Wednesday, April 29, 2009

New Zealand's Next Top Blogger

This is just an administrative post, so if you think that administrative issues aren't as important as swine flu then feel free to proceed directly to A couple of criticisms have been made recently in comments that I thought I should address in the hope that I could get "Your Views" on the topics.

1) There has been some criticism that I have been putting too much emphasis on taking the (deserved) piss out of semi-literate racists on "Your Views". Certainly, when I started this blog my intention was to put forward a serious but devastatingly hilarious critique of journalistic and editorial standards at New Zealand's largest daily newspaper. I think that, say, my deconstruction of today's editorial met that standard. Nonetheless, it is hard to stay away from the car wreck that is YV, especially when my piece on the Eskimo lolly controversy quickly became the most popular thing I have ever written. I suppose that different people want different things, so a mix of the two, erm, approaches might be the best way forward. However, if the occasional focus on YV threatens the gravity of the more intellectual content on EtH then that might be a problem.

2) The complaint was made in the comments today, albeit more in reply to Gareth's comment than my piece, that (some of) my criticisms are pretty naive. That is, criticising a private media organisation for trying to sell papers (via, say, sensationalised coverage of issues) is like criticising a fish for swimming, or a YVer for drooling. It's certainly an odd criticism if you are just after an explanation of why the current business model of newspapers pushes them to act more and more tabloidy, or more like television 'news'. But I already know that - as, I suspect, do most people who visit the blog (apart from the guy who keeps googling 'young gay wankers'). My point is, and has always been, that I don't care about the Herald's bottom line unless it is providing a good service - that is, serious and worthy journalism. If they don't, and when they don't, they don't deserve a free ride just because they are trying to make money, any more than a restaurant with crap service deserves your patronage just because they are trying to save on wages. Of course, it's worse with newspapers - a rubbish curry isn't going to lead to a rubbish government. Probably.

Anyway, hopefully these 'replies' seem reasonable. Flame on!


  1. I for one enjoy the YV coverage. Please don't stop. You know they won't.

  2. YV mouthbreathers deserve everything they get, and don't forget you can play an awesome drinking game when you read YV too.

    - 1 drink for "PC"
    - 3 drinks for "PC gone mad"
    - 2 drinks for tree-huggers
    - 2 drinks for "stay home"
    - 5 drinks for "taxpayer dollars"
    - Skull the bottle if it's blamed on the previous Labour government.

    Credit to a friend of mine by the name of G-Dub for that.

  3. To be honest I think that just about every article in The Herald is currently worthy of a general piss take. There doesn't seem to be a single editor capable of turning down a torrid third form essay, let alone actually saying, “This is just not newsworthy”.

    That being said, YV is often comedy gold, and worthy of a bit of newsrage from time to time. Rage on.

  4. I love your blog James and it is (and has been for about 2 months now) part of my daily lunch time read. It is now the first site I go to having taken over from the BBC news site*.

    The YV coverage is hilarious, and I do love taking the piss out of those less articulate/fortunate/educated than myself. Having said that, I do prefer the more meaty articles that provide more insight and even require some thinking on my part.

    I often find myself reading articles in other papers and thinking 'Jesus, what would James have to say about this?**'


    *However BBC has temporarily taken its first place seat back this week,as by lunch time I am desperate to know the latest swine flu stats.

    **He never answers:-(

  5. Having only recently discovered this site after being linked to the Eskimo Pie story, I can't say anything about any perceived decline in quality as I haven't worked my way through your archives yet. However, from what I have read, I think your blog is a brilliant piece of media critique/satire that is an immensely satisfying read. Keep up the good work.

  6. If you start blogging less James, I will cut you.

  7. Wow, Hadyn... are we talking "cut" as in Paris Hilton dissing a BFF, or are you going all out, Joe Pesci style?

    (Thought I would try celebrity references as a bit of a change).

  8. 1) I think the balance is about right. I enjoy reading your discussions of both NZH stories and YVs topics; particularly given that you often emphasise the role the NZH plays in framing the YVs topics.

    2) I get your point about holding the NZH, as a private enterprise, accountable for the service it provides. I think your restaurant analogy fails, however. There are different styles of journalism, just as there are different types of restaurant. A fine-dining establishment is just as much a profit-based enterprise as a fish and chips shop. You seem to be assuming that the NZH should only serve up 5-star service, and any difference in styles is a failure.

    Your criticisms would be much stronger if you contrasted the "fish and chips" articles against examples of the NZH expressing a "five-star" aspiration.

  9. The only real caveat I have with your "Your Views" focus is that it's really not exclusive to the Herald -- every newspaper, here and the US, that allows reader comment on stories has the trolls run wild and free. I think it's a little disingenous to act that the Herald zoo is somehow worse than comments I've seen anywhere else.

  10. Yes, but this is different to allowing comments in response to a particular news story. The typical 'Your Views' topic has two parts. First, a story with has been given much more journalistic prominence than it deserves, and second, the question, specifically worded to get the right type of response.

    The Eskimo story is a good example. They lifted the original story from some local paper in Taranaki, blew it totally out of proportion, then asked if we think we should change the way our confectionary industry is run because of this one girl. Like it's even up to us.

    I think this only came up because at one point there were about three 'YV' stories in a row. But it's no big deal. You're doing an awesome job, keep it up.

  11. Oh, and Garth is back today! I was disappointed when it seemed he had constructed a well written piece on changes in political attitudes. Then he goes on to reveal his admiration of Barack Obama and John Key, before suggesting we also give Commodore Frank Bainimarama a fair crack. Maybe he just has a hard-on for men in powerful positions?

  12. Jordan: You're possibly right about the analogy failing, although I perhaps meant it more as an illustration than an argument. I guess that, while fish and chips might be nice to have every once in a while I don't believe there is any justifiable place for 'fish and chips journalism'. Cal me a snob, but I don't think, say, the Sun or the NZ Truth have any redeeming features, and they ought to be ridiculed at every turn. When the Herald apes them, that makes them no better (probably even worse).

    Nik: Of course you're right, although I don't think I've portrayed it otherwise. My original point, now somewhat lost in the mists of the blogspot archive, was that the Herald would use sensationalist reporting (of say, the Ngati Toa 'haka deal') and then link the article to YV in a rather cynical way. What's more, YV articles in general tend to disproportionately represent stories about race, law & order etc, which I think is an editorial decision that could and should be criticised.

  13. Brad: Damn you for typing quicker (or earlier) than me.

    As for Garth, I read it and I suspect it has been ghost-written by a non-racist. At one point he describes someone as 'right-wing', and he has some positive things to say about Maori. Can't be the real Garth. I'm putting out a missing person report - this could be a real-life 'Weekend at Bernie's' situation.

  14. I think James's point is not that the Herald has particular stated aspirations to be the world's best paper, but that it's essentially the only choice for Aucklanders at least, thus some sort of accountability is called for.

    I agree that (as far as Jon Stewart's informed me) the worldwide media's gone collectively mad for swine flu & that there are nutbars everywhere who are only too happy to vent on YV-equivalents... but if what James has to say on the subject is funny (and it often is), who cares?

  15. That'll teach me to type without refreshing the comments page first... apparently that's not James's point. But my point is better so... whatevs.

  16. James, fair call. I would be interested to read, in a later post perhaps, your views on what sort of position in society a newspaper should aspire to. Not because I disagree with you, but because my current feelings about media as society's watchdog, sunshine is the best disinfectant, etc are mainly intuitive.

    Ultimately, I guess it boils down to the "public interest vs what interests the public" tension my Media Law professor drummed into me.

  17. Someone on here at some point pointed out that the British press was much better at this journalism thing. I leave it to Simon Jenkins of the Guardian:

  18. Ah, the sweet smell of a online community engaging in friendly discourse, during which disagreements can be settled with fact and wit, not by dick jokes and flame wars. That is why I keep coming back to our own little version of the algonquin round table. Rage on, Jimmy. Rage on.

    As a side note, I really hope that you (a) are aware of 'The Wire', and (b) are watching the final season which is currently airing at the highly sought after time slot of 12.30am on Tuesday mornings (TV2). In addition to the stories that have been woven throughout the first 4 seasons of this masterpiece, which include the drug trade, police (both on the street and in the higher, more beurocratic levels), and local politics, this season intruduces us to the inner workings of the Baltimore Sun(fictional), which is a local newspaper slowly decaying from the inside.

  19. I'm working my way through Season One. Just finished the penultimate episode: holy fucking shit.

    "Where's Wallace at? Where's the boy, String?" Chilling.

  20. Good for you. Let me warn you that season two is a bit weaker than season one, but things pick up again in season 3, with season 4 being sickeningly perfect television. Some of those episodes left me feeling like I had a 20 tonne weight lying on my chest. F*cking powerful stuff.

    The CD+DVD store in 277 has all four seasons in stock, retailing at a discounted price of $39/each (note- hannah montana DVD's still at full RRP). Even if this is the first you have heard of this show, that will be the best $156 you ever spend on DVDs. Do it. Do it now.

  21. For those who like reading a blog about newspaperFAIL, wait until you get to series five.