My Giddy Aunt: Opinions Make Journos Distraught

The NZ Herald columnist Rachel Stewart caused an uproar this week when she wrote about a push to gender self- identification, which she believes will undermine women.

The column is part of a belated but global trend for people to challenge juggernaut social change promoted by politicians and activists.

Stewart has a reputation for not suffering fools gladly, as they say.

 But I thought her Herald comment piece was reasoned and calm.

Which is more than you can say for the reaction.

I agree with many of her points. I also worry about the mob mentality and emotional zealotry that is growing around self-identification, where men are women  – if they say they are. 

Women’s groups are suggesting that their human rights are being undermined, and they have been attacked by the Green Party.

Of course advocates are entitled to their opinion.

But Stewart’s views drew ugly attacks on her. With a few notable exceptions, media have failed to cover this fundamental story.

The trend pushes against he contagious and moral panic caused by social media – especially twitter.

 Until recently Stuff treated it as a clickbait story.

One unquestioning article matter-of factedly reported a women  who had transitioned with urgery to a man and was pregnant,. Critics of that journalism drew activist attacks.

Social media reaction to Stewart’s column was mixed and the criticism was sometimes bizarre.

A missive from Herald entertainment writer Siena Yates may have been the weirdest.

Let Me Just start by saying that if you and especially if you are trans I hope you are okay today,

I know for a fact some of you aren’t. Many of my queer co-workers – and myself – are distraught today forced to function in a workplace where ignorant and blatantly transphobic opinions are not only held but pubicised.

So I just wanted to tell the community that I am so sorry for what you have endured in general, but especially today.To let you know we still have voices in mainstream media. “We are as upset as you are, but we still fight on. And to let our trans whanau know that we are here for you are valid we see you and we have your back.

My giddy aunt. 

Siena Yates

She and other staff struggled to cope with a mainstream idea being discussed in the paper. They are in the wrong business. News media are not there to progect their sensibilities. 

Like a lot of journalists and activists nowadays. Yates presents herself in a saviour role: There to protect the distressed and weak.

I hope and assume that the Herald will not cower to these self appointed virtuous folk or the abusers on social media.

I imagine Yates/ melodrama caused some raised eyebrows around the Herald.

If a rational opinion column was upsetting, how would they cope with a train crash?

The good news is that the uproar got an important topic into the mainstream.

Of course, there have had other zealous and censorious attacks.

The Pride march debacle – when a government MP ruling which women are allowed to attend the march next February.

The sacked Santa opined that a woman could not be Santa which is debafrable, but which is beyond the pale in the current environment. 

This week RNZ music staffer Kirsten Johnstone, on Nine To Noon, was unhappy that there were too many white people producing music podcasts, She was tired of it, she said.



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Much of the best journalism nowadays cames from women like Donna Chisholm, Kim Hill and Rebecca Macfie.  Surprisingly, the list of people offering credible Left wing commentary is still dominated by men that have been around a long time. Here is my opinion of the most crediible


Bomber Bradbury: Workers

Martyn “Bomber” Bradbury is an old-time religion socialist who is rare the Left in advocating for the working poor, and who challenges the hipster woke left. Bomber has his off days, and he has a reputation for taking offense easily. But he has stuck with many guises and platforms over the years and has a following amongst traditional Left. (The Daily Blog)



Chris Trotter. Historical perspective.

Another seasoned writer on the Left who maintains an allegiance to ordinary New Zealanders . He brings an understanding of history to understanding the Left perspective. He is one of the few people on the Left who has stood up to the increasingly illiberal and censorious Left by supporting freedom of speech movement.  (Bowalley Road, The Daily Blog) 



Danyl McLauhlan: Intellectual Leader,

Perhaps less well-known to the hoi polloi, Wellington based Danyl McLauchlan is the the clear leader of the intellectual Left In New Zealand. While many journalists  and commentators have become true believers and drifted into a fawning love affair with the government, and has challenging it’s performance. (The Spinoff various)



Gordan Camobell (thorough)

Erudite and intensely analytical, Duncan Campbell came from long stint as a feature writer at the NZ Listener and was closely involved in coverage of the Ahmed Zaoui Affair, has long been at the pointy end of journalism the Left. (Scoop, Werewolf) 





John Campbell: Mainstream Left

He is mainstream, so Is he on the Left? Well he would probably prefer to be called liberal.  Campbell wears his heart on his sleeve. and to me, there is a bit too much John Campbell in John Campbell stories.  But he is beloved by people on the Left as one of them, and made his name with campaigning journalism. He recently ended a stint at Checkpoint an is now a reporter-at-large at TVNZ.


Nicky Hager: Loved and Loathed

The king of New Zealand investigative journalists resents the common allegation he is he Left. But the fact is that books like Dirty Politics have made him beloved by many on the Left, and loathed by many National Party supporters.  I admire him for serioulsy challenging authority while never coming unstuck with the law. ( Spinoff, Various) 


RACHEL STEWART. A Good writer in an important area, her column in the New Zealand herald has maintained the much-needed focus on the environment and life in the country Personally, I once thought her social media profile outside of her Herald was too belligerent. But that has softened, and there is no doubt she makes good arguments with confidence and passion.

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Maori News Shakeup Beckons

Shane Taurima – the Maori Party candidate for Tamaki Makarau in the last election – is working on a big shakeup at Maori TV. The onetime Q & A interviewer and Labour candidate had been found holding a Labour party meeting at TVNZ, so he changed parties. Alas, the Maori Party went belly up and Labour formed the government. Last month Taurima was appointed deputy-chief executive and head of transition of Maori TV.  

Shane Taurima. Former candidate for Tamai-Makarau, now deputy chief executive of Maori TV

Big upheavals are expected with speculation that the news operation will be shifted to an outside organisation servicing different Maori media. Options have not yet been spelt out. But the Maori TV head of news, Maramena Roderick is leaving next week after keeping the news operation afloat.

Overall, Maori TV has suffered from internal politics, personalities, low staff morale and from previous management signing a questionable long-term lease for new studios at an isolated location in East Tamaki. The worst setback has been the lack of progress in its key aim increasing uptake of te reo, which was the main reason for it being set up.

Continue reading “Maori News Shakeup Beckons”

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Radio NZ Can’t Afford To Become Red Radio Opinion

CAPTION: The ABC was at war with it;s government. Radio NZ has the opposite problem. It is too close to Labour and The Greens, 

The ABC fiasco across the Tasman is a timely warning about the potential for political meddling in New Zealand state media. The circumstances are different.  RNZ is too aligned with the liberal agenda. The ABC has been embattled with political masters. But the dangers are there nevertheless.

 Hands-on broadcasting minister Clare Curran is gone, and that will be a relief to many at RNZ. But the government giving RNZ a central role to more “diverse” content,. In the current mood i would expect that to mean a drift to the Left, which RNZ does not need.

Broadcasting and communications portfolios are insignificant. But media and the dministyration of media frequently get politicians into trouble. The sacking of the ABC managing director Michelle Guthrie and the resignation of the bungling chairman Justin Milne is a reminder hoe hard it is to keep public media independent.

Michelle Guthrie

The ABC fiasco goes to the heart of independence for state media. The chairman Justin Milne – a pal of Prime minister Malcolm Turnbull – told Michelle Guthrie to sack a journalist that  Turnbull did not like.

Rightly or wrongly public media is most often accused of being biased Left, That was certainly the perception of the Australian coalition against the ABC. 

New Zealand has had own less dramatic scandals over questionable dealings and RNZ has long suffered the  abusefrom National that it is biased. Usually it is not, but RNZ needs to take care to not go don this road, 

In theory Curran was sacked was due to failure and murky process for appointment of Derek Handley as CTO. Curran’s replacement as broadcasting minister Kris Faafoi is competent and a former reporer for the Holmes show, so will be aware of the need for independence.  Jacinda Ardern was implicated in the Handley decision. It appears that IT initiatives were being mixed with personal friendships. Handley even approached the president of Labour Party. This government is prepared to dabble in purportedly independent processes

Carol Hirschfeld

Plus there are links to and more prescient meeting she organised with Carol Hirschfeld who was the the head of content at RNZ.

One source suggests that the secret meeting between Hirschfeld and Curran was linked to government wishes to boost Maori content on National Radio – an initiative that was already underway.

Hirschfeld left after repeatedly misleading RNZ bosses about the planning for the unrecorded meeting. She is now a senior executive at Stuff.

While RNZ is often accused of being biased to the Left, in my opinion TVNZ commentary tends  biased to the government of the day.

TVNZ news tends to be straight. But was it coincidence post-election when the PC Hilary Barry replaced Right wing Mike Hosking on Seven Sharp. When Helen Clark was PM TVNZ gave Pam Corkery her own news show. political attentions 

Labour broadcasting policy – shambolic as it is – puts Radio NZ front and centre of its deological mission. Not least a call  to increase Maori content. In my opinion RNZ needs to keep this government at arms length. The National Party was accused of trying to damage RNZ – the way the Liberal Party has with it’s the ABC. The danger for RNZ is being hugged to death by the Labour and Green Party.

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The Importance of Being Close To Jacinda (Photo RNZ)

The kerfuffle over the Meka Whaitiri allegations has highlighted the perceived importance of party-political solidarity line-ups. Whaitiri is the MP for Ikaroa-Rawhiti and was very unhappy with her press secretary when she learned she had missed out on the photo-op with Jacinda Ardern in Gisborne. Whaitiri’s response – allegedly leading to to bruising of the press secretary’s arm – led to Ardern’s sacking th minister. No doubt Whaitiri will be back. The Maori caucius is strong, Ardern cannot afford to annoy the Maori caucus too long. Missing a photo op might with the popular PM will have been annoying for Whaitiri, She is the local MP seeking recognition for an outpost in a far- flung electorate. Carmen Sepuloni took the coveted position position on Jacinta’s wing. Maybe the press secretary cocked up. Maybe she did not. Maybe she was poorly trained. You wonder of the PM’s phalanx of minders had any role  ensuring that the local MP was around, especially when Whaitiri had a rookie press secretary. Beyond that, why do media allow politicians to create line ups of supporters? It has become like wedding photographer lining up the bride’s family. If it implies solidarity. I’m not sure the public buys it. Solidarity shots have been around for a long time, but it seems to have become formalised for most political gatherings outside Parliament. I guess it offers a better backdrop for TV networks. More importntly it is a publicity shot keeps the TV networks in good fvour with the parties. Maybe it is not as important to the public as Meka Whaitiri thinkw.

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TVNZ Must Try Harder With Q & A

TVNZ deserved credit for shifting it’s politics show Q & A from the Sunday morning boondocks to primetime. The state broadcaster showed it was not abandoning current affairs and prepared to take a commercial risk. If episodes one to three seemed a little – well – dull – Episode 4 on Sunday was muddled. Studio shots looked flat. The make up on the guests was sometimes poor and some subject matter was poorly handled.

Peter FitzSimons

Rebecca Wright’s interview with former US secretary of state Madeleine Albright was paint-by-numbers stuff, asking nice open question. Albright was there to plug her new book, and that is fair enough.

Alas, she delivered another treatise on how Donald Trump was an abomination. Wright nodded enthusiastically. But there was no attempt to challenge the Democratic Party version of events. or its past oversight of world events. 

Media blaming Trump are dime a dozen. it is available 24/7 on CNN. The other international story on Q & A was coverage of the Liberal Party upheavals across the Tasman. It was a chance dig in with some good analysis of a story that directly affects New Zealand. This week;s show must have been pre-recorded very early, because it did not mention the news that day that Julie Bishop was standing dow from her Foreign Minister post.

It is always an easy to call in journalist, but it is second-hand view. Someone like Michelle Grattan might show the gravity of the story. 

But the Sydeny Morning Herald Peter FitzSimons responses were top the head stuff. He appears to have been chosen for the Rugby connection. He as the wrong person for the job.

Corin Dann even made that hoary old joke about not talking about the Rugby results. 

Corin Dann

I have praised Dann in the past for providing some objectivity, especially when he was head of the TVNZ Press Gallery and competing with Paddy Gower. Objectivity is good, but he seems to make up for the lack of rancour by creating breathless urgency his delivery.

I’ve always preferred Q & A over The Nation on Three, which plays on Saturday Mornings and was repeated opposite Q& A on Sunday mornings. It is good to have politics in prime time. But Sunday night  seems too late for me to catch up on the week’ s politics.

Lisa Owen

With The Nation interviewer Lisa Owen about to leave Three for Checkpoint on Radio New Zealand this may be the time that TVNZ can own the TV politics brand.

Both shows are taxpayer-funded. Owen aside, The Nation has always seemed down at heel to me.

That low rent feel has its use of PR people and lobbyists its panel. But if The Nation is bound to be a dead duck, Q & A is not yet shooting for the stars.

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Why Did Jacinda Ardern Go Soft On Curran?

Labour is pushing ahead with a shake-up of public media – leaving the forgetful broadcasting minister Clare Curran at the helm. This follows the second incident where Curran has forgotten to declare meetings with industry players or nofified staff. Labour’s broadcasting policy is already a mess. We need to look at where its muddy amd strategy is headed. Do want the State more involved in journalism?

On Friday, Prime-minister Jacinda Ardern removed two of Curran’s four portfolios and took her out of Cabinet. She left the errant minister with broadcasting, and associate minister for ACC. Chris Hipkins will take over Curran’s bizarrely inapproriate role as “minister for open government.”  Dr Megan Woods will take over as minister of government digital services, the portfolio that got Curran into trouble when she forgot to declare an interview with a potential job applicant.

Labour true believers and government-friendly journalists have sought to portray Ardern’s move as quick decisive action –  a counter to the  nagging doubt about her leadership skills. Ardern had her concern face on. But PM go easy on Curran after her second failure of the year. 

Ardern says she learned of Curran’s latest transgression on Monday. She chose to announce it at 4pm on Friday, in the middle of big political changes in Australia, and debate source of a leak against Opposition leader Simon Bridges. In my opinion was an old-fashioned news dump meant to avoid media attention and should have been called out as such.

Derek Handley

The latest debacle where Derek Handley, the high-profile entrepreneur Derek Hadley who was interested in a new position of the government’s Chief Technology Officer. In an unusual move  Curran had restarted the search for a CTO, after she was not impressed enough by the applicants,

Handley, by the way. is a director of Sky TV.

Ardern noted this is the second time that the minister’s note keeping and liaison with staff. On December 5, broke the story of Curran’s meeting at the Astoria cafe with Carol Hirschfeld, who headed news at Radio New Zealand. The pretense had been the meeting was accidental. In fact it was pre-planned.

Hirschfeld had misled her RNZ bosses about the meeting, who had subsequently misled a select committee. She was dismissed from Radio New Zealand and hired at Stuff.

Hirschfeld clearly made a mistake, and paid for it  Curran, apologised,the Government supported herand Hirschfeld was thrown to the wolves.

RNZ chairman Jim Mather

After the latest debacle the CTO appointment has been taken over by the state services Commission – which I where it always belonged all along, not with Curran’s office.

Why Ardern chose to retain Curran as minister of small but sensitive portfolio.

Labour is setting up a structure to more public media. journalists and media love the idea of more public cash. Labour relies on Maori support, and Radio New Zealand is to get closer with Maori TV.  Former Maori TV CEO Jim Mather – was appointed chairman of RNZ.

What is the crossover between Curran ‘s role as the minister of broadcasting, and Ardern’s role as minister for arts, culture and heritage. The PM’s portfolio drifts into media 

The public need to know that the survival of the minister (against the odds) is due to a wider Labour strategy.

We need a clean slate with Labour’s failed media strategy, and an explanation on why the Prime Minister is not prepared to provide one.

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RNZ Too Shy-Shy On Another PR Tie Four days and Morning Report still hasn't explained it's lack of disclosure

Radio New Zealand Morning Report is using the director of a public relations company – Kerry-Anne Walsh – as its Australian correspondent.

Walsh has had a long career as a political journalist. In 2009 she left Rupert Murdoch’s Sun-Herald reviving and her Canberra- based PR firm, called KA Communications.

The question is not why public radio uses a PR person for a significant editorial role as a ” correspondent”.  A lot of people straddle journalism and PR. (Though you would hope public radio analysis of Australia would be handled carefully? Walsh is clearly knowledgable.

The question is why RNZ – once again – feels it does not to spell out PR links for its correspondents.

Remember post-election when Morning Report used soft questions for an undeclared media adviser to the PM to declare journalists had to censor the questions they asked the PM. Continue reading RNZ Too Shy-Shy On Another PR Tie Four days and Morning Report still hasn’t explained it’s lack of disclosure

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Dog Whistles And Golriz Riding A High Horse It's not creepy to challenge politicians

CAPTION Green MP Golriz Grahraman.


I am ambivalent about the Green MP Golriz Grahraman and questions about her refugee background.

Simon Jeans – A high-profile Australian immigration lawyer – has questioned her take on freedom of speech, and her refugee status. It is not my intention to work out what is right or wrong. She should answer the claims.

Golriz and partner Guy claim high ground on moral issues.


But if you are going to ride a high horse, you have to be prepared to show you belong there. Some disagreed with Jeans’ claims. The co-editor of Newsroom – Tim Murphy – is one sceptic who is non-partisan.

“That thing by the Australian lawyer about MP Golriz Ghahraman: -tries to be all magisterial on a case built from a few news clippings makes assumptions about assumptions and argues with them to give a verdict no one sought. Odd.”

  Continue reading Dog Whistles And Golriz Riding A High Horse It’s not creepy to challenge politicians

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Update: Free Speech Coalition Withdraws Goff Complaint Claims victory

CAPTION: Coalition says Morning Report wanted Brash for a Punch and Judy show.

The Free Speech Coalition has studied Auckland Council’s defence to the application for judicial review of the Mayor’s claim to ban Molyneux/Southern from Council-owned venues. There is no attempt in the response papers to substantiate any politician’s right to decide who can and can’t be heard in Auckland’s ratepayer provided facilities.

“Free Speech has unequivocally won on the key issue,” says Dr David Cumin, a Free Speech Coalition member. “The arrogant claim of power to block what the Mayor calls ‘repugnant’ speech (speech that might offend a person’s religious prejudices) gets no defence from the Council lawyers.”

The Council Response concedes: Mayor Goff did not make the decision;

He had no right to intervene or make the decision;

Regional Facilities Auckland made the decision;

RFA would not have acted on the Mayor’s instructions if he had given them;

He did not influence the decision-makers;

RFA do not and will not discriminate among users on grounds of political preference or concern about causing offence;

The decision was instead based on security concerns;

Ultimately it was due to fear of what protesters could do;

RFA thought that safety was paramount so they did not believe they needed to do more to mitigate the threats or otherwise ensure the Thug’s Veto did not prevail.

“With the Council indicating so clearly that it can’t support the Mayor’s claims, the Free Speech Coalition has won,” says Dr Cumin. “New Zealanders have put together their $20s and $50s and $100s, and they’ve called the politician’s bluff. They’ve told him they get to decide who they can listen to – not a Mayor spouting slogans about people he’s never met.”

“The Free Speech Coalition’s main purpose for next Monday’s urgent application hearing has therefore gone. As such the request for urgent orders and a hearing, has been withdrawn. Focus will now be on the remaining question relating to the Council’s duty to stand up to the ‘Thugs’ Veto’.”

“The Coalition was never about supporting the particular speakers, it was about principle, which now the Council has conceded.”

“The second issue remains – will officials who want to gag unwelcome political speech now manufacture “safety concerns” to evade the NZ Bill of Rights Act, and the Human Rights Act?”

“All fair-minded New Zealanders will be upset by the apparent effectiveness of the Thugs’ Veto in this case. It may have been against a Council whose Mayor was happy to be threatened, but it has implications throughout New Zealand.”

“We think Free Speech Coalition supporters will want us to ensure that a court tells Councils to ensure the Thug’s Veto does not rule in their cities. But that is an issue for a later day, and will be the key issue in the substantive proceedings later in the year, if we decide to press on.”

“Auckland Council’s incompetence on this occasion would make it hard for the Court to order that the particular event go ahead, at least at the planned time and venue. We are advised that the compressed urgent timetable and rules about interim applications such as ours mean that it will not be possible to get sufficient evidence before the Court on security/safety issues, and test it.”

“Unless the Police volunteer that they can handle anything unlawful the protesters might threaten, a court would be wary of unmanageable interference with the event and its attendees.”

“The promoters are responsible people. They see the greater risk created by the Mayor’s incitement. Celebrities without any direct knowledge have been falling over each other to distance themselves from the manufactured bogeymen they were prompted to hate, by the Mayor.”

“While it may be fair to tar Auckland Councillors with cowardice in failing to reassert control of Mayor Goff, it is not fair to blame the RFA officers. They have stated their adherence to the non-partisan principles the Free Speech Coalition defends. We welcome this significant victory.”

“Both sides should now agree that the question is whether unexamined safety fears can trump fundamental values of free expression. We should agree that defining a duty to overcome the Thug’s Veto is vitally important. That should now be the main issue in the eventual substantive hearing.”

Melissa Derby, another spokesperson for the Free Speech Coalition, says “The Mayor was wrong in the decision he made and we’ve ensured no legal precedent was set that makes it okay for an elected official to decide what we can or can’t hear. That is precisely what we wanted to achieve.”

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