Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Watching the watchers

There's a by-election going on here.

British readers will know what this means - fringe parties being treated by the media as if they mattered, mindless speculation about how badly the government will be thrashed, even more mindless projections about how, if these trends continue, by 2015 we'll be governed entirely by dolphins and probably a good thing too. While I'm on the subject, I'd like to be among the first to welcome our new cetacean overlords.

In New Zealand, things work a little differently. There are only 60-something MPs representing constituencies, so by-elections are a pretty rare event in themselves. And what we lack in experience, we also lack in intelligent investigative media with varied agendas. If I had to sum up our media in one word, that word would be "lazy".

I was planning to write about how the media's coverage of the by-election has now descended from trivial to virtual self-parody. But in the course of researching, I found something I wasn't expecting at all. The coverage on blogs is actually not bad.

Did (the frankly thuggish) Trevor Mallard sic Campbell Live onto Melissa Lee? Okay, so there's no actual "evidence"... but there is a plausible connection, as Mallard was formerly minister for broadcasting. Surely worth some reporter's time to at least ask the question?

Blogs range from the nakedly partisan to the tediously factual, but both these extremes are vastly better than anything I've seen in the commercial media. Better yet is the geekily specialist type that focuses on a single issue, and focuses well.

I've previously argued that blogs can never replace big media. And there are still serious issues with finding the material - if you search without knowing what to look for, you're immediately snowed by more-or-less official party hacks, apologists and thinly-veiled "professional journalists" trying to justify their own feebleness. But if you can dig through that snow, there's some decent analysis.

Hint to Google: if a search engine can find a way to distil that material, it'll wipe the floor with you guys.


Anonymous said...

Good summary, and much needed. I'm off to read the links you researched.

Thanks again.


Artemis Archer said...

I will admit to knowing next to nothing about New Zealand politics... but my friend is quarantined in Napier with swine flu right now? Which is bizarre.

K.N.Gillus said...

Just realized that this was you. I'm dumb. And I've abandoned writing, so...

Just wanted to say hello. Nothing to contribute here.

vet said...

Wow, people dropping by. Wonderful to see you, folks.

S, my pleasure. It's a PITA to find this stuff, but it's reassuring to know it's there.

Artemis - hope your friend is okay. They'll probably be fine, all patients so far in this country have been.

KNG - good to see you, and sorry to lose your writing. Be well.