John Key's recent visit to Afghanistan was carefully managed on the press front. TVNZ's Guyon Espiner, TV3's Duncan Garner and NZPA reporter Maggie Tait all accompanied the Prime Minister's party, and interviewed him there. [Edit: Oh, and Barry Soper too. I gather he got wind of the trip and demanded to go.]
They got a story: in what appeared to be an abrupt about-face, Key offered a continuing commitment – until 2015 -- from the New Zealand Defence Force in Bamiyan, whose role had been set to end next year, and from the 20-25 SAS troops in Kabul.
But none of the accompanying journalists did their reporting beyond the arranged interview opportunities, or spoke to the locals.
The man who did, freelance journalist Jon Stephenson, has been in Afghanistan independently, and among his work there was a poll of 100 Bamiyan residents, which indicated that while the locals are happy enough with their treatment from New Zealand troops, and the security their presence provides, they're less impressed with the much-touted reconstruction effort.
(Ironically, although the PM's impending visit was kept appropriately secret in New Zealand, Jon learned that something was up from the locals in Bamiyan.)
Jon is back home how, and in this week's Media7 I'll be interviewing him about the poll and the Prime Minister's press opportunity, including Key's declaration that "I'm not prepared to send people to a destination that I'm not prepared to come myself."
Also, I'll be talking to the editor of The Aucklander, Ewan Macdonald, about The People's Referendum on the Super City, and the slightly mysterious Our Auckland group behind it.
And there will be a look at the violence on the streets of Bangkok, through the eyes of a photographer trapped as police bullets flew.
If you'd like to join us, hit Reply and let me know. We'd need to to arrive at TVNZ between 5pm and 5.30pm tomorrow.
And if you haven't watched last week's Media7, on scrutiny of the judiciary with particular reference to the furore around Justice Bill Wilson, it's here. I thought Jenni McManus was particularly good value.