Hard News by Russell Brown

Desperate need for attention

Really, it's bad enough that we in Auckland have to endure John Banks without him being inflicted on Wellingtonians. His foray into the debate over the Lord of the Rings world premiere - suggesting that Auckland should host it instead - was more about his desperate need for attention than anything else.

That said, who should pay $7 million for the refurbishment of the tatty old Embassy Theatre? As a Wellington ratepayer, I'm sure I'd be a bit nervous about underwriting the cost of doing up a theatre the council doesn't even own. Anyway, apparently the council contribution is now set at $2 million. I have a feeling that we can expect more unfortunate headlines by the time Return of the King rolls up in December.

Meanwhile, in Auckland, we're one step closer to getting that downtown SuperDome, meaning we'll never have to miss out on a Billy Joel concert again. The trickiest piece of the whole downtown puzzle still looks like getting trains to run into that fine new station in any useful or consistent way.

Jonathan Freedland hasn't responded to my email, but the government has come up with a transcript of his interview with Helen Clark, which appears to confirm my impression that, no, she didn't say "law of the jungle" - indeed, Freedland introduced the j-word into the conversation - and she didn't "warn" the US and Britain about unleashing said law either. It was, basically, a classic beat-up.

Staring at Blurry Photographs Part 4: the Evening Standard has admitted to manipulating and replicating sections of crowd in the BBC TV still used as its late edition front-page picture on April 9 - but only a little bit:

"The image was a video grab ... as is customary practice, the TV station's small logos were removed and a replicated part of the background inserted. A transmission error led to a tiny blurred patch, no more than 1/30th the size of the picture, appearing on the top of the frame.

"The Memory Hole website alleges the Standard intended to deceive readers by inflating the size of the crowd. Wrong. It also claims we put together two different still-frames. Wrong again ... the Standard stands by its use of this page one picture."

I don't know about the format used by BBC News in the UK, but live coverage on BBC World carries logos at the top left and right of the screen, with the larger logo on the left. And this is actually exactly how the picture looks.

But the Standard has replicated a fairly large section of the crowd in obscuring the logos, in such a way that the replicated faces (everything above the big, winding smudge created with the blurring tool) fill up the frame, making for a more compelling picture. Were there people there before? How many? We don't know. All we know is that the picture the Standard ran is not real. You don't have to sign up to The Memory Hole's florid language (I thought the Stalin thing was a joke, actually) to find that unacceptable.

Meanwhile, some sign of a return to order in Iraq (there'd better be - we don't really want New Zealand troops going in to keep the peace in a hellhole) and a depressing survey of the prospective influence of the Israeli and American far right on Middle East peace plans.