Dec 28, 2007

The Dominion Post

Poneke has some harsh words to say today about the Dominion Post, both in terms of its production and also its editorial content (and editor).

We highlight one paragraph to give you the flavour of this:

"The Dominion Post is a half-hearted newspaper even at its best, which is not very good at all. It was supposed to make “twice the noise” of its parents The Dominion and the Evening Post but it rarely makes half as much as either of them did. There is stuff all of The Dominion in it. Most of the Dom staff, including the competent and experienced editor, Richard Long, were pushed out by the Evening Post staff who took over and made it in effect a morning edition of the Evening Post, edited by the latter’s Tim Pankhurst, who possesses none of the journalistic tenacity that made Long one of the best journalists the capital has produced. It even looks like the Evening Post and has the latter’s obsession with Peter Jackson’s every sneeze and like the Post it acts as the publicity agent of whoever wears Wellington’s mayoral chains, at present Kerry Prendergast, who has a hot-line to Pankhurst’s desk."

We are not that pleased with the standard of journalism in New Zealand either and are also often critical of the Dominion Post, but we wonder if the Dominion Post is fully to blame for all of this. The relationship between our politicians and media is a particularly strange one. We are a very small community, and there is not much which a journalist or lobbyist can pick up around Wellington or even the country that is not reasonably widely known. The politicians know this and have built up a system by which the real scoops are leaked to those journalists who are not going to be too searching in analysis and who are not going to go for the jugular the next day. Helen Clark's (and previous PM's) meetings each week with Ian Templeton are the best example of this. In Wellington the Mayor provides the same service for the Editor of the Dominion Post. Pankhurst gets to know more than almost anyone else, and more than even the Deputy Mayor, about what is really going on. It is win/win. Predergast gets her key policies supported and Pankhurst gets his front page news - who broke the news on the plans for the new tunnels? (we did actually but only 500 or so read us regularly. Pankhurst had it on the front page of the Dominion Post for all to read a day before the Regional Land Transport Committee got to see what was being proposed.) Another factor, more peculiar to Prendergast is that she is a bully. She tries to bully people into accepting her views. If you don't toe the line or if you criticise her you are cast out into the wilderness. Pankhurst knows this. But Pankhurst does show his teeth sometimes. His endorsement of Ian McKinnon as Deputy Mayor was not in line with the Mayor's thinking at the time, indeed it forced the Mayor to change tack quickly.

We don't think this is healthy, and we think it particularly unhealthy when, as is happening right now, the Mayor and the Editor of the Dominion Post are of the same mind on important issues such as Transmission Gully. But we think it is indicative of a problem that is bigger than just the culture of one newspaper. It is a nationwide problem.

In contrast to what is going on here, people should have a look at a feature/analysis Patrick Healy of The New York Times on Hillary Clinton (remember she is still a New York Senator) published on Christmas Day. It was genuinely searching and was based on "an interview with Mrs. Clinton, conversations with 35 Clinton administration officials and a review of books about her White House years". An example of the type of journalism we don't see much of in New Zealand.