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Monday, November 21, 2011

Epsom's war over a pot of tea

Newstalk ZB's Senior Political Editor Felix Marwick has done a blog on his opinion on the teapot fiasco that is worth reposting at length:

Sometimes I wish you people would make up your minds. Ever since 2006 I've noticed a constant barrage of criticism from the public and commentators that the media's too soft on John Key. That we have a love affair with him, that we accept his lines without question, and that we let him get away unchallenged far too often.

However this week every man and his dog have been saying we're not playing fair over the teapot tapes, that we've invaded the Prime Minister's right to privacy, that we've been hounding him unnecessarily, that we're vultures, media scum, and tabloid charlatans of the very worst order.

Five years a marshmallow, one week a turd. Give me a break.

Well I'm making no apologies for my actions, nor those of my colleagues. I'm in the news business, not the law business, and if a politician says something of political significance in private but isn't prepared to front up and say it publicly then I'll call them on it every time. I'm a journalist, it's what I'm supposed to do. If you are trying to tell me that there's no story when a National Prime Minister talks to a former National Party cabinet minister turned ACT Party candidate about the political future of the ACT party leader (also a former National party leader – and incidentally was replaced in that role by the current Prime Minister) then don't be surprised when I disagree. Forcefully.

In and of itself the seeming duplicity isn't a big deal. It's a large part of politics. However what is a big deal is the reluctance of Key and Banks to front up to it. That's why they're being challenged. And let's not have any of this slippery slide down the ethics slope bullshit either. That's simply a steaming load of shite being fed to you by politicians who would rather distract you with hyperbole so you don't pay too close attention to something they really don't want to talk about. The blunt truth is New Zealand media isn't as tabloid and ethically challenged as Messrs Key and Joyce would have you believe. The private lives of politicians pretty much remain off limits and their personal foibles generally aren't written about. If we were as dodgy as they claim well then why haven't we over the years written more about their misbehaviours and infidelities? Trust me on this, there is lot of material there.

The reason is that media are generally pretty careful about crossing that line. The time you do it is when a public figure is either breaking the law, or is acting privately in a way that contradicts their public position and the way they do their job. The latter applies when it comes to the teapot tape.

I agree with him on this. There are reasons why the Teapot tape hit the news when it did that I have outlined in a previous post. National have done a bad job of PR management by attacking journalists and the issues that it raises are a little less trivial than some people are portraying them as. They revolve around open coalition deals under MMP and the way that the public views them. What will be interesting though is whether this impacts on the vote. TV3 and TV1's coverage of the November 17 poll last week could not be more different, with Garner saying that it had hurt National moving them down 3.1% to 50.2%, whereas One News said the poll had little impact on National showing that viewers did not care about the saga.The battle is also heating up online as ACT fights for its political representation in Parliament. One of the more hilarious sites worth checking out online is 'Hipsters for Goldsmith', which encourages left-leaning voters tick Goldsmith to get rid of ACT.


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