Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Truth to power: sports edition

It ain't easy being a journalist, and sometimes you have to make the tough calls. At some point you have to stand up to the powers-that-be and say, "No! I will not be your lapdog! I will not feed your lies to the people any more!"

Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward risked their careers to expose the seedy underbelly of political corruption and uncover the true scale of Watergate. Meanwhile, several journalists of the independent, anti-Putin Novaya Gazeta have been murdered in the last decade. But it's good to see that journalistic courage exists on these shores too, as Herald sports columnist Chris Rattue puts his press box World Cup tickets and accompanying chicken nibbles on the line to call out the New Zealand rugby hierarchy and call them 'boofheads'. Controversial!

"Idiotic drivel from the rugby Kremlin"

The All Blacks' assistant coach Steve Hansen has made a bold bid for Boofhead of the Year.

His suggestion that the New Zealand media co-operate with a later timing for All Black team releases by opting not to leak any earlier information they may glean on the selections is bizarre.

Hansen has been pilloried by other commentators, and rightly so.

He has already put the rugby media in an unfortunate situation, because public suspicions about past and future reporting will be raised.

Now, I appreciate the sentiment. I'm all about freedom of information, and the idea of newspapers acting as some sort of censors for governments terrifies me. I mean, what if the mainstream media in New Zealand more or less reprinted government and corporate press releases instead of analysis? I know, it's too shocking to bear thinking about.

Unfortunately, Rattue goes on to get a little carried away.

The need for press freedom and the right of the public to as much genuine information as possible in our society are among the many reasons to mock Hansen's plea.

To even suggest that the New Zealand media would enter into such agreements is an insult. The media should operate in an arena of competition, not collusion.

What a closed and boring world those rugby-heads must live in for drivel like that to come from their lips. They are, as I have said often, control freaks to a level that dulls and thus harms their sport.

They mistakenly believe that an entire country should be - and even is - in a Kremlin-style rugby camp.

All journalists face tricky situations at times, and may choose to withhold a story knowing there will be a better payoff down the line. This can be a grey area of no hard and fast rights or wrongs.

But a blanket agreement such as Hansen is suggesting is totally unacceptable.

The rugby media, a thin line in this country, will fight such trends to the bitter end and cop the consequences if any. The rot must stop here.

Then again, maybe a Kremlin-style rugby camp is exactly what the All Blacks need to give them the discipline to beat the bed-wetting liberals of France this time.

To quote Rattue himself: "What a closed and boring world those rugby-heads must live in".


  1. I for one would welcome an All Blacks news embargo. But only if it was permanent.

  2. The only thing certain about the rugby, Rusty, is that it will go on forever, and no-one will ever win it

  3. As long as the embargo includes television news too:

    "Hello, it's Thursday, in the middle of summer. Our first item on the sports news involves a rugby player who has suffered a sore leg during a pre-season walking from the car to the weight room incident. His status is in doubt for the period up to and possibly including the first encounter of the 478 game season ahead. We will have more information on the situation tomorrow..."