Hard News by Russell Brown


Getting the pip

The Weekend Herald's lead story was daft even for the silly season. Its dread revelation: Don Brash, like every other MP, and much of the citizenry, has been on holiday. He happens to have been in New York for some of that time. Was he supposed to consign himself to house arrest?

The difference with Brash, of course, is that he resigned as an MP last month, and will pack up his things for good early next month. I do not for a moment think that he timed his resignation with the idea of diddling the taxpayer over summer.

I wonder if the Herald is making some hammy attempt at balance here. The paper's editorial voice lost any sense of measure over Labour's electoral spending debacle, but can find nothing of any consequence in Nicky Hager's The Hollow Men as to National's conduct. The paper's 2005 editorial wrap-up dismissed Hager as a "muckraker".

This seems pretty churlish given that the paper was happy to accept documents from Hager - the same documents he cites in his book - to help its reporters rebut a flat-out lie from National about its contacts with the Australian political consultants Crosby Textor.

The editorial was presumably the work of John Roughan, given that he advanced an identical interpretation of Brash's departure in his column on Saturday:

I have been reading the book that history will credit, simplistically, with the downfall of Don Brash. Poor artless Don was the architect of his own demise. His attitude to Maori and the Treaty made him unsuited to be Prime Minister in my view, but obviously he resigned to protect personal material in emails that he could not keep private without also suppressing an unbalanced book that otherwise wouldn't have destroyed him.

Obviously? By what hand? Who exactly would have run that personal story? And haven't we established that the public had already given Brash a pass on the affair? Is it not surely more the case that Brash resigned because, having noisily trumpeted his opponents' deceit, he'd have had his obfuscations over the Brethren hurled back at him for the next two years? And, just as important, because his own caucus had tired of him and the project that put him there?

Roughan's qualms about the change in rhetoric towards Maori under Brash are sincere, and he has elucidated them well in the past. But why pretend that rhetoric was exclusively personal when its political anatomy is now available for viewing? Is it purely because that would mean acknowledging some substance to the book? It's hard to think of another reason.

It's quite reasonable to take issue with Hager's analysis of the events he records but the fact is that there are a dozen political stories in The Hollow Men that the Herald would have gleefully owned if its own staff had broken them. But it couldn't. And the impression persists that the Herald has got the pip.

No one wants the Herald to return to the days when it was a stranger to campaigning journalism. But the perils of its latterday tone were demonstrated in the waterfront stadium story, when its editors essentially harpooned a project they belatedly realised they supported. The country's best newspaper needs to calm down a bit.


On another tip entirely - because it is still summer - the Big Day Out schedule has now been published. As expected, Tool will bellow dolefully for the last 90 minutes of the mainstage. And the puzzle of exactly who is headlining the Boiler Room has been answered: it's Shapeshifter. Unless I'm mistaken, they're the first local act to take that slot, and they richly deserve it. I'm not so sure about the rest of the Boiler Room lineup though. It's nice to see hip-hop get a look in with a prime slot for Sir Vere, but I wonder if the Streets might tank in the tent (perhaps to the benefit of Open Souls, who are playing the Boost Mobile stage next door at the same time), and I thought Lilly Allen was an act for a sunny outdoor stage.

Still, I'm up for it. Let's just hope the weather is kind.

And staying with music, I've been enjoying bFM over the holidays. In particular, every time I turn on the radio, Hannah from the Midweek Swoon has been on duty. And every time she's managed to find good music to play. Well done that girl.

PS: My column in the new Listener, looking forward to 2007 on its turf, contains a paragraph that's almost identical to the 2006 retrospective before Christmas. Lest anyone think I'm plagiarising myself, there was a mix-up over copy that I didn't pick up until it was too late.

PPS: Just thought to look at Public Address's stats for the 2006 year. Golly. We served 5.8 million pages in the course of nearly two million visits.

26 responses to this post

First ←Older Page 1 2 Newer→ Last