Latter-day anarchists throw digital bombs at journalists

Every journalist that ‘outs’ a conspiracy theorist or extremist paints a target on their own back. 

The anti-truth brigade thrives in dark places and shining a light on it and its associates is doing a public service. Yet it comes at a cost.

The tone of abuse that it generates is even darker than the places from which it emanates. Journalists – particularly female journalists – are being subjected to taunts and threats on an unprecedented scale and in forms that are deeply disturbing.

Paula Penfold of the Stuff Circuit team that produced the documentary Fire and Fury, which unmasked many of those behind the February-March protest in Parliament grounds, revealed in the Sunday Star Times last weekend that since its appearance she has been targeted with death threats, abuse “and, unsurprisingly, conspiracy theories”. She told the newspaper: “I’ve had lots before but never as many or as ugly or as threatening than after this documentary.”

Penfold’s situation was outlined in an article about the abuse three female Stuff journalists had endured for doing their jobs. Alongside Penfold were Kirsty Johnston, who revealed MP Sam Uffindell’s record at King’s College, and Andrea Vance, currently revealing the anti- brigade’s associations with local body candidates. Continue reading “Latter-day anarchists throw digital bombs at journalists”

Redesign puts Herald on Sunday back on course

I am labelling the redesign of the Herald on Sunday a course correction. It is one that could bring the paper back on track.

From its inception, the HoS did not sit comfortably alongside its older siblings the New Zealand Herald and Weekend Herald. Somehow it didn’t seem to share the same gene pool. It always left the impression that it might, in fact, have been an adopted child.

After downsizing, the weekday Herald had retained something of the gravitas of its broadsheet antecedent even if it assumed tabloid trappings that pulled away from the ‘compact’ concept championed by The Independent in London (the Herald had been its stablemate during the Tony O’Reilly era). The Weekend Herald has also reflected its traditions, despite a tendency to confuse broadsheet and tabloid design concepts.

The Herald on Sunday had been born to break the traditional mould. The past was to be another country and ‘invented here’ was its guiding light. In a word, it was tabloid.

There is nothing wrong with breaking moulds if they are replaced by something superior. However, I do not think the HoS met that challenge. Worse, it was pitched at a market outside that of the main mastheads.

There are three Sundays in the New Zealand market: Sunday Star Times, Herald on Sunday and Sunday News. Stuff owns the SST and venerable Sunday News, which has been with us since 1964. The former strives for the ‘thinking’ end of the market while the latter is  what it has always been ­– a tabloid aimed at the lower end of the market (although the economies of copy sharing with its sister has unfortunately raised the tone a little). The Herald on Sunday should be pitched at the middle market, which is arguably much larger than either end of the spectrum. However, since its inception in 2004 it has been aimed lower than was wise.

The re-design last weekend is a welcome attempt to draw it back toward the centre and, while one swallow does not a summer make, it looks to be a successful move. Continue reading “Redesign puts Herald on Sunday back on course”

It’s those geeks with gifts again

Beware of geeks bearing gifts.

I gave that warning in a column seven years ago and repeated it here last November. I’ll say it again: Beware of geeks bearing gifts.

I make no apologies for sounding like a cracked record.

On the face of it, New Zealand media companies appear to be trotting along nicely in their bid to get some money for the content that Google and Facebook have been freely appropriating.

The Commerce Commission has issued a draft determination allowing members of the News Publishers Association to bargain collectively with Meta and Google on payment for content. The NPA is a mix of metropolitan and regional newspaper publishers but in this initiative it is minus NZME, which has already brokered deals with both Google and Facebook. NZME’s agreement with the latter is not payment for content but support for NZME’s “subscriber growth and retention”.

Call it ‘content’, call it ‘retention’, no matter. They’re paying up one way or another. All’s good.

But is it? Continue reading “It’s those geeks with gifts again”

The media pack smells blood

The media wolf pack knows when it smells blood.

Unfortunately, its sense of smell is not so well developed that it can differentiate between a mortal wound, a non-life-threatening gash, and a paper cut.

When it is denied a kill, the more excitable members of the pack howl in disappointment while the grey-muzzled old-timers who have trotted along at a more leisurely pace look knowingly at each other.

We saw the pack in action last week when it sniffed the blood of National Party leader Christopher Luxon following a couple of gaffes and an apparent plateau in the polls.

That culminated in pundits at opposite ends of the political spectrum acting as if they were closing in on a kill. Continue reading “The media pack smells blood”