Hard News by Russell Brown


Debating Clydesdale

This week's Media7 focuses on the commotion around the 'Growing Pains' paper by Massey economist Greg Clydesdale, since it was deemed front-page news by the Dominion Post, in a story that said Clydesdale claimed Pacific Islanders were "a drain on the economy". (Those words, despite appearing in quotes in the Dom Post's headline, don't actually feature in Clydesdale's analysis, but they're not an unreasonable summary of that part of it.)

I was joined on the show by Dom Post editor Tim Pankhurst, One News' Barbara Dreaver, and Oscar Kightley, and I think we had a frank and useful discussion. I'm particularly grateful to Tim Pankhurst for fronting up, even though he knew he'd cop some criticism. Let me put it this way: not all editors of major daily newspapers are as willing to account for themselves as he is.

My personal view is that this is a story about the reporting of academic work, and the Dom Post pulling a news story (in a week when the Mary Anne Thompson debacle was in the headlines) out of a statistical analysis that hadn't been peer reviewed, was out of date and, quite frankly, was not even finished.

In the circumstances, I think Clydesdale's action in sending out a press release touting his "discussion paper" was questionable (especially when, as it transpired, he wasn't willing or able to discuss it afterwards), and that the Dom Post should have exercised much greater diligence before sticking it on the front page. Other media organisations did.

Pankhurst's follow-up editorial, playing the PC card and accusing the Race Relations Commissioner of "intellectual poverty", just plain protested too much.

On the other hand, Clydesdale, an immigration sceptic, was repeatedly namechecked last year in a speech by Lockwood Smith. If there's any sense in which he's informing policy, then it's as well we know who he is, and the furore since the original news story has certainly shed some light there.

But you can decide for yourself. The Media7 blog includes links to some of the stories and the editorial, the Clydesdale paper itself and to two fairly scathing peer reviews conducted at the behest of the Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs.

And, of course, you can watch the show. The ondemand version is here, the Windows media clips are here, the podcast is here, and the Media7 YouTube channel will doubtless be updated real soon now.



On a completely different tip, I gave a brief interview to Nightline's David Farrier about the police getting involved after alleged online harassment of the singer Yulia and her husband/manager Glyn MacLean.

Short version: poking of fun about a couple of Yulia TV appearances (and MacLean's attempt to auction her personal effects on Trade Me) got out of hand, and eventually some silly boys on two punk-rock discussion boards said stupid things. But this is a situation where even the grown-ups haven't behaved like grown-ups. MacLean seems to have been a complete oaf throughout, and his actions clearly escalated matters.

I certainly have some sympathy for the owners of the sites. There are scant protections for people running discussion forums in this country, and having a policeman call you at 4.30am following a complaint about an unacceptable post made without your knowledge at 1am isn't fun. On the other hand, both moderators seem to have let stand comments that should have been instantly deleted.

The TV3 story (in which I'm referred to as "Russell Baillie"!) is here, and there's an interview with Glynn and Yulia here.

There's also a discussion on the Out of Kilter record label site, and a thread in response to Farrier's story on Punkas.com.

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