Hard News by Russell Brown

Yesterday's news

So NZTabloid is no more - the site's founders have left a message thanking the - ahem - "more than 1,000,000 people" who have visited their website since it launched in August. Well, then …

I actually never thought the idea was all bad - there was a niche begging for an annoying gossip vehicle, and it did serve to draw attention to the seedier practices around the "respectable" celebrity press.

TVNZ, which quite deliberately launched the idea of television announcers as "celebrities" in the late 1980s, got a little of its own back, to the point where Bill Ralston decreed that his stars could no longer go whoring about for their own magazine cover deals (TVNZ itself can still go whoring about, but that's different). NZTabloid certainly played a part in those events, and got the wider media talking about the cult of celebrity. That was no mean feat.

But Herkt and Marshall seemed to sadly lack an ethical compass, as their debut story - an unwarranted and unpleasant intrusion into the Hoskings' relationship with their children - demonstrated. Good tabloid journalism needs some warmth, and to sometimes let the readers feel they're in on the joke. There was humour in NZTabloid, but it was almost inevitably cruel.

Apart from the sector of the public that delights in hating people simply because they are successful (and that's not a great sector to pitch to advertisers, because its inhabitants are invariably unsuccessful), I think people become weary of nastiness quite quickly.

There remains only the very odd story of the dodgy teacher and the souvenired videotape to play out in the courts. I've heard a variety of accounts of what took place and by what means the Sunday Star Times acquired the tape, and I rather look forward to hearing the details in court.

Salon has an extract from Michael Moore's new book, Dude, Where's My Country?, and Spinsanity.org says the book tends to confirm Moore's rep as "a slipshod journalist who has trouble getting his facts right". Moore's tendency to spin to suit himself is outlined in a companion piece listing errors in the book. I heartily agree with some of what Moore says, but his willingness to mangle the facts makes him a liability. Even in his response to criticisms of Bowling for Columbine, he spends many words on simple abuse, and actually ignores most of the major criticisms.

So the Sharon government spits in the face of the international community again. This isn't security, it's a land grab - yet another one - and it will reap only more suffering, hate and bitterness.

I'm reading Salam Pax's The Baghdad Blog, and will be reviewing it for The Listener (it'll be in the shops here in a couple of weeks). It's just a cut-and-paste from the blog since it launched in September last year, but it's a splendidly human book - war-quickies don't come any better. We tried to get an interview via bFM, but we missed out. Stern got one, and it even has a photograph - he's not the lardass you'd think from the way he describes himself!

Anyway listen out to Mediawatch on Sunday morning - I've interviewed Louise Chunn, the NZ-born editor of InStyle UK, who's here for New Zealand Fashion Week. She's cool. And another graduate of the Murray Cammick Academy for People Who Go On and Do Interesting Things …