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”

Show us the full horror of war in Ukraine

Atrocities and total war are not pixilated or sanitised. They bring death with unimaginable brutality and obliterate lives with indifference. It is time to stop protecting the New Zealand public from these grim realities of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

Our news media post warnings about disturbing images and then obscure them out of a long-held regard for the sensibilities of readers and viewers over portrayal of death. We see shapeless body bags while those lying in the street are given a dignified digital shroud.

Yes, we read and hear descriptions of what the innocent citizens of Ukraine have had to endure at the hands of Russian invaders. However, we are shielded from most graphic detail of what is being done in a mission to “demilitarize and de-Nazify” a democratic nation that posed no defence threat to its neighbour.

How often do we see and hear the phrase “Warning: The following item includes disturbing images including dead bodies” when, in fact, we are left to imagine what the body looks like under its obscuring mantle? Continue reading “Show us the full horror of war in Ukraine”

Bearing witness against protesters and Putin

Buried in an account of the removal of the protesters’ camp from the grounds of the New Zealand Parliament was a fundamental reason why professional journalism must continue to exist.

New Zealand Herald political reporter Michael Neilson was there last Wednesday when police moved on the camp and its occupants.  He took the following day to reflect on events and in Friday’s edition he said: “And so I was there again among the protesters, with a handful of other journalists, as police looked set to clear the site once and for all, to bear witness as best we could.”

He went on to describe what he saw. He bore witness. Continue reading “Bearing witness against protesters and Putin”

Fog thick on ground in Ukraine

The incident was broadcast around the world: A Russian armoured vehicle on the streets of Kyiv “maliciously” crushing a car from which the driver “miraculously” emerged alive.

The tabloid descriptors went into overdrive, readily accepted by an audience already appalled by Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. It was a graphic illustration of the savagery of Russia’s unprovoked attack on its neighbour and a metaphor for the unequal battle being fought.

Then the Russian Embassy in Canada posted a screen grab of CBC News’ report of the incident but claimed it was a Ukrainian Armed Forces vehicle that had inflicted the damage “while hiding in civilian quarters in Kiev”. Both countries do, in fact, operate the Strela-10 short-range mobile anti-aircraft system.

This was followed by reports that it was a Ukrainian Strela-10 that had been seized by Russian soldiers who, dressed in Ukrainian uniforms, were carrying out a ‘false-flag’ sabotage mission.

Finally came an ‘analysis’ that, irrespective of the nationality, it was a tragic accident caused when the driver of the Strela-10 lost control on a corner of the road and went into a skid before hitting the oncoming car.

Such is the fog of war. Continue reading “Fog thick on ground in Ukraine”