Why do the media not interview politicians?

With less than 18 months out from the next election, that is if the Prime Minister doesn’t call a snap election, it’s timely for both TVNZ and TV3 to insert their weekend political news and commentary shows into the evening schedule.

Seven Sharp and Story have pretty much given up any pretence of actually interviewing politicians and holding them to account. These ‘current affairs’ shows have become increasingly irrelevant as National Party fan Mike Hosking is allowed an unbridled free political party shot with his end of programme nightly rants, while Story devotes itself to great chunks of promoting the narcissistic Life & Times of Heather Du Plessis-Allan.

Whatever Seven Sharp’s girl-next-door co-host Toni Street is being paid to sit alongside and giggle at The Hosk’s funny little ways, it should be doubled and the amiable side-kick should be awarded a dirt margin.

As for The Friday Story, where whichever Story host is left standing at the end of the week gets to chew the fat with panellists, the opining so far has been chaotic, flaccid and a fail to fire. Like TV3’s Paul Henry show where he invites two panellists on every morning, they all hail from Auckland further proving that anyone’s opinion south of the Bombays isn’t worth listening to (and the network can’t afford to fly them up no matter how many Paul Henry coffee mugs sold).

The nightly 6pm news bulletins on both channels give only soundbites to set pieces of politicians bailed up in the corridors of power, or wearing hard hats and hairnets visiting building sites or dwindling industries before the plug is pulled on them, all done in front of a chorus of nodding sycophants huddling in the background shot, the best noddy award going to the Minister for 1080 Maggie Barry.

The reason politicians no longer do interviews is because almost all media outlets are now into gotcha journalism.  There is no genuine good faith to get answers to questions.  Instead, politicians turn up with a message, and the media are hell bent on trapping the politician in a position or statement they have pre-determined before the interview even started. 

Even on RNZ’s Checkpoint with John Campbell, the honourable host who erected a shame wall for the relentless no show of politicians on Campbell Live, has to engage in obsequious Uriah Heepisms to effusively thank any politician so very, very much voicing his deep appreciation for their taking the time to grant him with their presence. The implied sarcasm isn’t lost on some as journalists have been reduced to being terrible grateful for any rare sighting of a politician.

It shouldn’t be like this, but it has been like this for so long the audience has become habituated and stupefied to the mushroom treatment, so much so that we don’t even notice that we’re being sold short on the democratic process.

No surprise when John Key was asked on MoreFM last week what he would do in the Harambe vs Human scenario, that the Prime Minister said, true to form, that he would tranquillise the gorilla. After all it works on the electorate.

Sure, The Nation repeats in the weekend, but don’t you long for the days when politicians had to earn their keep, argue their corner, state their case and engage in debate on the same day a news story broke?

Forgive me for being quaint but democracy has to actually be seen to be believed and our politicians are obliged to make themselves available and be clear and present in their duty, not just make fleeting appearances in an amuse bouche of soundbites or a tip-toe through the Tweetosphere. Fronting at the weekend on current affairs shows when a scandal’s gone off the boil or been hosed down by the PR machinery of Steven Joyce, is hardly cut and thrust politics.

Politics on television used to be a potent spectator sport until politicians were considered to be deficit of the required physical attraction to cut it in the ratings game. (See how good looking Labour Party MP Jacinda Ardern rates quite high in the preferred PM stakes).

Instead the television news shamelessly cannibalises itself elevating the chosen few of the remaining fourth estate to pop culture status. I like Hilary Barry but the build-up to her bon voyage and her final chariot spin round the office went on and on till it seemed that all broadcasts would cease the moment Joan of Arc left the building.

There is no upside to politicians going on television to be mocked and destroyed.  It used to be that the main stream media was the only conduit available, so an understanding and alliance was developed where both parasite and host (I’ll let you decide which is which) would understand they needed each other for continued existence.

But as politicians have found other ways to reach the public, the traditional television and print media have found that they had to get more extreme to make a mark.  And as they did so, politicians have backed off refusing to play the game.

This is why you find John Key on radio, doing ‘silly’ stuff.  There is no filter between the PM and the audience at that point.  And it works.

Television and print are no longer the political opinion powerhouses they once were.   And hosts calling out politicians for being ‘cowards’ for not fronting just shows how pathetic it has all become.

 

– Jane Bowron, Stuff


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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.  And 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 that takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

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

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