Monday, 29 September 2008

Exit Maid Marian

Twice in her parliamentary career I've been surprised to find myself cheering on Marian Hobbs, who gave her valedictory speech to parliament last week.

Who wouldn't be surprised?

The  first time I found myself in her corner was with her resolute defence of science and genetic engineering in the face of Nicky Hager and "little creep" John Campbell's pathetic 'corngate' beat-up in the run-up to the 2002 election, when civilised New Zealanders were silently and not-so silently applauding Clark and Hobbs for allowing a GE crop to reach maturity, and reflecting that things could have been a lot worse with Nick Smith in the Environment chair, and will be a lot worse if rumours about Jeanette Fitzsimons taking the chair in a post-election Labour Cabinet were to come to pass.

The second time I applauded Hobbs was just yesterday when I came across her valedictory speech, and not just because she's leaving parliament, but for for her observations on the state of journalism which she identifies is more focused on personalities than it is policies.   This is not just the complaint of someone who's had a bad run with the media -- although it is partly that -- it's also right on the money.

    "Politics is about making decisions, be it the laws we pass or the budgets we approve," she said.  "But modern news media doesn't evaluate our decisions in the light of which policy is best.
    "Instead they build a web around personalities and behaviour. It's about a smiley new face versus the one we are familiar with. The news is about decision makers, rarely about decisions."

This is the reason scandal-mongering and smiley faces flourish in the corridors of power, while policy-makers are either ignored or pursue their work in the shadows - often to the detriment of those whom their policies damage.

"You need only to sound assertive, even when you don't know what you're talking about," she said.

There's a lot of that about, isn't there. When the focus of reporting is on "the game," and who's "winning it" rather than on policies and who's being done over by them, it's no wonder that flatulent fools like Winston Peters -- who's never read a whole policy document right to the end, but is a master at sounding assertive -- gets all the media time he does, while policy analysis -- even on the blogs -- is little more than left versus right.

UPDATE: "As the media often rate how well MPs are doing," David Farrar asked MPs to reverse the favour, and score the media and press gallery.  The results are here: MPs survey of the media.  On a scale of 0-10, very few scored over 5, and then only barely.

1 comment:

  1. Could it also be because the politicians attack their opposing personalities rather than discuss the actual substance of the policy?

    There was a lot of good policy analysis on the stupidity of the EFA and how it was being rushed through.

    It was ignored and the law makers tried to attack the organisers of the EFA ralleys instead of addressing the substance of the complaints about the policy.

    We've seen many bad examples of how the bill has played out, and we've also seen how proponents like Winston broke every single rule about transparency he was ventilating over, and now spends his time saying he's done nothing illegal.

    It's a bad merry-go-round that can only be short circuited by better journalists and by not putting up with the personality politics from hacks like Trotter, and the attack dogs like Mallard and Cullen.


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