}

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Media mayhem

Every day there’s something in the newsmedia that makes me shake my head or my first, and every once in awhile, something makes me smile. This weekend, I’ve had all three.

The image above is a Tweet from TVNZ’s One News reporter Garth Bray, who was attending the campaign launch of the neoconservative Act Party. It’s the kind of detail that wouldn’t normally get reported, but it provides a picture of what goes on before the cameras start rolling.

Of course, Act isn’t unique in trying to present itself in a flattering, TV-friendly way—all political parties do this. But Act perhaps needs to do this more than other parties, given that it’s dominated by, er, um, “late middle-aged” white guys. Bray also Tweeted that they had brand-new slick brochures with a photo of John Key and John Banks having their cup of tea, and that Act also handed out teabags. Hm, not even a bevy of pretty girls can save those “late middle-aged” white guys from their most naff instincts.

My shaking fist is waved at the New Zealand Herald for betraying the voting public in order to advance the interests of the National Party in the upcoming election. The facts—as reported by the Herald itself—are that during the publicity stunt “cup of tea” between John Key and John Banks, Key’s security entourage wouldn’t allow a cameraman to retrieve a device he inadvertently left on the table, and that device transmitted audio of the conversation to the cameraman’s equipment, which recorded it.

The Herald obtained legal advice that it could publish the recording, but John Key inexplicably refused permission citing “privacy” and the Herald gladly went along with that. This is bullshit. The event was not in any way “private”: Not only was it held in a public place where someone might reasonably be expected to overhear, it was a staged media event! If they truly wanted a private conversation, that was the wrong place, the wrong time and the wrong circumstances for it, and John Key and the Herald damn well know that.

The public absolutely has a right to know what the potential next prime minister and a man who may hold the balance of power after the election were talking about IN PUBLIC and at A PUBLICITY EVENT ATTENDED BY THE NEWSMEDIA.

The Herald said the publicly-held “private” conversation included talk of “Act's future and its leadership, New Zealand First's electoral chances and the percentage of the vote the National Party would secure.” What is John Key afraid of? Is he really THAT much of a coward?

I’m disgusted that the New Zealand Herald, obviously biased toward the National Party, would be willing to betray all journalistic ethics—as well as the New Zealand public—in order to promote the election chances of the National Party. I’m disgusted, but not really surprised.

My shaking head goes toward The Age, which headlined a story “Stabbed 300 times by room-mates in sex-fuelled satanic ritual: police” (and who wouldn't check out a story with such a headline?). The story, however, never makes that "satanic" claim at all. In fact, it’s based on one of the accused allegedly claiming that a co-accused was "possibly involved in satanic or occult activities." On that flimsy basis, The Age, possibly re-publishing the original AP headline, has gone beneath the level of gutter tabloids, fabricating a story out of nothing more than one weird girl’s claim. Also, it was actually cutting, not stabbing, as that word is normally understood.

The issue really is that by publishing this sensationalised outright falsehood, The Age/AP are perpetuating the myth of rampant “satanic rituals” as the cause of much crime, when it’s simply not true. They should be ashamed of themselves—and maybe they should go back to first-year journalism classes for a refresher.

Actually, in their own ways, each incident made me smile; the last two were accompanied by rolling eyes, though.

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