1 Oct 2017

Party leaders picking on the media

From Mediawatch, 9:10 am on 1 October 2017

When Winston Peters took centre stage this week, he also took a big swing at the media. Other party leaders also criticised the coverage of the election, but some political players and the media seemed to get along just fine.

Winston Peters at Parliament criticising a newspaper report about him in front of the assembled press pack.

Winston Peters at Parliament criticising a newspaper report about him in front of the assembled press pack. Photo: PHOTO / RNZ

Last week, the story was: who will win the election? This week, it was: who will Winston want in power?

Newshub political editor Patrick Gower said he’d been talking to sources in NZ First Party who blamed National for the pre-election leak of Winston Peters' super-sized superannuation payments. A four-pronged National Party plan to take down New Zealand First at the election had backfired, he added.

"They are now full of fear, waiting and wondering if Winston's utu is about to strike," Patrick Gower told Newshub's viewers, not holding back on the drama.

On Tuesday night, Winston Peters took to Facebook to hit back at what he called fiction, barefaced lies and grossly misleading reporting from Patrick Gower and Newshub - and others.

"Newshub is claiming sources that don’t exist, and is merely toying with viewers and presenting make believe instead of facts. It’s the very worst form of journalism and Newshub is not the only one doing it – sad to say."

Winston Peters  - sad to say - didn't specify which other media were also doing it, or even which parts of Newshub's reports were the supposedly barefaced, grossly misleading fictional bits.  

But he had at least one journalist in his corner.

"Good on Winston Peters for calling out some of the drivel that has been passing as news over the past few days. The notion that Peters would be seeking revenge on National for regaining the Northland seat is ridiculous," wrote New Zealand Herald political editor Audrey Young.

"That fact is that Peters will come to his view about who is best to lead Government . . .on far less flimsy grounds than the nonsense that is being peddled at present," she added.

That was a message Winston Peters himself hammered home when he had the media’s full attention at Parliament on Wednesday. He went on the offensive and  - deliberately offended the media, waving a copy of The Dominion Post at the podium for effect.   

Winston Peters went on to say there would be no more talking to the media til the final count next week.

That’s probably just as well.

After something of a Clayton’s election result - now we can all get some sleep  . . . for a bit.

Post-poll media complaints come to the surface

"Thre's a lot of negativity here at Morning Report. I got better coverage from the Edge and Radio Hauraki than I got from you," said ACT’s leader David Seymour when he clashed with Guyon Espiner on Morning Report last Monday.

Guyon Espiner replied that he'd had pretty good exposure for a party with just one MP which was "kept on life support by National".

ACT got less than a quarter of the votes pulled in by the ten-month old Opportunities Party, whose leader Gareth Morgan went to court when he was excluded from party leaders' debates on TV.

On Nine to Noon right-leaning pundit and lobbyist Mathew Hooton reckoned metropolitan-minded media was blind to National's strength in the suburbs and provinces. 

"I think the New Zealand media is very, very dominated now by people who, broadly speaking, live in Auckland central and Wellington central and we've seen an inaccurate assessment of the overall election campaign. We've seen a very urban, liberal, under 40, probably female perspective of the election," he said.

He said the demise of provincial radio and the national news agency NZPA has resulted in a dearth of political coverage from the provinces during the election campaign.

Agents of change?

The week before on Nine to Noon Matthew Hooton  said - more than once -the media “had decided to change the government.”

 And as it turned out, one man from the media might have actually done that - whether he meant to or not: former TV personality Tamati Coffey took the Maori Party out of the MMP equation by winning Waiariki from its co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell.

"The 38-year-old . .  .maximised his television skills with a strong video campaign on social media. Some of Coffey’s Facebook videos had more than 50,000 views. He had help from at least one ex-TVNZ branding expert," Mark Jennings wrote on newsroom.co.nz.

The devastated co-leaders of the Maori Party were seen sharing tears and hugs with Newshub’s Patrick Gower on Newshub at 6 last Sunday. 

Patrick Gower consoles Maori party co-leader Marama Fox on Newshub at 6.

Patrick Gower consoles Maori party co-leader Marama Fox on Newshub at 6. Photo: screenshot / Newshub at 6

"(It) wasn’t an easy watch," said Mark Jennings, who was formerly Gower's boss at TV3.

It may be no bad thing that political reporters can console politicians who’ve been knocked back, but not all of them get a shoulder to cry on on the 6 o’clock news.

While David Seymour, Winston Peters and Gareth Morgan all accused the media of shutting them out, politicians and lobbyists for Labour and National still seem to have no problem getting on air as pundits.

Last Monday, TV3's The Project turned to lobbyist Jenna Raeburn, partner of newly elected National Party MP for Hutt South - to ask out why National did better than most polls predicted.

She was an advisor to government minister Gerry Brownlee until last year when she joined the newly-established local branch of Australian lobbying firm Barton Deakin, At the time Jenna Raeburn told stuff.co.nz the company would be "completely partisan" and focused solely on the National Party.

So was her answer to The Project's Jesse Mulligan.

"National was campaigning for all New Zealanders," she answered, echoing National’s election campaign slogan.

When Bill English launched “Delivering for all New Zealanders" in August, Jesse Mulligan called out the PM directly in an on-air editorial on The Project.

Winston Peters on TV3's 'The Project' last week.

"There are some seriously great journalists," said Winston Peters charmingly on TV3's 'The Project' last week. His tone changed when the votes were in. Photo: screenshot

“Don't say this government is delivering for all New Zealanders when what you mean is that it's delivering for all New Zealanders except the poor, the homeless, the first-home buyers, New Zealanders suffering from depression and mental illness and the 100-plus young New Zealanders who take their own lives each year,” he said sternly down the camera to the PM and TV3 viewers. 

But Jesse Mulligan didn't seem to be straining at the leash to challenge Jenna Raeburn's claim last Monday. She went on to praise Bill English's campaigning more-or-less unchallenged before being applauded and thanked for her time.  

Maybe The Project has shown our politicians the way forward for those coalition negotiations. What appear to be strongly-held beliefs can simply be parked if required.

Three days before election day, Winston Peters himself went on The Project and praised New Zealand's reporters.

"There are some seriously great journalists, " said the NZ First leader charmingly 

If journalists can co-exist so cosily with and politicians and lobbyists on a news show, it should be no problem to form a government that can get along.