18 Mar 2020

Midweek Mediawatch: gearing up for the new normal

From Mediawatch, 1:43 pm on 18 March 2020

Mediawatch's weekly catch up With Karyn Hay on Lately. This week he talks to Karyn about the ethical dilemmas reporting the spread of COVID-19; coping with the sports void and Jurgen Klopp - the COVID cop. Also: some surprising on-air views about rugby players’ ‘intimate conduct’ - on and off the field. 

COVID-19: Media adapt to new normal 

No caption

Photo: screenshot

Things went up a notch yesterday with the epic economic package, and four news cases - two each in Wellington and Dunedin - including a high school student in Dunedin. Then eight new cases of COVID-19 today. 

Some sick staff have been stood down at Maori TV and Newstalk ZB - probably elsewhere too - TVNZ has isolated people in contact with a person from The Bachelorette who is being tested - including Seven Sharp host Jeremy Wells.  

The media are preparing for remote working. Morning Report’s presenters Susie and Corin have presented the programme from home this week. 

Radio broadcasters are telling guests not to come to the studio. Non-essential travel's scrapped at RNZ.   

Meanwhile, the news media have been increasing output, going into ‘live blog’ mode online for the latest. The Herald's data team have been crunching the numbers alongside the experts. 

RNZ is prepping a new daily e-newsletter and podcast released daily around 8am starting this Friday. Stuff's daily coronavirus situation report email newsletter is "a quick summary of the essential updates from New Zealand and around the world".   

Ethical dilemmas for media  

Italian Football Championship League A. 2020. 
In the photo: Temperature checks at the entrance of stadio Ennio Tardini


COVID-19 also a new and unique editorial challenge: 

“Media . . . must inform without alarming unnecessarily and weigh the need to be first with news breaks on victims or medical ramifications against the responsibility to let authorities deliver updates in full context,” Newsroom.co.nz c0o-editor Tim Murphy  

There was a case in point yesterday when it was revealed yesterday the pupil in Dunedin was showing symptoms- and demands to close the school were already circulating online. 

The ODT asked its Facebook followers:   

“Do you have children at Logan Park High School? We're keen to talk to parents or caregivers about today's announcement that a pupil at the school is being tested for coronavirus. If you would be happy to speak to a reporter, please email”

A lot of followers posted critical comments accusing the ODT of stirring up panic. 

It drew this spiky response: from the ODT:   

The ODT's spiky response to critics on Facebook.

The ODT's spiky response to critics on Facebook. Photo: screenshot / Facebook

In other cases, local media have withheld details. 

For instance Stuff withheld the name of Bay of Plenty campground where 40 Thai kiwifruit workers were quarantined in 'roped-off' area.

At least one of the current eight confirmed cases is reputedly a well-known European figure. according to Newsroom. If true that name definitely would have been reported by media in many other countries.  

More tough ethical calls lie ahead. 

Overseas Italian paper Corrieire della Sera is still facing heavy criticism for revealing a forthcoming lockdown in Parma which resulted in people pouring out of the city just before it came into force. 

BBC radio’s The Media Show last week  - in an episode called Panic and the Truth - last week asked two London-based editors if they would have published it: Opinion was divided. 

Intervention to ease the media pain

Incidentally, the UK government Budget last week had a surprise tax break for their media which went under the radar. 

Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced the 20% tax on e-books and online newspapers, magazines and journals will be abolished (but, oddly, not audio books). 

The Gaby Huddart the editor in chief of Good Housekeeping found out about it waiting in reception in the BBC for that edition of the Media Show- she said it was a timely move for people going int self-isolation.   

Actually it only comes into force in December, but interesting for our media which will be hoping for some breaks from government along with other industries in the current climate. 

The last thing the financially-stressed new Zealand media industry needed was more uncertainty and prolonged recession driving down all its sources of income and share prices 

NZME shares are at an all time low on the NZX - just 27c. Sky shares - valued at over $1 are now at 30c. 

On The Spinoff, Duncan Grieve highlighted a paradox for media. It has generated enormous levels of interest and a very strong case for the value of journalism - but: 

“Covid-19 is also generating serious pain, with major advertisers in sectors such as travel, tourism and live events all forced to slash budgets, and many others holding off to wait for more clarity to emerge.”

Sports off - but soccer and netball stagger on 

The Phoenix celebrate a goal.


One thing making it worse for the media industry is the suspension of sport - not quite total. 

Duncan Grieve also highlighted the particular grief for Sky because of the disruption to sport. 

He said the company once had a 50/50 balance “between movies and premium TV elements including sport. 

But lately it’s bet the farm on TV sport - and made a huge deal to keep rights to top-grade rugby and naming rights to the Cake Tin aka ‘Sky Sport Stadium’.  

“What looked a smart series of moves a few weeks ago now sees Sky incredibly exposed to the wave of cancellations and postponements. With marquee events like Super Rugby, the NBA, MLB and NHL and the Masters impacted, and many more inevitably to follow, there is a massive content void,” 

Remarkably though, the A League football goes on. 

Last Sunday I took the kids to the Cake Tin for what I assumed would be the last Phoenix match of the season - possible the last elite-level big-league fixture of any kind (except for the all-domestic ANZ Netball Premiership - which is still going). 

But even the team’s biggest fans thought the A League should be stopped. Phoenix legend Paul Ifill tweeted just before the game : 

‘I smell a Fox here,” he said  - Fox being Australia’s equivalent of Sky. 

In England, football bosses were reluctant to pull the plug on the lucrative Premier League, now suspended til April. 

But just six days ago (12 March) Liverpool played Athletico Madrid in a game few thought should be played. 3,000 fans from Madrid banned from their own stadium flew to the UK to go the the game.   

David Maddock, a football journalist in the UK was at the game and reacted with horror on Sky Sport UK’s show Sunday Supplement last weekend - after hearing a leading public health official tell BBC just after the match the Spanish fans would be "undoubtedly" be spreading the virus around Liverpool as they spoke. 

One of the signature images of the game was eccentric manager of Liverpool shouting at supporters who were trying to high-five Liverpool players. 

Rugby players called to account - on and off the field 

Black Doris Plums

Black Doris Plums Photo: Webbs Fruit

Last week on Midweek Mediawatch, Hayden talked about about the sex scandal involving two NRL players  - who hooked up with a pair of 17 year-odd they’d met after the Bulldogs had made and official visit to the girls’ school. 

Hayden was aghast at ZB’s Kerre McIvor insisting on air this was all between consulting adults and young women hooking up with rugby players have to be responsible for their choices.

“Alcoholic comas, unwanted sex and remorse are occupational hazards for trollops on the prowl,” she wrote. 

The context of a ‘school visit’ seemed to cut no ice. 

On his Devlin Radio Show, host Martin Devlin raised this with regular guest on Aussie rugby Greg Martin - 

Their focus was entirely on the young women in the story selling the story to newspapers. 

"I used to know the wife of a Broncos captain and she told me stories about girls chasing players that blew my head,"  he told Martin Devlin.  

Coincidentally the very next topic they discussed was the 10-week ban for England rugby forward Joe Marler who was caught on camera trying to provoke the captain of Wales by tweaking his penis during the game.  

Pundits on the Devlin Radio Show and the host all agreed the punishment did not fit the crime ("a mallet on the plums" according to Devlin) because goolie-grabbing is “all part of the game” and has been for ages "in the dark places" 

Leaves you wondering what our professional sports reporters and pundits reckon is okay because it’s done by a sportsman  . . . .