. /sarc

  32. pjr, he didn’t contradict himself with respect to his views on female productivity. If you’d seen the whole interview with Forbes and not the abridged version, you would realise what he was saying was valid. He said that women are mostly more productive than men because of the work women do in paid employment and the work that they do at home. But in a paid context they are less productive. They take more sick leave, for instance. (It’s not easy being productive when you’re sick!) They take time off to have and to raise kids. These factors obviously have an impact on their pay, as do various other factors.

    This has been a classic example of shooting the messenger because of the uncomfortable nature of the message.

  33. Ross, I have seen the full interview (twice) and in my opinion Thompson’s statement re women being more productive was insincere and patronising. Frankly it smacked of someone trying to revise their position after the fact.

  34. Well, TB, we’ll agree to disagree because I didn’t see it as insincere or patronising. I don’t think he wasn’t trying to revise his position at all. He explained in some detail why women are paid less. He didn’t change his argument that women take more sick leave and one of the reasons for them taking more sick leave is due to their mesntruation.

    Today the Herald Online reported that in the public sector alone, women take on average 1.6 more sick days than men. That’s 24% more sick leave then men…and given that there’s about 18,500 women in the public sector, that equates to about 30,000 sick days extra that women take. I’d be very surprised if this didn’t have an effect on their pay.

  35. “….. I’d be very surprised if this didn’t have an effect on their pay.”

    Why should it affect their pay overall??
    Surely they have an entitlement in law or by contract. If they take more than their entitlement thats a different issue of course.
    In any case – this is off topic for this thread

  36. To say that the reason that woman have more sick days is due to their periods and use two of his employees as examples against this tends to look like a contradiction to me. I watched the full interview also and considered he viewed employees as automatons rather than people.Damn the torpedos full steam ahead.

  37. Hypothetical: Prime Minister gives 20 minute interview, discussing political issues of the day.

    Then he objects to the final question, gets angry, and puts his hand over the camera lens.

    What makes the news? What would you put to air?

    Alasdair Thompson is not a member of the public, scurrying from the courtroom, untrained in the ways of the media, lashing out at the reporter. We see those pictures every week on TV. Who ever bothers to defend them? Is their treatment at the hands of the media “unprofessional”?

    Thompson has given countless interviews over the years, and he chose to give one more, in his own time, on his own turf, and for his own benefit. And in the course of that interview, he behaved in a way that made news. Was news.

    Suppose TV3 had NOT broadcast the “best bits”, but had put the whole interview on their website (as they have done).

    It is a stone-cold certainty that the following would have occurred:

    1. The “best bits” would have been picked up in an instant, would be all over YouTube, blogs, Twitter and so on.

    2. The media would then have picked up the footage, and it would have been an even bigger story (with the added frisson of “The Clip They Didn’t Dare Show!”).

    3. TV3’s Mark Jennings would now be giving interviews about why Campbell Live had buried the news (add your favourite conspiracy here – Mediaworks? Corporate chums? etc).

    And so on.

    Campbell Live did their job. Alasdair Thompson didn’t do his.

  38. TB, it would affect their pay if they used more than their entitlement. And again, we’re talking about the public sector only, but more women are employed in the private sector than in the public sector.

    McFlock, there is plenty of evidence that women take more sick leave than men. But you and others on here have demonstrated that you will not let the evidence get in the way of a good rant. It obviously makes you feel better to denigrate and humiliate a guy rather than say he was honest and correct.

  39. > Campbell Live did their job.

    Simon, whether Campbell Live did their job is surely up to an impartial observer to decide. You don’t sound like an impartial observer given your failure to accept TV3’s lack of journalistic ethics.

  40. Ross, what’s your answer to the question I posed at the start?

  41. Ross, there does seem to be a slight imbalance of between 1 and 4 days sick leave per person per year depending on gender (and which study you read). Out of what – 240-odd work days per year? The point is that AT’s instinctive explanation for this 1-2% observed difference in normal work days between gender was to refer to women’s “monthly sickness”. And the 1-2% attendance difference was being extrapolated to explain a 12% gender pay gap in NZ (the Italian study frequently cited in this area reported a gender pay gap of 20%).

    AT then failed to see why this might be an issue, did more interviews where he failed to anticipate the obvious questions an interviewer might ask(between the time the ruckus kicked off and the Campbell Live interview someone should have been able to google one or two mediocre studies to support his assertion, rather than saying it’s true because he says it’s true), all before his gobsmackingly poor (not to mention physically aggressive) performance in the CL interview.

    The man had a fundamentally abysmal brain melt – the question is whether TV3 should have broadcast just the words he was saying, or were they were correct to instead broadcast the substantive message of his behaviour. I agree with TV3 in this case (although I must confess to moving away from TV current events reporting almost altogether).

  42. Simon,

    You asked what makes the news. You’ll be aware that television networks are required to meet certain standards. They cannot broadcast whatever they like. News and current affairs prgrammes have to be fair and accurate and have to be balanced. Mihi Forbes’ interview was none of these things. It was compounded by Campbell Live the following night. That show’s purpose was to denigrate and humiliate AT even further.

  43. I agree, McFlock, that AT was somewhat naive but that has never been a crime and is certainly not a hanging offence. In his favour, he was not dishonest (unlike TV3) and he has apologised for causing offence (unlike TV3).

  44. The message of the words he used regarding pay equity seemed to be at odds with his behaviour in the interview.

    Additionally, nobody is charging him with a crime (although some of his comments could be related to the privacy of some of the staff he supervises). The only real questions relating to him professionally regard the ability of a lobbyist to deal with the media, as well as the ability of the EMA to represent female employers with someone who has his opinions in charge.

    It’s quite obvious that he has no idea what he’s apologising for. And I’m not sure I agree with your assertion that TV3 was “dishonest”.

  45. Simon, whether Campbell Live did their job is surely up to an impartial observer to decide. You don’t sound like an impartial observer given your failure to accept TV3′s lack of journalistic ethics.

    Shorter Ross: anyone who fails to acknowledge that Campbell Live and its reporter were dishonest, unethical and downright predatory — and that Thompson is less a professional lobbyist than a blameless ingenue — cannot possibly be qualified to have an opinion on the matter.

    Priceless.

  46. It was said on late night news tonight that a decision about AT’s future will be announced within 24 hours.

  47. McFlock,

    Maybe you need to view the full length interview again if you don’t see any dishonesty. AT called Forbes a liar and clearly she did lie. Further, the show’s producer has not even tried to defend the show on the grounds of accuracy or fairness, preferring instead to say that she showed the best bits, ie, the most sensational.

    I note that last night John Campbell had a story about Tower Insurance. He wanted to interview someone from the company and despite many emails and phone calls, nobody from Tower wanted to talk to him. That begs the question: why would someone want to talk to TV3 when what they say could be censored in order to show viewers the most sensational bits?

  48. If the original Campbell Live piece was unbalanced, what about the follow up the next day when Helen Kelly, Raybon Kan and Wendyl Nissen all relentlessly mocked and criticised AT with silly jokes and personal anecdotes. Where was the balancing argument, or even Mihi Forbes to ask “Where’s your evidence?” The playing of “Only Women Bleed” and “I See Red” in this context must be among the most juvenile things seen on an NZ TV news show for a while.

    Presumably he didn’t show up because by then he realised what a mess he’d made and the best thing was to stop digging himself into a deeper hole – but its a shame that TV3 couldn’t find someone to point out the dull reality of what he said, ie that statistics show women do in fact take a few more sick days on average than men, that this is one reason, among many others, which might help explain why there is a gender pay gap, but a serious discussion of the issue was not what TV3 was interested in.

    AT certainly had a very bad day at the office, he presented a very poor argument for his organisation, disclosed personal information and confidences regarding his staff, and allowed his interviewer’s silly questions to cause him to totally lose his composure and he then appeared angry, bullying and intimidatory.

    I’m no expert but you would think an experienced media relations executive would know when the camera was on and when it was off, and would ensure “off the record” stuff was not recorded, or at least a clear understanding was reached with the journalist.

    Interesting to see a circling of the wagons by womens groups of all ends of the spectrum – even Jenny Shipley who you think would have some sympathy for the EMA’s position gave him a good kicking. I guess gender solidarity trumps everything else.

  49. There was some excellent balanced comment from Mai Chen on this morning’s business programme on TV One at 6am.

  50. Ross – you write of TV3’s honesty or lack there f. Your own post fails to mention that the 24% or 1.6 days Extra Sick leave women is take is per ANNUM. Are you seriously trying to support the claim that a gender pay gap of thousands of dallars is all down to 1 and half days extra leave a year.

  51. There were a couple of instances where AT apparently forgot what he’d just said when challenged on it, so Forbes repeated it back to him. There were some differences (which he was suddenly able to point out) but this is not uncommon in a high stress situations (such as being patronised by an obviously sexist bully).

    Ross, it seems that you look at imprecise off the cuff paraphrasing as being a heinous untruth uttered in the cause of a hatchet-job interview, but you look at literal stand-over bullying as being a quaint expression of innocent vulnerability.

    The “best bits”, in my opinion, showed the truth behind AT’s shallow equal-pay platitudes.

  52. Many years ago, I attended a high-profile tennis match that was well-played in a sporting and gentlemanly manner – except for one brief moment (roughly two minutes out of a three-hour match) where one of the players disputed the umpire’s decision. This, of course, was the ONLY bit of the match that was later broadcast during the so-called “sports” news…

    Why would we expect anything different now, in any category of tv broadcasting?

  53. “There was some excellent balanced comment from Mai Chen on this morning’s business programme on TV One at 6am”

    Oh that’s all right then, that’ll really redress the situation.

  54. Steve said: “The playing of ‘Only Women Bleed’ and ‘I See Red’ in this context must be among the most juvenile things seen on an NZ TV news show for a while.”

    Absolutely, it was pathetic and shows just how personally and emotionally involved TV3 had become by that stage.

    Top Bloke, go back and re-read what I wrote. I said that in the public sector, women take about 30,000 extra sick days per year. I said I would find it hard to believe that it didn’t contribute to the gender pay gap. However, there are more women employed in the private sector, so the number of extra sick days taken by women there would also contribute to the gender pay gap. As I’ve epxlained, there are various reasons for the gender pay gap.

  55. > The “best bits”, in my opinion, showed the truth behind AT’s shallow equal-pay platitudes.

    Keep attacking the messenger, McFlock, it seems you will never tire of it.

  56. Ross – regardless of what the aggregated total of sick days is for what ever reason, it still does not begin to equate to a real contribution to the pay gap for an individual person.
    The argument is not that there is a pay gap, but just that sick leave is a valid reason for or significant part of it.

  57. Most employers provide a sick pay option ,unless the employee is exceding the amount provided (also have the option of using some of your four weeks holiday)there should not be a pay gap.

  58. Ross, this is where statistics are so much fun. You use figures like “30,000 extra sick days per year” or “24% more sick leave then men”. Both probably near enough true.

    But we are talking almost a trace-element difference overall – a difference of 1 or 2% days worked in regular employment. To say that this explains a gender pay gap of 12% is bold. To assume that the observed sick days are because of childcare and periods is archaic. To make both mental leaps in not one but several broadcast interviews is incompetent.

    A “message” based on at least two unsubstantiated assumptions is a “fairytale”. That the “messenger” can’t see this, or that people might have an issue with his fairytales, suggests significant fault on the part of the messenger.

  59. “That begs the question: why would someone want to talk to TV3…”

    No. It *raises* the question, perhaps.

    Begging the question is an informal logical fallacy. http://www.fallacyfiles.org/begquest.html

    For an example of such, see:

    “… whether Campbell Live did their job is surely up to an impartial observer to decide. You don’t sound like an impartial observer given your failure to accept TV3′s lack of journalistic ethics.”

  60. Steve, if someone tells you a lie, is that a logical fallacy or is it a lie? Did Mihi Forbes lie? Did TV3 censor her interview so they could show the sensational bits and leave out what viewers should have seen? What does the broadcasting code of conduct say about fairness, accuracy and balance, and how did TV3 do in regard to these principles?

  61. McFlock, I have not – and nor has Alisdair Thompson – said that sick leave explains the 12% pay gap. What we’ve said is that it’s a factor. But there are many other factors, some no doubt more significant than sick leave, which contribute to that gap. Thompson discussed in his interview on TV3 some of the factors that contribute to that gap. So it’s unclear why you have distorted what’s been said.

    “To assume that the observed sick days are because of childcare and periods is archaic.”

    Certainly childcare and periods contribute to women’s sick leave. There is nothing archaic about that. Here’s a recent research comment on this issue, which I believe is helpful:

    “Although women compared to men are repeatedly portrayed as more frequently absent at work, this is not the case in all countries, neither in all age – or professional groups, and it seems restricted to short-term absence. In countries and age-groups where women’s sickness absence rates exceed those of men, this may be due to
    pregnancy- and menstruation-related health problems; women’s perception of inequity at work; the fact that women often experience high (emotional) work demands together with few possibilities to take decisions; too little support (and/or a perceived lack of opportunities for seeking social support); women’s tendency to
    show preventive health behavior (i.e. taking a sick leave in order to prevent the worsening of complaints); being employed in female minority professions; relatively low thresholds for taking sick leave due to, e.g. the organizational culture; and to a tendency to cope by avoidance and/or passive behavior.”

  62. On one hand I think AT brought his own misfortune on himself.
    On the other hand, Brian made a point when speaking on the Panel. He is concerned about the trend for the public howling for resignation on the strength of what is presented in the Media. (Sounds a bit like the cries for hanging in order to entertain the mobs from the past.)
    This saddens me too. As someone said maybe it is a byproduct or unintended consequence of the “reality programs” where you choose who to vote off?
    Now the public wait with bated breath while it is decided if AT will stay or go. Perhaps the energy should be put towards solving Equal Pay for Equal Work.

  63. Okay, fair enough – rather than saying “this explains” I should have said “this is at all relevant to”. Because sick leave is irrelevant to the gender pay gap, as contributing factors go. And all the influences you have in your uncredited quote, AT used 2: childcare and periods. Somehow too little support and coping measure for stress in female-minority professions weren’t at the forefront of AT’s mind – periods were.

    But needless to say, his idiotic behaviour in his interviews is pretty self-destructive.

  64. McFlock,

    And all the influences you have in your uncredited quote, AT used 2: childcare and periods. Somehow too little support and coping measure for stress in female-minority professions weren’t at the forefront of AT’s mind – periods were.

    Yes good point. Some don’t seem to want to acknowledge the peculiarity of Thompson’s remark.
    I think if Thompson had simply retracted the particular example and apologised in a more genuine manner, we wouldn’t still be talking about this now. If he had said something along the lines that he was grasping for an example of difference during a live interview which he hadn’t prepared for, and unfortunately ended up with an example that was unhelpful to the discussion, and insignificant and basically pretty stupid. If he had apologised for saying it (as opposed to for it causing offence), and said he completely withdrew it, then I reckon there’d be no meetings discussing his future.
    Oh, and he needed to have avoided a meltdown during a TV interview. That would help.

  65. Ross,
    … if someone tells you a lie, is that a logical fallacy or is it a lie?

    It’s a lie (although it could also be a fallacy, I suppose).

    You didn’t lie, but you did commit the fallacy.

    Did Mihi Forbes lie? Did TV3 censor her interview so they could show the sensational bits and leave out what viewers should have seen?

    No, and no.

    Lying has to be intentional. I don’t think Forbes deliberately tried to deceive the audience.

    You and Brian have avoided this point, but I’ll raise it again: If TV3/Campbell Live were intending to “censor” the interview so viewers couldn’t see what they should have, they would hardly have promptly put the full, unedited (uncensored!) interview up on their website and promoted it over the edited version.
    http://www.google.co.nz/search?hl=en&source=hp&biw=1280&bih=642&q=campbell+live+thompson+interview&aq=f&aqi=&aql=&oq=

    The first six hits from the above google search of “campbell live thompson interview” are either directly to the full length interview or point to it. (The 7th brings in Brian Edwards’ blog).

    The second is interesting: it’s to the 3News site’s brief article on the controversy which specifically promotes watching the full length uncut interview. It says: “Reporter Mihingarangi Forbes went to ask him what he based his information on…”

    Their initial angle (not unreasonably) was to seek out exactly what Thompson had based his comments on.

    Forbes asked questions along those lines, always giving Thompson a chance to answer. It was a fair hearing, but for 22 minutes yielded little new. We already knew of Thompson’s apology. We knew he was sorry that offence was taken, yet stood by what he said (the most condescending kind of apology). He got to speak more on his opposition to the proposed new law. His reference to details about his employees, while trying to explain his position was inappropriate. But this wasn’t the main story here. What about his daft attempts at controlling the interview? Again, in the end, not the main story. Because those things and all other matters got dwarfed by his flip-out in the last 5 minutes.

    As Russell Brown said, Thompson’s behaviour *was*the story. Someone in his position, in that circumstance, reacting in that way … that was the “best part” in more than one sense. If you have 4 minutes, that is the four minutes of news.

    Remember, this guy’s the head of the EMA, not Kyle Chapman or some off-the-street vox pop victim.

    Was it the most sensational part? Yes. In this case the “best part” was both the most dramatic and most relevant in terms of news worthiness.

  66. “sick leave is irrelevant to the gender pay gap”

    I think it is relevant and if you’ve read the Ichino and Moretti paper, details of which have been posted here, then you’d understand why. There is a direct cost resulting from sick leave and there’s an indirect cost. The indirect cost could well be greater than the direct cost.

    If AT had given the explanation for women taking sick leave that I referred to in my previous post,I doubt it would’ve made any difference to the outcry. The media would have focused on “pregnancy- and mesntrual-related problems”.

  67. TB said “[sick leave] still does not begin to equate to a real contribution to the pay gap for an individual person”.

    It could well be a real contribution to the pay gap for individual women. Lynne Snowdon, former head of Radio New Zealand, took almost 2 years sick leave. Whilst she was on full pay during that time, she may have missed out on bonuses and/or perks. But more importantyl, what did it do in regards to her prosepcts for future employment? In other words, while the irect cost of sick leave may be small re the pay gap, the indirect cost re promotion, etc, may be large.

  68. Steve,

    You say that “Lying has to be intentional. I don’t think Forbes deliberately tried to deceive the audience.”

    I happen to disagree…Forbes would’ve known that the full interview wouldn’t be screened, so anything she or AT said could conveniently be edited out. Whilst watching the interview, I was surprised that AT called Forbes a liar because there seemed to be no reason why he should do so. It only became apparent why he called her a liar when I watched the full interview. In any event, Forbes knew that AT had said that women were more productive than men. So why did she accuse him of saying the opposite subsequent to AT making that comment? IMO that was a deliberate lie.

    You say that TV3, had they intended to mislead, would not have promptly put the full, unedited interview up on their website. My understanding is that TV3 puts up all Campbell Live shows on its site. Indeed, if it had not put this particular show on its site, it would have raised questions as to why. I don’t believe your point on this matter has any validity. I imagine that far more people watched the live screening of the item than watched the full interview on its website.

    I note that you’ve avoided my questions relevant to accuracy, balance and fairness. How did TV3 did in regard to these principles?

  69. Ross, I read the paper. It was not hugely impressive, for example the logical leap made as to *why* women might have a spike in 28-day illness intervals. It must be their periods – not the 4-weekly pay cycle and a binge drinking culture. And again there was no reasonable analysis of productivity beyond simply turning up for work, so really how can any conclusion be drawn? Looks good as decoration for your sexism, though.

    But the reason sick leave is irrelevant to the discussion is that it’s like claiming that one’s goldfish are dying because the tank gets too hot in the sunlight. This might well be true, and one or two fish might die from heat stress, but another dozen are being eaten by your pet cat. To mention some of the least significant (if indeed significant at all) “causes” for gender pay gaps (or eaten goldfish) while ignoring the elephant (or cat) in the room is at best incompetent, at worst an excellent illumination of one’s own bias.

  70. Forbes would’ve known that the full interview wouldn’t be screened, so anything she or AT said could conveniently be edited out.

    It’s the inference to this sort of preemption (by you and Brian) that I find over the top. The part where you consider that Forbes lied was during the heated exchange after Thompson almost stormed out of the interview. The idea that in the heat of the moment Forbes thought “I’ll just deliberately misrepresent what he said, and get the producer to edit his original comment out later to make him look bad” is not reasonable.

    So why did she accuse him of saying the opposite …

    She didn’t accuse him of saying the opposite; she accused him of believing the opposite. With her question not answered satisfactorily, she put it to him that that is what he (really) believed. In other words, it was: ‘despite what you have said, this is what you really think’. It seemed to me that her reaction was born out of frustration and surprise. Obviously she wouldn’t have expected him to get up and almost walk out, only to storm back and remonstrate loudly in her face. And he clearly didn’t have a good answer to the questions about evidence to back his claims.

    You say that TV3, had they intended to mislead, would not have promptly put the full, unedited interview up on their website. My understanding is that TV3 puts up all Campbell Live shows on its site.

    All the shows, yes, but not necessarily all the full, unedited interview footage.

    I note that you’ve avoided my questions relevant to accuracy, balance and fairness. How did TV3 did in regard to these principles?

    I thought that could be inferred from my responses. Given the 4 minutes they had available, and the context of the overall unfolding news, CL focused on what they considered to be the story for them. They went in trying principally to find out what he based his comments on. They ended up with a reaction that became the story.

    I originally said on the other thread here that the edited version was less than ideal (it was) and a little unfair. Ironically, the more I reflect on Thompson’s behavior and comments because you and others defend him, the more I think I was being too generous.

  71. McFlock,

    “Looks good as decoration for your sexism, though.”

    You just can’t help attacking the messanger, can you. AT did say that sick leave was a tiny factor but you must have been too busy vilifying him to hear that comment.

  72. Steve,

    I’m not sure why you say that TV3 only had 4 minutes available. It had much more time than that. Indeed, it could’ve run a large chunk (if not all) of the interview on Friday. Indeed, on Friday night, it ran a long story on AT – primarily as a means of humiliating and denigrating him. Three guests provided no balance whatsoever. It would have been much more productive to have seen as much of the 27 minute interview as possible.

    The real story is the gender pay gap and its causes. TV3 has shed no light on this issue apart from the information provided by AT.

  73. And Steve, you’ve confused 2 issues: AT’s comments and TV3’s treatment of him. It’s as if you’re arguing that it doesn’t matter how badly TV3 has behaved because AT has behaved like a plonker and so deserves to be humiliated. The two issues are quite separate.

  74. I’m not sure why you say that TV3 only had 4 minutes available. It had much more time than that. Indeed, it could’ve run a large chunk (if not all) of the interview on Friday.

    I meant on Thursday, not in general. My understanding is that as at Wednesday evening, Thursday’s show was intended to be entirely dedicated to Christchurch quake matters. Then this story got added late to the line-up. They judged that they could allocate a bit over 4 minutes. We could quibble over the correct amount of time, but clearly they didn’t have much time available.

    Indeed, on Friday night, it ran a long story on AT – primarily as a means of humiliating and denigrating him. Three guests provided no balance whatsoever.

    I had more problems with the following evening’s treatment, frankly. It did seem somewhat petty. Even so, Raybon Kan had a point when he said something to the effect that he was surprised someone in At’s position would say what he did and not realise he was going to get ridiculed. Also, it should be noted that AT was invited to provide his own balance, but declined.

    It would have been much more productive to have seen as much of the 27 minute interview as possible.

    TV3 has shed no light on this issue apart from the information provided by AT.

    In that 27 minutes he provided very little information of value, I thought, because – and this seems uncontested – he had no satisfactory answer to the key question of what research backed his claims. If anything, the answers he did give to this point during the 27 minutes was inappropriate from someone in his position, and he was done a favour when they left it out of the edit.

  75. Steve,

    AT could have appeared on the Friday and been the subject of more dishonest journalism, but I strongly suspect it was a case of once bitten, twice shy.

    I guess we’ll agree to disagree about the value of the imformation he provided. Certainly, in the 4 minute broadcast, viewers learnt next to nothing useful, because TV3 excised the useful info that AT did provide. Bear in mind that Mihi Forbes wanted to talk ad nauseum about heavy periods, so there was only so much AT could say about that subject! If she’d been a little more adventurous, we could have heard a genuinely more informative and more interesting discussion.

  76. I guess we’ll agree to disagree about the value of the imformation he provided. Certainly, in the 4 minute broadcast, viewers learnt next to nothing useful, because TV3 excised the useful info that AT did provide. Bear in mind that Mihi Forbes wanted to talk ad nauseum about heavy periods,

    I guess we will have to agree to disagree on that, yes. Mihi gave him ample opportunity to say his piece, but was interested, rightly, in his evidence for the original offending comments. It didn’t seem particularly badgering to me. You yourself provided evidence, albeit contested, in the earlier post on this. AT had nothing like that, and only referred to an awkward anecdotal example that was inappropriate for him to be using.

    From the earlier topic, you said:

    Do you seriously think that Forbes would have been happy if AT had provided her with the names of studies supporting his agument? No, she came with an agenda. Any mention of studies by AT would have been cut from the broadcast interview. I’m surprised you’re so naive that you don’t realise that nothing AT said was going to get in the way of a biased interview.

    Well, we’ll never know, because he had nothing. If AT had provided evidence and kept his cool then I expect the interview would have turned out differently. If, as you claim, any mention of studies were cut from the broadcast interview, then I’d be agreeing with you and Brian. Heck, I might be making the complaint to the BSA myself. But that wasn’t the interview, full, or short version.

  77. Steve

    How can you expect the interview would’ve turned out differently? There’s no reason to think that. And he certainly did provide info on various matters, none of which survived the edited version. For example:

    “…what EMA stands for and what I stand for is equal pay for equal work, equal pay for equal productivity, advancement of the women in the workplace, we promote it to our members, we act on it ourselves, equal opportunity in the workplace, flexible workplaces, we strongly support it, balancing work with family responsibilities, are strong ideals for us, Flexible Work Hours Amendment Act – we support it, we promote it, and we practice it.”

    “…all of the things to do with equality are very important to me and I’ve worked a lot of my life on this issue.”

    “By and large most women don’t have a problem [with their periods affecting their productivity]…most women look after it…and most women make up whatever time they’ve taken off…so it’s not a big issue.”

    “Anything that affects [the] productivity of any employee – man or woman – ultimately affects their pay.”

    “Let’s come back to what the real issue is here – will this legislation, that requires employers to keep complicated statistics, fix the gender gap, which there is one, but we don’t know what the reason is, there’s lots of reasons…one is that women do take, sometimes, time out of their career, so they have to get re-established…”

    “I have clearly stated to you and to everybody else that people – not women – people whose productivity is less will ultimately find when pay reviews are done, in the private sector anyway, that they will be paid less than people whose productivity is higher.”

    “[Reducing the gender pay gap] is absolutely a good objective.”

    “The [gender pay] gap officially is 12%. What is not known is what causes the gender gap, some of it is discrimination, some employers I think feel they can pay a woman less and they may do so…some of it is discrimination for sure but there’s lots of other reasons too.”

    “We’ve already got legislation, we’ve got the Employment Relations Act, we’ve got the Human Rights Act, we’ve got amendments to both of those acts – all of which outlaw discrimination, absolutely outlaw discrimination.”

    “We’ve got to do much more in education, we’ve got an Equal Opportunities Trust which is doing a lot of that, we’re a member of it, we support it. Sure, there’s more work it can do, it’s great that the issue is raised so that we can have the debate…”

    He referred to records kept by the EMA. One would also imagine that he talks to other employers about this issue. How about turning things around: When Helen Kelly on the subsequent night said that discrimination was the main issue, she didn’t provide a shred of evidence for that claim. Interestingly, she wasn’t even asked for any evidence. Apparently different rules apply for the EMA and the CTU.

  78. He also told us his two top paid employees are women lawyers who don’t have children or husbands, or even boyfriends. That’s some great info right there.

    And he’s in favour of reducing the gender pay gap? Well heavens, I certainly would not have expected that was the EMA’s official view before the interview!

    Sarcasm aside, while he said things that quoted in isolation are fine in themselves (although mostly predictable) the interview overall was a bit of a train wreck. (As was his performance earlier with Morton on 3 News.) He was incompetent, and I don’t mean that as a cheap dig; he was literally not competent in his handling of the media, by the standards we’d expect of someone in his position.

    There are basically two schools of thought here: those who think that the full interview shows how reasonable AT actually was and how dastardly CL was in its broadcast presentation; and those consider the full version was still not favourable to AT, that he made some further inappropriate comments, and crucially that he didn’t have an answer for the key question.

    I’m in the latter camp.

    How can you expect the interview would’ve turned out differently? There’s no reason to think that.

    If he had provided evidence to back up his initial comments, and kept his cool, how could it not have turned out differently? Would they have put John Campbell in a Mission Impossible mask and have him storm around?

    Regardless, as I said, if the full length interview had shown that he had provided decent answers to the questions about what research backed his original claims, and that had been left out, I’d agree you had a point. But it didn’t.