The Dim-Post

May 6, 2014

Circumventing the spin

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 8:17 pm

It’s been an amazing election year, and one of the reasons for that is that the TV3 political journalists are breaking stories and dominating the news agenda to a degree that’s really unusual for any individual media outlet, let alone a TV news show. I’ve got fairly huge problems with some of Paddy Gower’s journalism, but his team are very good at figuring out ways to get around the media management of modern political parties and deliver strong stories.

Tova O’Brien’s ‘Cabinet Club’ piece was a fine example of this. Turns out ‘Cabinet Club’ is a National Party fundraising organisation, and if O’Brien went to the Prime Minister’s Office or the President of the National Party and asked about Cabinet Club she’d have received an artfully written, soporific whitewash of Cabinet Club, similar to what’s going to appear on Kiwiblog sometime in the near future. Instead she went and ambushed National’s Cabinet Ministers and asked them ‘What is Cabinet Club?’ and they denied all knowledge of its existence, despite voluminous documentary evidence to the contrary, which suggests  that this isn’t the completely innocent organisation National will vehemently insist it is. It’s great journalism, and Gower and his team manage to pull it off almost every night.

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36 Comments »

  1. I’m surprised they wouldn’t have a prearranged story. What on earth happened to their super tight indestructible media management?

    Comment by Ben Wilson — May 6, 2014 @ 8:20 pm

  2. Oh, hang on…the first rule of Cabinet Club is….

    Comment by Ben Wilson — May 6, 2014 @ 8:21 pm

  3. Party supporters paying to spend time in the presence of their heros might be disturbing but it’s not nefarious.

    It’s been an open fund raising device for a while and the only reason the media have picked up on it now is because of Russell Norman.

    So I don’t think it’s an indication of any sea change in the media,

    Comment by NeiiM — May 6, 2014 @ 8:32 pm

  4. >It’s been an open fund raising device for a while

    And yet, strangely, the actual Cabinet deny its existence. Perhaps there is actually another Cabinet Club that they THINK the reporters are referring to. The Clandestine Cabinet Club (as distinguished from the lame as Shadow Cabinet Club).

    Comment by Ben Wilson — May 6, 2014 @ 8:36 pm

  5. The were asked an out of the blue question. I’m not sure that it’s regularly called “cabinet club”.

    It’s been refered to a s that but how much that’s his it’s known by is hard to judge.

    Comment by NeiiM — May 6, 2014 @ 8:42 pm

  6. “she’d have received an artfully written, soporific whitewash of Cabinet Club, similar to what’s going to appear on Kiwiblog sometime in the near future”

    Nailed it.

    Comment by kalvarnsen — May 6, 2014 @ 9:00 pm

  7. and……. you are not paid by your wife’s party to do this? Mmkay.

    Comment by Grant — May 6, 2014 @ 9:04 pm

  8. I watched the tv3 piece and the way it’s edited its hard to tell if there’s dissebkance or bewildered surprise.

    Anne Tolly later in the piece describes with no sense of having been sprung this fund raising device.

    Perhaps tv3 could provide the unedited footage. I’d like to see that before making claims about lying.

    Comment by NeiiM — May 6, 2014 @ 9:12 pm

  9. > its hard to tell if there’s dissebkance or bewildered surprise

    Yes, John Banks has certainly left his mark on the party, by making one the perfect cover for the other.

    Comment by Ben Wilson — May 6, 2014 @ 9:31 pm

  10. Well I’d like to see the unedited footage to see whether they didn’t understand the question or were trying to hide something,

    The first part of the tv3 item is very short and highly edited. In the rest of the item they’re speaking quite openly about it.

    Comment by NeiiM — May 6, 2014 @ 9:40 pm

  11. >I’m not sure that it’s regularly called “cabinet club”.

    Yes, and to be perfectly balanced, one must note that both words have alternate meanings. It could easily have been talking about the some old golf club in a cupboard. That one they all want to forget.

    Comment by Ben Wilson — May 6, 2014 @ 9:46 pm

  12. I’m not sure that it’s regularly called “cabinet club”.

    Russell Brown linked to a parliamentary written question answered by Paula Bennett a month ago which referred to it as such.

    Comment by MsStephanieCatherine — May 6, 2014 @ 9:52 pm

  13. http://simonbridges.co.nz/index.php?/archives/236-Archive-March-2011.html

    Been called the Cabinet Club since at least 2011. Paula Bennett was even at a meeting, but I am pretty sure it doesn’t exist, they don’t know what it is and it’s not like National to have an issue with brain fades.

    Comment by switchnz — May 6, 2014 @ 9:54 pm

  14. The Nats have never made a secret of this which suggests the possibility that the initial response to tv3’s question might have been one of confusion rather than dissembling.

    It’s only a few seconds with a few MPs with the rest of the item having them all talk quite openly about it.

    It’s flimsy evidence to be jumping to conclusions on.

    I don’t quite understand the objection, I thought paying to attend events with prominent politicians was a fairly standard form of fundraising.

    Comment by NeiiM — May 6, 2014 @ 10:07 pm

  15. The first part of the tv3 item is very short and highly edited. In the rest of the item they’re speaking quite openly about it.

    English is in the first part, reacting immediately as if he knows what Cabinet Club is, while others react in obvious faux bewilderment. I’m not sure how that can be attributed to the edit.

    Comment by steve — May 6, 2014 @ 11:24 pm

  16. hahah Paula Bennett is a terrible liar

    Comment by Rob — May 7, 2014 @ 12:30 am

  17. “I don’t quite understand the objection, I thought paying to attend events with prominent politicians was a fairly standard form of fundraising.”

    It’s establishing a pattern whereby those wanting special access to the Nats can pay to play. Williamson demonstrated how that works. They’re obviously uncomfortable about it, and rightly so. When Bennett hasn’t been given her lines, she’s pretty hopeless isn’t she?

    Comment by Judge Holden — May 7, 2014 @ 7:04 am

  18. TV3 would not have run the story but for the stink of corruption enveloping this government. Cronyism is proving to be the downfall of Key and associates ltd. As people have said, the cabinet club is not a secret, it just isn’t mentioned, nudge nudge wink wink. It has to be proven unethical, although ministers are not meant to use their positions for making money – and calling it the “cabinet” club indicates to an observer (like, say, a Chinese businessman) that it is about access to the cabinet with the blessing of the governing party.

    So. Not a secret, but on the down low. Not unethical, just questionable. A fig leaf of a defense that it doesn’t breech the cabinet manual. A name that indicates something that it isn’t, apparently. It all adds up to something very fishy, and feeds the cronyism narrative that is now wrecking this government.

    Comment by Sanctuary — May 7, 2014 @ 7:30 am

  19. It’s establishing a pattern whereby those wanting special access to the Nats can pay to play.

    They’re National Party supporters, if they wanted special access on particular issues then they would just make an appointment.

    People pay membership fees and make donations inorder to try and ensure their political views are implemented. Norman trying to portray this as corruption doesn’t do much for the cause of public funding of political parties.

    Comment by NeiiM — May 7, 2014 @ 8:46 am

  20. “Turns out ‘Cabinet Club’ is a National Party fundraising organisation, ”

    Well golly, so thats what it is. I got my latest to go join the local MP plus his MP guest for nibbles and drinks. Cost $20. But the sneaky buggers simply called it a “Campaign Fundraiser”.

    Just goes to show how corrupt they are.. or something.

    JC

    Comment by JC — May 7, 2014 @ 9:19 am

  21. “They’re National Party supporters, if they wanted special access on particular issues then they would just make an appointment.”

    then why are they paying thousands for exactly the kind of access they could get by popping in to their local electorate office?

    Comment by framu — May 7, 2014 @ 9:23 am

  22. then why are they paying thousands for exactly the kind of access they could get by popping in to their local electorate office?

    Because it’s a fund raising event. And a lot of fund raisers are organised social events. Just seems to be a popular form of political involvement.

    The proverbial cake stall – probably work out more cost effective for people to donate directly but there’s an element of being involved that appeals and motivates.

    Comment by NeiiM — May 7, 2014 @ 9:31 am

  23. “I thought paying to attend events with prominent politicians was a fairly standard form of fundraising.”

    Same here, but to me the ickyness of it is more around the apparent use of ‘Cabinet’ as a drawcard, and the implication from this that there will be a higher chance to talk to Ministers on a topic of your choice after paying lots of money to the National Party than if you simply tried to arrange your own meeting. In what’s always a tight schedule, they’re setting aside Ministerial dialogue time for those with money instead of those with merit.

    If the Ministers were simply attending local party fundraising events in their local electorates in their capacity as an MP or (within reason) a Party representative, I couldn’t care anywhere near as much. Once they invoke the Cabinet and Minister tags, though, it jumps a level and they’re representing influence from all New Zealanders instead of just their own party. As someone who isn’t especially a fan of the National Party, I find that quite insulting.

    Not to say this hasn’t happened in the past, but I don’t see that as an excuse for it to continue happening.

    Comment by izogi — May 7, 2014 @ 9:33 am

  24. then why does one on one time get sold as a feature? – thats what people are buying here, your rather cute “its just a cake stall people” doesnt change what it is.

    People – paying money – for exclusive access – to MPs.

    Comment by framu — May 7, 2014 @ 9:34 am

  25. Because it’s a fund raising event. And a lot of fund raisers are organised social events. Just seems to be a popular form of political involvement.

    It’s popular, because a large gift creates reciprocal obligation. That’s well known in every human context. National looks after its own.

    Comment by George — May 7, 2014 @ 9:53 am

  26. @izogi: If the Ministers were simply attending local party fundraising events in their local electorates in their capacity as an MP or (within reason) a Party representative, I couldn’t care anywhere near as much.”
    That is the key to it. The Manual expressly forbids fundraising by Cabinet Ministers. Thus if the Cabinet Minister was in attendance in an electorate outside their own (and in a Ministerial car?) they would be failing.
    Anyway Cabinet Clubs fail the sniff test.

    Comment by xianmac — May 7, 2014 @ 10:02 am

  27. It’s popular, because a large gift creates reciprocal obligation. That’s well known in every human context. National looks after its own.

    Parties represent the views of their members. And when that party is in govt there’s a higher chance of those views being implemented.

    It’s the way the system works.

    These events are groups of people listening to some speech, maybe even getting to shake hands. They’re a device for raising money and rallying the troops.

    I’m sort of in favour of some degree of public funding of political parties but there is something about fundraising that keeps parties involved with their supporters.

    Comment by NeiiM — May 7, 2014 @ 10:18 am

  28. …an artfully written, soporific whitewash of Cabinet Club, similar to what’s going to appear on Kiwiblog sometime in the near future.

    However did you guess?

    Comment by Psycho Milt — May 7, 2014 @ 10:37 am

  29. Back to the meat of Danyl’s piece, I found myself actually enjoying watching 3 News last night for the first time in ages.

    Rather than being pitched to the usual two minute story, there was a cohesive narrative arc over 10-12 minutes putting the spotlight on Collin’s and National’s fundraising.
    We were treated to a great mixture of genuine story-breaking and Paddy muckraking; Collins’ continual evasions over Orivida, Cabinet Ministers obviously lying (though I was impressed by English’s evasion which to me exposes the massive talent gap between the old and new guard), David Carter looking as hopelessly partisan as ever and lastly, Collins’ reacting to the swamp Kauri story with ugly disdain counterposed with Nick Smith’s genuine defence of his patch.

    Excellent stuff.

    Comment by Gregor W — May 7, 2014 @ 10:45 am

  30. Sorry am a bit late to this. I enjoyed the piece last night as much as anyone. But in terms of 3 News digging deep for good stories – I’m struck by them being described as “very good at figuring out ways to get around the media management of modern political parties and deliver strong stories.” Given the Greens have since claimed the story as theirs (“The Green Party has today revealed details about the ‘Cabinet Club’, an exclusive club run by the National Party…”) how is this anything other than simply good media management, but from a different party (the Greens). Don’t get me wrong – I think the issue needed airing – but it was not 3 News journalists that uncovered it, if the Greens are to be believed.

    Comment by Bethany — May 7, 2014 @ 11:28 am

  31. Robertson didn’t get his facts right and they let Mallard be Mallard so Collins slips from their grasp and aren’t going to be asking her any questions today.

    Comment by NeiiM — May 7, 2014 @ 2:04 pm

  32. Collins hasn’t slipped from their grasp, she’s finished, yesterday was just the coup de grâce. They’re not asking her questions because she is done and dusted.

    Comment by Ant — May 7, 2014 @ 2:22 pm

  33. Ant, NeiiM… I don’t think either or your grasp how politics in general, and the house in particular, works.

    Comment by Phil — May 7, 2014 @ 3:40 pm

  34. My guess is that had Labour really had the goods on Collins they would have kept up the attack on her.

    But Robertson proved to be wrong and Mallard destroyed any moral high ground they had.

    They then spent today on the fundraising issue which was easily countered since Labour has done much the same and Cunliffe has his own issues with funding, transperancy and influence.

    My impression is that when undertaking politics by scandal it’s better to keep to allegations that can be substantiated and keep the moral high ground.

    Comment by NeilM — May 7, 2014 @ 7:11 pm

  35. Damn. I haven’t watched TV news in months on any channel. I gave up because the time taken to consume the info-mercials and puff pieces was feeling like it was wasted. I might have to watch now.

    Comment by Steve W — May 8, 2014 @ 12:13 am

  36. Translation: I normally loathe Paddy Gower. Except when he does stories on the National Party!

    I miss your satire, Danyl.

    Comment by David — May 8, 2014 @ 7:18 am


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