“Harper, check the water!” Another one bites the hand that holds the leash

February 27, 2010

Well, I’ll be dammed like the Three Gorges, there’s something in the water.

Surely there can be no other explanation: another columnist – Paul Thomas in Saturday’s Herald – taking the flagellation device to his professional coterie. “Spare the rod, spoil the page,” I say.

Loyal readers will know that it was a lonely week ago that I brought to your attention a spate of honest spade=shovel introspection missives from a number of weekend columnists.

First we had Tracey Barnett lamenting the lack of analysis and focus on the horse race aspects of politics – winners and losers, rather than policy dissection – in the work of her colleagues.

Then, both Rosemary McLeod and Deborah Coddington had a go – totally without having read Tracey’s column (unless there’s some sort of “Hubble, bubble, toil and trouble,” clique going on, which I doubt) .

Rosemary was railing against the volume of paper and ink  wasted  in pursuit of sexlebrity scandals and Deborah basically told Ali Mau to get over herself and accept the flogging that comes with living in the celebrity goldfish bowl. The key is that they all want to talk about various versions of themselves and their fellow columnists.

Deborah warned that journalists are not (always) lapdogs: “We’re not a fluffy dog you can pat – we bite” OUCH.

Tracey described her fellow columnists as “myopic sheep” and Rosemary says that columnists actually ignore the issues that really matter.

Enter stage right Paul Thomas in a column that’s ostensibly about the media circus surrounding the Tiger Woods’ apology fiasco, sexlebrity drama stand-off broohaha:

Actually, journalists aren’t paid to represent the public at all; they’re paid to fill newspapers and air time, to generate a commercial product.

[Sorry or not, there’s no pleasing the media]

Read the rest of this entry »

Shock, horror: Columnist admits shortcomings

February 20, 2010

Congratulations Tracey Barnett, you have won this week’s Poolittzer for unexpected honesty in journalism. You can pick up your prize – a neatly string-tied bundle of fish and chip wrappings – from  out the back of any dairy in central Auckland.

All facetiousness aside, Tracey is one of the more readable columnists in the New Zealand Herald – it might be because she’s not from ’round here. From memory I think I heard an American accent the last time I spoke with her. Sorry, I’ll really put that facet aside now.

Whatever the reason – Tracey thinks it was a well-earned rest from reading the news over summer – today’s column All commentary, no analysis, all of the time should be a wake-up call to the rest of her colleagues.

The basic premise is that columnists are show ponies who are so caught up in the hype of the news cycle that they lose sight of the bigger picture.

My profession suck at what they do. Let me be very specific. Commentators, pundits, columnists, people like me who get their little heads put in a box on the left side of the story, are myopic sheep – on a good day.

Someone finds a way to start the news narrative and like clueless lemmings, we all jump into the same plotline to finish each other’s sentences, clinging to page one.

Yep, I reckon she’s right and there’s a PhD thesis in there for some enterprising postgraduate. Read the rest of this entry »