Friday, February 27, 2009

Friday, February 27, 2009: Slumblog millionaire

It seems that I have been outdoing myself - 3800 words of rage in the last two days. I think we'll ease into the weekend with a slightly lighter edition today. But what I do have in return is some exciting news - Editing the Herald is going multimedia! In collaboration with bFm, I will have my own pre-recorded segment on the Sunday Breakfast with Jose starting next Sunday (the 8th). It will most likely just be something I have already written about, but you can pretend to be surprised anyway. Anyway, if lots of people listen and like it, surely it's only a matter of time before we have our own 24-hour news-rage channel, where we live-blog whatever is on TVNZ News 24 at the same time.

Air New Zealand taking the plunge: "Airline upbeat despite profit plunge", says the front page of the business section; on page 5, the actual headline reads, "Air NZ hopes to pull up from profit drop." Unfortunate headlines, one might think, given the recent plane crash near Perpignan that cost the airline not only profits, but the lives of seven people. It's not quite on the scale of Harvey Normans' legendary 'final solution' advertising blunder, but it's bad enough.

Speaking of which, there was an interesting front-page story yesterday about the French investigation into the crash. Although the findings are apparently preliminary, it looks like the crash may have resulted from carrying out some rather radical manoeuvres (for a large passenger airliner) - manoeuvres that the German pilot doesn't seem to have particularly keen on undertaking. An American accident investigator told the Herald that what the plane was doing was 'unjustified and risky'.

What's interesting about the article, however, is that the Herald reporters seem to go to considerable lengths to avoid making uncomfortable links between the cockpit recordings, the testimony of the investigator and what seems to me a logical, if perhaps slightly premature, conclusion: that the crash may well have been the result of bad decisions by the Air New Zealand crew. Now, perhaps a modicum of respect for the dead is due, and leaping to conclusions may not be the greatest idea, but it doesn't seem to stop the Herald doing it the rest of the time. I can't help but wonder if it hasn't got anything to do with being rather sheepish after the reporting after the crash, where the dead crew treated as heroes. Again, I'm not trying for any shock value here and I have no desire to rag on the dead, but they were just people doing their rather lucrative job when circumstances intervened. If, as the Herald seems to think, the crash is still newsworthy, then I would rather they didn't pull punches, even if it means coming to face with some uncomfortable facts about their past reporting.

To blog or not to blog: In the world of news-rage journalism we have a saying: when it rains, it pours, and when it doesn't rain it's rather dry indeed. An 'anonymous' commenter (commentator?) on yesterday's post criticised the very core of my blogosophy, claiming that the fact I only wrote about a handful of stories a day meant that the Herald wasn't that bad at all, and in fact no worse than 'quality' dailies overseas. Well, as I pointed out in my... pointed reply, writing this (for free) takes me long enough without commenting on every article. What's more, my inspiration for this came after coming back to New Zealand from the UK, where there are papers of a much higher standard, and (obviously) papers of a much lower standard. Obviously, part of it is linked to my political and social biases - but I imagine that, if you were one of those people worried about reds-under-the-bed, you wouldn't be here in the first place.

But the most important point here is that there are three types of article in the Herald: the good, the bad and the boring. I'm a big enough man to admit that they get some things right - sometimes the news is straightforward enough that it's tough to screw up reporting it. Sometimes the articles are bad, which is when I write about them. But most of the time, at least from the perspective of someone trying to write humorously about the news, the articles are boring. What am I supposed to write about "Kiwi artist's Lonely Dog signs up to become a Hollywood movie star"? Sure, maybe a story about a fictional dog shouldn't be on the front page, but it's hardly worse than the rubbish normally on there. "Heavy rain likely to bring flooding"; "Research shows high rate of gastric diseases in NZ"; "Judges renew plea for more guards at courts". There's only so much that even a skilled craftsman can do with such material. As one of my key news-rage advisers warned me, "Don't TRY and be attention worthy... that is, after all, the source of the Herald's problems." Editing the Herald is, and will remain, like a rollercoaster - just without the children and the vomit.


  1. Ahem, can we really rag on the Herald for the Air New Zealand/plunge thing and yet defend the radio station playing 'Ring of Fire' in (chronological) connection with the Australian bush fires from the wrath of Herald letter-writers? Yes, I've been taking notes.

  2. Man. In the immortal words of my Boss (and yours), concerning your multimedia advancement:

    "From small things baby, big things one day come"

  3. Yes, I totally agree with your comment on headlines. I was "Shocked" earlier this year when the Herald had an article about one of those bankers who topped himself as having "paid the ultimate price"

  4. I agree with the sometimes lack of quality of the Herald's reporting. The worst aspect of this I saw was on the Herald website at some point in 2006 or 2007. Iran had recently announced the fact that it was reserving the right to resort to missile strikes on Isreal. This was at a tense time when Bush was in full attack mode. The Herald headline read (and I paraphrase because my memory is poor) - Iran tells Isreal it will nuke it if it has to. Now I say I paraphrase but the word 'nuke' I remember clear as day. Within an hour it was altered to bomb, but all I can say is it was a good thing Bush or Cheney weren't surfing the web to intensively that day.

    However I must say that while I agree that the British newspapers are far superior in terms of quality, they do all have faults of their own. I will leave that for another day however, as I have a plane to catch. Keep up the good work

  5. Best use of the slumdog pun ever

  6. Anger is an energy. Carbon-neutral too. Keep it up!