NZ POLITICS DAILY: Communicating politics – the good, the bad, and the ‘f&%d’
Politics is all about communication. The messages are conveyed by a huge variety of means these days, and from Twitter through to the Parliamentary Press Gallery, they’re of varying quality and importance. The standout political communication from last week’s Budget debate was Green MP Jan Logie’s tweet to say ‘John key says Bill English has produced as many budgets as children ... Begs the question who he has f&%d to produce it’. While the tweet would have been only seen by a relatively small number of Logie’s direct followers (at time of writing, 1,793), retweeting and above all crossover into the traditional media has amplified Logie’s statement. Items discussing Logie’s tweet include John Armstrong’s 'Nasty party' tweets in era of new lows, TVNZ’s MPs told off over Twitter behaviour, and Claire Trevett’s MPs' Twitter use under the spotlight.
Twitter regulation in the House?
Jan Logie is, of course, only the latest in a long list of MPs and other figures to generate discussion and debate on the use of Twitter. Just a fortnight ago, National minister Judith Collins was in the news after giving up tweeting. Labour MP Trevor Mallard has joined Logie in having his tweets picked up by traditional media outlets, after he compared Parliament’s speaker to a ‘Mafia don’ – see Claire Trevett’s MPs sledging, tweeting - it's just, er, cricket, and House Speaker defends his performance.
The Mallard tweet prompted Parliament’s speaker, David Carter, to refer criticism-by-tweet of the speaker to Parliament’s privileges committee. Opinions differ on the merits of restricting MPs’ use of Twitter in the House. National blogger and prolific tweeter David Farrar believes a balance needs to be struck: ‘I think that generally what an MP says on Twitter should not an issue for the House. But I do think it is unacceptable to have MPs live tweeting from the House, making extremely derogatory comments about the Speaker, in response to his rulings. The place to interact with the Speaker is in the House – not to character assassinate him in Twitter – see: MPs tweeting and privilege.
A more forceful view and one that is against any restrictions is put forward by leftwing blogger No Right Turn: ‘What MPs tweeting from the Chamber does do is give us a direct line into our democracy. Its immediate, its informal, and its responsive - and therefore hugely valuable in terms of citizen engagement. We also get to see our MPs warts and all - Judith Collins' bullying and vindictiveness, Tau Henare's humour, Jan Logie's over-extended simile – and judge them accordingly. And by threatening it, Carter is undermining a key part of our democratic conversation. And that's not something we should let him get away with’ – see: Twitter in Parliament.
Further analyses of the issue are provided by social media expert Matthew Beveridge in The Speaker, The House, and Twitter and, Labour-friendly blog The Standard’s “Twitter sent to the Privileges Committee”.
Journalistic political bias under scrutiny
It is not just the relatively new domain of social media that is generating debate over political communication. The rejection of former TVNZ broadcaster Shane Taurima as a potential candidate for Labour has prompted a wider discussion about journalists’ political affiliations. Herald media writer John Drinnan has some sympathy for TVNZ’s increased scrutiny of its journalists’ affiliations, but also some words of warning: ‘TVNZ checking on its staff and contractors' politics has undertones of McCarthyism. Some staff are irritated that their careers could be affected if they choose not to respond’ – see: TVNZ checks staff politics.
The New Zealand Herald takes a clear standpoint in an editorial on journalists’ political links: ‘The Herald does not allow its editorial staff to participate in community or political activities that could compromise their work. This means not only membership of political parties but taking part in public campaigns that they could have to cover. Preserving this distance from politics is not an onerous restriction for those whose credibility is paramount. They have the privilege of observing, reporting and commenting on public affairs. Once they cross the line to partisan participation, there is no coming back’ – see: Credibility before politics for journalists.
A slightly different perspective is provided by Tim Watkin, who worked with Taurima at TVNZ and is now a producer for TV3’s The Nation. He considers the tightrope that journalists walk with conflicts of interest: ‘In Taurima's case, he was a host and interviewer, which carries a much greater weight of impartiality than a commentator and he clearly went too far. But the rest of us live in this grey-zone every day and try to draw lines as consistently as possible, all the while knowing that a hard and fast rule is impossible’ – see: The Taurima affair: when good reports go bad.
Other interesting viewpoints can be found in left-wing commentator Chris Trotter’s Declare your bias and let the audience decide, blogger Tim Selwyn’s Taurima excuse for TVNZ purge, and former Dominion editor Karl du Fresne’s Rules won't eliminate the most troubling bias.
Kiwiblog’s David Farrar provides a useful bullet-point summary of some of the more interesting points revealed in the report – see The Taurima report. A legal perspective on the report’s legitimacy is provided by lawyer Mai Chen – see: Courts unlikely to overrule Labour's Taurima decision.
The issue of media ‘neutrality’ widened beyond the Taurima affair last week with questions being asked over whether former TVNZ political editor - and now lawyer - Linda Clark, has been providing media training to Labour leader David Cunliffe while simultaneously appearing as a pundit on TV3’s The Nation. For a summary of the issue, see Fairfax journalist Stacy Kirk’s Key questions broadcaster's Labour link.
Veteran broadcaster Brian Edwards finds Linda Clark’s role as commentator for TV3 untenable: ‘Now I want to make it clear that I’m not suggesting that Linda Clark would be influenced in such a way. I’m not questioning her honesty or integrity. But conflicts of interest aren’t just about reality; they’re also about perception. And it isn’t a good look for someone who is media training a political leader to be involved in any way as a neutral moderator or commentator on a news or current affairs programme. Unless there is an outright denial of Key’s accusation, Clark should not be fulfilling any role in TV3’s current affairs or election coverage’ – see: On Shane Taurima, Linda Clark and Conflicts of Interest Left, Right and Centre.
But Karl du Fresne, a veteran of the print media, warns that the net would need to be cast much wider than Clark if all conflicts of interest were to be revealed: ‘If what I hear is correct, quite a few high-profile media figures have nice little undisclosed earners providing advice to politicians. In fact it’s an odd quirk of New Zealand politics that many of the commentators provided with media platforms for their supposedly objective views are hopelessly compromised. If it’s fair to unmask Clark for grazing on both sides of the fence, then let’s complete the job by exposing all the others who are on the take. This could get very interesting’ - see: This could get interesting.
If all these media conflict of interest issues seem to be linked, perhaps they are. Herald media writer John Drinnan suggests that the motives behind the Linda Clark story may be nefarious: ‘In my opinion, Clark is caught in the crossfire between the Government and TV3, over its coverage of the Oravida scandal. The channel's political team has taken a high-profile approach in that coverage, aggravating relations between National and TV3. Key ticked off Judith Collins for allegations against TVNZ journalist Katie Bradford, but with the attack on Clark, it seems he has taken up the cudgels on her behalf’ – see: Don’t ask don’t tell.
Soft coverage of politicians
If the relationship between media and politicians appears to have become more aggressive in election year, it’s worth pointing out that not all coverage is adversarial. A lot can be learned about MPs’ views in ‘soft’ pieces, something that TV3’s Campbell Live has been producing in recent weeks with its ‘At home with’ series. These are must-watch items – see: the 24-minute: John and Bronagh Key, the 10-minute Hone Harawira and his wife Hilda, the 12-minute: Russel Norman and his partner Katya, and the 20-minute: David Cunliffe and his wife Karen.
Critiques of the reportages are provided in centrist blogger Pete George’s Cunliffe genuine at home, disappointing in Q & A, and broadcaster Kerre McIvor’s Behind the scenes with political leaders. Politicians are also becoming more adept at producing their own soft video coverage – see social media commentator Matthew Beveridge’s analysis of John Key’s “behind the scenes” video of budget day.
Political humour and satire provides an antidote to more serious coverage, yet can be just as effective in making a point. The Herald’s Toby Manhire imagines what politicians might be writing in their e-mails – see: Okay, that's the plan ... now don't let it get about.
Fairfax’s Brittany Mann profiles political cartoonist Sharon Murdoch, who shares how she comes up with the ideas for her submissions: ‘Murdoch says she spends most of her time in a state of panic. To spark the creative process, she trawls news websites, political columns and social media, particularly Twitter. From there, she sketches and scribbles lots of notes. Then she goes for a walk’ – see: Cartoonist doubts 'glass ceiling' tales.
Finally, satirical commentary site The Civilian has also been active – see Ben Uffindell’s John Campbell shocks nation by reading politicians’ Wednesday schedules to eerie music. The Civilian is also making the news for the launch of The Civilian Party – see the summary at Kiwiblog’s The Civilian Party.
Isaac Davison (Herald): Complaint laid over Collins' pistol pic
Adam Bennett (Herald): Horan makes bullying allegations
Hamish Rutherford and Michael Fox (Stuff): Horan's accusations against NZ First 'a lower low'
Felix Marwick (Newstalk ZB): Win for Horan in battle against former Party
Simon Wong (TV3): Investigation into alleged misuse of NZ First funds
David Farrar (Kiwiblog): Transtasman on Winston
Newswire: National ahead in latest poll
Barry Soper (Newstalk ZB): Judith Collins back, on the attack
Simon Wong (TV3): Private prosecution possible against Collins
3 News Online Staff (TV3): Bennett confirmed as Upper Harbour candidate
Hamish Rutherford (Stuff): National picks another tobacco man
No Right Turn: National: The Big Tobacco party
Pete George (Your NZ): Woodhouse relative to Gallipoli
Matthew Beveridge: John Key’s Facebook Page
Newswire: Key not worried by candidate selection
Housing and immigration
Dominion Post: Editorial: Immigrants aren't scapegoats
Pattrick Smellie (Stuff): Why housing affordability hits glass ceiling
Jane Patterson (Radio NZ): Power Play
Rachel Smalley (Newstalk ZB): Latest immigration figures are good news
Don Franks (Redline): Another “word on foreigners, xenophobia, and racism”
Chris Trotter (Stuff): Was he really Al Qaeda?
Benn Bathgate (Stuff): Cunliffe attacks PM over spy agency
Greg Presland (The Standard): Death by remote drone
Andrea Vance (Stuff): Police misled public over Roast Busters
Anna Leask (Herald): Friends fear for Roast Busters girl
Jessie Hume (Daily Blog): Lack Of Confidence In Police Over Rape Handling Justified
Laura McQuillan (Newstalk ZB): Police accept criticism in 'Roast Busters' case
Radio NZ: Police accept 'Roastbusters' findings
Jimmy Ellingham (Herald): Banks trial: 'No memory' of cheque from SkyCity boss
Ian Steward (Stuff): Banks: Dotcom offered $200k
David Farrar (Kiwiblog): Conflicting evidence
Radio NZ: Sky City boss to appear in Bank's case
MPS and Twitter
Radio NZ: Mind your manners, parties warned
Michael Cummings (Manawatu Standard): MPs show disdain for Parliament
The Standard: Pot: Kettle, you’re black!
Mana and Internet Party
Adam Bennett (Herald): Internet Party to hold candidate search events
Vernon Small (Stuff): Mana and Internet Party close in on deal
David Farrar (Kiwiblog): Here’s one policy costed for Labour
No Right Turn: Short-sighted
Brigitte Masters (TV3): NZAid rules need to change – Greens
Jan Logie (Frogblog): Budget 2014 and Overseas Development and Aid
Economy and inequality
Keith Locke (Daily Blog): Budget Surplus 2015 – is it good?
Eileen Goodwin (ODT): 'Spirit Level' authors to speak in Dunedin
Eric Crampton (Offsetting Behaviour): Worker rights
Chris Trotter (Bowalley Road): Shouting From Beyond The Crossroads
Narelle Henson (Stuff): Patience running out on employer wage mistakes
Jan Logie (Frogblog): Immigration law changes fail exploited migrantworkers
Steven Cowan (Against the Current): Silence by Omission
John Minto (Daily Blog): Who pays tax, who pays the most tax and who doesn’t pay tax?
Keith Ng (On Point): Why does the top 10% paying more tax? (An interactive story)
Peter Cresswell (Not PC): Inequality Myths
Gordon Campbell (Scoop): On New Zealand secretly agreeing to extend its copyright term
Radio NZ: Watered-down TPP deal possible
David Fisher (Herald): IT crash seen as crippling court reform
Southland Times: Editorial: Tiwai not going down the lieu
Scott Yorke (Imperator Fish): Let’s shut down the internet
Ben Uffindell (The Civilian): Cairns didn’t feel Black Caps getting paid to lose was unusual
David Farrar (Kiwiblog): Why Google should not be hiding information
David Farrar (Kiwiblog): The Civilian Party
Michael Fox (Stuff): Housing NZ ticked off
Radio NZ: DHBs criticised for Maori reporting
Radio NZ: Forest researchers frustrated by ruling
Ben Uffindell (The Civilian): John Campbell shocks nation by reading politicians’ Wednesday schedules to eerie music
Andrea Vance (Stuff): Ahmed Zaoui a New Zealand citizen
Scott Yorke (Imperator Fish): Readers Forum
Matthew Beveridge: Twitter convo of the day: Asenati vs. Lloyd
David Farrar (Kiwiblog): Do as we say, not as we do
Stephen Franks: When you ban free speech, don’t expect financial literacy
Mike Butler (Breaking Views): Maori TV ambushes blogger Ansell