The Government pissed off journalists at a bad time

Journalists and media have largely been supportive of Government efforts to deal with Covid-19, but as the general population gets restless under Level 3 restrictions and want to get back closer to normal living, journalists seem to have also changed their approach to coverage.

This shift was given a big boost with the Friday dump of Covid information, along with a leaked email telling Ministers to not give interviews or answer questions apart from using dished out patsy phrases.

The Government has two big challenges this coming week, trying to keep the population on-side with lockdown restrictions, and delivering a budget in extraordinary times. And they head into this period  with a suddenly more sceptical media openly questioning Government arrogance.

Derek Cheng (NZH): The gagging order from Jacinda Ardern’s office – cynical, arrogant and unnecessary

Controlling the message is critical, especially at a time of crisis, and the PM’s office has clearly tried to continue its tight control over the Government messaging.

It is a common communications strategy to release bad news late on a Friday, when newsrooms are emptier and people are more focused on weekend plans rather than the news.

With the gagging order, there is virtually no chance to ask a minister about anything in the documents for three days, and by the time Jacinda Ardern fronts on Monday afternoon, the nation will be firmly focused on whether we are moving to alert level 2.

And it’s not just the cynical timing. The “no real need to defend … we can dismiss” reeks of arrogance – the subtext is “we are above scrutiny” – and blatantly flouts Ardern’s cultivated reputation for openness and transparency.

It also undermines the access provided in the almost-daily press conferences that have taken place during alert levels 3 and 4.

Even if the information drop could not have happened before yesterday afternoon, ministers should be able to front.

The shackles should be discarded and ministers should be open to scrutiny. If they can’t be trusted to answer questions about their portfolios, they shouldn’t be ministers.

Tracy Watkins (Stuff):  Are these the first signs of third term arrogance from a first term government?

Finance Minister Grant Robertson’s budget this week will loom over generations to come; it’s no exaggeration to say its the most important budget in decades.

There will be intense debate about whether he has got it right; so it’s unfortunate that as we head into budget week the government is exhibiting premature signs of the affliction known as third-termitis.

That was most evident in the emergence of a leaked memo this week in which ministers’ offices were advised not to waste any time defending themselves to the media – not because they had anything much to hide but because (to paraphrase) people love us anyway, so why bother?

It’s the assumption behind that advice that is so alarming; it speaks of supreme confidence at the moment that this government can do no wrong in the eyes of the public.

So will this confidence and arrogance come out in the budget with opportunistic major changes in direction? There has been a lot of lobbying from idealists wanting to change the economic and political systems, and there has even been suggestions that Jacinda Ardern can change the world.

And Friday’s dump and email were not isolated reasons for media discord.

Given the scale of this crisis, and the extent to which it has touched every life, that is more important now than ever. The Association of Salaried Medical Specialists, for instance, says 20,000 operations were cancelled and 60,000 specialist appointments parked. It will take more than a year to catch up, they say. Yet questions about how the Government will deal with this have largely been fobbed off.

There was another disturbing sight this week when Attorney General David Parker refused media interviews on the legality of the Covid lockdown, preferring instead to interview himself in a 42 minute long livestream on Facebook.

Did Parker take a leaf out of Trump’s playbook?

Facebook has become this government’s best friend; its shoulder shrug in response to questions about transparency and accessibility. But of course it’s also about controlling not just the message, but image, and the news agenda.

But as we come out of lock-down, and face up to the huge recovery mission ahead, fronting up to hard questions should not be optional.

If the Government tries to use the huge current economic and social disruption plus their current popularity after initially being widely seen to handle Covid-19 well here to lurch towards some sort of revolution they could find themselves quickly off-side with a public seemingly intent on getting back to normal ahead of the lowering of lockdown restrictions.

An obvious risk of a sudden rise to popularity on the back of unprecedented social and economic disruption is that that can become a fall just as quickly if the Government gets out of step with public sentiment.

One might think that Winston Peters would act as a check on starting a revolution via the budget (unless superannuants benefit). But it may be too late. He seems to have been sidelined by the big decision making clique now calling the shots in Government, and may have been already pressured into supporting changes due to popular support for the Government.

The confidence and arrogance of the Prime Minister and Ministers seems to be actively shutting themselves off from public contact via the media, and they already look to be rapidly getting out of touch.

The public supported them because the wanted the disruptions due to Covid to stop, and saw drastic action as necessary.

But now the public wants disruptions and changes to their normal ways of life to dissipate.

If the Government have decided to take some revolutionary steps in the budget next week they may find that the media are not so supportive as they have been over the past couple of months, and the public could easily rebel (there’s a mini-rebellion already happening against the restrictive level 3 lockdown).

Emergency measures in a crisis are generally supported. But using an emergency to undemocratically impose major changes may turn the tide against support for the current Government, and even Ardern.

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66 Comments

  1. artcroft

     /  10th May 2020

    Jacinda forgot to include the line. “the media have been brought and paid for so their continued co-operation is assured”… no doubt she is on the phone this weekend reminding jouro’s about who signs their pay checks.

    Reply
    • Duker

       /  10th May 2020

      “the media have been brought and paid for so their continued co-operation is assured”
      Where have these 2 outlets been bought and paid for ?
      The $50mill was almost all rebates on transmission etc costs for BROADCASTERS! – radio and TV
      https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/politics/2020/04/short-term-50-million-covid-19-media-support-package-announced-to-help-with-ad-revenue-drop.html
      Its the opposition in the Covid committee who have been pushing for media bailouts, based it it being one of the top questions they ask….well ahead of questions about elderly

      Reply
      • Duker

         /  10th May 2020

        There you are PG another prime instance of diversion by personal discrediting
        “no doubt she is on the phone this weekend reminding jouro’s about who signs their pay checks.

        Not only is it is a ……falsehood, its also personal slur …yet you zipped straight past it. I wouldnt want the right wing brigade to imagine they have special rules which means they can pretty much say any slur they like? Im sure you consider them all equivalently…. Im sure .

        Reply
        • Ok, I’m going to warn you too. I’ve had more important things to do this afternoon than babysit every commenter and monitor every comment. I do what I have time to do as I see fit. I have less time to do it if you keep trying to make the moderating fit what you want.

          If you want me to be pedantic and strict then you’re unlikely to like the result.

          Reply
        • artcroft

           /  10th May 2020

          He zipped past it because you’re a moron Duker. BROADCASTERS employ JOURNALISTS! So my point stands. Pffttt.

          Reply
          • Blazer

             /  10th May 2020

            Mike Hosking insists he is a Broadcaster not a journo…so who really pays him?

            Reply
          • Duker

             /  10th May 2020

            here we go again ..appalling use of prohibited language
            these limits on micro aggressions…..I read other local blogs sometimes and yes they detract from readability. So Im working on my choice of words.
            But you know what encourages their use… seeing others qualifying for the
            slur Olympics
            This post gives links to two sites …which arent broadcasters NZH and Stuff. let me know when they get their bailout.
            Let them sink I say …they have more and more stories from other sites , RNZ , The Conversation , NY Times etc….. I can click on the original work thank you very much rather than wade through the dross on NZH especially ..

            Reply
  2. Blazer

     /  10th May 2020

    Cheng and Watkins 2 tru blu reporters.

    Reply
    • That’s another attempt to deflect via personal discrediting.

      Try addressing what they say. Do you think they have been inaccurate or unfair? If so give specifics.

      Reply
      • Blazer

         /  10th May 2020

        You can make a for or against case about any proposition…these two have extensive form in their ‘work’ which has a tendency to show bias.
        Chengs criticism is very selective and he contradicts himself.
        Watkins piece falls with the header…’: Are these the first signs of third term arrogance from a first term government?

        Biased opinion ,should be dismissed on the basis that Govts should not be arrogant irrespective of how many terms they have served.

        Reply
        • All you’ve done is dump on them without any specifics.

          “Biased opinion ,should be dismissed ”

          So should I dismiss your biased personal attacks? I get sick of asking you not to do it. There’s easier ways for me of dealing with it.

          Reply
          • Blazer

             /  10th May 2020

            Maybe you should read the first post on this thread and ask yourself how consistent you are being!
            I was quite specific about Watkins…how can you interpret it otherwise.

            You are actually diverting now to another topic=’biased personal attacks’..someone mentioned that they are rife,part of blog..life.

            Discerning bias itself is rarely..objective.
            Look at the msm…the left claim it favours right wing doctrines,and the right the…opposite!

            Reply
            • “’biased personal attacks’..someone mentioned that they are rife,part of blog..life.”

              There are rife in some forums. But I’ve made it clear I don’t want it rife here, and I’m not going to keep arguing about it. You know, you defy, you argue, I’ve warned of consequences, there’s consequences.

            • Gezza

               /  10th May 2020

              In an intimate little tête-tête extended interview over coffee in a cafe that was embedded in a Stuff article Watkins’ body language gave a strong indication that she was smitten with Sir John Key, before he even became Sir John.

            • David

               /  10th May 2020

              Its just her way Gezza, seen her the same way with Ardern.
              Dont always agree with her but she is one of the best journalists in the country.

            • Duker

               /  10th May 2020

              The Newspapers for decades have certain journalists become ‘too close’ to one of other of the main parties…it gives them a news edge to a lot of stories. But those journos put the partisan edge to stories too far. Tracey Watkins is one those ‘close to national journos’
              The Murdoch media in Australia is famous for for its slanted coverage in politics and is one of the reasons that government is pushing hard against Facebook and Google – Murdoch wants it to happen
              Dirty politics was really all about the beehive cuddling up to the newest media-blogs- in a way they had always done with the oldest…. TV and radio were more even handed.
              Now passing on ‘real news’ to favoured journos has always happened but the hidden hand behind the curtain that it was the Key government pushing the scuttlebut and character slurs.
              Remember the NZ Herald and whole fake stories( river cruises, bottles of wine) directed at Cunliffe..those were national party slurs designed to discredit him politically.

            • Andrea Vance promoting Watkins’ column:

            • And Tim Murphy:

            • Gezza

               /  10th May 2020

              @ David
              Its just her way Gezza, seen her the same way with Ardern.

              She took her glasses off halfway thru & batted her eyelashes at Jacinda for the rest of the interview too??

              No wonder the journos don’t mind diggin up dirt on pollies romantic shenanigans but don’t squeal on each others’. 😐

            • Duker

               /  10th May 2020

              ” telling everyone the strategy behind it? that’s a fail”

              Ahh it was a leak.

  3. duperez

     /  10th May 2020

    There is no problem with the Government pissing off journalists at a bad time (or any time.) The journalists will continue to do the objective and dispassionate job they always do. Won’t they?

    Reply
    • David

       /  10th May 2020

      Brilliant, I needed a laugh this morning.

      Reply
      • duperez

         /  10th May 2020

        I like how some have it that the day after an election there’s a switch which gets pushed and a thing like a sheep drafting gate operates and the media move from one pen into the adjacent one for the next three years.

        Instead of sitting up above on the fence in a permanent spot looking down on all the pens.

        Reply
  4. David

     /  10th May 2020

    The tide turned 2 weeks ago, the media are of course the last to notice as they exist in their exclusive little bubble. Her 5 day extension to level 4 was the catalyst.
    I dont think the move to her level 2.8 is going to improve things as she has not explained why its 2m instead of the 1m it used to be and the WHO recommendation, her pedantic school marmish three S’s as if we all have Neve’s mental capacity rather than the way previous level 2 operated.

    Reply
    • Gezza

       /  10th May 2020

      AND…Finally…perhaps someone in the media will point out that she pronounces most t’s as d’s, & says sumpthink anythink & nuthink like a toddler. Any decent journo worth their salt should also now get to work finding out whether she also says ungyins instead of onions.

      Shouldn’t be allowed near primary schools.

      Reply
      • Blazer

         /  10th May 2020

        Can’t all speak the Queens English Gezza.
        Elocution lessons for NZ politicians will not take on.
        NZ’ers have a way of speaking,a nasal twang,readily recognised even in OZ.
        As you it akshully affects politicians of every…stripe.

        Reply
      • Cockneys also say ‘ink’ for ‘ing’, but it sahnds a’ ri’ when they do it, yeah ?

        Me bruvver don’t quite say that, but after living in London for so long, ‘e don’ arf sahnd common, know wha’ I mean ?

        Reply
        • Gezza

           /  10th May 2020

          Akshilly, that’s a good point. Diddin I read somewear that when in Young Labour she worked in the UK on the Blair campaign?

          Reply
          • Gezza

             /  10th May 2020

            Maybe she picked it up over there? o_O

            Reply
            • Ah, yeah, well she mighta done, yeah ? Me bruvver sahnds like an extra from East Enders, know wha’ I mean, okay ?

    • David, I suspect that people may well raise the middle finger to the 2m rule. They are now, She can’t have us all arrested.

      I missed the first bit of the news last night, and forgot to turn on the +1 at the end. I came in in the middle of the story about people going to the beach, and didn’t see if the document thing had been featured.

      Reply
  5. Did anyone hear the interview? Davis is largely invisible usually.

    Reply
    • Gezza

       /  10th May 2020

      Jeez. Rawdon Christie? Always seemed to be one of the laid back, nice guys of tvnz journos. If he’s doing his block it musta bin bad.

      Reply
      • Duker

         /  10th May 2020

        Hardly, is a Creative Director at NBR and self employed Media Spin doctor
        Its equivalent to asking Hooten what he thinks of Davis

        he went off his rocker at being stopped at night for non essential travel
        NBR is of course a neo liberal noise machine..probably on its last legs

        Reply
      • David

         /  10th May 2020

        What a train wreck, mind you he has clearly met expectations.

        Reply
        • Duker

           /  10th May 2020

          What Train wreck ?
          Henry wanted a big reveal on his show and didnt get it…. never likely in the days before a budget.
          “Because I’ve heard from the tourism industry that they are absolutely desperate. They can’t wait for the Budget next Thursday.”
          “ive heard from the tourism industry…. just bullshit, as he didnt mention names or groups , lazy journalism in action as he hasnt prepared properly

          Reply
          • David

             /  10th May 2020

            You are really defending Davis in that interview ! Defending Davis at all is questionable.
            The tourism industry is desperate, anyone with function brain cell knows that. The representatives have been all over the media this week expressing their desperation but the biggest worry is that they are going to rely on Davis for a plan…he is a 3rd rate school teacher that makes Twyford look dynamic.

            Reply
            • Duker

               /  10th May 2020

              To be honest ..Henry has a new show … really
              You would think think those desperate tourist industry people with no names, desperate I tell you , would be more than just a minor item 2 weeks ? after he starts his show .
              John Key and his musings about nothing were well ahead, absolute piffle by the way ( looked it up)
              NZonscreen.com

              January 2014 debut episode of Paul Henry’s late night TV3 show. Displaying the informal style that marked his tenure, Key banters with Henry about playing golf in Hawaii with US President Barack Obama, and responds to the hard questions, eg whether it would have been better in hindsight for John’s son Max to have not beaten the President. It’s election year and the pair discuss coalition options: the Māori Party, Peter Dunne and Winston Peters. Henry pulls out four photos, and asks which of them can be trusted.

              …meanwhile the desperate tourism industry waited

    • Conspiratoor

       /  10th May 2020

      PH What is your plan Kelvin?
      KS Bla bla bla

      PH Sure, sure, sure. When I say whats your plan are you aware what the tourism wants
      KD This is what I’m doing. Bla bla bla

      PH Sure, sure, sure. But what do THEY want. Here’s what they want. They want surety. You said “there will be something special. It will be ready to launch when it is in the best interest” What are you waiting for? They are desperate….

      It went down hill from there. As PH turned the screws, KD began to fall apart and things got cringeworthy. I almost felt sorry for him. Meaningless platitudes …hopeless

      Reply
      • Duker

         /  10th May 2020

        Not going to release pre budget stuff ahead of Budget week….big reveal in the weeks after …communications 101

        Reply
      • Fight4nz

         /  10th May 2020

        “They want surety” ?
        Standard meaningless business speak. No surprise if the response was meaningless.
        I am desperate to win lotto and I need surety!!

        Reply
        • Alan Wilkinson

           /  11th May 2020

          Do you think business is a lottery? When you order something, do you calculate the odds on it being delivered?

          Reply
  6. Gerrit

     /  10th May 2020

    Another issue looming on the horizon for this government is the contact tracing application for cell phones.

    Security wise these tracing apps are not sitting well in the rest of the world in regards privacy and security.

    Going to be a hard sell to get to a level of contact tracing where it has meaningful utility in tracing potential outbreaks.

    And with Google and Apple involved it will be an even harder sell.

    Reply
  7. David

     /  10th May 2020

    I imagine Ardern was having sleepless nights worrying about Willie Jackson talking employment, Clarke talking about health, the automaton Woods who literally talks in slogans, Twyford on kickstarting Kiwibuild, Mahuta talking international trade, Poto Williams on anything.
    Dont blame he for the gag order her cabinet is tits.

    Reply
  8. David

     /  10th May 2020

    And right on queue Clarke announces a $10 million boost to Pharmacs budget, this is the organisation that is busily cancelling new cancer drug therapies because of a spike in costs of drugs on its existing register and cant keep up with that.

    Reply
    • Gezza

       /  10th May 2020

      *cue. The phrase “on cue” comes from the theatre, stage acting.

      Reply
      • And billiards.

        As a child, I thought that the horses in the Ascot song (My Fair Lady) were waiting for the queue to fly away.

        Reply
    • Blazer

       /  10th May 2020

      How is that on ‘cue’….?
      Budget next week will be the Main Event.

      Reply
      • Duker

         /  10th May 2020

        Yes . Its the normal pre budget , early releases of juicy bits

        Reply
    • Duker

       /  10th May 2020

      “$10 million boost to Pharmacs budget” wrong again
      Its $160 mill
      So many falsehoods again from one person

      Reply
      • Pink David

         /  10th May 2020

        “The new funding is split across the next four years, with $10 million being paid out next financial year, and the remaining $150 million over the other three.”

        $10m next year. Seems like peanuts given the government is spending a billion a day on wage subsidies.

        Reply
        • Duker

           /  10th May 2020

          “On 1 September 2019, the Government announced an extra $60 million in funding for PHARMAC – $20 million in 2019/20 and $40 million in 2020/21. That was followed last month by a one-off investment in essential medicines of $35 million in response to COVID-19.
          Thats $65 mill for this year $20 +$35+$10 mill

          Reply
  9. Reply
    • Gezza

       /  10th May 2020

      You don’t speak for the party and right frankly the way you behave online is embarrassing.

      😳

      That doesn’t make sense. Very sloppy. I can quite believe this came from a senior Labour Party official. 😕

      Reply
      • Gezza

         /  10th May 2020

        *write frankly

        Reply
        • Blazer

           /  10th May 2020

          quite frankly.

          Reply
          • Gezza

             /  11th May 2020

            Yes “quite” possibly looks a lot like “write” to senior Labour officials. I doubt it came up as an option in spellcheck or autocorrect.

            Mind you, from a quick squiz at Sam’s twitter account one can see why someone thought he might need a slap around the ears. With members like Sam who needs an Opposition?

            Reply
  10. Duker

     /  10th May 2020

    Gag orders that minister hadn’t heard about until read in news
    So the greatest non event ?
    Health Minister David Clark has rejected claims he and other Government ministers have been “gagged”, as he fronted today to announce a $160 million boost to Pharmac health spending.
    “Clark rejected today an assertion he had been gagged – or that the memo was a sign of arrogance, as several political commentators have written. “Obviously I am here.”

    He said he had not personally received the memo, but saw it after it became a story. He did not believe the Government was arrogant.
    ““I am here, happy to answer questions that journalists might have. This is the advice we have received. We have looked at that advice and then made decisions.”

    That the trouble with pumping the tyres of the lamestream media …hehehe…is the air pretty quickly disappears …..headlines one day …fish and chip wrapper the next

    With public having huge support for lockdowns , why are 2 old media so anti the lockdown?
    Very strange …was exactly the same time the Nats flip flopped on the lockdown too?

    Reply

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