19 Dec 2018

Mediawatch Midweek 19 December 2018

From Mediawatch, 5:05 pm on 19 December 2018

Mediawatch's regular catch-up with Lately. This week Colin Peacock chats to Karyn Hay about Grace Millane coverage, murder podcast enthusiasm, A Spinoff series spinning out of control on the author, Leighton Smith's holiday and who pays the price when a paper folds? 

Graeme Hill, host of Weekend Variety Wireless  - on a station doing away with variety on the wireless.

Graeme Hill, host of Weekend Variety Wireless - on a station doing away with variety on the wireless. Photo: screenshot

Grace Millane media coverage

A woman kneels next to candles and flowers near a photo of British backpacker Grace Millane during the vigil at Civic Square Park in Wellington.

A woman kneels next to candles and flowers near a photo of British backpacker Grace Millane during the vigil at Civic Square Park in Wellington. Photo: AFP

After the flurry of news stories that followed her death and the arrest of a man who was charged with her murder, there have some interesting reflections of the intense coverage of her death.

The question arose: why so much attention given to this murder - not others?

Alison Mau of Stuff went to the crime scene of a woman killed the same day at home in Flatbush, Auckland

"In contrast to the crowd, the waiata and the public sorrow for Grace, there were no candles, and no floral tributes laid in that South Auckland cul-de-sac."

She noted that on social media there have repeated suggestions that the mainstream news outlets are "ignoring other victims in their obsession with Grace."

"But the events that led to the dominance of the Grace Millane story, and the lack of coverage of the equally appalling crime in South Auckland on Monday night, are a bit more complex than just our own unspoken biases towards pretty, young, white women," say Alison.

Bill Ralston in The Listener said "Millane stands out because she was a tourist, young, white, middle class and too recently in the country to have had any serious form of relationship with the man accused of killing her. She had come halfway around the world on her OE, only to be killed. Many of us have our own children travelling the world in the opposite direction and can empathise with her and her stricken family."

But he also reckoned online clicks intensified the coverage - not in a good way.

"Thousands of people were logging on to read any story about the case, and in response, editors were dredging for any fact, opinion or comment they could find to feed the thirst for copy"

The media are so obsessed with murder podcast series I have a queasy feeling that there will be at least made about this case in time.

The ABC in Australia has produced hits like Trace, presented by ABC investigative reporter Rachael Brown, and 2018's Unravel, presented by Allan Clarke - which have won top award Walkley Awards for journalism.  
A survey conducted by the ABC this year found the surge in popularity that true crime podcasts were experiencing was due to the "the growing appetite among women for true crime tales".


To find out, Aussie media writer Katie Cunningham attended the live show of My Favorite Murder -- a weekly "true crime comedy podcast" hosted by American comedians Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark.

"Watching an attacker get their dues is a victory moment for anyone who's known the way men feel entitled to the bodies of others. As long as women are subjected to male violence, sitting in packed theatres, clasping homemade signs and listening to true crime stories might be how we grapple with it."

Spinoff goes to the media cliff-edge

Photo: screenshot / The Spinoff

Spinoff managing editor Duncan Grieve published a seven-part series called The edge of the cliff: inside the major NZ media companies in 2018

It's a good read, though it seems he wishes had hadn't.

The idea was to write about all of the biggest media companies in New Zealand over the course of a week but "it span out of control" on him, he says.

"I want to try and tamp down the noise long enough for me to go on holiday, and in my experience the only way to do that is to write about what’s occupying my mind." he said.

Part way through he tweeted a link to part 3 saying the analytics were not showing a flood of traffic.

"Surely there is nothing better to do right now than spend an hour or more reading the 12k+ words I've written on all the big media companies in NZ," he tweeted yesterday - in a thread linking to all seven. 

"Ah shit it seems I'm still doing this dog of a series no one asked for and is losing me friends all over the shop. Here is my thing about NZME in 2018"

But it is all the better for not just being his take, but also the boiled down takes of un-named media execs from all outlets covered in the series.  

There a great anon. quote on NZME/Herald's paywall plans:

“People will only pay for something they perceive as having value,” one exec told me. “They’ve got a real issue with clickbait.” To put it very simply, it appears that they will be trying to sell the New York Times behind the front page of the Daily Mail. “And with all due respect to the Herald, they’re not the New York Times.”

One omission:  It doesn't do the sponsorship-based models of Newsroom and The Spinoff itself.

Anyhow, I hope the author can have a good holiday now it is done.

Who pays the price when a paper folds?

The Denver Post's op-ed pages last Sunday.

The Denver Post's op-ed pages last Sunday. Photo: supplied

All over the world local papers - so important in the whole news ecosystem - are in trouble.

Earlier this year, we reported on how The Denver Post’s staff  - fed up with years of cuts administered by its owners -  told them to get lost this week in the pages of their own paper.

"Denver deserves a newspaper owner who supports its newsroom. If Alden isn't willing to do good journalism here, it should sell The Post to owners who will," it said.

Former editor Jeffrey A Roberts told me about a local radio reporter recently asked state lawmakers about recent layoffs at The Denver Post.

“Hey, that means we can do whatever we want,” one replied in jest.

Mediawatch listener Stewart Collie wrote in to tell me NPR's economic podcast Hidden Brain had updated the story Starving The Watchdog: Who Foots The Bill When Newspapers Disappear?

It had the reporter in it -as a prelude to the way the tried to show that the whole community loses when a paper goes - because public officials get slack without the scrutiny.

"If the cost of a loan goes up by 0.1, that's about $65,000 more that taxpayers have to pay - $65,000 more every year. If the life of a loan is 10 years, that's about $650,000. And that's just for one loan. Cities and towns often have many loans like this. If a city has five projects, that's more than $3 million. If it has 50 projects, it's more than $30 million.
That does add up to real costs for the taxpayer.

As if to make the point the still-struggling Denver Post had a lead story this week all about sloppy financial arrangements that will cost the city a lot because they didn’t come to light earlier.

The host's conclusion: 

"One of the bedrock assumptions of economics is that when individuals behave rationally, good things happen to them, good things happen to their communities, their society. The invisible hand of the market takes all of our rational, selfish decisions and produces a society that flourishes. Much of the time, this does work. But it turns out that for things like police departments, public schools and newspapers, the logic of the market doesn't produce the outcomes we want to see. We can all end up paying more when we all try individually to pay less. Many experts have tried to think of ways communities can solve problems that market forces don't solve on their own. How do you get people to pitch in even when it's in their rational self-interest to free ride off of others? These solutions begin with the same insight. Sometimes when you try and pinch pennies, you end up paying in pounds."

And finally: Weekend Variety Wireless goes out with a . . . blockage

Last Sunday Graeme Hill broadcast the final episode of his show on the doomed Radio Live, soon to be turned into a hybrid of talk and classic hits.

We'll miss it now it's gone.

You never see a newsreader sneeze, but now I've heard a radio host sign off complaining about a snot blockage.