Shearer's snooze setting
Unfortunately for him - and Labour - the punters in voterland abhor, and are bored by, such a style. Boring/snoring, snoozing/losing the equations and dynamics don't have to be complex to render a common understanding of his problem. The media are similarly unimpressed and it has been quite normal to see other opposition figures dominating coverage and Shearer tacked on as a grudging requisite of a standard balanced news story rather than because he had anything to say of any consequence on a particular matter; and even these few seconds of airtime are littered with stumbles which makes you wonder just how hopelessly unusable his other comments must have been.
Part of the reason why there is no appearance of fire-in-the-belly and no passionate connexion between what Shearer thinks and what he says isn't just a communication disability, but is a handicap from the relative ease at which he has entered parliament and rapidly ascended (thanks to his mate and still king-maker, Phil Goff) to leadership. Without the accompanying struggle, heat and friction on the street and at the grass roots that is the normal path to acquisition of these skills in a NZ political trajectory Shearer exposes his inexperience.
"Media training" will only get him so far. Brian Edwards:
The news that David Shearer is to ‘get media training’ from Ian Fraser in order to make him more visible to the electorate has tended to reinforce the notion that ‘getting media training’ is rather like getting a new suit from Hallenstein’s. All you have to do is put the new suit on and you’ll immediately not merely look better but be a whole new person. Unfortunately media training doesn’t fit this prêt-à-porter model. It’s a bespoke art. Everyone’s needs are different, no two people’s measurements are exactly the same, and there are some people who will never look good in anything.
It’s rare for the diagnosis of what is ailing an interviewee to be obvious. With the exception of ‘umming and erring’, saying ‘you know’, ‘like’ , ‘I guess’, ‘absolutely’, ‘going forward’, ‘OK, so’ at least once in every paragraph, what prevents someone from coming across well on radio or television is often extremely subtle and quite difficult to pin down.
As one commenter on Edwards' blog observed succinctly:
The point – the – the issue here is – is not – because you’ve got to – the point is that media – um, media training – does not fundamentally affect – er, change – it doesn’t change the basic verbal wiring we all have – which – it really – it needs to have an instant delete function, if you like – it instantly deletes the, er – the word options before you say them, and Shearer’s problem – er, he – he says the options out loud – and then he deletes – he starts one sentence and – he stops – he goes back again and then – he half-says the other one – and – well, you get the point.
Free advice: When you talk, David, just Slow Down. You can’t change who you are (and shouldn’t try), all you can really do is 1) know what you want to say, and 2) then say it as best you can.
If the real problem is 1), even Ian Fraser can’t help you. Or even Brian Edwards.
If Shearer had been a third term MP and had been through the Labour school of hard knocks to get there then his media presentation would be several degrees higher than where he is at the moment. Ian Fraser can't make up for the on-the-job training that never was, but there is such room for improvement that he must benefit from it.
Most of the time Shearer's nonchalant or disconnected display on TV and radio is the result of him simply not appreciating what is going on when a journalist is putting a mic in front of him. He seems to treat it as a hum-drum sort of meaningless courtesy chat that one has with a colleague hanging out together while waiting for something important to go to. He doesn't seem to understand that at the end of the mic and down the barrel of the camera are his supporters, his voters, his potential voters and the nation as a whole and that what they want and expect from him is to act as though he is the PM in waiting not just a random bloke on the street waiting around.
Contrast the 'stand-up' interviews given by just about every other leader. They know they are speaking to the people and no matter where - airport terminal, hospital carpark, building lobby, park bench - they project they are the leader by giving concise and clear answers addressed to the people telling the people of their position, and (as in Winston Peters case) concise and clear evasions that at least captivate despite never answering the question. Will Shearer learn enough of these tricks of the trade to survive as leader? Enough to earn the Prime Ministership?