Media Inquiry? Inconvenient facts go down the memory hole (part 2)

July 28, 2012

Do you remember the Independent Media Inquiry?

You might vaguely recall the Finkelstein inquiry…yes, rings a faint bell?

It’s OK, I wouldn’t be surprised if you’d forgotten most of the details.

What do you remember?

Oh yes. Finkelstein, isn’t he the guy who wants to throw the champions of the fourth estate in jail for telling the truth about the nasty and unloved Ju-Liar government?

That’s right, that’s exactly right. Here’s a free online subscription to the Heart of the Nation.

According to many ‘exclusive’ stories in The Australian newspaper, the sole aim of the Independent Media Inquiry was to impose heavy sanctions on the news media because the Gillard government doesn’t handle criticism very well.

Take this story from media commentator Mark Day on 26 April 2012. It is so important it got top of page 1 treatment;

A new regulatory body, funded by government and with powers to impose fines and sanctions on news outlets is a key proposal of the long-awaited Convergence Review of the emedia sector.

Unfortunately, this story was wrong, wrong wrong.

The Convergence Review rejected any idea that there should be any such government-funded organisation with anything like the powers suggested in this breathless lead par.

However, since this story was published it has become standard operating procedure to continue the lie.

It is only possible to conclude one of four things:

a) the budget is so tight at News Limited that as many words as possible have to be recycled on a daily basis which means that key phrases are used over and over again to save money

b) the koolaid in the LimitedNews bunkers is real tasty and no one’s yet cottoned on that it is the source of the medicine that results in obligatory groupthink

c) there is a deliberate mis-information campaign going on designed to fool Australians into demanding Stephen Conroy’s head on a platter.

d) we are being fed a bowl of chump bait with fear-causing additives so we don’t see what’s really going on.

It’s probably a combination of all four.

If we’re stirred up about bloody attacks on ‘our’ freedom of speech and we can be made to think that only The Australian and the Institute of Public Affairs stands between us and a Stalino-Fascist dictatorship of ‘befuddled’ Greens from the ‘tofu belt’ aided and abetted by the ‘soft-Left media’ then maybe we’ll be goaded into action.

Seriously, you couldn’t make this stuff up even if you called yourself Chris Mitchell and spent your days dreaming of a world in which you could wield the absolute power that corrupts absolutely.

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Down the memory hole part 1: Repeat a lie long enough someone will believe it

July 25, 2012

The Armstrong Delusion

I’m not sure if you’ve noticed because they’ve been quite subtle, but whoever writes editorials for The Australian doesn’t like the idea that there should be some responsibility and accountability in the news media — particularly when it comes to News Limited papers.

I have collected more than a dozen editorials from The Australian that relate to media regulation, the Finkelstein and Convergence Review recommendations and the war on free speech that is currently crushing the news media. I have a pile of op-ed pieces 20 centimetres high and I’m slowly piecing together the story of the memory hole and the big lie.

It is impossible to include everything in one post because it is necessary to constantly check the facts. Big lies work through repetition and by relying on the assumption that no one will check the history and correct the record.

But I am working on a book about journalism ethics at the moment and a second one on freedom of speech so this is a research exercise. I am happy to share as I go along.

The memory hole is the device used in Orwell’s 1984. Winston Smith is obliged to correct (redact and edit) editions of The Times on behalf of the Inner Party. Whenever he corrects a piece of copy — usually because of some previous lie that now needs to be altered — the old story and all his working notes are sent to a furnace in the vast apparatus of the state. The offending materials are dispatched down the memory hole.

In the walls of the cubicle there were three orifices. To the right of the speakwrite, a small pneumatic tube for written messages, to the left, a larger one for newspapers; and in the side wall, within easy reach of Winston’s arm, a large oblong slit protected by a wire grating. This last was for the disposal of waste paper. Similar slits existed in thousands or tens of thousands throughout the building, not only in every room but at short intervals in every corridor. For some reason they were nicknamed memory holes. When one knew that any document was due for destruction, or even when one saw a scrap of waste paper lying about, it was an automatic action to lift the flap of the nearest memory hole and drop it in, whereupon it would be whirled away on a current of warm air to the enormous furnaces which were hidden somewhere in the recesses of the building.

George Orwell, 1984

The Australian and its free speech absolutist supporters are relying on the memory hole to erase any idea that there might be some value in media accountability and light touch regulation.

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An acceptable Press Council: We decide, you shut the f#ck up

July 11, 2012

The Australian Press Council has just announced five appointments to an advisory board that will help it review the APC standards and bring them up to speed with the digital reality of news publishing today.

Normally you might think this was good news, but not, it seems if you work for Chris Mitchell over at LimitedNews.

The panellists are all eminent in their respective fields, not folk I’d have round for a Gibson, but in their way decent, reliable and not prone to scaring the cats.

  • Hon. John Doyle AC (recently retired as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of South Australia)
  • Dr Ken Henry AC (formerly Secretary to the Australian Treasury; currently Executive Chair, ANU Institute of Public Policy)
  • Hon. Robert Hill AC (formerly Minister for Defence and Ambassador to the UN; currently Chancellor, University of Adelaide)
  • Mr Andrew Murray (formerly Australian Democrat Senator for WA; currently Chair, WA Regional Development Trust)
  • Ms Heather Ridout (formerly CEO, AiGroup; currently Board member, Reserve Bank of Australia).

Despite the credentialling and the vetting and the secret handshakes of these upstanding doyens of the establishment, The Australian‘s found sixty ways to Christmas to condemn, belittle and bemoan their appointment.

You may have trouble jumping over the firewall, though I understand their are ways around, under or through it (I pay for mine), so let me paraphrase and use a judicious amount of quotes – all of course legitimate in critical review and scholarship.

First a piece by Media diarist Nick @leysie Leys and the headline says it all in a loud, blaring voice:

Panellists have no editorial practice

A FORMER judge, a businesswoman, a former Treasury secretary and two former senators will be called on to advise the Australian Press Council on standards for journalists, despite none of them having any editorial experience.

Of the five appointments to the panel, none has any journalism experience and several have been on the receiving end of media scrutiny during their careers.

Well, there are not many people in public life who haven’t been subject to media scrutiny. But writing “on the receiving end of” makes it sound like they’ve repeatedly had some foreign object rammed up their bums — a bit like life in the Australian military it seems.

It taints them, subtle tarring and feathering – they must have done something wrong to be on the ‘receiving end’.

And of course, if you’ve ever been on the ‘receiving end’ of a late night call from a LimitedNews journalist with no agenda except to skewer the living beejesus out of you, then you would know how how it feels.

In fact, it could be argued that despite their lack of time in a functional newsroom (like many current LimitedNews hacks), their public lives and interactions with the media might make the famous five ideal and independent consultants for the important project of updating the Press Council’s standards, assessing their relevance and their relationship to the public interest.

In fact, nothing really remarkable as a media release from the Press Council points out:

Panel members’ advice will be provided on an informal basis.

The National Advisory Panel will be complemented by strengthening the Council’s other consultative processes. These include individual meetings with editors, regular Round Tables around Australia with media representatives and community leaders, and analysis of views expressed in the broader community. A number of senior journalists are also being invited to be general consultants to the Standards Project on an ongoing basis.

APC Update 9 July 2012

What sort of signal is that?

So you see, there will be input into the process from plenty of people with newsroom experience, no doubt some of them might even work for LimitedNews.

However, this reasonably balanced and low-key approach didn’t stop the increasingly erratic and unreadable Chris Merritt* from weighing in with another opinion piece.

There’s one thing you can say in favour of the senior headline writers at The Australian, they don’t fuck about; you’re never left guessing what the paper thinks:

They should stand aside if they want to help

Right, that’s clear then. So what did the great legal mind of one C Merritt make of this.

THE only way of making sense of the latest move by Julian Disney’s Press Council is to assume that its primary goal is political.

It looks like another move to distance his organisation from the media so it can be vested with coercive power.

Right now, the federal government is trying to decide whether the Press Council or some other body should be given statutory power over the media.

If the Press Council sees itself in that role, there is much to be gained by injecting more distance between the press and itself.

This helps explain why none of the five people who will have a role in reviewing the standards enforced by the council could be described as media authorities.

What?

“The only way of making sense…is to assume”

“It looks like…coercive powers”

Someone’s overdosing on the office kool aid.

What sort of signal does this send? If the rewritten standards bear the imprint of the panel’s advice, the enforcement of those standards could never be described as self-regulation.

The panel’s members must all be assumed to be people of good will. But if they really want to help, they should stand aside.

Their involvement, while well-intended, is presumptuous and counterproductive.

Recruiting such a panel for high-level policy advice on press standards makes as much sense as recruiting former newspaper editors to provide policy advice to federal Treasury.

What sort of signal does this send?

Well, let’s just assume that it’s loud and clear and follows the pattern established in a dozen editorials and countless op-ed pieces in The Australian over the last few months.

The signal is not too subtle and the signalers are wearing big dirty boots.

Just in case you can’t read the tea leaves, just assume I’m right. It goes like this:

Any attempt to impose any form of control, regulation, licencing, or pressure to behave in a nicer way to anyone who is in the way must be resisted at all costs and without fear or favour.

Opinion to the contrary must be stamped out, ignored, ridiculed and stamped out again.

We will not tolerate any opposition

Whatever you say will be taken down and used against you

Signals from the LimitedNews bunker are that not one foot-soldier will be spared in the war on media regulation.

It seems that Chris Merritt surrendered his sanity to the cause long ago.

There are plenty of news hacks who’s daily bread is predicated on giving advice to the federal Treasury on carbon pricing, which they consistently describe as a ‘tax’, on wages, which are consistently too high and on a myriad of other issues on which economics writers and newspaper editors feel qualified to have opinions.

So, quick corolary, why should lack of newsroom experience deny someone a say in the future shape of Press Council standards. Some might say it would actually be a good thing.

But will it satisfy Rupert?

As the leading figure in the Australian news media – the one with the most to lose – perhaps he should choose who gets to advise the news watchdog.

Seems only fair, so let’s help him decide.

Post your entries as a comment or email
ethicalmartiniATgmail.com

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From hack to Hell and back again

July 7, 2012

Graham Johnson. (2012). Hack: Sex, drugs and scandal from inside the tabloid jungle. London: Simon & Schuster.

Graham Johnson was for years an important member of the Screws of the World news team. His time at the paper predated the phone-hacking scandal, but Hack clearly shows that the culture which led to the criminal behaviour was well-established on the paper.

Johnson owns up to some pretty awful scams himself, including ruining the lives of people who were only featured in the paper to further its commercial success.

At the heart of the paper’s methods was destroying the lives of people who could not fight back. As Johnson puts it, they were usually too poor and powerless to prevent the NotW from giving them a right royal fucking over.

This is a terrible tale of what can happen when a talented reporter goes off the rails. Johnson worked for the News of the World for years and his insider story reveals a rotten culture. So rotten, in fact, that the phone-hacking and police bribery that finally brought the paper undone in July 2011 seem to be the inevitable end-result of endemic corruption and a conscious disregard for morality, ethics and the law. Read the rest of this entry »


Serious allegations against an Australian journalist in Egypt

February 13, 2012

Update 11pm Monday 12 Feb

Austin Mackell’s blog, The Moon Under Water is a very interesting log of what’s been happening in Egypt in recent weeks.

It seems that the Australian journalist will be deported from Egypt on the pretext that his visa’s expired.

 

Young Australian journalist Austin Mackell is facing serious charges in Egypt after his arrest over the weekend.

Mackell is a freelance who works for Global Radio News, the Guardian, Al Jazeera and many independent outlets. He has been reporting from the Middle East for some time and covering the Egyptian revolution from the front lines.

Egyptian authorities took him into custody along with an American colleague Derek Ludovici and Aliya Alwi, a local fixer .

The trio is accused of attempting to bribe people into joining a protest strike in the industrial city of Mahalla al-Kobra.

There is an online campaign to free Mackell and his colleagues. It is highly likely that the charges against them are a set up and politically motivated. You can keep up with developments on this story by following #freeaustin on Twitter.

An AAP story gives some details of what happened in the town, where the reporter had gone to meet a contact.

Ms Alwi posted details of the ordeal on her Twitter account, writing early on Sunday Australian time that she and Mr Mackell were being transported to a military intelligence office in the nearby city of Tanta.

A few hours earlier, she wrote: “Report against us filed now. Many witnesses saw us ’offering money to youth to vandalise and cause chaos’.”

Another tweet read: “Charges brought against of inciting protest and vandalism. Witnesses have been produced to confirm it.”

One of those witnesses was eight-years old, she wrote.

The trio apparently first believed the police were trying to protect them after they experienced some aggression from locals.

“Our car got rocked and beaten against the glass, got called a whore and all sorts of things. Police escorted us to station,” Ms Alwi wrote.

[SMH 12 Feb]

What’s very interesting about this story is the trade union and activist connection. Mahalla is apparently a hotbed of working class political opposition to the military regime in Cairo. As far as I am aware Austin Mackell is one of the few reporters on the ground who sees this as an important story.

On the ABC there’s a good interview with another Aussie journalist in Egypt Jess Hill who is working for the Global Mail among others.

She talks about the politics of Mahalla. It seems that Austin Mackell may have come across a story the Egyptian authorities don’t want told.

This is really important, not just as a story of Egyptian politics, but also of what journalists should be doing in Egypt and also because Mackell has been accused of something terrible in terms of journalism ethics.

I am inclined to believe this is a set-up and I agree with what Jess Hill told the ABC, it seems like political activists and independent journalists are being given a message from the regime to stay away from sensitive issues. It would not surprise me if the regime now launched Syrian style raids into Mahalla.

I thing Austin Mackell is innocent of the allegations. Anyone who obviously likes cat must be a good person.


Sorry, Mr Hywood – you missed the point: It’s not about quality it’s about money

November 16, 2011

Fairfax CEO Greg Hywood delivered the A.N. Smith lecture at Melbourne University’s Centre for Advanced Journalism last night (Tuesday 15 November).

I’ve never quite understood what ‘advanced’ journalism is supposed to be. Maybe I’ll look it up one day.

According to the mission statement, the CAJ is attempting to improve the quality of journalism through ‘knowledge transfer’

The Centre for Advanced Journalism will contribute to the University’s goal of knowledge transfer through interaction with the public and with journalists and media companies.

The four key questions posed for research at the CAJ are also admirable, if a little unremarkable:

  • How will new media technologies impact on the future of journalism?
  • What is the role of public interest journalism in a liberal democracy?
  • What is the nature of the relationship between government and the media and how does this relationship serve the public interest?
  • Is “the public interest” a concept that is understood by the media and the general public?

I have no problem with that at all and I wish the centre’s new director Margaret Simons all the best. Improving journalism is something that I’m passionate about too; so in that spirit, let’s engage with Greg Hywood’s comments.

I’m not sure of the title Greg gave to his talk, on the National Times site the headline is ‘Rumours of our demise exagerated’ and on the AFR site (behind a Fairfax paywall) the headline is ‘Internet the reason journalism’s future is bright’. So, presumably that’s what the talk was about.

I’ve read the edited transcript of Mr Hywood’s speech on the National Times website and I’d just like to address a few issues.

Strong and trusted journalism has never been more important.

Yes, that’s absolutely right, but it always has been. In any day and age there needs to be a robust public debate informed by accurate and honest information. In a mass society when we can’t all gather in the forum for the daily senate meeting the public sphere is highly mediated. We get our information – on which we base our opinions – from the mass media. A reliable and trustworthy news service is absolutely essential to that process.

I believe the future of journalism has never looked stronger.

This statement needs to be addressed in several ways because Hywood’s qualification is important:

And this is because of the internet, not despite it.

We’ll come to that in a minute, but first a question to Mr Hywood: How can the future of journalism look ‘stronger’ to you when your own company Fairfax Media is busy cutting jobs and the number of working journalists in major news titles is falling around the globe?

This was the situation at Fairfax mastheads in May this year:

The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald are preparing for a wave of industrial action after new Fairfax CEO Greg Hywood wielded the axe this morning, sacking over 100 production staff to achieve annual cost savings of $15 million under the cover of an announcement spruiking “quality journalism”.

[Fairfax slashes: ‘quality journalism’ with fewer staff]

Perhaps Mr Hywood had this in mind when he said in his speech last night:

What has changed is the workload. Forget filing once a day. In this crowded, chaotic environment you have to provide the best, independent news and analysis all the time.

Yeah, that’s right: the old bosses’ mantra of “doing more with less.” Simple physics and quantum mechanics tell us that it it almost impossible to do more with less.

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News 2.0 : journalism, wikileaks and beyond the fourth estate

December 16, 2010

It’s not every day that you attend a book launch. It’s a once-or-twice moment to launch a book you’ve actually written.

Today, 16 December 2010 on a pissing-down evening in Auckland is one of those moments for me.

Today is roughly – give or take a week here and there – also an anniversary of sorts. In January 2007 I started here and this is the end of my fourth year at AUT.

More of that later, but first I should probably think about answering the inevitable question I will be asked about the book: “Do you think journalism can survive the Internet?”

So far I’ve usually responded with a qualified “Yes.” Almost a “Yes, but…”

As The Beat tell us: “It’s cards on the table time.”

My considered, thoughtful answer now is: “Journalism must survive.”

The bigger issues are really What? How and Why?

What sort of journalism will survive, or thrive on the Internet?

How will it survive – what changes will finally shape the journalism of the immediate, proximate and distant futures?

And finally: Why should journalism survive when it seemingly has low levels of public trust and it is economically in trouble?

Journalism is too important for the social fabric and the public sphere to be allowed to disappear, because of the Internet, or in spite of it.

The demand for journalism is strong — all sorts of news and news-like information is consumed around the clock by audiences around the world and across many platforms.

It seems obvious that news is a human need. The circulation of news and information is crucial to so much of our daily life; from simple things like weather forecasts and news headlines to more complex decision-influencing interactions with media: taste recommendations, tribal and communal affiliations, social, cultural and political allegiances.

In short, news and journalism contribute to our global world view. Many of these insights, reports and analyses might be partial. Some will appear biased or advocacy-based rather than ‘news’ and some will make our blood boil; but they inform, educate and entertain.

Journalism and journalists have a proud history of – under the right circumstances – speaking truth to power. At the same time, it is criticised for being too close to power. There’s a contradiction in that couplet. This fault line is expressed in many ways:

  • journalists and news represent the fourth estate, based on bourgeois ideals of freedom of expression, rights and democratic representation
  • the Internet represents a new ‘fifth estate’ or sorts that is more democratic, or at least should be outside of traditional media structures and systems of control
  • the news industry is the free market of ideas where the value of an idea can be measured by commercial success
  • #wikileaks is the new journalism – or a threat to national security
  • easy access to user-generated content means that the MSM is becoming irrelevant in many peoples’ lives
  • social media and digital technologies will kill newspapers sooner rather than later and television eventually
  • journalism is a mirror reflecting society back to itself
  • journalists and news cannot be trusted to always tell the unvarnished truth
  • news is compromised by ideological values that support the status quo
  • twitter beats the MSM for speed, but has a low signal to noise ratio
  • journalists are caught in an ethical minefield because of the contradictions
  • the spin doctors are in control – journalism is just churnalism
  • commercial speech is chewing up the space free speech used to occupy in the public sphere
  • which business model is going to work best?

Funnily enough, enough of these common sense insights are true – or, put another way – there’s enough partial truth in these ideas to formulate a greater understanding.

I try to capture some of this in News 2.0 and argue that journalism can survive the Internet. More precisely journalism and the Internet will get on just fine. What’s less clear for me at the moment is the future of professional journalism versus amateur or alternative models; the stability of the industrial news model; and what Rupert Murdoch might do next if and/or when the paywalls fail or succeed.

I am encouraged by experiments in crowd-sourcing and collaborations.

I believe in and will fight for good investigative journalism

I want to encourage greater democratic input to news and journalism and to empower the people we formerly called the audience.

I also want to celebrate and invigorate the fighting, democratic and committed journalism of my heroes, past and present.

I actually got to celebrate my book moment in a different way earlier today. I had a long chat with National Radio’s Mediawatch producer Colin Peacock about #twitdef, which I covered recently. You might recall the incident when a senior News Ltd editor threatened to sue a hackademic blogger reporting on a journalism education conference in Sydney.

Twitdef and The Australian

A week in the Twitterverse

#posettigate as it became known in tweets raised interesting questions about tweeting and blogging and when someone might be considered to be a journalist and able to claim privilege for fair reporting of someone else’s potentially damaging comments.

Did it count in Julie Posetti’s favour that she has been a serious MSM journalist and can claim an understanding of the rules? Did Julie in fact stop being a journalist when she became a full-time educator and academic? She may well argue that she hasn’t given up journalism and I would be among many journalism educators that feel the same way.

Journalists are people like us – trained, schooled in newsrooms, perhaps even university-educated; but at heart a reporter, a ‘newshound’.

Most of us hackademics like to think we still think like hard-nosed journalists; we still have some good news instincts and we ‘get’ journalism.

But we also bring something else to the mix; a fresh(ish) and more distanced, nuanced perspective. We don’t just ‘do’ journalism, or ‘teach’ it; we think it and analyse is and many of us question it too. To some extent, we are now outside journalism, but looking intently inwards.

For the most part our intentions are honourable.

We love journalism and we actually like lots of actual journalists.

We love news and believe in its powers for both good and evil

But do we really know what journalism is today?

This is the question at the heart of the contradictions I’ve been talking about.

You will notice now that I haven’t defined journalism really. Except towards the end where I describe people like me.

I am acutely aware that this is only one definition today.

Seismic shifts in technology and in the social relations of news production have rattled the foundations of the fourth estate and wikileaks is just another example of ongoing after-shocks.

I end my book by arguing we have to move beyond the fourth estate conception of journalism and news in order to save both as areas of professional and intellectual practice.

I’ve begun to look to Gramsci and the history of public intellectuals for some possible clues.

But that’s a project for next time.


A day of irony, intrigue and outrage: SFC, NBR, SFO, “WTF?”

October 20, 2010

Funny things coincidences, they tend to happen when you least expect it.

So today, coincidentally, New Zealand is in the top ten in the global media freedom index sponsored by Reporters Without Borders and today, co-coincidentally, the National Business Review has been bullied into handing over files, notes, documents and recordings to the Serious Fraud Office under threat of draconian fines and expensive legal hassles.

If the SFO knows about any incriminating documents NBR journalist Matt Nippert may have received from his sources, surely the nation’s premiere business crime unit could go to the South Canterbury Finance principals and others involved in the investigation and just ask for them.

Or, perhaps issue a warrant to search premises where originals or copies might be stored. It’s not a good look for the SFO to be standing over journalists just trying to do their jobs, rather than investigating the source of the alleged wrong-doing.

An intriguing thing media freedom: you don’t really know you had it until someone tries to take it away.

It’s an outrage that we pat ourselves on the back with one hand and poke out our own eyes with a burnt stick at the same time.

The intimidation of NBR is a salutory reminder that there are no shield laws in New Zealand and that the ethical principle of source confidentiality – for the protection of journalists and whistleblowers – is trumped by the law.

This is an ethico-legal paradox that won’t go away without some legislative fix. I don’t think shield laws solve all such problems, but well drafted and implemented they can be part of the protection that journalists need to do good investigative work like Matt’s done on the South Canterbury / Hyatt Regency hotel story so far.

I think the situation is paraphrased nicely in this quote from Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Jean-Francois Julliard:

“The defence of media freedom continues to be a battle, a battle of vigilance in the democracies of old Europe and a battle against oppression and injustice in the totalitarian regimes still scattered across the globe.”

I wouldn’t go so far as to suggest that New Zealand is a totalitarian regime along the lines of, say, Fiji or Burma, for example, but the chilling effect of the threats against Matt Nippert, Nevil Gibson and the NBR are only a velvet glove away from the iron fist.

We always have to be on guard against police and thieves.


Paul Henry’s resignation an anti-climax

October 10, 2010

Well, Paul Henry resigned on Sunday afternoon. The public pressure and an ominous warning yesterday from his boss Rick Ellis were apparently enough to shift Henry into proactive mode.

I was a bit surprised. I thought he’d tough it out and I wasn’t sure Rick Ellis would carry through his sack Henry option. But maybe, just maybe, Henry now exits with a modicum of his dignity intact.

[Sunday nightcap]

I’d also just like to acknowledge Paul Holmes’ column from the HoS today. It never appears online, but Paul H[olmes] did a good job of treading a fine line between the rat who took his mate’s gig and the consoling mate who thinks his first-namesake is actually a good bloke under all that hardening slime.

I was tempted to say that under no circumstances could I take a man’s programme when he was experiencing bad times and I would never forgive someone doing it to me but then I thought, well, what the hell, what could I do but accept? [HoS 10.10.10 p.41]

Well Paul, you could show some principles and act in solidarity with a mate “experiencing bad times”. That’s what a mate would do. Unlike that “certain crowd” who kick a mate when he’s down.

There is a certain crowd who will love to pull him down because he is simply too successful. This is the schadenfreude factor and it is very powerful.

Schadenfreude is taking delight in another’s misfortune. It is a fancy way of talking about the so-called tall poppy syndrome. It’s nonsense.

Henry fcuked up and exposed his inner gremlins; he wasn’t torn down, he self-immolated after pouring petrol over his head for some time and playing with matches.

What happens next?

Complaints to TVNZ as a precursor to a Beeza inquiry into Henrygate are now moot. Beeza may still feel it necessary to poke a finger in the wound, but I’d be surprised if any complaints make it that far now.

Rick Ellis has promised a review of editorial standards, which is a bit like oiling the hinges on the stable door after… Instead, there will be a hunt to find a replacement for Henry and it will have to be someone extraordinary in order to ensure that the Breakfast ratings don’t just go down the poo-hole with the show’s former star attraction.

Henry will be looking for a new job and like disgraced carefully and slowly rehabilitated sports presenter Tony Veitch, he may yet find another home in commercial radio after a spectacular fall from grace.

This whole messy mess is an opportunity for TVNZ to re-think it’s approach to breakfast television.

 

The captain, but no Tenille

 

I would opt for a return to Captain Kangaroo-style kids entertainment and leave the serious stuff to National Radio.

I loved Captain Kangaroo as a kid growing up in Milwaukee, he was just in control and always seemed about to explode – a lot like Paul Henry, so he would be popular with Henry’s audience profile and appealing to kids.

A serious morning news programme would be very interesting for the state broadcaster and I would enjoy it, but it would be expensive and a ratings stone (most likely). If TVNZ wants to go down that route I would be keen to offer some advice.

In the meantime, here’s the Captain to entertain you while you slurp down a coffee and some Froot Loops.


Henry Laws: Dynamic duo of dysfunctional rhetoric, or just ‘excitable boys’?

October 10, 2010

I made a bold prediction a few days ago. I suggested that Michael Laws would write a column in today’s Sunday Star Times defending Paul Henry.

Mea culpa. Laws defied my predictive powers and wrote instead about Len Brown and the Auckland mayoralty. However, Laws didn’t disappoint entirely, he has made some comments defending Henry and, along the way, he’s also now made some nasty personal and racist comments about G-G Sir Anand Satyanand.

Ah Michael, you are a paragon of certainty in this uncertain world. How will you manage without the benefit of the mayoral chains yourself. Perhaps you will be less prominent in our lives — at least for those of us who don’t listen to you talk-back drivel.

The tide of commentary about Henry is still rising and despite the absence of Laws’ in today’s papers, there’s plenty of others, including a surprising defence of sorts from Finlay McDonald.

Had Henry ventured that we might like to see, for example, a white person back in Government House, it would seem a little more clear-cut. But as every commentator was obliged to observe from the outset, by seeming to invoke some archetype of New Zealand-ness, it was logically possible he meant to include Maori as well. Straight away, then, it was a little more complicated than a bigoted buffoon running amok on state television inciting race hate. In other words, he might benefit from at least a little bit of doubt.

[Let’s draw the line between idiocy and true racism]

Sorry Finlay, I totally disagree. What ever excuses are cooked up, there was intent in Henry’s comments, just as there was in Michael Laws’ attack on Satyanand last week too.

They are birds of a feather and both deserve to be criticised for their loose lips, not given any benefit of the doubt.

Perhaps, though, if we want to excuse their ugliness, we could suggest, that they are nothing more than “excitable boys”.

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