Laws on Journalists

I don’t often agree with Michael Laws, but today in the Sunday Star-Times he talks about the gutter press:

The so-called “teagate affair” demonstrates all that is wrong with the New Zealand media. It is the exclamation point as to why the public of this country regularly place journalists at the bottom of the heap when it comes to trust and integrity.

And it counterpoints what all Kiwis know: that there exists a uniform inability within the Fourth Estate to understand proportion and excess.

We are less than a week away from deciding the government of this country. The challenges set to confront it will be the most difficult since the end of the World War II.

The international economy is in crisis, our comparative standards of living are eroding and we still have a major city to rebuild and rejuvenate. In addition, we are in danger of irrelevance – of becoming an international Woodville as our best, brightest, most educated and hard-working seek to settle elsewhere.

We might have expected to hear the proposed party solutions to those challenges, to have received the assistance of the media in determining which policies will fly and which will create a large hole in the ground.

But no. The media have obsessed themselves with the most trivial of affairs.

They have whipped themselves into a frenzy of foaming frippery about – well, about what exactly?

A week out of the campaign spent on nothing much in particular except fueling the egos of some journalists.

Let’s be clear: the taper, Bradley Ambrose, has acted appallingly. First, he claims that he made the tape by error. Actually he says it was by omission because he had forgotten he left his recording device on the cafe table.

Ambrose says that because he doesn’t want the public of New Zealand to regard him as a sneak or as a potential criminal. As an ex-cop, he is presumably aware that it is illegal to deliberately tape the private conversations of others.

Let’s believe Ambrose’s protestations that it was all just a cock-up.

Yes, but what does Ambrose do next? He rats off to the Herald on Sunday and TV3 News and sells them the tape recording. At which point he seeks to profit from his “error”. Indeed, the Herald on Sunday – in its e-mail correspondence with the prime minister’s office – infers that Ambrose is its employee.

Yes it will be interesting when all that correspondence is presented as evidence in court action that the fool Ambrose/White initiated.

If the tape is so damaging, so revelatory and so critically important to framing this general election then it is time for the media to put up – or shut up.

A minor conviction is hardly going to stop any real news outlet from doing its job. If this tape is as important as the media claim, then it is craven cowardice not to publish, broadcast or transmit.

But it isn’t, is it? It’s just the media wasting a week of everyone’s lives and failing miserably to inform its readers, listeners and viewers of the real issues and the rival policies that are relevant to this election. It is what it is – tabloid hysteria. The media acting as a rabid pack.

So it must have been especially galling on Thursday evening for both TVNZ News and TV3 News to report that “teagate” has had no discernible effect upon public opinion. Their polls show only one loser: the Labour party.

And no wonder. We have been denied Labour’s alternate vision and policies this past week because it has been crowded out by the demented obsessions of the political media.

Simple message to the political media from the public of this country: we are long over this non-issue. Do your proper job – inform us. Find a nice private darkened room for the other.

Labour can’t complain either, they jumped in boots and all. Phil Goff spoke of nothing else except the tapes until Friday when he realised that the polls were against them. It didn’t stop Labour rushing out special signs though.

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