NZ POLITICS DAILY: Did media fall for manufactured coup?

Davids Cunliffe and Shearer

[NZ Politics Daily is appearing only occassionally as Bryce Edwards is on study leave in Berlin. He returns at the end of February - Editor]

How well do political journalists serve New Zealand democracy?

Does the blogosphere do any better?

The Leveson report in Britain has media accountability being discussed internationally.

Recent events in the Labour Party, where the blogosphere has suddenly received greater attention due to its role in creating rumours of a possible leadership coup, have sharpened the debate here as well.

The mainstream media is under scrutiny for its role in reporting on Labour’s recent annual conference. Chris Trotter deals with these issues in a recent blogpost that severely criticises the parliamentary press gallery journalists – see: Islands In The Mainstream.

Trotter reflects on the conference coverage: ‘The political journalists covering the conference were either collaborators with, or the dupes of, a faction of the Labour Party Caucus which, fearing the consequences of radical changes to the party’s constitution, manufactured a leadership challenge to Opposition Leader, David Shearer, by his front-bench colleague, David Cunliffe’. He ponders whether ‘the Fourth Estate, far from speaking truth to power, has become its willing stenographer’.

Incidentally, Trotter also suggests that the ‘real’ leadership coup brewing in the background was from ‘supporters of Grant Robertson’.

Trotter has allies in his critique of the media, with various blogposts on The Standard offering some further analysis – most significantly, Media Medicine and “Name” journalism & voter dis-engagement. Both make some interesting critiques of changes in the media. The first says that ‘The relationship between media and politicians in this country has become incestuous and toxic’ and it outlines some radical proposals to reform the press gallery, including the idea that ‘No political journalist should be allowed to serve more than six years sequentially AND 33% of their total career in the Parliamentary Press Gallery’.
Both of The Standard posts are, typically, by anonymous authors. This is the beef of Brian Edwards, who has launched a critique of the blogosphere in his own blogpost, The Anonymity Pandemic. As the title suggests, he’s particularly unhappy about the amount of nameless commentary that goes on – particularly because of the vitriol that he says flows from authors not owning their own statements. As some sort of reply, one anonymous Standard author details The privilege of real-name blogging.
So who are the best bloggers at the moment? For one in-depth view of the current state of the blogosphere, see Martyn Bradbury’s Tumeke NZ Blogger Alignment Awards 2012. One particular blogger was very pleased to receive his commendation – see Scott Yorke’s Blogger Welcomes Lawful Evil Runner-up Award. Yorke also suggests that the political left needs a new blogger in the image of the right’s Cameron Slater – see: We Need A Hero.
So is the New Zealand mainstream media subject to the problems that the Leveson report found in the UK, and would it benefit from similar proposals for greater regulation? The consensus so far seems to be a firm ‘no’. Sean Plunket reports the following: ‘I'm happy to say that in my 25 plus years in New Zealand media it is not the prevalent attitude here. I don't know any Kiwi colleague who has bribed, hacked or blackmailed to get a story’ – see: Curtailing press freedoms no way forward for democracy. Similar points are made in the Dominion Post editorial Media must remain free of state control, The Press editorial Censoring the media, and by Adrien Taylor’s Does New Zealand need tighter media restrictions? Blogger Chris Ford isn’t so sure, and he discusses the reasons why in a long post entitled Post-Leveson: Does New Zealand need more media regulation? At least we need our own Leveson!  But there are signs today that the media and at least some politicians aren’t so close. See, for example: Labour's Tamihere calls journalist 'stupid little girl'. The Christchurch Press also reports that ‘Gerry Brownlee has described The Press as the “enemy” of Christchurch’s recovery’ because of its critical reporting – see: Brownlee: 'The Press is the enemy'. The Press’ new editor, Joanna Norris has replied to Brownlee with an explanation for her paper’s critical role – see: Press: a watchdog and champion.
There is no doubt that the nature and configuration of the mainstream media is changing fast. The Listener magazine has finally decided to install a paywall for its content, which is explained by editor Pamela Sterling in Read it here first. Meanwhile, another fledgling media project appears to be going on hold – see Bernard Hickey’s An update on At the other end of the media power spectrum, Sky TV is arguably made even more powerful by the appointment of ‘Sky TV lobbyist Tony O'Brien to the board of Antarctic New Zealand’ – see John Drinnan’s Antarctic job for Sky man.
Recent research about newspaper political bias by Massey’s University’s Claire Robinson also continues to rankle with some in the media. Both John Armstrong and Claire Trevett have put together rebuttals to Robinson’s thesis – see: Allegation of election coverage bias doesn't wash and Lessons in the political art of smilin' and lovin' it. One element of the debate that is often forgotten are the publications put out by the politicians themselves. Blogger Patrick Leyland points to the latest edition of The Collins’ Courier saying that publishing 26 photos of Judith Collins might be a bit over the top.
Other items of interest or importance from the last week include:


The Labour Party and David Shearer will be extremely pleased with most of their recent media coverage – especially about opinion poll results. See, for example, Vernon Small’s Polls have Labour closing in on Nats. Other commentaries have also been particularly complimentary – such as John Armstrong’s Labour starts to put its houses in order.
But John Tamihere’s re-admission to the party is more fraught, and not helped by his insults to various politicians and journalists – see Tova O'Brien’s Tamihere comment targets hit back. No doubt there will be many further controversial statements to come, and to facilitate this, Cathy Odgers has helpfully ‘compiled an instructional insult list for use on his new Labour colleagues incorporating some of his best and most popular hits as recorded from the glory days past’ – see: Supporting JT's Return – A Guide To Caucus Insults. Chris Trotter also laments his own role in creating the Frankenstein's monster ‘Waitakere Man’ – see: 'Waitakere Man' Finds His Avatar.
Labour is also facing some renewed challenges with its most obvious coalition partner, the Greens. Patrick Gower reports that Green MPs are looking to demand some serious payoffs for joining a Labour-led government – see: Greens and Labour talk coalition. Corin Dann points to some continued policy differences that might threaten Labour-Green unity – see: Labour and Greens need to work out their differences. And yesterday Green co-leader Russel Norman ramped up tensions with his Herald opinion piece, It's Green Party versus National, but where is Labour.
The reviews of the year in politics are starting to come out. The annual Trans-Tasman ratings give the prize of the ‘politician of the year’ to Chris Finlayson – see: Finlayson judged top politician. David Farrar has analysed the ratings to show, for example, that the average MP rating is 4.4 out of 10, with National MPs averaging 4.9 and Labour and Green MPs 4.0 – see: The 2012 Trans-Tasman Ratings. United Future blogger Pete George has also got in on the act, giving National 5 out of 10, Labour 3 out of 10, and the Greens 8 – see: Rating the parties for 2012.
If you enjoy political biography, then you might find something of interest in reading about the personalities of an ex-politician and political scientist – see Michele Hewitson’s Interview: Steve Maharey and Joseph Romanos’ Wellingtonian Interview: Jon Johansson.
Most New Zealanders are probably now sick of reading about the politics of the Hobbit, but there’s a few Hobbit items that are particularly worth reading: Pattrick Smellie’s CNN article, Hobbit-nobbing with the stars in Wellywood, Vince Mancini’s amusing ATTN: The real New Zealand is now indistinguishable from parody, Helen Kelly’s Guardian article, How the Hobbit dispute was used to justify curbs to the actors' union, and finally, my own blogpost, The Politics of The Hobbit – images.
Bryce Edwards
Today's content:
Critiques of the media
Chris Trotter (Bowalley Road): Islands In The Mainstream
The Standard: Media Medicine
Lynn Prentice (The Standard): The political media and the blogs
Pete George (Your NZ): Time warped bloggers versus MSM
John Drinnan (Herald): Antarctic job for Sky man
Pamela Sterling (Listener): Editorial – Read it here first
Cathy Odgers (Cactus Kate): Underpaid Presenter Leaves With The Show
Martyn Bradbury (Tumeke): SaveTVNZ7, Sky TV & Public broadcasting
William Mace (Stuff): NZ Herald confirms redundancies
Russell Brown (Hard News): This is your public broadcasting
Stuff: Brownlee: 'The Press is the enemy'
Joanna Norris (Press): Press: a watchdog and champion
Patrick Leyland (Progress Report): Too much Judith
Critiques of blogosphere
Brian Edwards: The Anonymity Pandemic
Pete George (Your NZ): The Nation comments on blogs
Ideologically Impure: The privilege of real-name blogging
Pete George (Your NZ): ‘The Standard’ and ‘the MSM’
Scott Yorke (Imperator Fish): We Need A Hero
Scott Yorke (Imperator Fish): Blogger Welcomes Lawful Evil Runner-up Award
Labour Party
John Armstrong (Herald): Labour starts to put its houses in order
John Armstrong (Herald): Christmas cheer comes early for Shearer
John Armstrong (Herald): MPs unleash weapons of maths destruction
The Standard: Why I’m still worried
Toby Manhire (Stuff): The Labour Party in Middle-earth
John Tamihere and Labour 
Tova O'Brien (TV3): Tamihere comment targets hit back
Kathryn Powley (Herald): Tamihere the rebel back
Scott Yorke (Imperator Fish): What John Tamihere's Return Means
The Standard: JT, eh?
Claire Trevett (Herald): Labour allows Tamihere to rejoin
Chris Trotter (Bowalley Road): 'Waitakere Man' Finds His Avatar
Labour and the Greens
Patrick Gower (TV3): Greens and Labour talk coalition
The Standard: Taking the gap
Keeping Stock: Who is Russel's enemy?
David Kennedy (Local bodies): Greens Want a More Disciplined Labour Party
Robert Winter (Idle thoughts): Greens and Elbows
Martyn Bradbury (Tumeke): Green on Red
Opinion polls
Vernon Small (Stuff): Polls have Labour closing in on Nats
Isaac Davison (Herald): Labour's popularity grows
Patrick Gower (TV3): Poll shows possible change of Govt
Anthony Robins (The Standard): Two good polls for Labour and Shearer
The Watercooler: The November Polls
Martyn Bradbury (Tumeke): Mana and the polls
Reviews of the year in politics
David Farrar (Kiwiblog): The 2012 Trans-Tasman Ratings
Dene Mackenzie (ODT): English tops southern MP ranks
Pete George (Your NZ): Rating the parties for 2012
The Standard: Politicians of the year
Trans Pacific Partnership
Gordon Campbell (Wellingtonian): Democracy loves sunlight
Jane Kelsey (Herald): Pacific deal masks bigger plan
Audrey Young (Herald): TPP could quash film funds
David Farrar (Kiwiblog): NZ Herald on TPP  
Alex O'Hara (TV3):Protests outside TPP talks
Audrey Young (Herald): TPP risks can be mitigated - expert
Catherine Harris and Tom Pullar-Strecker (Stuff): TPP negotiator seeks exporters' views
Andrea Vance (Stuff): Secrecy surrounds TPP trade deal
Audrey Young (Herald): Warning on helping US employ TPP
Fran O’Sullivan (Herald): Anti-trade camp running debate
Robert Winter (Idle Thoughts): Labour's TPP Policy
Robert Winter (Idle Thoughts): Another TPP worry?
The Hobbit
Matthew Hooton (NBR): More hobbits please, Mr Key
Steve Braunias (Stuff): The secret diary of . . . Peter Jackson
Tracy Watkins (Stuff): $50,000 each for film jobs – Greens
David Farrar (Kiwiblog): The Hobbit jobs
The Standard: $50,000 per Hobbit job
David Farrar (Kiwiblog): The Hobbit hypocrites
Karl du Fresne (Stuff): Hobbitish humbug is too much
Climate change
Isaac Davison (Herald): Groser defends ditching of Kyoto
ODT: Editorial – A climate change challenge
100% pure debate
Dave Armstrong (Stuff): '100% Pure' dissenter pays heavy price
Russell Brown (Public Address): Environmental league tables and their perils
Jamie Morton (Herald): Clean up waterways, say scientists
Paul Little (Herald): Pure fail for PM's maths
Grant Bradley (Herald): Rise in fracking unlikely – industry
Eric Crampton (Offsetting Behaviour): A well-regulated fracking
Peter Cresswell (Not PC): Greens spin fracking report
Tax avoidance
Ben Chapman-Smith (Herald): Facebook NZ's $14k tax bill 'a rort' - Labour
Tom Pullar-Strecker (Stuff): Govt wants info on tax paid by multinationals
Integrity of politics and society
Gehan Gunasekara (Herald): Let's make it easy for whistleblowers
Integrity Talking Points: Kiwis not interested in whistleblowing
The Standard: Cronyism
David Fisher (Herald): Police checks routine work for banks
Andrew Geddis (Pundit): On privilege, absolute or qualified
‘Zip it, sweetie’
Michelle Cooke (Stuff): Bennett tells Ardern: 'Zip it, sweetie'
Local government reforms
Colin James (Management):A centralising government
Grant Miller (Manawatu Standard): MPs meddling in our councils
Asset sales
Morgan Godfery (Maui St): No, Justice Young, it's no king hit
Adam Bennett (Herald): Legal bid based on 'misconception'
Jordan Carter (Just left): Housing for all
Maori King
Morgan Godfery (Maui Street): The price of the King's support
Anzac Day crash
Brendan Horan
Danya Levy and Tony Wall (Stuff): Horan's mum's savings 'spent on operations'
Privacy breaches
Marriage equality
Bob McCoskrie (Herald): Gay marriage bill fears justified
Isaac Davison (Herald): TV man pleads case for gay marriage
Felix Marwick (Newstalk ZB): Political call to close work loophole
Jenny Rowan & Jools Joslin (Herald): Marry, a veritable challenge for our parliamentarians
John Langley (Herald): Radical change needed in schools
Andrea Vance (Stuff): SFO fraud warning over quake rebuild
Lianne Dalziel (Stuff): Rebuild needs community's involvement
Michele Hewitson (Herald): Interview: Steve Maharey
Joseph Romanos (Wellingtonian): Wellingtonian Interview: Jon Johansson
Charles Waldegrave and Bob Stephens (Herald): Counting the true costs of poverty trap
Felix Marwick (Newstalk ZB): Police investigating election incidents
Scott Yorke (Imperator Fish): New Testing Regime For Party Pills
Jody O’Callaghan (Stuff): Tomorrow's Schools 'lost a decade'
Bronwyn Torrie (Stuff): Report seeks action on disabled rights


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2 Comments & Questions

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It's a ruse. Feign internal weakness in order to fool the enemy (National Party) into laxity.

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NZ media, as you mentioned, the political journalists are a disgrace. I sometimes think it is better read the party websites. They are also chameleons. Before the Labour conference Cunliffe was their darling. Shearer was keeping the seat warm for somebody. Soon after Shearer was the darling of the media. Gone is his keeping the seat warm stories. What now we see is media sucking up to Shearer. He announced the 100K low-cost houses in 10 years. To date, not a single journalist has questioned Labour how they are going to achieve this task. No one has bothered to analyse the plan. These so-called journalists have a very short-term memory and lack analytical minds and investigative skills. Sometimes one may even question their credibility and integrity.
Another recent vent is the complaint made by New Lynn electoral committee about the demotion of Cunliffe. The media reported that the Labour committee will be discussing this in last weekends meeting along with John T's membership application. They decided and granted the membership but postponed the decision on the complaint to Feb. Not a single media outlet reported on this and most importantly did not analyse the significance of this. Remember, Shearer needs to face the caucus vote in Feb to confirm his leadership.

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