Ex-MP writes about the futility of dealing with media

via TVNZ

via TVNZ

Following on from the piece this morning, ex-ACT MP Stephen Franks explains the frustration he experienced dealing with New Zealand media.

Andrea Vance and others in RNZ’s MediaWatch this weekend have been bewailing the absence of public concern about their allegations (or disclosure) of politician lying.
They are right to be anxious that democracy may not be safe if lies have no cost. The questioning in the programme tested the concern.

But most revealing was an incredible lack of elite awareness of their own intellectual limitations (or blinkers). Some journalists are intelligent enough to understand that ordinary citizens will not care what is thought by journalists who despise them and their values. But few political journalists know why ordinary people think as they do.

No matter what we say, no matter what we do….

I spent my years in Parliament with virtually no media interest whatsoever in criminal justice facts, research or policy analysis. As a typical swot, I fondly thought when I entered Parliament that they would be important. Instead all the work I put into criminal justice policy was repaid by constant repetition of the media’s brand of me and ACT as “far right”. In fact most of the policy innovations I advanced were drawn from Bill Clinton’s 1996 reforms, and much of the political language from the UK Labour Party website.

None of that stopped routine reports as if of fact that our policy was cynical populism we could not possibly believe (because we were perceived as intelligent) . I recall not one attempt over 6 years to investigate the policy details or the material my digging got out of official statistics.

The journalists who are realising that most voters no longer care what the media and elite say to each other, will not find a route back to public respect. They despise the public who voted for the Norm Withers referendum too much to apply open minds and sympathy to ordinary values, beliefs and fears.

The media bubble is oblivious to how thoroughly it has suppressed the expression of ordinary people’s real opinions, even by their Members of Parliament. Only Winston Peters can defend  many common sense expressions without a collective media swoon then hysterical screeching. Even within families ordinary people often keep their thoughts to themselves to avoid derision from the bien pensant family members.

In consequence politicians and media can lie to each other without the rest of us caring much at all

Cam Slater has always promoted the idea that people inside Wellington are simply in a bubble, and the press gallery especially so. Worse, they hunt as a pack, with loyalties to each other rather than their employers.

They aren’t there to report, but to achieve an outcome. This is why we call them the Media party.

Bluntly put, few are smart enough to be in the job.

 

– Stephen Franks

 


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