Hard News by Russell Brown

Misconstrued and moving on

NBR has finally surrendered one of the least defensible elements of its ropey assault on Dick Hubbard last year, by stating on its front page that his statement in a TV interview was "misconstrued and that he did not intend to represent that his company prepared two triple bottom line reports. NBR withdraws any implication that Mr Hubbard deliberately attempted to deceive the viewers of the television interview. Mr Hubbard's court proceedings have been settled in a mutually satisfactory manner by NBR making a donation to a charity of Mr Hubbard's choice."

This shouldn't be any surprise. I went through the Hubbard attack in a Listener column at the time and concluded that the facts spread across nine stories over five pages of the paper might have made perhaps one or two stories of actual merit. And the 'Triple Bottom Lie' claim was disingenuous from the start:

But the NBR's claim that Hubbard had "lied" on television was weaker yet. Anderson and Lill chose not to phone Hubbard to confirm what he had said. But the candidate told the New Zealand Herald that he had simply stumbled on his words, saying first "2001" and then correcting himself to "2002".

The NBR presented as proof a short excerpt from a transcript of the programme (under the heading "Dick's TV deception"). But the paper's excerpt cut off in the middle of Hubbard's answer, just before he appeared to refer specifically to having only done one report. And nowhere in the full transcript does Hubbard actually say anything about having produced two reports. The NBR's basis for depicting Hubbard as a liar was remarkably weak.

I'm glad they've moved on. I read NBR more frequently since Nick Bryant kindly put me on the free list, and it fills a value role - one undermined by extended fits of daftness like the Hubbard assault. The Dom Post is also onto the will-Fairfax-buy-NBR story I broke this week in the Listener.

Andrew Ecclestone chimed in on the issue of the Herald going "premium" by kindly directing me to the weblog of Neil McIntosh, the deputy editor of Guardian Unlimited, where McIntosh has a very good post about the unseemly - and quite possibly unfounded - excitement of some in the newspaper industry about the New York Times also starting to charge for its op-ed content.

Reader Richard Easther suggested that "the real question is why the Herald thinks its editoral columnists are worth $99 per year, when the NY Times will sell me access to its stable for US $50 -- considerably cheaper at today's exchange rate. And not only that, the Times online is free to home delivery subscribers."

Editor & Publisher has another story about the NYT move, noting:

The question, of course, remains: how quickly, and how many, other Web editors and bloggers will copy the columns in question and put them up on their own sites, daring the Times to sue them.

As Andrew points out, Herald columnist Colin James already posts his columns on his own website. Will others follow suit, just to stay in the conversation?

Thanks to the magic of the interweb, we've been checking out some of the new fall season shows on American television.

Among the comedies, Kitchen Confidential (yes, based on the book by Anthony Bourdain) is a fairly serious disappointment. You might have thought that this most New York of memoirs in the hands of Sex and the City creator Darren Starr would be edgy and funny. It isn't either of those. How I Met Your Mother isn't much better.

But My Name is Earl is funny and original - somewhere between Raising Arizona and Outrageous Fortune. Look forward to it. Everybody Hates Chris, a childhood memoir narrated by Chris Rock, also looks like a winner to us.

Also, the household Buffy fan has given a qualified thumbs up to the new David Boreanaz crime vehicle, Bones, with the caveat that the leads, Boreanaz and Emily Deschanel, are "above the material."

The funny thing is, all of these shows were announced yesterday in the new-season TV3 lineup. What's TVNZ got then?

A Newsday story adds fuel to the idea that the inhabitants of Jesusland have done a pretty good job of turning secular Iraq into Allahland: "Basra has become like Tehran, where morals are enforced not by family but by religious militias. This is no aberration, but quite possibly the future of Iraq."

Meanwhile, as Shi-ites flee Baghdad neighbourhoods, a University of Baghdad professor declares that "civil war today is closer than any time before."

The National Enquirer claims that George W. Bush is back on the turps. It's hazily sourced and probably not true, but the fact that the Enquirer figured it could get away with doing it suggests that the Bush mantle is really starting to slip.

Brian Boyko casts a sceptical eye over the new anti-obscenity squad being assembled at the FBI, as a "top priority" of Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales. It doesn't sound like it's too popular inside the agency either.

The Guardian interviews Steve Jobs.