Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Tuesday, March 10, 2009: Cannibal on trial writes column for Vatican

Sensational! Oh, hang on: Say what you like of the justice of the retrial of David Bain, but it makes for some great news - or, at least, the Herald is really trying to make it seem like it does. "Bain looks away as film of dead family screens," says the headline. That's certainly quite emotional and exciting. "David Bain lowered his head and looked away as the High Court was yesterday shown graphic video footage of his family lying dead at his former Dunedin home." Wait, does that mean he is innocent, and had to turn away because of the reinforced shock of what someone did to his loved ones? Or maybe the guilt weighing down on his shoulders was too much for him. I'm surprised we don't have Herald 'gossip queen' Rachel Glucina to help us interpret the story. Unfortunately, the Herald really blew its figurative load on the first sentence and, no matter how hard Jarrod Booker tries, he just can't get the same emotional force into the rest of the article. The article ends with a thrilling discussion over photographs of the crime scene:

Asked if he could identify his own photographs from those compiled into a booklet at the trial, Mr Gardener said he could recognise his own photographs.

"I know my own style of photography. I have been doing it for 30, 40-odd years."

But when questioned about whether he could positively identify one specific photograph as his own, Mr Gardener said he was unsure.

Ms Cull: "You can't really tell, can you?"

Mr Gardener: "It would be a fair comment. I would agree, yes."

Maybe this discussion is actually an important part of the legal case, I don't really know. Maybe it's just padding to fill out an article that was otherwise only a headline. Either way, you can't expect people to be able to make these important distinctions when you take such a pathetic, sensationalist approach to your reporting.

Thanks, but no thanks: I always like those news stories where you can legitimately rage at both sides in a dispute. The Herald reports on a Broadcasting Standards Association ruling that "upheld a complaint against 3 News after it aired an item on cannibalism on its 6pm bulletin."
  • Culprit one: Joy Knight of Christchurch (!), who complained that her children were "upset and had nightmares" after seeing the piece, which discussed a British case where a man had, yes, eaten his friend. I'm sorry (not really), Joy, but the news is for grown-ups. It happens to be on at 6pm because that is convenient for people, not because it is going to be all sunshine and rainbows. Christ, it's not like there haven't been enough concessions already to people suffering from ADHD in the 13 minutes of the programme not yet dedicated to the weather: snazzy, useless graphics; stories about animals; sound bites; movie reviews; sing-a-longs. Sometimes nasty stuff happens in the world, and it's your job as a parent to convince your children that, just because a German ate someone's penis on the news, it doesn't mean it will happen to them (necessarily).
  • Culprit two: TVWorks, the parent company of TV3, also made a rush for the moral high ground. After pointing out that the news was not aimed at children, he went on to say that "the reporting of this particular matter was a matter of legitimate public interest and a recount of salient details of the offending was an inherent part of that report." Well, he's half right - it wouldn't be a story about cannibalism without any mention of cannibalism. I guess the real problem here is that one might doubt that a story of cannibalism in Britain is a matter of "legitimate public interest" in New Zealand. I have a sneaking suspicion that, instead, someone thought that this story would be 'sexy' news (no, not in that way.) It's not a matter of censoring the news; it's just a matter of only putting actual news in the news in the first place. Oh, and weather, because how am I going to engage with the world if I don't know what the weather was like this morning?

Column envy: Some of you are going to think I am just bitter; after all, I didn't get offered the gig (although I would, of course, have turned it down). And yes, I have written about this before in the context of Ms Noelle McCarthy. But why, why, why does the Herald insist on prostituting the Opinion page out to people who do not have opinions? The latest affront to serious journalism comes in the form of Rebecca Barry, whose column will, we are assured, be appearing fortnightly. What's she going to talk about, I wonder? Economic policy? The Corrections Department? Reinstating feudal titles? The weather? No, it turns out she is going to talk about... herself. Let me sum it up for you: Ms Barry went to London. She couldn't get a job. Ms Barry came back. She found a job (on my turf!). On this magical mystery tour, we get to hear about a heartstrings-tugging trip to Southeast Asia and her friends' hair colours. By the end, she's taking the piss: "At least I've come home, sweet home, to an opportunity to tell you about it." Grrr.

Honestly, Herald, give me anyone else, I don't care - more Garth George, Michael Laws, Pope Benedict, murderers, war criminals, hedge fund managers - as long as they actually give me an opinion about something of significance. Or, as an alternative, you could rename the 'Opinion' page the 'Stories' page, and have a whole roster of inoffensively bland writers churning out interesting stories about what they've been doing with their lives. You could even ask for submissions from readers, and pay them up to $600 for every story accepted. And then you could rename the newspaper "That's Life".

Ironic celebration of the day: In a small piece in the world section, the Herald brings up an article in the Vatican newspaper, Osservatore Romano, discussing what 20th century innovation had contributed most to the liberation of women:
What in the 20th century did more to liberate Western women? The debate is heated. Some say the pill, some say abortion rights and some the right to work outside the home. Some, however, dare to go further: the washing machine.
And coming in in last place: the Catholic Church.


  1. Yeah. f**k the catholic church http://www.facebook.com/ext/share.php?sid=55720968983&h=bLiza&u=Vy3f2

    and for censorship of the word f**k see this youtube video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zNc7xMlkO88

  2. More Garth George? He's been on the same 'journalistic valium for lobotomised readers' trip as all the other op-eders in recent weeks. DO you really want to read more about the pies in small town Taumaranui, James?

    I hope you mean old skool Garth George - tales of the rapture, alcoholism and the inherent venality of anyone who hasn't discovered that jesus was hiding behind the couch this whole time. That is definitely worthy of some Op Ed rage.

  3. Turns out I CAN read this thing at work afterall! Just can't follow Facebook links - how very sexual.

    Anyway, that story about the penis eater is actually quite sad - the German one at least. They met, lopped off his wang and were frying it when they discovered that cooking it too long is a lot like frying squid and it turns all rubbery. It was inedible and the wang's owner dies a fairly miserable death a few hours later from blood loss.

    Naturally, I took a keen interest in that documentary. Would have much rather seen Jim Hickey and his wild on-air Christian fundamentalist gyrations too.

  4. Bennet, how can a man with a penis big enough to feed two be suicidal?