Karl du Fresne on the self-absorption of the media luvvies

Karl du Fresne looks at the self-absorption of the media luvvies:

Is the world going mad, or is it just me?

On second thoughts, don’t answer that. But please consider, just for a moment, some of the issues that have been making headlines over the past couple of weeks.

First, Hilary Barry. The announcement of her resignation from MediaWorks was reported as if Earth had momentarily tilted on its axis.

Here I was thinking Barry was just a newsreader – a competent newsreader, admittedly (although her pronunciation and personal asides sometimes grate), but just a newsreader, nonetheless – someone who reads words written by other people.

Obviously I completely misunderstood her place in the life of the nation. If the media coverage of her resignation is any guide, she’s a totemic figure whose career moves are a matter of urgent and compelling public interest.

No doubt media people would justify the fuss over Barry’s resignation by saying it was the tipping point that led to the departure of the unloved MediaWorks boss Mark Weldon. But they didn’t know that then.

Even if they did, it was an example of media people being too absorbed in their own affairs, and assuming that the ordinary punter in the street shares their fascination. My advice would be to get over themselves.

In television especially, detached judgment in journalism is old-hat. The rule now is that if journalists are interested in it, it must be news.

The Media party these days is more interested in being the news than reporting the news, and when that doesn’t work out for them then they manufacture the news. Which brings us to the Panama Papers.

Now, the Panama Papers. After all the frenzied media coverage of the past couple of weeks, I have to ask: where’s the smoking gun, exactly?

Reporters eagerly burrowed through truckloads of leaked documents from Mossack Fonseca and came up with … nothing much at all.

The conspiracy theorists struck out here. The only damning disclosure related to John Key’s lawyer, who used his relationship with the prime minister as leverage to secure a meeting with Revenue Minister Todd McLay – a worrying blurring of the lines of propriety, but that’s par for the course from a government that sometimes gives the impression of having had an integrity bypass.
And oh, the schadenfreude. While media outlets that had been granted advance access to the latest Panama Papers leak struggled to find anything newsworthy in it, those denied that privilege (if that’s the right word) took delight in pooh-poohing the whole affair as a non-event.

Hence TV3 political journalist Lloyd Burr triumphantly announced that no bomb had gone off. In other circumstances Burr, if he’s like most political journalists, would have been keen to find the bomb and detonate it himself. It was hard to escape the conclusion that he was more concerned with scoring a point against TVNZ, which was one of the media organisations that had the inside running on the release.

As for the general public, I imagine a lot of people would have switched off the moment they learned Dirty Politics author Nicky Hager was a key player in the leak. People are justifiably sceptical about those who describe themselves as journalists but pursue a political agenda.

Precisely. Nicky Hager is toxic. He never presents all the facts, lies by omission and plays favourites with compliant and complicit media luvvies like Andrea Vance.

There was a breathless post on the Radio New Zealand website about the thrill of collaborating with Hager in sifting through the supposedly incriminating documents, but RNZ and TVNZ severely compromised their credibility by aligning themselves with a man whose ideological crusades are a matter of public record. What on earth were they thinking?

They were probably thinking they should try and get some value for the undisclosed sums they paid ICIJ and Nicky Hager for access to the non-event.


– Karl du Fresne


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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

To read Cam’s previous articles click on his name in blue.