Browsing through the TV channels in our hotel room in Singapore I came across an interview with Lindsay Tanner, a former Finance Minister in Kevin Rudd’s Labour Government, who resigned from parliament when Julia Gillard deposed Rudd in June 2010. Much of the interview concerned public criticisms which Tanner had recently made of the Gillard administration, but what interested me most were his comments on the trivialisation of politics by the media and, in particular, the media and public obsession with the image of political leaders rather than the substance of their parties’ policies and record in office.
He’s right of course. It would be much better if we interested ourselves in policy and performance rather than personality when deciding which political party to support and vote for. But it isn’t going to happen. Television and, to a much lesser degree, radio have seen to that.
As late as the year 1BT (‘Before Television’’), which in this country was 1959, most voters’ familiarity with politicians was limited to hearing them speak in Parliament, seeing their picture in the paper or attending a public meeting around election time. The voter had, if you like, a fairly long-distance view of the people running the country. Television, both literally and figuratively, would reveal them in ever more extreme close-up. Personality politics was born. Read the rest of this entry »
My good friend Max Cryer drew this to my attention. I thought you might like it too. And, by the way, if you want to spend an interesting, entertaining and infuriating hour or so, check out Hitchens’ confrontations with that bullying moron from Fox News, Sean Hannity.
At the top of his programme tonight, John Campbell made a gracious, fulsome and patently sincere apology for the tenor of his interview with Ken Ring last night. I am very aware that such apologies are not easy for broadcasters and I congratulate John for making it. He made a mistake that almost certainly reflected his experiences over the last week of the suffering of the people of Christchurch and his concern that they should not be subjected to further and possibly unnecessary anxiety.
For my part, I believe that my critique of his performance on this occasion was justified, but the manner in which it was expressed may not have been. Like John himself, I was angry.
This matter should now, I believe, be put to rest. Accordingly Judy and I have closed off comments on the original post. Lessons have been learned on both sides.
John, Your mindless, bullying, tirade against ‘moon man’ Ken Ring on tonight’s Campbell Live was perhaps the worst piece of egotistical, self-important, out of control, closed-minded, biased, unprofessional non-interviewing I have seen in more than 40 years of New Zealand television.
I have no brief for Mr Ring or his theories, but after watching your treatment of him tonight, I have considerably more respect for him as the reasonable exponent of an admittedly controversial point of view than I have for you as an interviewer.
What mattered to you in this exchange was not what he had to say, but what you had to say. And since he thought the process was meant to involve his being critically questioned on statements he had made and being given reasonable opportunity to reply, he had every right to complain when you preferred to deny him that opportunity by shouting him down. It was, quite simply, appalling.
My advice to Mr Ring would be to immediately complain to Mark Jennings, the Head of News and Current Affairs at TV3 about your mistreatment on the programme tonight, and the breach of Broadcasting Standards of fairness and balance which it contained. And, when your complaint is almost certainly rejected, to take the matter to the Broadcasting Standards Authority for their deliberation and judgement.
The microphone is a potent tool in the bullying interviewer’s hand, especially when the interview is not face-to-face and the interviewee is isolated in a remote studio location. Fortunately most interviewers do not abuse that situation. Tonight we saw what has overall been excellent television coverage of the Christchurch earthquake on both TVNZ and TV3 marred by a descent to broadcasting at the level of Jerry Springer. I have seldom been so angry.
Close Up – Undoubtedly a major coup, though I suspect that Hotchin, or an agent on his behalf, approached the programme. However, the production team blotted its copy book badly by totally abandoning editorial balance and showing clips damaging to Hotchin – largely newspaper headlines – while Hotchin was speaking. An appalling lapse in editorial judgement.
Hotchin – Plausible and persuasive. I thought he was very good. His appearance has been and will be dismissed as a PR exercise and there may well be an element of truth in that. But the risks inherent in taking part in a live and predictably aggressive television interview were considerable. And, in the end, all the PR in the world will not assist the lying or dishonest television interviewee. The audience will see through him.
Sainsbury – Handled the interview well. Asked the questions that viewers, and some at least of those who lost money in Hanover, would have wanted asked. Somewhat repetitive and it really would be good if Mark could put his questions in a less excitable way. But overall a good performance.
Campbell Live – Ended its show last night with an undignified piece of sour grapes in which John bewailed the fact that Hotchin was appearing on his competitor’s programme and re-ran old Campbell Live clips which served merely to explain why Hotchin had gone to Close Up. John is the superior broadcaster of the two, but would he have done this particular interview better? I doubt it.
The Viewers – Will many have changed their view of Hotchin after watching the interview? Probably not.
I grew up at a time when being ‘on the dole’ was shameful, when single women were forced by circumstance and social pressure to give up their babies, when women with children often stayed in bad marriages because financially there was no alternative. We weren’t very tolerant, we weren’t very caring. ‘You made your bed – now lie in it!’
I’m still a card-carrying member of Gary McCormack’s Pull-Yourself-Together Party, so I was surprised at my own anger this morning when I read the Prime Minister’s statement that beneficiaries go to food banks because of their own ‘poor choices’. He said:
‘…anyone on a benefit actually has a lifestyle choice. If one budgets properly, one can pay one’s bills. And that is true because the bulk of New Zealanders on a benefit do actually pay for food, their rent and other things. Now some make poor choices and they don’t have money left.’
Well, here is the news: Some people have unexpected bills, Mr Key. Some people’s cars break down, because cheap, old cars are all they can afford – seen a repair bill lately? Some people need dentistry – seen a dentist’s bill lately? Some people need to pay the rent, which they can’t afford even with an accommodation supplement – seen the news on Auckland rentals recently?
I have received a menacing email from a Ms Sarah Bacon, a partner in the law firm Izard Weston. The firm acts for Fairfax New Zealand Limited, publisher of the Sunday Star Times.
The email refers to my recent post The Hotchin Affidavits – Four witnesses swear that Amanda Hotchin did not speak the damaging words attributed to her by the Sunday Star Times.
Paragraph 9 of Ms Bacon’s email reads: “Your blog and the comments that follow defame our client, the Editor of the Sunday Star Times and Mr Marshall. Our client will not tolerate these false and defamatory publications. Our client expects you to immediately remove the defamatory material from your website (along with any cached material) and to ensure that no further defamatory postings are published.”
Paragraph 10 reads: “We also put you on notice that our client will be minded to take action against you if you draw any adverse inference from the fact that our client is unwilling and unable to engage with you on this issue in a public forum.”
I have read and re-read the Hotchin Affidavits post and there is absolutely nothing in it defamatory of the Sunday Star Times, its editor or Jonathan Marshall. Read the rest of this entry »
According to Marshall, a conversation ensued in which Mrs Hotchin said, “We don’t have to justify where we get our money from or what it is spent on to anyone. I don’t care what anyone says.” These words appeared in quotation marks and not as reported speech in Marshall’s report, indicating that they were the actual words spoken by Mrs Hotchin.
It was primarily on the basis of this quotation that I and others accused the Hotchins of being indifferent to the plight of thousands of Hanover investors, many of them elderly, who had lost their life savings when the company went under.
In her email to me, Mrs Hotchin claimed that she cared greatly about what happened to the investors and denied that she had ever spoken these words, or anything like them, to Jonathan Marshall. She continued:
The “quote” is pure fabrication. I have four sworn affidavits from people who were present or nearby when I told the reporter to leave the property. Two of those affidavits are from two Americans working on site at the request of the rental management company (who I do not know personally) who overheard our exchange and confirm I said nothing like what I was “quoted” as saying. Read the rest of this entry »
On 15 March 1994 Melvyn Bragg interviewed the playwright and television dramatist Dennis Potter. The interview was broadcast on the BBC’s Channel Four on April 5. Potter died of cancer two months later on June 7.
Potter smokes throughout the interview, holding the cigarette and lighter between the bunched fingers of his clawed right hand. Like his hero Philip E Marlowe, the mystery writer in perhaps his most celebrated work, The Singing Detective, the playwright had suffered for much of his life from debilitating and painful psoriatic arthropathy, a skin and joint disease which, in its chronic stages, formed lesions and sores over his entire body, partially crippling his hands and feet. He was eventually obliged to write with the pen tied to his wrist.
Beside his chair in the television studio he has a flask of morphine, which he drinks from at intervals during the conversation to control the pain.
All of this would make the interview remarkable enough. But it is the quality of what is said, of Bragg’s questions and Potters responses, which allows me to call this ‘the finest television interview ever recorded’. Much of a media commentator’s time is given over to criticism in the negative rather than the neutral sense of the word. I thought it appropriate to redress the balance a little by inviting you to watch this small screen gem. The YouTube version is in seven parts, each just under 10 minutes long.
If you’re unfamiliar with Potter’s work, Wikipedia or YouTube are both good places to start.
If you’ve ever wondered why journalists are among our least respected trades, have a look at yesterday’s Sunday Herald and Sunday Star Times.
Both tabloids carry stories about inappropriate relationships between teachers and their pupils. Among what journos like to call ‘sexy stories’ this brand of story may well be the sexiest. Why? Because they appeal to the most prurient fantasies of readers. Because the real people in these stories have actually done the very thing that so many men (and seemingly women) have only thought about – had sex with a schoolgirl or schoolboy.
This is not only the stuff of pornography, it is written into popular culture, from the girls of St Trinians, to the lyrics of The Police’s Don’t Stand So Close To me:
I’ve taught at school, polytechnic and university. Do you think that teachers and pupils at those institutions don’t have those thoughts? Then you are out of touch with reality. They do.
What makes these relationships dangerously inappropriate is the imbalance in age, experience and power between student and teacher. But it is futile to deny that strong emotional and sexual attractions can occur between pupil and mentor, particularly when the age gap between them is relatively small. Two such cases feature in today’s Sunday Herald and Sunday Star Times.
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?
Michele Hewitson with Greg Dixon at the Cathy Pacific Travel Media Awards
There’s a lesson here about preconceptions. It’s easy to misjudge people whom you know only from watching them on the telly or hearing them on the radio or reading what they’ve written in the paper.
I was amazed when Herald journalist Michele Hewitson rang to ask me if she could interview me for her back page feature in the Saturday Herald. With uncharacteristic lack of caution, I immediately agreed. If Judy had been home, I’d probably have said, ‘Look, I’d like to have a think about this, can I ring you back?’ But Judy was at university and not due back for hours. So I agreed. I have a suspicion that Michele was surprised by my instantaneous agreement.
If you live outside Auckland, you may not be familiar with Michele Hewitson’s interviews or her reputation. She is both admired and feared. Admired because her Saturday interviews are a joy to read; and feared because the joy so often takes the form of Schadenfreude – pleasure in the misfortune of others. Hewitson is an acute observer of people, their foibles and frailties and the fate of many of her subjects most resembles that of the fly who accepted the spider’s invitation to come into her parlour. Michele Hewitson, many of her victims and a solid proportion of her readers would say, is a total bitch. A hugely talented, very perceptive, extraordinarily readable and amusing total bitch.
So I was pretty nervous about being interviewed by her. No one wants to appear in print looking like a total arsehole. Read the rest of this entry »
[Over the past couple of days Jackie Sperling has commented several times on this site on the treatment she has received from the media and on how she sees herself. Her most recent comment deserves to be widely read. I am therefore publishing it on our front page with her permission.]
I truly appreciate every single message of support that I have received. Thanks to all of you who have posted on this site for your encouraging words.
It has been an eye-opener for me to be shown how relentless the media are in their quest for a story – any story. And who they hurt in order to get that story is of no concern to them. They were not concerned about the effect that this will have had on my daughters, or how this attention could potentially have set me back.
They had no story, so they made me their story, with no regard for my children or my mental or physical well-being. Fortunately, my determination to live a good life and set a good example for my daughters for the rest of my life, is something I will never lose sight of. They were not aware of that though and, in my opinion, this past weekend has been a repulsive display of the gutter level mentality of the media.
It was a huge eye opener for me.
God works in mysterious ways though and, over the past 48 hours, the message that methamphetamine addiction is not hopeless has been spread to more people than 15 months of blogging on my part could reach.
No one is ever hopeless. There is no such thing as being too far gone down a dark road. There is always a U-turn option. There is always hope. If just one person who is currently addicted to that drug has heard that message this weekend, or if just one person who is stuck in that hideous lifestyle realises that they can change their life…then it was all worth it.
It not only turns this past weekend into something positive. It turns my terrible choices into something positive.
I’m conflicted about Michael Laws. He’s brilliant – a brilliant writer, a brilliant broadcaster, a brilliant thinker, a brilliant political strategist and, when I first met him at a celebrity debate in Dunedin several decades ago, brilliantly funny.
But I abhor most of what he writes in his columns in the Sunday Star Times. Or rather the way he writes. I have the feeling that the intemperate language, the provocative posturing, the seeming determination to outrage and offend have less to do with the real Michael Laws, whoever that may be, than with the near requirement on tabloid newspaper columnists to shock their readers into penning apoplectic letters of protest to the editor.
None of this sits comfortably with a man who could write so lovingly and movingly about his young daughter or confess in his column today that the prospect of her death from cancer brought him to thoughts of suicide.
‘I could see no point to my existence if she were not a part of my life.’
And now we learn that Laws had a sexual relationship with a former prostitute and P addict. Laws has told us so himself, on his radio show, and now extensively in the press. He did it because he expected to be outed.
Wearing my media consultant’s hat, I can say that he did exactly the right thing. I have been in a similar situation myself, though the circumstances were different and had no sexual context. But the principle was the same: getting things out in the open pulls the teeth of an intended media exposé and ensures that your version of events appears first and is accurately reported.
So, can the revelation of a brief affair with someone who describes herself as an ‘ex crack ho’ ever be a good look? You would have thought not. But somehow the story of Michael Laws and Jacqueline Sperling which has emerged over the past couple of days has a quality which sets it apart from the usual celebrity exposé or mea culpa. It is a fascinating story, well told, and with a happy ending. Read the rest of this entry »
Imagine this. You’re a public figure. An accusation has been made against you, not of any criminal act, not even of breaching any rule, but of displaying an attitude of entitlement to the perks of office. Others have been as guilty as you, some more guilty. But the world seems largely uninterested in them. Its focus is almost entirely on you.
Imagine that for months you are vilified daily in the press, on radio, on television, on the Internet, to your face, behind your back. Imagine that this relentless attack goes beyond what you have done to what you are said to be – a person without integrity, without conscience, egotistical, narcissistic, a sponger on the public purse, a waste of space. Imagine being branded ‘worthless’.
Imagine not being able to open a newspaper, listen to radio, watch television, surf the Net without finding this judgement of your character somewhere expressed. Imagine it happening every hour of every day for months. Read the rest of this entry »
Today’s Sunday Star Times features a lengthy article on what are acceptable and unacceptable topics for comedians. When does a joke go beyond the limits of humour and become merely offensive?
The question was prompted by David Fane’s recent unfortunate remarks at an advertising industry roast. No doubt no one regrets those remarks more than Fane. No one more than Fane will wish that they could be forgotten.
But there they are again, reprinted in full in the Sunday Star Times. And in the Herald on Sunday which, in another lengthy article, gauges the response of some of those present at the roast, of Fane’s employers, colleagues and friends.
Both articles can be justified in terms of newsworthiness and public interest. But was it necessary to reprint Fane’s remarks again in full, within the body of the article in the case of the Herald on Sunday and in a separate box in the Sunday Star Times?
Possibly. Fane’s words were the reason for the two articles and not everyone will have read those words before.
But, in a sense, the repetition adds insult to the injury which those offended by Fane’s remarks will have felt. It’s almost as if Fane had said it all again. And that, in a different sense, is unfair and injurious to Fane who has already publicly expressed his regret and with patent sincerity. Read the rest of this entry »
I really shouldn’t have brought my laptop to Vietnam. We intended to do the occasional blog on our travels and leave it at that. But the temptation to check out what was happening in Godzone – there’s not much in the Hoi An Times - was too hard to resist, so I took a peep this morning at the Kiwi Sunday rags. Had the government changed? Had Herne Bay been declared a disaster zone in our absence? Had Phil Goff rocketed in the polls? Had Bainimarama invited Helen Clark to act as mediator in the NZ-Fiji standoff? Had Lockwood Smith introduced smacking for naughty MPs? You know – the really big stuff.
No, nothing much had changed since we left two weeks ago. According to the Herald on Sunday, the really big news was that John Campbell might be sacked.
I like and admire John. He’s a talented broadcaster and a really nice person. That’s the problem really, I can’t be in the same room with John because I’m a diabetic. My sugar levels go off the scale. Read the rest of this entry »
How can you tell it’s winter? It’s the only time lawyers have their hands in their own pockets.
I was reminded of this hoary old joke by the front-page story in today’s Weekend Herald:
SUSPENDED The lawyer who billed taxpayers $1 MILLION
Nothing wrong with the story. An Auckland criminal law barrister has received more than $1 million in legal aid payments over the past three years. And she has been suspended by the Legal Services Agency for allegedly over-billing.
But why was the story on the front page of the Weekend Herald and why the banner headline? Because lawyers are one of a group of professions and trades that we love to hate. And because being in tune with popular opinion is a hallmark of commercially successful media. So a story which appears to confirm the increasingly common view that lawyers are bilking the legal aid system is a sitter for front page treatment. Read the rest of this entry »