On casualness and ethics

This is the sort of casualness I like.

This is the sort of casualness I like.

A lot has been written on the Prime Minister and his pulling of Amanda’s hair. I’m not going to weigh in on that. I’m a dude. There are other better informed, better placed people who can talk on that (in fact one of our own, Hilary Cameron, did just that in a great piece).

I’ve been trying to crystallise exactly what’s been bothering me so much since it unfolded and it took watching that spectacularly American anti-American opening to the Newsroom where Jeff Daniels [edited: not Jeff Bridges, he’s the ‘high lit’ actor] character takes down the idea that ‘America is the greatest country on Earth’ that I think I finally figured it out.

We can be better.

We should be better.

“I do have a bit of a laugh and I’m probably the most casual Prime Minister New Zealand’s ever had.”

What does being the most casual Prime Minister New Zealand’s ever had actually mean? Do I go to a dictionary definition of casual? Should I interpret it that Key likes to “horse” around (his words)? Does he only care about the job sometimes? I’m not going to focus on definitions, just because I don’t want a Prime Minister who is casual. I don’t care how carefully manufactured that casualness is, it’s not what I look for in people who lead my country. I look for leadership.

Key is the anti-intellectual leader. He’s the guy you’d like to have a beer with. The down-home folksy one. He’s the George W. Bush of New Zealand. And just like Dubya, I’m 99% certain that Key is far smarter than the image we’re allowed to see. The casual one who talks about his vasectomy, or calls a red shirt “gay”, or even pulls a woman’s hair when it’s not wanted.

And I don’t know why people want their leaders to be like them, is it because we all fancy ourselves as leaders and this is our way of living vicariously?

We used to aspire to be like our leaders, not wish for our leaders be like us.

And this doesn’t just apply to politicians either. I feel the same way about our news institutions. The Herald is our only national newspaper, so consequently I expect it to deliver to a higher standard. They are effectively a monopolist on national news, so when Martyn broke the story of Amanda and the Prime Minister pulling her hair, the Herald quite rightly tried to find her and talk to her. For that I do not begrudge them.

But they sent Rachel Glucina, a blight on New Zealand and on journalism. That was mistake number one.

And she lied. Or was complicit in a lie. I’m not sure which. Either the owners of Hip Group (who Glucina knows personally) or Rachel herself lied to Amanda. They said it was for PR support. Not an interview. PR support.

If we take Amanda’s word for it, and we’ve had absolutely zero reason not to, she slowly twigged to the fact that “Rachel” the PR operative was “Rachel Glucina” the gutter-dwelling, muck-raking, penis-tweeting ‘gossip journalist’ for the NZ Herald. Following this revelation Amanda rescinded her permission for her quotes or photo to be used by the Herald.

Fuck it said the Herald, we’ll run it anyway, because EXCLUSIVE! CLICKS! ADVERTISING!

And so once more the Daily Blog broke a story, this time about the conniving lies that Glucina was part of. And then the Herald went to ground for three hours before releasing a statement. Then retracting. Then releasing. Then retracting. Many times over. Until we had a series of words that didn’t really say anything we didn’t know.

All of which kind of makes the Herald complicit in Glucina’s lies. Our national newspaper. Beck Eleven has written a better piece on ethics on reporters than I ever could, I encourage you to go read it.

In a pique of rage and motivation, I emailed Shayne Currie and asked him to comment for this very piece. I asked him three questions:

  1. In light of the Herald’s statement(s) yesterday that didn’t seem to contradict Amanda Bailey’s retelling of events at all, why did the Herald publish the story after Amanda rescinded her permission to use her quotes/photo?
  2. Does the Herald accept that Rachel Glucina’s position was misrepresented to Amanda Bailey, if so by whom? And if not, why not?
  3. Does the Herald accept the manner in which Rachel Glucina conducts herself is ‘good journalism’ and has it ever had concerns over her practices?

In a disappointing but not surprising move, I did not get a response, or even an acknowledgement. I forwarded the email to outgoing editor Tim Murphy who at least had the good grace to reply to my email a few days later saying that Shayne would get back to me. But I’m not holding my breath.

New Zealand, we can be better than this. We do not have to stand for a casual Prime Minister. We do not have to have our major newspaper be built on a byline of lies. We do not have to watch the Big Bang Theory for quality programming.

Usually I’d start some jingoistic rant about how great we were back in the day and we should aspire to be like that again. But I don’t know if we were great back then, and besides, history isn’t a reason to be better . Being better is reason enough.

 

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