Dishonest journalism from Campbell Live and why Alasdair Thompson should refer it to the BSA

EMA chief executive Alasdair Thompson with Campbell Live's Mihingarangi Forbes

Here’s a little quiz: Who said this?

“I believe that in life most women are more productive totally than most men. I absolutely believe that. When you take into account the things that women do in their lives compared to most men. They often do all the arranging of the finances for the whole family, they run the household, they care for the children, they do all manner of things and they go to work. Their total productivity in life, in my opinion, is higher than most men.”

The answer? Alasdair Thompson. Where? In an interview with Mihingarangi Forbes for Campbell Live.

How come you didn’t know that? Because that part of the interview wasn’t shown on the programme. In fact only 4’18” of this 27 minute interview was shown.

TV3 is entitled to edit the programme, a fact which Thompson acknowledged and accepted at the start of recording. But what it is not entitled to do is to select a passage which is totally non-representative of the original interview in its entirety.  That is precisely what it did.

As it happens, the piece which it did select constitutes roughly the last five minutes of the original interview. This is because the previous 22 minutes did not suit the programme’s or the interviewer’s agenda which was to cast Thompson in the same role that other branches of the media have already cast him, as a male chauvinist pig.

Annoyingly for Campbell Live and its reporter, Thompson comes across in those first 22 minutes as pleasant, reasonable, a strong advocate of gender equality in the workplace and, in one reply, as  an exponent of values that could almost be called “feminist”. He also says to Forbes that she is probably more productive than most of the men she works with. She agrees, but points out that she has three children, sometimes has to take time off work and suspects that she isn’t being paid as much as her male counterparts – the very point that Thompson has just been making. His reply? That, if that was the case,  she should be taking it up with her employer. It’s all about productivity.

At one point in the interview, Thompson indicates that he doesn’t want what he is about to say on camera. (“Not for this interview, by the way.”) His reason is that he doesn’t want to bring one of his women employees into the debate. It becomes clear that she is the person in the organisation who keeps the employment records and on whose information he has based his comments on some women being less productive than some men.

He later asks Forbes to ask him the question about where he gets his information from again. Forbes does so. He begins but isn’t happy with his reply and says, “Just go off camera for a moment.” Forbes protests. He says, “I’ve just got to get the answer for you correctly, I’m very sensitive at the moment as you can imagine, having been hung, drawn and quartered today. I want to tell you the answer and then I want to frame it for you on camera.” He then gives a reasoned explanation of where he gets his information.

Forbes then asks: “So then if someone is sick here, you ask them why they are sick, and they tell you because they’ve got heavy period pains?”

Thompson hasn’t actually said this and angrily gets out of the chair and walks away. He finally walks back. Both are standing. He is clearly angry. This exchange follows:

Forbes: “Ok, maybe you should resign then because you can’t represent half of the population – women.”

Thompson: “Did you come into this meeting thinking that?”

Forbes: “No, I’m just telling you because you don’t represent me very well as a female, because you believe that I’m less productive a female…”

This is precisely the opposite of what Thompson had said earlier in the interview, not only about women in general but about Forbes herself. He justifiably protests, accusing Forbes of telling lies.  They both sit down again and a further exchange follows.

Thompson then asks: “When do you want to roll again?” Forbes replies, “It’s an interview, we’re rolling the whole time.” Thomson protests that he had stopped the interview. Forbes says, “You didn’t say you were off the record.” It’s correct that Thomson did not use those words. He may well have thought that getting up, walking away and heading for the door was sufficient indication that the interview was over.

It’s our advice to clients that they should never say anything to journalists “off the record”. We frequently add that it’s often not clear when either interviewer or interviewee understands the conversation is “on the record” again. This is very much the case in this interview.

But even if we give Forbes the benefit of the doubt on this, the fact remains that four fifths of the interview, in which Thompson came across in an extremely positive light was not shown to viewers, while the remaining fifth, in which he became animated and angry was.  That is dishonest journalism.

What’s more, and to add insult to injury,  it was on the basis of this dishonest journalism that viewers were invited to take part in a poll on Thompson’s competence to remain in his job and whether he should resign. Unsurprisingly, the vast majority of respondents said he should.

I’m a fan of Campbell Live. I regard it as superior in almost every way to Close Up. I also really like Mihingarangi Forbes.  But this item was a journalistic disgrace. I don’t agree with Thompson’s views, but my strong advice to him would be to refer this matter to the Broadcasting Standards Authority. I would happily support him.

In the meantime, watch the full interview and the broadcast edit for yourself, and see what you think.

Brian Edwards is one of New Zealand’s most respected broadcasters and writers. His career spans every branch of the media – columnist, author, radio and television interviewer, media commentator and trainer. He’s the only broadcaster in the world to have solved a major industrial dispute on television; he’s the guy who first started asking Kiwi politicians sticky questions; he’s the chap who invented Fair Go; he’s been media advisor to four New Zealand Prime Ministers and to hundreds of top people in the public and private sectors. He regularly posts media commentary at Brian Edwards Media.

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92 Comments & Questions

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I produce Campbell Live and I would argue, Brian, that we were being honest. Yesterday was a huge day for Christchurch and after the good work we have done there for the past two weeks (I would argue a combination of our caravan of complaint, compelling stories consistently night after night and John’s interviews over the past fortnight put some pressure on the Government to bring yesterday’s zoning decision forward.)

On a day that meant so much not just for Christchurch but for the rest of the country too, we’re hardly going to run a 27 minute interview with Alasdair Thompson. In fact, if we had you would probably have written a column about it! We had to choose the best part to put to air. That’s our job. When John does an interview with someone in the field, e.g. John Key on budget day, he might speak to him for 20 minutes. We don’t put the whole interview to air. We put the best bits to air. I had four spare minutes yesterday and now the whole interview is on the internet for people to watch, judge and draw their own conclusion. That’s what good journalism is all about (I think you taught me that during my journalism course?)

If it wasn’t on the internet, you wouldn’t have seen it. You wouldn’t have known what else Alasdair said or the context of the interview so to say we are dishonest I would argue is wrong. What didn’t go to air in the TVNZ interview? Would you have watched the first four minutes of Alasdair speaking with Mihi? The middle four minutes? The last four minutes? It was pure coincidence that he was interviewed by two TV3 female reporters. I asked Mihi to ring Alasdair and she did. She then went down to his office for an interview. At this point he had already done two other interviews. He had every opportunity to tell her to go away but he didn’t and instead spoke with her for 27 minutes. At no point did he ask for the camera to be turned off or the interview to be stopped.

Re the poll. The story had been around all day. John promoted the poll at the top of the show but people didn’t see Mihi’s interview until the last segment of the show. People were voting on what they had seen and heard all day and in the news. They must have been because 80 per cent of our votes were in by the time the story went to air. Others rolled in after the show and after the interview but were not included in the result that went to air. Interestingly, the percentages didn’t change.

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Good on you Brian. This was a witchunt of the vilist proportions. I cringed at the standard of the interviewer. She was obviously out to trap Alisdair and her questions were inane. How can I make a complaint about her and TV3?

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Hi Pip.
I totally agree with Brian Edwards here.
You state that from this interview, you only put 'the best bits to air'.
By the 'best bits' I am gathering you are meaning 'the most controversial' or 'the most ratings-gathering bits'.
You have NOT been fair here to Mr Thompson, and that, to me, means you have been completely irresponsible.
An entirely different angle here could have been that you aired his statement that 'women are far more productive than men' - for a nationwide discussion.
To isolate one comment and run with that, at the expense of a persons' career, family and income, is a disgrace.
Mihis' interview was atrocious, amateur and muck-raking rubbish.
How embarassing for TV3.
C'mon, John. You have allowed your producers to lower your standards on your behalf, and I'm very surprised at this.
Todays news 'might' be tomorrows' 'fish and chip wrappers' but in the process you have potentially ruined someones' life.
Shame on you.

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Once again Campbell Live is showing us what a B grade movie it usually is.

Remember what Campbell did to Ken Ring who is a honest man with a different perspective on the world and he's entitled to have an opinion.

This unfortunately seems to be the norm for Campbell Live who have a ongoing agenda of personal character assasination to try and get some ratings.

I personally can't stand Campbells insincere buddy buddy stuff that he trots out night after night and then they turn out this sort of rubbish.

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Ironbridge need to cut costs at TV3 - getting rid of Campbell and his pack of hyenas would save a few million and would be great "PR" for them.

How about showing the "best bits" of Keane, Forbes and Campbell getting sacked?

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good idea. Marvellous !

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Don't use Christchurch as an excuse to lie

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Pip, I find it incomprehensible that you say "At no point did he ask for the camera to be turned off or the interview to be stopped".

You must have missed the bit where he says "Just - we go off camera for a bit, okay?" And then a bit later, "Okay, let's go on camera".

Good attention to detail, there, Pip. Brian Edwards is completely correct in his article and response to you.

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So what this article tells me is that Mr Thompson was able to conduct himself in a civil manner for 22 mins - then his mask slipped and we all saw the real Mr Thompson - a power-tripping bully who relys on intimidating people when things don't go his way. Intersting!

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We all saw that on Breakfast, with the CTU representative, over the Youth Rates issue. And yes of course Edwards has an interest. They are both dinosaurs milking the last gravy trains available .

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Campbell has been making up news for his own ends since he started & none of you bs hides that fact.

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Horrible Journalism - design to show him in the worst possible light without representing the facts clearly or putting it in context! gutter-ball journalism and put together in such a way to show him angry or frustrated after being goaded by the reporter after repeatedly being asked the same thing over and over. Wow! you guys really know how to destroy a guy after he apologises...and whats worse is that YOU knew he thought the interview was stopped, but you just had to show that part only... Good greif! I dont agree with everything he says, but I respect him a lot for doing many interviews that day to apologise - that takes courage for any person - I lost all respect for TV3 and even question the beliveabiltiy you now put out as "News"

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Thanks for your response to my criticism of the Campbell Live item on Alasdair Thompson. I had not intended to reply to any more comments [other comments are posted on BrianEdwardsMedia.co.nz], since a majority seemed to be about Thompson’s opinions, which I had said in the post I disagreed with and which were not intended to be the subject of discussion.

However, it was an episode of your programme which I attacked and you quite clearly deserve a response.

I should perhaps begin by saying that Judy [Callingham] and I have had numerous discussions recently about Campbell Live. We have been struck by the manner in which the programme has increasingly taken on the role of crusader on behalf of the dispossessed and of those unfairly treated by large institutions, including the Government. The “caravans of complaint”, to which you refer in your comment, are a very good example. I also said in the post that I regarded Campbell Live as “superior in almost every way” to its competitor on TV One and that I really liked Mihingarangi.

But the item on Alasdair Thompson was not in that category. It was, in my opinion, unworthy of you, and I do not resile from the judgement that it was unprofessional, unfair and (if not by deliberate design, then certainly through lack of judgement) journalistically dishonest.

Your response to my criticism of the programme is essentially based on television production values rather than on journalistic ethics. What it comes down to is that you didn’t have time to be fair – it was a heavy news day, Christchurch was the big story and you only had four minutes to spare for Mr Thompson.

A similar appeal to television production values as justification for unfairness was advanced by Fair Go a year or so back when it put the photographs of people who refused to front in the studio up on its ‘wall of shame’, even though several of those people had completely put right any wrong they had done the complainant. The rationale for this was essentially that having the complainees in the studio made better television.

The journalistic ethics question in this case is: could you do justice to Thompson’s argument and demeanour in the original, unedited, 27-minute interview with a 4-minute clip from the end of the interview during which Thompson loses his composure? Was that fair?

Your argument is, I didn’t have time to play the full interview, I only had time to play four minutes and so “we put the best bits to air”. The obvious next question is, “Why, in your judgement, were they ‘the best bits’?” I’m happy for you to respond to that question in a further comment. But I’m pretty sure I know the answer already: They were “the best bits” because the interviewee lost his cool, stormed off, came back, stood very close to the interviewer – he’s taller and bigger than her – argued with her and accused her of telling lies. You might not have liked Thompson, but for 22 minutes he had been reasonable and calm and maybe a bit boring, and then suddenly there it was, the core ingredient in audience-pleasing current-affairs television: CONFLICT!

Not quite Dennis Conner perhaps, but close. Careers have been made on episodes like this.

With regard to the poll, you suggest that viewers would have been largely uninfluenced by the four-minute clip since “people didn’t see the Mihi interview until the last segment of the show. People were voting on what they had seen and heard all day and in the news.”

You’re correct that many viewers would have been unsympathetic to Thompson as a result of the media publicity which his comments had received during the day. But you’re not entirely correct in your assertion that “people didn’t see the Mihi interview until the last segment of the show.” They did. Not the whole interview of course, but the bit that really mattered, the “really best bit” if you like: Thompson losing his cool, storming back, standing face to face with Mihi, arguing with her. That short but oh-so-vital clip was shown right at the beginning of your programme, on the first of four occasions on which the poll was promo-ed during the show.

You place considerable emphasis in your reply on the fact that the interview could be seen in its entirely on the TV3 website. But this was not mentioned anywhere in the programme. Nor is it in fact particularly relevant. The Broadcasting Act requires broadcasters to provide balance on any particular issue either within a single programme or over a series of programmes. It makes no reference to other media. The reason for this seems to me simple: the viewer or listener should not be expected to look for balance beyond the programme itself; the number of those who do will be considerably smaller than the audience for the original programme; and the impact of any clarification will be considerably less than the impact of the original live programme. Something to do perhaps with first impressions.

Finally you say that “at no point did he ask for the camera to be turned off or the interview to be stopped”. I’m afraid I can’t agree.

There’s one very interesting aspect to all of this. In a live radio interview Thompson made a single remark that brought the world down on his head. He then agreed to two television interviews, and possibly other media interviews which I’m not aware of, in which he attempted to explain and contextualise what he had said. This had the opposite effect of increasing the outcry against him.

Though I did not agree with what Thompson had said, it was my view that he had been unfairly dealt with in one of these interviews – your interview on Campbell Live. My objection was to the way the interview had been edited which I considered dishonest. I said so. Almost no-one agreed with me and I came in for some heavy flak.

At that point pretty well everyone was on your side. That was until you decided to comment yourself. This was because, within your quite lengthy comment, there was one short sentence that you may now regret having written: “We put the best bits to air.” That single comment was enough to turn the tide against you. (Andi Brotherston may have experienced something similar when she opined that, in his interviews, Paul Henry was often just saying what most people thought.)

Over the last few years I’ve become very aware of an increasingly prevalent media phenomenon. A single unscripted comment, often made during a media interview, frequently taken out of context and, in some cases at least, out of keeping with the speaker’s personal history or known views, can lead to calls for that person’s immediate dismissal or resignation from his or her job, with the resultant trauma and suffering that that will incur for the person and their family. Every apology is dismissed as worthless and every explanation merely serves to provide further ammunition for the accusers. This is the mentality of the lynch mob.

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Well said Brian Edwards - a discraceful attempt at self justification from Pip Keane.

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Which crowd are you pleasing? The middle-aged males?

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Has Anonymous actually seen the full interview where he says stop the camera?

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I have never liked Brian Edwards but I totally agree with him -never saw the tv3 interview ; saw the full interview b4 the bit for tv - totally digusting. Sack the interviewer-very unprofessional.

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I agree with Brian the interview was dishonest and she did lie. It would be interesting if a fair and honest cut of the interview was made for comparison. I regard the one aired as a sad day for New Zealand journalism.

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O/S Unknown,

A "fair cut" is available and has been since the aired interview - TV3 were happy to put the full 27 minute interview up on their website and promote it ahead of the edited version. Three times as many people have viewed the full version online than the edited version. They obviously have no problem with people seeing the full interview.

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I understand that and have seen the full interview myself. It would be interesting to see what a fair cut of 6 minutes would look like compared to the sensationalism of TV3. I would suggest that 90% of people who saw it on TV3, not the Internet, have not seen the full interview.

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@ Steve Why would anyone spend the cost of downloading the content, and the time watching the full interview containing mostly boring bits, when you can get the edited version containing the most relevant bits compiled by journalists with integrity?

Unless of course you believe these journalists to not have integrity which would be a fair criticism of the Campbell live team.

Their mostly one-sided reporting of the response to the governments earthquake relief package by affected home owners in Christchurch was unbelievably blatant and desperate. Its becoming clear that the fear of being axed is driving Campbell live to tabloid journalism to boost ratings.

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@Brian Edwards. Where you see an increasingly prevalent media phenomenon in the media, I see something entirely different. What I see is the NZ good Old Boys Network coming to the rescue of someone who clearly is not suitable to hold the position he has. Even if it is not based on his (clearly outdated) opinion, it should be a no brainer that his subsequent comments and behaviour are a reason for resignation or dismissal. How disappointing and what a disgrace for New Zealand.

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No journalisim here. An appalling attempt by TV3 to jack the ratings and make money from the proceeds of the poll. I voted based on what TV3 broadcast. It was completely unbalanced. I demand my .99c back.

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Don't be greedy: the texts cost 50 cents.

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TV3 are clearly duplicitious in the matter, and may also be in breach of the Fair Trading Act with regards to the poll.

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In response to Paul Marsdenb | Saturday, June 25, 2011 - 6:31pm
Don't be greedy: the texts cost 50 cents.

I added labour + humilation damages.

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The shrieking from the feminazis is truly quite frightening; somewhat reminiscent of: 'Kristallnacht'.

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nice one, you pulled a Godwin. Not even a subtle one.

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I hope Alasdair Thompson does make a complaint to the BSA and takes up Brian Edwards' offer of support.
If anyone needs to resign it is Pip Best-bits Keane whose reply to Edwards is almost as disgraceful Forbes' interview.

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Pip Keane - what a shambles - no one expected you to run 27 minutes but we expect you to pick the bits that capture the essence of what Thompson was saying not the ugly bits at the end.

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Pip Keane - Your error of judgement is a 1000 fold that of Alastair Thompson's. The damage you have done him, his family and the EMA, is immeasurable. You deserve all the condemnation and scorn, NZ can bring to bare against you.

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Thank you Brian Edwards for bringing all this to light and along thanks to Pip BestBits for so lucidly capturing the attitude of many in the media today.
Sadly media training today is more than how to sit straight in a swivel chair and maintain your eye-line while desperately thinking how to deliver a credible response.
It's also about how what you think are the best bits can be ignored and a damaging stitch-up used instead.
Standard rules are:
Every microphone is always live
Cameras are always rolling
There's no such thing as "off the record"
There's no rule that says you have to answer every question
And last of all:
Be very very careful - none of the bastards can be trusted!

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Dr Brian Edwards...Congratulations!
On this matter you hold both the moral and intellectual high ground and I hope Alasdair Thomson takes the matter further.
I now put Pip Keane on my contempt list and feel the company well kept with that treacherous ctu trash Helen Kelly involved in this debacle also.

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Tv 3 are for-ever being third rate journalists,they are well named.

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If the media were on the ball they would ask his views on other subjects. I believe they would find plenty of other reasons why he should stand down.

He believes NZ has been sliding backwards for many years and that opportunities for the next generation are best found offshore. He often mentions how his son works US.

Alastair is worn out. He doesn't inspire me with his leadership or fight. He is stuck in the past with an old left vs right fight mentality, red vs blue and all. I think the future is left and right vs Asian competitors.

Bruce Goldsworthy and a fair few others need to go too. The governance of the EMA is going to be put to the test,. Otherwise it is going to become nothing more than a cheap training and legal advice provider, not a leader for NZ business advocacy.

The tradable sector is in decline.New leadership please. The EMA should be far stronger in objecting to our borrow and hope strategy with all the tax benefits given to investment in property and farmers. If I owned plant and exported I'd be looking at the dollar and be pretty pissed off with the state of affairs.

But to make changes will take real fight. I don't see it in the EMA. Not in a bunch of worn out waiting / wishing they could retire relics.

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Perhaps, but we're actually discussing TV3's interview with Thompson so keep on topic.

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In an interview with Mihingarangi Forbes for Campbell Live, Alasdair Thompson appeared to be arrogant and intimating Ms Forbes. As a honest Kiwi, I feel that Ms forbes was tolerant and professional. Well done TV3, always stand up to your respectable programmes and don't ever let any Tom, Dick or Harry run over your honest reporting to most NZers.

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If you watch the interview again you will see it was actually Forbes who initiated the aggressive behaviour. She stood their gesticulating and pointing with her pen as she raised her voice. Admittedly his voice is louder but only because it is a male voice. if anyone was intimidating it was Forbes and she got the response she was looking for. disgusting interviewing and very amateurish

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It appered to me that perhaps a 'lady Interviewer" might not work in this sensitive case...grow up and get real, guys!

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Thompson was shown up to be an arrogant, mansplaining, condescending bully. Kudos to TV3 for the revelation. Campbell Live was honest in putting the entire interview online. I don't see how any complaint could possibly be upheld. He knew the camera was rolling and he tried to rectify his mistakes after the fact.

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Anyone who watches mainstream media, particularly Campbell looking for truth is simply naive

It's all about crusades, conflict, and sticking it to the "man". Juvenile, shallow, and ultimately onanistic. At the same time the economy flatlines and our talent leaches away overseas. New Zealand is a rather sad case these days.

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TV3 got it about right. All it shows is that Thompson's capacity to fake a normal demeanour only extends to 22 minutes.

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Yip - and his normal demeanour is explored further in this morning's Herald article: "PM link with 'sexist' Thompson claims" And from the final comment it looks like Alasdair's not quite the right man for the job. http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10734588 -

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i think brian edwards is wrong

Close up and Campbell are both equally appalling.

Both networks never show real news but rather small pond life new zealand stories and large sections on all blacks, black cap, tall black blah blah blah what they had for lunch items......

I watch bbc and sky news.

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Agree Anon. Why anyone with an intellect would watch New Zealand news and current affairs programmes( and please include "Breakfast" in this basket) is beyond me. Apart from the repetitive shallow content(when you can get to see any over and above the mind-numbing ad breaks) you then have to endure cringeworthy worthy , average abilty, journos and auto-cue readers (craving to become Z listers), with appalling diction, telling you their philosophy on life.

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Journalistic ethics or no, thompson behaved disracefully and that is simply that. weighing in after the fact is pointless and changes nothing. Edwards take a dose of your own medicine and disclose your relationship with thompson amd the ema northern. this whole write up reeks of pr damage control.

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Well thought out and argued point Dr Edwards. I learned something in that exchange. I did look at the full interview on line and I agree that it was an unfair and unbalanced snap shot of what Mr Thompson said. I didn't like his comment that women get less pay because they get their periods but we should be celebrating ladies!!!!! Why? Because FINALLY we know what we are dealing with in terms of the thinking that goes behind justifying the pay gap. I had NO IDEA that men thought that way mainly because my period is irrelevant to my performance - in my head. The real issue here is - is that aspect of Mr Thompsons view representative of male employers views on why women are paid less for doing the same job? Time for an investigative panel to look into this in my view. It is great that the pay disparity issue is being debated in public like this. Hooray. Thanks Alasdair Thompson :). Your goof up has stimulated a fantastic debate. Just need something constructive to come out of it. Should he lose his job? No I don't think so. But going by what happened to Paul Henry - he's skating on thin ice.

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I totally agree - it is great the debate is being had and that these sorts of prevalent views are now coming out in the open. There is no doubt that women continue to battle with gender equality and pay equality issue because some established business leaders see pregnancy, families and "monthly cycles" as adversely affecting productivity.

You have to say that working women (and males) that are primary caregivers are amazing. They take responsibility for young children, sick children, our children's education as well as running the home and ensuring their other half can continue to go to their higher paid job.

Given this, shouldn't we see the statistics referred to as a productivity success. Only one extra day off work to do all of that !!

The real issue here is about the need for the NZ work environment to become more flexible and open to support better utilisation of women given that they are often also primary caregivers. In this regard when assessing productivity we should also consider what it would cost the country should all those high paid males have to take days off to have a baby or look after a sick kid.....most of these men wouldn't do this job for any money as it is ironically too much hard work!!

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It does appear that how Alisdair Thompson came across in Campbell Live, was a pre-thoughtout construction.

Whether, you agree with Brian Edwards' post or not, he does hold the mortgage on NZ's best blog site.

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the same thing can be said for fair go... they do it ALL the time. taking part of an interview and screening them to make the bad guys look worse, or leaving out an entire part completely. in a recent screening involving laguna pools in hamilton, fair go didn't add in that the matter had already been resolved prior to them stepping in, there was a contract drawn up and in fact the people wanting their deposit back also received 15% interest on the money the had with laguna pools... yet all fair go said was 'this matter has now been resolved'... people leave in and take bits out of interviews all the time. the stories will be positive to one person and negative to another. its just the way life is!!

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