Hard News by Russell Brown


ICYMI: Links and things I've been doing

Like most people, I've been staying at home, doing a bit in the garden, cooking a lot and managing occasional bouts of anxiety. I've also written more here than I have done for a while. At a time when every Friday night has me missing my mates, it's been nice to see you all again.

But in the midst of it all – and after everything else disappeared – I got a new gig. It's with my friends from Spark Lab, it's called The Pivot Reports and it's a series of live-streamed shows over the next six weeks talking to business owners who've responded to the extraordinary times in which we are living.

The first one went out yesterday and it looks at lockdown stories: the gym owners who switched to online fitness services; Good George Brewing, who turned to making hand sanitiser because they couldn't source any for their staff; No Ugly tonics, who opened up their e-commerce site and fulfillment system to anyone who needed it – and wound up becoming their distributor's new distributor; and David Ross, the civil servant who built the brilliant SOS Business, a way for customers to support thousands of shuttered local businesses buy buying vouchers to redeem in future (I bough future beers from our local) or simply donating.

Two things stood out. Firstly, customer loyalty is a vital and underrated part of business resilience. Secondly, it's surprising how fast you can act when you really have to.

Going live was a little nerve-wracking – I've done lots of TV, just never from  my kitchen table – but apart from the cat turning up and trying to open the door behind me just as we were about to launch (a near cat-astrophe!) it all went really well. You can watch the archived 45-minute Facebook Live stream and we'll be back this week.

Last weekend, a story I've been working on for a while – and which I feared might be spiked by the virus crisis – appeared in the Herald on Sunday. It's a profile of  67 year-old Pearl Schomburg, the most influential medicinal cannabis advocate you've probably never heard of. Pearl's a networker and a facilitator and she's genuinely kind – even in the midst of her own battle with multiple auto-immune conditions.

On Friday, I had a look at the freshly-published final text of the Cannabis Legalisation. I could only cover part of the detail, but the new elements around licensing and market allocation are tremendous; as good as we could have hoped for.

You might also have missed the post I wrote looking at signs that doctors in Iran may have found that an existing antiviral drug combination – originally developed to treat hepatitis C – is an effective treatment for Covid-19 infection. At the least (and this was really the whole point of the post) it seems to warrant wider trials, more so than hydroxychloroquine, trials of which are currently using valuable resources. It's the most-read post I've made here in a long time. I also talked to Lillian Hanly for 95bFM's The Wire about the story, and you can listen to me choosing my words verrrry carefully here. It appears there will be some significant news on this this week, by the way.

Also on Public Address lately, there's Michelle Walmsley's frank and compelling post about living through lockdown as a disabled person and the return of Fiona Rae with a typically perceptive consideration of four new sci-fi TV series.

Fiona, who most of you will know is my partner, was among those made redundant at Bauer Media last month. It was a rough week, that one: all my work had disppeared and now Fiona's job, which we've always relied on when things dry up for me, had vanished too. Things have improved for me with six weeks of The Pivot Reports turning up and it may be that The Listener will find a new owner and she'll be back to work, but we just don't know.

In the meantime, if you felt moved to chip in a little here via Press Patron, be assured it won't go to waste. I'll continue to be around here more than usual – someone needs to delete the irksome new flood of spam comments every morning – and I'm talking to CactusLab about finally doing that tidy-up of the site, which will cost a little money.

In the meantime, let me recommend (again) the transcript of the Splore Listening Lounge discussion about how we can all move past our differences, get together and save the world. That post needs more love.


The other work I've had recently is four days' producing for RNZ Afternoons, where I managed to put together three Tuesdaymusic features. This week's one was a lot of fun – it's a look at our history of music TV, with serial music TV hosts Hugh Sundae and Francesca Rudkin, and bunch of TV show themes for the listeners to try and identify.

And yes, I would very much like to see a new New Zealand Music TV show, in line with the reinvented "Buy Local" theme of this year's New Zealand Music Month. (I wrote about NZ music's predicament in a post here three weeks ago.)

I'm pleased to say I helped a little too with the excellent series of online discussions about Covid-19 with Siouxsie Wiles and Damian Christie. Damian came through with a little work for a couple of weeks at a time when I had nothing and I'm very grateful for that.

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