Hard News by Russell Brown

Bullshit and wankers

I'm not sure I get Bill Ralston's moment of shame, as breathlessly reported by two Sunday newspapers. During the week, a Herald on Sunday reporter was pursuing a "news" story on an itinerant Auckland man, whose only conventional news value appears to be that he's Ralston's cousin.

Ralston, initially cordial, subsequently detected some offence, and offered up some rude language in an unhappy phone conversation with the reporter. Well, so what? Did he issue any threat? Even if we chose other language, would any of us have felt much different than he did? And is this what journalism has become? Squealing because someone bit back? You wouldn't catch Jock Anderson doing that, would you?

Under orders from the boss, Ralston has apologised, is "deeply remorseful" and will face disciplinary action for his "very serious" and "quite unacceptable" behaviour. WTF? If Ralston had bollocked a reporter calling about his day job, that would have been extremely unprofessional, but this doesn't seem to have anything to do with work, and if Ralston wants to turn the air blue as a private citizen in a private conversation, that's surely his business. It really seems like bullshit to me.

Moving on from bullshit to wankers, the judges of New Zealand Idol seem to have further hurried their descent in flames by slagging off leading local music artists for declining to play the game. Among those to have declined invitations to appear on the show are Dave Dobbyn, Boh Runga and Neil Finn.

It needs noting that these people haven't come out and campaigned against Idol; they just privately declined offers to appear on it. And now for their trouble they've been declared "musical snobs", which basically forecloses any possibility of anyone with any stature ever appearing on the show.

It's not that these people are against talent shows: Boh's sister Bic is one of a string of artists who first came to prominence through the annual Smokefree Rockquest, which has a significant track record in developing talent. Even Split Enz got their first break on a TV talent show, New Faces, in which they played their own songs and did their own thing to the bemusement of Phil Warren.

It would be fair to say that the local music industry has always been diffident about Idol, and with good reason. The first two seasons showed that in New Zealand the format doesn’t deliver enduring talent (even if you generously suppose "enduring" to mean, oh, at least three months after the series ends), and isn't even a commercial proposition for record companies. The evidence of the current season suggests that the talent feels the same way and is avoiding the show. It's light-ent karaoke, and if people want to watch and enjoy it, that's just fine. But no one has a "responsibility" to lend it their credibility.

The worst of all the pissy little rants was that from Iain Stables, who delivered a tirade against Graham Brazier that's too fatuous to bother reproducing here (you can read it at the link above if you like).

Mate, if I can call you that, a little word in your ear regarding yourself and Graham Brazier: The Braz shits out more rock 'n' roll when he takes a dump in the morning than you have ever mustered in the entire history of your cheesy commercial radio show. That is the harsh truth.

PS: Sorry about the strong language - I know some readers shudder a bit when I swear in the blog. Think of it as an act of solidarity with Bill.