Hard News by Russell Brown


Reasons to be cheerful

I had planned to announce this earlier in the week, but Wellington's power cut put paid to that. While half-crazed civil servants wandered the streets of the CBD in search of coffee, I steered the family north to the Kapiti Coast. We can recommend Nga Manu Nature Reserve.

The news is: the Great Blend is back. It's now the Orcon Great Blend, because Orcon has stepped up to sponsor several events for this year. The first of these is on Saturday, February 21 in the Auckland CBD. I'm not yet at liberty to announce the talent, but take my word for it, we have top-notch international guests, and some tasty music for afters.

Sadly, we won't be able to get to Wellington, scene of some memorable past Blends -- the budget doesn't allow it. But we should have good video coverage, so you won't entirely miss out in the rest of the country.


John Drinnan detects "a real antipathy" between myself an Bill Ralston in my post earlier this week. Well, it's his job to see such things and report them -- he is, after all, a media industry gossip columnist, and people are, presumably, talking. But personally: not really. I was intentionally rude about Ralston's arguments, but I don't feel personal antipathy toward him. He can write thoughtfully and well. I just wish he'd do it more often.

Drinnan declares himself:

… with Ralston on those social engineering ads. I know the messages are valid - but the Nanny State connections are so pervasive: Driving Is In His Blood, The Grim Reaper intersections, the slob who throws his kid around the room, the female at after-work drinks being sexually accosted.

We are warned not to fry up after a night on the booze. All failings that are not a problem for the vast majority of viewers and could be mentioned once in a while.

But viewers are whacked with them every night. Ad campaigns keep a lot of advertising people in jobs and bolster television revenue. But sometimes they make free-to-air TV impossible to watch.

Really? I find the mute button and the MySky both work quite well. Certainly, social marketing campaigns do not always get it right: ALAC reaped the whirlwind with its ad last year implying sexual assault as a consequence of poor drinking choices, and I'm not sure if the often-horrifying ACC safety campaigns hit the mark. But for so long as the state cleans up the mess with our tax money, it is entitled to advocate.

In the case of family violence, we're talking about behaviour that not only imposes substantial costs on society, but blights the lives of victims. Last year, I wrote a post titled The Policeman at the Dinner Table, in which I noted that the people making the most noise about a series of stabbings in Auckland seemed the least inclined to acknowledge that all but one of these homicides were incidents of domestic violence: they took place in homes, between people who knew each other. Even the exception -- the tragic case of Austin Hemmings -- was a domestic dispute that had lurched onto the public street.

We cannot directly police such violence; we do not even want the policeman at the dinner table. But we can apply social suasion.

But that wasn't actually Ralston's argument anyway. He claimed, unsustainably, that man-hating feminists had ignored evidence as to the equity of violence between men and women, and constructed a campaign that demonised men. None of that was true, as the lively and useful discussion here has demonstrated.


Our family's thanks are due to Jack Elder and Judy Alley for our tour yesterday of three parts of the Peter Jackson complex in Miramar: Weta Workshop (not so much a tour as a guided look at Weta Cave), Park Road Post, and the operation's impressive new data centre (we saw the render walls!). It's intriguing hearing movie sound in a world-class reference facility like the audio suite at Park Road -- it takes on depth and shape. They don't call it "sound design" for nothing.


In my absence, Simon Pound stepped in and made a nice job of hosting a potentially tricky Media7 show on the media and the reporting of conflict in the Middle East. What's the proper balance of context and breaking news? He gets David Zwartz and John Minto at the same table, which is no small thing.

I think I also forgot to link to last week's show, which featured an interview with Carroll du Chateau (she's about to embark on a six-month contract writing speeches for John Key) that might not please Tony O'Reilly, and 3 News' Angus Gillies talking through the decisions around 3's use of pictures of Sonny Fai's family at Bethell's Beach.

The other versions of the video are here at our microsite.

Next week, we're back at The Classic with out new 47-minute format, looking at the media coverage of this week's US presidential inauguration; and sizing up the book trade. If you'd like to join us next Wednesday evening for the recording, hit "reply" and let me know.


On the topic of the Obama nation: it is hard to over-emphasise the significance of the new president's first executive order:

President Obama moved swiftly on Wednesday to impose new rules on government transparency and ethics, using his first full day in office to freeze the salaries of his senior aides, mandate new limits on lobbyists and demand that the government disclose more information.

Mr. Obama called the moves, which overturned two policies of his predecessor, “a clean break from business as usual.” Coupled with Tuesday’s Inaugural Address, which repudiated the Bush administration’s decisions on everything from science policy to fighting terrorism, the actions were another sign of the new president’s effort to emphasize an across-the-board shift in priorities, values and tone.

“For a long time now there’s been too much secrecy in this city,” Mr. Obama said at a swearing-in ceremony for senior officials at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, adjacent to the White House. He added, “Transparency and rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency."

As Joan Walsh says on Salon, no journalist wants to be seen to gush:

I am aware that the joyous (and probably inappropriately awestruck) tone of my inauguration coverage hasn't faded away. I promise to try to regain my critical faculties, but the scope of what Obama accomplished in his first 48 hours in office has been stunning.

I don't want to gush either. But it does look like America's back.

Perhaps you can think of additional reasons to be cheerful ...

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