Brian Edwards Media

The New Zealand Herald: Demise of a Quality Publication

Herald Front Page

Under the editorship of Shayne Currie the New Zealand Herald has been transformed from a quality newspaper into little better than a trash tabloid.

I need to be a little more precise here. Mr Currie has responsibility primarily for the Monday-to-Friday Herald and it is to those editions that my remarks apply.

The Weekend Herald, which appears on Saturday, is edited by David Hastings.  (*See correction below.) The Sunday Herald is edited by  Miriyana Alexander whose function appears to be to make even the Monday-to-Friday Herald look good. It is a wretched publication.

Now if Mr Currie or Ms Alexander had the slightest interest in Brian Edwards’ opinion of their papers – which they certainly haven’t – they would reply that their circulation figures and the Qantas and Canon media awards on their office shelves tell a different story. In those terms they are extremely successful publications. And they would be right.

My only comment would be that tabloid trash and high circulation go together in pretty well every Western democracy and that there are so many media awards and so few major newspapers in New Zealand that it is almost impossible not to have accumulated several shelves-full.

Shayne  and Miriyana would therefore be entirely within their rights to dismiss me as a journalism snob. But we journalism snobs have hearts and we are entitled to mourn the loss of the quality publication that the Herald once was. We are consoled by the excellent Weekend Herald, but there are signs that the populist wolf is already sniffing at the door there too.

I described the weekday Herald as “little better than a trash tabloid’. It would be fair to start with the things that are better. They include:

*The work of brilliant cartoonist Rod Emmerson whom, in my Helen Clark days, I quite wrongly accused of catering to his employers’ right-wing prejudices. Emmerson combines insight, satire and extraordinary draughtsmanship to produce a daily cocktail of cartoon delight.

*The Herald’s team of political columnists,  ably led by the incomparable John Armstrong.

*Fran O’Sullivan

*Brian Rudman

*Some contributed columns

*Sarah Stuart’s 12 Questions

*Sideswipe with Ana Samways (despite its sometimes saccharine content)

*Letters to the editor page

*The cryptic crossword.

(You can add to the list. I have blindspots of course, including sport in which my interest does not extend beyond netball, tennis and Lydia Ko.)

But these “better” points are massively outnumbered by the ever-increasing examples of the “tabloidization” of the weekday Herald’s content which was anticipated  by the change of format a couple of years ago but began long before that. Have a look at almost any Monday- to-Friday edition today and these are some of the things you’ll discover:

*The front page coverage rarely relates to the major news event of the previous 24 hours. It normally features items that are either sentimental (sad/happy/quaint), sensational (traffic accidents/sex/crime /general mayhem) or celebrity driven. House prices are now part of the front-page staple diet, as they are inside the paper. There is a heavy reliance on photographs to fill the front-page.

*The focus on celebrities and celebrity gossip, once the preserve of celebrity publications and “women’s magazines” has hugely increased under the guiding hand of gossip columnist Rachel Glucina. Ms Clucina’s level of contribution to the paper has recently increased exponentially to the point where her revelations about the rich, famous, would-be-famous and previously unheard-of can merit a double-page spread in the middle of the paper. And this is not the end of it. It was with horror that I opened a recent Weekend Herald to discover that the Clucina infection had spread there too.

*When Ms Glucina is not writing about celebrities in the weekday Herald they are writing about themselves. Mark Sainsbury, Mike Hosking and Lucy Lawless are just three in a longish list of “TV stars” who share their opinions on pretty well everything with the humble reader.

(An aside: Mr Hosking gets a double bite of the opinion cherry with his appearances on Seven Sharp. In both media he recently expressed his firm view that there was absolutely no justification for workers to be allowed tea-breaks. I can tell you from 47 years first-hand experience that no one consumes more tea or coffee on the job than the average radio or TV broadcaster.)

*Sentiment, sensation, celebrity (and house prices) also drive the weekday Herald’s news pages.

*A recent addition to the paper is a segment called “Rants and Raves”. The title could scarcely be more explicit in its intention. Readers are encouraged to “rant” or “rave” about something on their minds. Their rants and raves must be bite-sized and not require too much thought on their or the reader’s part, thoughtful expression being reserved for the editorial and correspondence columns. There’s an interesting comparison here with the bite-sized reports that now characterise television news and current affairs reporting.

*Bob Jones.

There are lots more examples and I could go on, but I’m probably boring you already. The bottom line is that a once quality publication, the New Zealand Herald, from Monday to Friday now offers its readers a formula that increasingly looks like a combination of the Women’s Weekly, Daily Mail, the National Inquirer and Hello magazine. The physical transformation from broadsheet to tabloid is now clearly reflected in the paper’s content. I suspect it will not be long before the excellent Weekend Herald follows a similar downward trajectory.

***

(Since publishing this post I’ve been advised that David Hastings no longer edits the Weekend Herald. Mr Currie now includes that position among his responsibilities. This may explain the arrival of Ms Glucina. I fear my suspicion of other unwelcome changes to the Weekend Herald may not be without foundation. I nonetheless apologise for my mistake. Damn you Wikipedia!)

68 Comments:

  1. You have more than one blind spot, Brian.

    The utterly ridiculous “business” columns by Dita De Boni, Deborah Hill-Cone and “economics” by Peter Lyons – all of which are so left wing as to have completely vacated the premises stage left. Likewise Paul Little on ideological politics.

    As for Bob Jones, at least he has both a sense of humour and a more than passing knowledge of what he writes about unlike all the others.

    Plus the comment moderation is both glacial and censorious and it also embarks on populist political crusades and scandal-mongering irrespective of actual merit.

    That said, I agree entirely with your conclusions. It becomes a trashier tabloid by the month. I look forward to some adaptation of technology that will render it completely irrelevant to my day.

    • “Car Crash” Currie, as he has increasingly become known, is hastening the end of daily newspapers in this country.

      The Herald is simply no longer a journal of record. And when credibility is lost it can’t be regained.

      Disgraceful.

      (I have deleted your third paragraph. It is highly defamatory and I have no way of judging whether it is true or not. BE)

  2. Rachel Glucina is a disgrace, outed by Hagar as welded to the Slater/Key two tier dirty politics machine.

    The problem is not the demise of the Herald as a quality paper, that has happened before – just look at the Times. The problem is that there is no quality paper at all in this country anymore. We are stuck with the Daily Mail of the south as the newspaper of record.

    As it is, No one is stupid enough to buy the Herald anymore, and the circulation figures put about are a manufactured farrago. It’s influence is now entirely because it is free and online.

    • You should all move to Dunedin. We have an independent newspaper here The Otago Daily Times, which is pretty good in the main, an excellent International Section on Mondays and a new weekend magazine far better than Sunday in Sunday Star Times. And no hype.

  3. Alan Wilkinson likes Bob Jones? I guess the last dinosaurs clung together until extinction came as well.

    • Not sure the dinosaurs had a sense of humour but Bob & I certainly do. And the Left are far too busy proclaiming doom and gloom to have one. Absolutely positively suicidal.

      • If your comment regarding the Left, Mr Wilkinson, is aimed at demonstrating your sense of humour, I’m afraid you’ve failed. I would be tempted to characterise said comment as typical of a narrow-minded, unthinking right-winger, but that would be falling into the same trap as you…

        By the way, for me Peter Lyons writes the only comment on economics in the Herald that takes a broader view and makes sense within that broader context – I’m referring to the society that the “economy” is supposed to serve.

        Scottie Stevenson’s take on rugby matters – incorporating as it often does what matters beyond rugby – is a regular delight. But it seems I check in vain for signs that the huge chip on Chris Rattue’s shoulder might be someday whittled away – by life perhaps, since the Herald’s editor is unlikely to have any part in this task.

        Deeply saddened to read that Shane Currie has taken over the Weekend Herald.

  4. The Rugby section is really good IMHO. At least the online version. No one will ever replace T P McLean and like modern sports reporting the world over there is an over-emphasis on regurgitating quotes from players and coaches. But Chris Rattue is a refreshingly contrary point of view, even if you don’t agree with him.

    But that is about it.

    • Rugby section blows goats. Tedious one-eyed twaddle. An entire article devoted entirely to what Brit journos have written about the ABs. Wynne “Cyclops” Gray/Grey’s eyes are way too close together for comfort. Gregor Paul is a talentless, obsequious bald scotch prat. It really pains me to see overseas folk, so desperate for acceptance, that they can only appeal to the lowest common denominator. The ugly obnoxious AB supporter. Rattue is the most skilled of a very mediocre bunch, but is a tosser.

      • I indulged you until, “The ugly obnoxious AB supporter. Rattue”. He may be a lot of things, but certainly not a cheerleader.

        Agree re Wynne Gray, aka “Graham Henry’s mouthpiece”.

        On the whole, though, I think they do a good job. But in a country with a high level of rugby discernment, where every second reader is smarter than the All Black coaches, that is usually under-unappreciated.

        • “The ugly obnoxious AB supporter” is the lowest common denominator being appealed to. I had no one in particular in mind. Rattue is a very handsome man, at least in comparison to Paul/Grey/Gray.

  5. Seems it is vying for the position that the Whale once filled.

  6. The final straw for me was the story about the separated wife’s alimony claim against a certain internet mogul.This conclusively proved how far the Herald had fallen.

  7. I now have one word for almost everything we are now seeing and reading in the NZ media now. ‘Nonsense’.
    What is being proffered as news is driven by nonsense ‘kowtowing’ journalists, nonsense partial social and political commentary, nonsense generatiion ‘Ass’ spluttering about nonsense geeky crap that their advertisers want pushed.
    It is the only word that seems to cover all the bases.
    Nonsense.
    For the media to ignore the widespread destruction of NZ jobs and the poverty and child abuse that the current govts poliicies are engendering, while serving redneck like judgements on anyone who fronts them for kowtowing is … Nonsense of the greatest magnitude.
    The US is alive and thriving with active political commentary while we have seemingly handed the keys of NZ truth to a fool who can’t stop grinning.
    No. It just unbelievable bloody nonsense. Death throws. Bring on the new media i say. These donosaurs are dead meat.

    • How far can death throw? I’m intrigued.

      The old media has far too many commentaries and editorials on stuff the writer has zero expertise to assess.

      Factual content is withering in inverse proportion to the above. Much of your comment is direct evidence of the latter.

  8. A massive pair of breasts startling the reader on page 3 is the only feature still to be introduced. Surely only a question of time. How is it possible that the same people, apart from the editor, produce the ‘Weekend Herald’ after a week of shallow pulp. It’s so bad I assumed Mike Hosking was the editor.

  9. Just on a point of fact, David Hastings left the Herald almost two years ago.

  10. As the election approached, the opinion pieces swung more and more to the right of the political spectrum. After the election, having done their job, they are now trending back towards the centre.
    As far as the change of format to tabloid is concerned, I would point out that it takes a certain amount of intelligence to fold a broadsheet newspaper to a manageable and readable size in a confined space such as a bus or train.

  11. Old news Brian. But true for all that.

    When Kim Dotcom castigated journalists for not doing their jobs he was right – but ‘the media’ reflected his umbrage with their own. But I suppose they have crazy mortgages to pay and hungry mouths to feed.

    I’ve given up on ‘push’/broadcast news. There is no real value in mainstream media – whether it is OneNews, 3News or Campbell live the return on investment in time and attention makes for a thin meal.
    I’ll cherry pick from credible outlets and leave the linkbaiters and tabloids to squirm around in their mudpools without me. I sense I’m not alone.

  12. don’t think i’d call deborah hill-cone’s column ” left wing?”….more julie burchill/agony aunt…i quite like her stuff actually!

    • Rob get a grip! It’s unreadable self obsessed drivel!

    • 12.2

      She has improved greatly since she has started writing about a subject she knows something about: herself. Her columns on politics and economics were just dreadful.

  13. May I suggest David Fisher is starting to make a positive impact, too, and now Matt Nippert and Steve Braunias are coming on board, perhaps it’s not all disaster…

  14. I think Brian, that you will find the Qantas Media Awards succumbed some years ago and that they are now called the Canon Media Awards.

  15. Spot on Brian! Just yesterday I choked on my toast at the infantile level the Herald had descended to. Worse for me in that I read the Telegraph online only to find it cut and pasted the next morning masquerading as the Herald’s international section. The only ‘reading’ for the week is the Heralds Friday pullout Business section. Truly sad to see such a great rag descend to such depths….

  16. Afraid David Hastings has long left the Herald. He retired to b write books on history.
    Jeremy Rees had the role for 17 months and Shayne Currrie is editor of both the Monday to Friday and Weekend herald

    • Thanks John, though I think my correction pretty well covered this. I’d be really interested in your view of the validity or otherwise of my assessment of the weekday Herald. Is it perhaps shared by at least some Herald journos and columnists? I won’t hold my breath for a reply. Cheers. Brian

  17. The Herald has always been the right wings chorus sheet and what the left wraps the fish and chips in.

    • 17.1

      It used to be when it was a proper newspaper. Now it is fairly central editorially but most columnists are Lefties with about half a dozen exceptions.

      • Now you two – Kat and Alan – this really isn’t the point. The point is the decline of journalistic standards in a once fine newspaper.

        • 17.1.1.1

          Spoilsport.

          What is there left to say except that technology has doomed the old media model. The masses want instant gratification, not hard news that requires work and thought to make sense of. And the minority cannot afford to fund hard news by themselves. They used to be subsidised by the masses who had then to be grateful for whatever snippets of gratification their betters deigned to slip them. Now the masses are freed from that control and that genie will never go back in the bottle.

          So we must look to technology to provide another solution and a new model. I think it’s too soon to know what that will be,

  18. I think I will wait forever to read an article on world affairs written by a NZ journo. Our journos seem only capable of writing populist tripe. The serious stuff is all acquired from overseas news media.

  19. It would be great to see a Guardian “NZ” in addition to the US/Aust online versions of the UK paper. How many local journalists would they need on the ground here to carry it off? It’s something I’d expect to happen at some point, other titles (Daily Telegraph, Mail) would also work.

    • Instead of spouting this sort of nonsense go and see how much the Guardian UK loses each year.

      Your ignorance is exposed by your also using the DAily Mail as an example. The Mail makes the Herald look like a ultra conservative broadsheet. The Mail is tabloid journalism at its worst.

      As for The Telegraph that has gone steadily downhill under the stewardship of the Barclay brothers.

  20. Until 2011 when I retired to take up my other occupation of writing history, it was a part of my job as a parliamentary adviser to read the Herald, the Dom-Post and the Press every day. I stopped reading the Herald at that point. More recently I find myself traveling to Auckland for business reasons at regular intervals and about six months ago I picked up a copy of the Herald to while away the time between meetings. I couldn’t believe it! This crappy little rag obsessed with the private doings of Auckland nobodies had replaced a long standing quality newspaper. I suppose the final step will be the appointment of Cameron Slater as editor. You can learn more about what is happening in New Zealand and its economy by reading The Economist of The Guardian Weekly (whichever suits your political perspective) than you can by reading any daily paper in this country. Many years ago the American journalist/ novelist Eric Linklater said of our press following a visit that there was one editor from North Cape to Bluff and his name was Monotony. Little did he know the depths to which the press (I saw it described aptly recently as ‘the dead tree media’) would finally sink in search of profit

  21. I reflect on my time many years ago getting up early rain, hail, fog or the smell from Abels in Newmarket to deliver all those Heralds. Now the notion occurs that my morning delivery has turned into a night cart depositing.

    And the Gruesima contributions seal it.

  22. I have subscribed to the NZH for more years than I care to remember, but after an overseas holiday we have not renewed our subscription. The withdrawal symptoms are there but at least I don’t feel the daily disappointment of opening this second rate newspaper.

  23. The Herald is awful and gets worse. Its obsession with crime and house prices is just paranoid. I happily live without fear or great interest in either. They are creating some kind of crisis mentality…and the political hack who wrote John Keys biography ( name escapes me ) is such a Key cheerleader its embarrassing.

    Sorry I thought the Hosking articles were an elaborate wind up …id it really how he thinks !

    • I thought the population of Auckland was obsessed with crime and house prices (witness the crash of the council website with CVs). The Herald is giving people what they want.

      The content may not be to the taste of the Herne Bay intelligentsia but TH is doing the same as every other media outlet; providing for the majority of its audience. If it did not it would go out of business. As Mencken said nobody ever went broke by underestimating public taste.

      The solution is simple; don’t buy the paper. There are so many sources of news paid and unpaid there is no reason to be wedded to one source. there are plenty of places online where one can still find thoughtful comment and good journalism.

      • When you continue to create a climate around a certain set of fears then of course people continue to buy into it, I just think the Herald is feeding a fear of crime that isn’t associated with peoples real experiences. They are not alone most mid market papers the world over do it.Of course no one needs to purchase it …sorry I actually don’t even know where Herne Bay is …but assume it was an insult

      • Herne Bay: not an insult at all.

      • “… may not be the taste of the Herne Bay intelligentsia…” When you think about it, this is in itself a somewhat elitist comment: you may not like this rubbish but the hoi pollo – stupid people living in less affluent suburbs – will. And your solution is a non-solution: when journalism standards in the largest and most influential newspaper in your country decline, don’t try to do anything about it; just find something better from overseas to read. The stupid people in South and West Auckland are happy after all! Cheers.

  24. That is really interesting. I used to regard the Herald as the best in the world but now limit myself to the Saturday only – very sad to hear that it has a new editor. I try Sunday around twice a year but are always left disappointed. Monday to Friday just creates too much rubbish.

  25. I agree with your assessment, Brian. My disillusionment with the Herald has grown since returning to NZ from overseas. The bigotry, the bias and lack of quality commentary on any issue of importance although it appears that the technology of the latest Team Addidas (AB) game shirt rates highly makes a mockery of a its claim to be a Newspaper.

  26. I thought that the turning if the once great Herald into a “trash tabloid” was a clever marketing ploy.Dumb it down as far as possible to make it attractive to the majority of Aucklanders and so stop circulation from sliding.

  27. I guess, the Herald is going the way of what’s being shown on TV — The Block, X-Factor, The Voice, MKR, Master Chef, Keeping up with the Kardashians etc.

    Hell, Brian, whaddya moaning about when you’re a self-proclaimed fan of ‘New Zealand’s Top Model’?

  28. As an occasional reader (free, online, and certainly not if they introduce a paywall) of the New Zealand Herald I find I have committed the great crime of Not Living in Auckland. Thus I am Not a New Zealander in their eyes, being judged beyond the pale and not worth being shown any articles on topics of interest to non-Aucklanders.

    If you call yourself the “New Zealand” Herald, raise your game and be about New Zealand and not the low-grade Auckland-centric parish-pump stuff the Herald is fixated with.The only time they pay any attention to the rest of the country is when it has extreme weather events or gruesome crime cases. Blinkered. Not good enough.

    As for its slide into trash stories and click-bait rabble rousing columnists, I’ll leave such fodder to those with a taste for ugliness. The Internet’s a big place, and there’s beauty, grace, intelligence and stories offering optimism about the human race on offer out there. Frankly, I’d rather spend my time looking for the positive.

  29. Interesting… hey Brian, if you wish to criticise the standard of reporting, it’s probably a real good idea to make sure that you spell people’s names correctly when doing so and get the name of the media awards correct.

  30. Brian, with all the fondness in the world, the fact that you would count those ideologically blinded zombie economics touting numb nut, out of touch, status quo lapping up troglodyte sycophants Fran O’Sullivan and John Armstrong as contributing the high points to the general dross that is the herald (and our MSM in general) only shows two things, how out of touch you are with the fundamentally corrupt nature of our system of government, and how bad the herald really is, though not exceptional at all of course in terms of New Zealand’s media.

    How much of a chardonnay socialist have you become Brian? I know the old adage about opinions hardening with the arteries, but surely this could be prevented by employing the intellectual capabilities of one such as yourself. But seriously, these so called commentators are so ignorant to the day to day realities of most peoples existences, let alone the fundamental corruption at the heart of the financial system and our corporate lackey western democracies, they deserve no respect whatsoever.
    Take a good hard look at the system we inhabit, from beyond your comfortable upper middle class existence, and you will see that that the reason so few engage in the politicals is that even the left are right wing these days, and common sense has been drowned out by a barrage of PR masquerading as information, sound byte moronism, supported by a commentariat who continuously provide a narrow perspective in which any alternative, of which their are many, is impossible.

    If your generation really have given up searching and questioning, any sort of moderately utopian vision, then perhaps it is time you gave up all together and passed on the baton, instead you all seem to be clinging for ever to the ghost of some past glory, when you you actually had passion and insight, and have become nothing but straw man progressives, who in reality support the utterly corrupt, psychopathic and ultimately suicidal status quo, by providing the illusion of an alternative point of view, without ever questioning the fundamental flaws at the heart of our so called democracies and economic systems. But who cares so long as you and yours are doing okay I guess huh?

    The herald, and the dom, and all the subsidary regionals their corporate bosses own, have been nothing but trashy vehicles for propaganda hacks for quite some time. It’s all about the dollar and selling advertising, and backing the bosses favourite political horse, who cares about context and insight so long as the content induces sufficient emotion in the viewer to sell a paper, and the political goals of the elite are served at critical times like the lead up to elections.

    Journalistic standards and professional excellence, not to mention the duty of the fourth estate to defend and inform democracy have long since gone out the window.

    The war is over and the bad guys have all but won Brian. If you’re only seeing that now, I’m shocked.

    If only we’d all fought harder. I of course am a generation or so younger than you lot, and you guys have been in the driving seat for quite some time.

    Not exactly an exemplary performance as far as I can see, though apparently we never could have achieved as much as the self appointed greatest generation ever anyway….

    Perhaps I’m missing something, perhaps I just have a chip on my shoulder, maybe I’ve got the wrong end of the stick. I hope so. For all our sakes, because looking around, if these guys are the standard bearers of informed opinion, we are in serious trouble. But then, that much has also blatantly obvious to anyone with their eyes open. I hope I’m wrong , I really really do. But I don’t think so.

    Just 2 cents of citizen nobody really, but have admired your work for some time Brian, and I don’t think those guys are a scratch on on real journalism, informed opinion, or anything like what we desperately need to turn the titanic. Pleasing rearrangements of deck chairs will not suffice I’m afraid…

    • Mate is the world really such a relentlessly depressing place? I see you wrote at 01.03, so maybe you have your own demons but for goodness sake, have a cup of tea, admire the spring roses, be glad you don’t live in Northern Irag and be thankful you have some choices.

    • 30.2

      a) Take “Old Tony”‘s advice.

      b) Your state of mind (despair) is the natural result of socialist indoctrination since you are dependent on other people and governments to make you happy by implementing your utopian vision. That will never, ever happen. They will always have their own agenda. Socialism is a crap delusion that brings misery to both those who wish for it and those who practice it.

      Three thoughts for you:

      You can have anything you want by giving enough other people what they want; and

      When you help other people and make them happy you make yourself happy.

      Your state of mind is in your own hands, no-one else’s.

  31. Disparage away, Alan, as it’s your forte, but I rather liked Quinnjin’s turn of phrase when s/he coined the expression “sound byte moronism”.

    I might use that.

    • 31.1

      Of course I wasn’t disparaging Qinnjin, but the deluded philosophy that is causing such depression to its adherents. I like the phrase too, but ironically it probably applies least of all to the journalists Qinnjin picks out for condemnation and far more to the gaggle of gallery journalists Lange called reef fish and the menagerie of largely Lefty columnists who chant in unison.

      Armstrong and O’Sullivan at least have their own opinions even when they are wrong.

  32. Most feedback I’ve had in years. Thanks Brian x

  33. Oh for the days of what Metro used to call “Granny” Herald..

  34. Couldn’t agree more Brian. The daily front page drivel about house prices, Lorde and now, Millie Holmes and poor Connor who “died in her arms” make me cringe on a daily basis, not to mention the typos and shocking grammar in the online version. Sadly there’s no there alternative and you’re right, journalistic integrity and newspaper sales are inversely proportional.

  35. I think they do an excellent job given the resources. You are so far removed from a newsroom now you have failed to realise how much the environment has changed.

  36. Brian, I would be interested in your opinion of the “brand insight” section of the online herald. No doubt they are trying to embrace “native advertising” due to commercial pressures but IMHO the fact that this is paid content would be missed by the majority of non-discerning readers.

    For me this is a further reason, along with the low news value of the local content (incessant reporting of car crashes and house prices) and large amounts of syndicated content from overseas papers that I have usually already read elsewhere, for my time spent reading the online herald to be reduced to a cursory scan of the headlines.