It was graphic election night coverage and a touch of déjà vu

It would be far too boastful to use the phrase ‘great minds think alike’ but the Herald’s Simon Wilson and I had the same thought on the general election result: There is a parallel with what happened in Britain in 1945. British voters turned their back on the man who had led them through the Second World War, and New Zealanders wanted to turn their backs on storm and pestilence.

Wilson commented that Churchill’s rival, Labour leader Clement Atlee, promised a welfare state, and that looked like the kind of peace voters believed they deserved. In 2023 “it has meant that one thing trumped everything in this election. We want to forget. Move on and forget. Don’t tell me about the pandemic, I have to find the money to feed my family.”

I think he’s right.

Winston Churchill put on a stoic public face after his defeat by Atlee (despite his private anguish), and on television on Saturday night Chris Hipkins did the same in acknowledging National leader Christopher Luxon’s victory. Continue reading “It was graphic election night coverage and a touch of déjà vu”

‘Corrupt, arrogant and ignorant’: Classic Peters playbook but Jack Tame kept asking questions

It was vintage Winston Peters – a class act that took my mind back through countless encounters with journalists asking questions he did not want to answer.

The 78-year-old with seemingly several centuries of political experience did to Jack Tame on 1News’ Q&A last weekend what he did to the same interviewer on the same programme three years ago: He answered questions with umbrage. At least this time he didn’t repeatedly call him James.

Tame was trying to get Peters to admit his New Zealand First  Party had not costed its policies. He tried to pin down Peters on the cost of a dedicated gang prison and seemed to believe it would be a new prison rather than the re-allocation of existing spaces between institutions. After a verbal pas-de-deux he was told: “Look, I’m not going to have a fiscal argument with you when you don’t know what you’re talking about”.

The interviewer moved to a policy on funding the elderly in residential care and after repeated questioning on cost was told: “Can I just tell TV1: You’re a taxpayer-owned operation. The taxpayer is entitled to a proper interview here, not you thinking you’ll do what you did last time…I’ll answer your question if you’ll just shut up for five seconds.” Neither did, but Peters went on to say the party’s imminent manifesto would explain the policy “but, of course, you couldn’t wait for that.” The manifesto was due to be published later that day. It wasn’t, and the following day Peters announced he had delayed publication until after Wednesday’s official cash rate announcement.

Then to co-governance and a complex exchange about Peters’ past knowledge of government policy and a report which he claimed had been withheld from him. A sample of his personal slights aimed at Tame: “Don’t show your inexperience”, “Jack, I know you’re desperate but you’re not going to stop this surge in our campaign with lies and deceit”, “you’re a waste of taxpayers’ money”. On party funding: “This is amazing. Jack, take your dirt and go somewhere else.”

He accused Tame of being “corrupt”, suggesting his “masters” were “trying to get rid of New Zealand First”.

And so it went on, culminating in a final salvo at the host: “People are going to say ‘Winston, why did you bother coming today’. Democracy is about hearing both sides of the story, not hearing arrogant, jumped-up, overpaid [journalists] who think they know more about this country…you just made a case here for us to get the broadcasting portfolio after the election.”

He was asked if that was a threat: “No, it’s not a threat. It’s a promise that you’re going to have an operation that is much more improved on what it is now.”

And, with a winning smile, he was gone. Continue reading “‘Corrupt, arrogant and ignorant’: Classic Peters playbook but Jack Tame kept asking questions”

Editorial executive: ‘There must be more to life than this’

The hierarchy of New Zealand’s news media organisations, once a relatively stable environment, is changing with the speed and effect of a Nek Minnit video. In part, it is a consequence of vacancies and reorganisations but several of the moves also point to a deeper-seated issue. Some media executives have given so much of their lives to the job that they have had an epiphany and want some of that life back.

Three senior news executives in as many months have quit their jobs, not to take up another position, but to take extended breaks. RNZ’s head of news, Richard Sutherland, was first. He was followed by senior TVNZ producer Sam Robertson, and last week Miriyana Alexander – the star of NZME’s premium subscription drive – resigned and said she was taking a break from journalism altogether. Continue reading “Editorial executive: ‘There must be more to life than this’”

Sports department kicked into touch: New game strategy?

We may be witnessing the beginning of deconstruction in the newsroom – not their destruction but changes that could alter their shape and function.

A week ago, the New York Times announced that it was, to use an Americanism, shuttering its sports department and moving its 35 reporters and editors to other roles. It is handing over responsibility for sports coverage to The Athletic.

The Athletic is a sports website that the New York Times Company bought in January 2022 for $US550 million ($NZ818 million). It has almost 400 journalists covering more than 200 professional sports teams and churns out about 150 stories a day. It had over one million subscribers when it was bought, and that number has tripled in 18 months and is trending upward. Nonetheless, it has yet to turn a profit, and in the first quarter of this year lost the equivalent of more than $NZ12 million.

It is unsurprising that the New York Times Company wants to optimise its purchase and cut those losses (it recently laid off 20 staff at The Athletic), but what is surprising is that it has not opted to integrate The Athletic’s staff and stringers into the NYT newsroom but has done the opposite. It has decided to close its sports department and, in effect, to take a service from its subsidiary. That service will provide coverage for the print edition of the Times as well as the parent website.

Sports sections may be well read but they are a notoriously poor destinations for advertising. Here, for example, the Weekend Herald last Saturday had less than half a page of advertising in its sports section and the Stuff metropolitan papers had none. The New York Times has reduced the number of sports pages and it no longer has a stand-alone sports section in the newspaper.

However, what we may be witnessing is not a manifestation of a reduced commitment to sport but a new way of thinking about newsroom structures. Continue reading “Sports department kicked into touch: New game strategy?”