The Dim-Post

September 15, 2012

Quote of the day, Eloi vs Morlocks edition

Filed under: media,Politics — danylmc @ 8:47 am

The Herald’s John Armstrong delivers a furious attack on NZ Politics Daily author Bryce Edwards and Scoop’s Gordon Campbell, culminating in the most vicious criticism Armstrong can conceive of against a journalist – that the government might not like the things they write about it:

The rapidly growing influence of Edwards’ blog was initially down to its being an exhaustive wrap-up of all of the day’s political news. It is now starting to develop a much more political dynamic that is unlikely to please National.

Actually I sort of sympathise with some of Armstrong’s complaint – that covering international political trips is hard work and don’t often result in ‘hard’ stories. My wife went on these trips when she worked for NZPA, and I heard all about their brutality and logistical challenges, mostly when I was trying to fall asleep at night. Because there’s a general bi-partisan consensus around foreign policy and trade, and there aren’t any opposition politicians on the trip the news stories generated are generally pro-government. Journalists go on the trips anyway because there’s public interest, they can question the PM about political events breaking in New Zealand, and they can write critical stories if something does go wrong.

But it’s hard to credit Armstrong’s tantrum against Edwards as being about ‘bile and invective’ directed at the press gallery ‘based on ignorance’ (he goes on like this for many hundreds of words). On the contrary, Edwards’ blog mostly consists of an extended love letter to the press gallery and their work. Here’s yesterday’s on the NBR site: he links approvingly to Fairfax journalist Andrea Vance (twice), the Herald’s Claire Trevitt, Radio New Zealand, Fairfax political editor Tracey Watkins (twice: ‘an excellent summary’), David Fisher (‘a must read’) and Herald political editor Audrey Young. It’s like that every day. I note without comment that he doesn’t link to Armstrong’s work very often.

You also gotta wonder how many of the Herald’s readers actually care about an anti-blogger temper tantrum from their political courtier? Surely there’s a better medium for this kind of insular, personal rant than a column in a daily newspaper?


  1. And calling Gordon Campbell a blogger is an interesting choice. Maybe John’s following Helen Clark’s definition of blogger, which included Fran O’Sullivan.

    Comment by Graeme Edgeler — September 15, 2012 @ 9:08 am

  2. “…a couple of old-school Aro Valley-style socialists…”

    The ambient political bais in his spitting contempt is dripping. Why isn’t Gordon Campbell a “journalist”? Because he happens to be left wing and frank about it? Or because he doesn’t conform with what John Armstrong thinks a journalist should be? And Bryce Edwards simply aggregates what he finds online and adds a bit of commentary. Worse, Armstrong appears to believe that the best way to shut down dissent from “unauthorised” journalists and bloggers is to simply put up paywalls and charge them – in other words, to put in place financial censorship to try and ensure only “proper” voices are heard.

    Fran O’Sullivan had a real tanty on FB recently to about bloggers who attacked Josie Pagani. Can we detect a trend from Granny? Are the “left wing bloggers” getting under the skin of the cosy neo-liberal establishments media old firm?

    Comment by Sanctuary — September 15, 2012 @ 9:12 am

  3. Campbell and Edwards both contribute far more to political discourse than this pathetic yes-man.

    Comment by alex — September 15, 2012 @ 9:27 am

  4. There’s also something pretty odd about Armstrong complaining about an activity that Armstrong’s own employer helps fund … The Herald contributes to the cost of collating all the information Bryce includes in his aggregator.

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — September 15, 2012 @ 9:43 am

  5. Surely there’s a better medium for this kind of insular, personal rant than a column in a daily newspaper?

    One certainly had to wonder what one has to do to get one’s own bitchy attacks on journalists printed for money.

    Comment by QoT — September 15, 2012 @ 9:51 am

  6. If Campbell and Edwards are going to attack journalists they should be prepared to get some flak in return.

    Edwards comments about the MSM coverage of this issue were shallow and lazy.

    There was MSM coverage, just because one doesn’t agree politically with it mean it didn’t happen.

    Comment by NeilM — September 15, 2012 @ 10:10 am

  7. Thoroughly entertaining column from Armstrong. Always a highlight when the declining fraud finally steps out of the closet and leaves the last shreds of pseudo-impartiality behind, but in this case the reveal is hilariously banal. Venerable Colonel Blimp becomes Whaleoil’s talent-challenged apprentice overnight. And the burning issue? Never mind hungry kids, consider the poor hordes of scribes suffering the heinous torture of foreign hotels and (gasp) no press releases!

    Whale’s got his work cut out but. Campbell has soared so stratospherically head-and-shoulders above the current crop for so long that the only possible strategy was to continue to pointedly ignore him and hope that he carks it. Poor old Johnny’s just erected a glaring beacon to the source of his own burning envy, precisely as he descends into ranting senility. The polar opposite of the seminal tory ethos of standing on others to raise oneself.

    Edwards is particularly galling. Once the hero of the Slaterites and pin-up boy of the Helenhate campaign (“left-wing academic sees the light!”), his latest efforts are a two-fer kick in the tory groin. Both subtly anti-tory and – more importantly – highly promotional of the interweb: the dreaded enemy of information control. Thanks for information John. The enemy’s obviously winning.

    Comment by ak — September 15, 2012 @ 10:55 am

  8. That you take the time to read and then care about polly journo spin is amazing. Are you attacking Armstrong or leaping to the defence of Campbell?

    Comment by Tim — September 15, 2012 @ 11:04 am

  9. My comments to Mr Armstrong centred on his apparent shock that “National would not like what he writes.”
    Shock horror! Imagine John Key being held to account and being upset. Awful.

    Comment by xianmac — September 15, 2012 @ 11:27 am

  10. “…subtly anti-tory…”

    I find this interesting. I wouldn’t say Edwards is subtly anti-tory, I would say he is overtly anti the current political establishment and particularly the cross party neo-liberal consensus. Seen from that perspective, it is an alarming indictment of journalists like Armstrong that a truly alternative voice is viewed with a fear and loathing indistinguisable from that of the established neo-liberal elites. I guess the same thing goes for the attack on Gordon Campbell. Journalists like Armstrong become institutionalised after a while, and start to reflect the institutional values they’ve adopted. In theory, you should guard against this by moving them around, but instead they stay on and become part of the comfy political furniture.

    Comment by Sanctuary — September 15, 2012 @ 11:30 am

  11. Danyl wrote “Surely there’s a better medium for this kind of insular, personal rant than a column in a daily newspaper?”

    you appear to be making the assumption that ‘a column in a daily newspaper’ is supposed to be a bastion on more informed and perceptive journalism than, say, a blog. Try lowering your expectations – if you expect newspaper columns to be less informed and perceptive than blogs, you will miraculously cease to be disappointed.

    Comment by kahikatea — September 15, 2012 @ 11:44 am

  12. The difference between Bryce Edwards and John Armstrong is that Edwards provides a comprehensive round-up of political coverage, and then links to it so you can decide for yourself. If you think he’s a frothing leftie and he’s misrepresenting, you only need to move your index finger and read the source – such as Kiwiblog or Whaleoil.

    Whereas Armstrong just wants you to know that he’s in the know, and you aren’t, so you need him. And then he thanks the PM for his bottle of wine at Christmas.

    Comment by sammy 2.0 — September 15, 2012 @ 12:34 pm

  13. so, what? It’s part of the job of being a journalist. Some of it’s okay, some of it’s intensely boring. But that’s a JOB for ya! Look on the plus side, Armstrong: your airfares and accommodation aren’t costing you a dime.

    Comment by Dan — September 15, 2012 @ 1:43 pm

  14. Just out of curiosity – how much do journalists get paid? Like, how much would a senior journalist like Matthew Dearneley be paid? OR somebody who is a sub-editor? Or somebody like Fran O’Sullivan or Audrey Young who are both really well known?

    Comment by LucyJH — September 15, 2012 @ 3:33 pm

  15. LOL, SancyWancy says “Journalists like Armstrong become institutionalised”

    Now THAT is the kettle calling the pot black, Cause you ain’t institutionalised matey potatey?!

    Comment by Tim — September 15, 2012 @ 4:14 pm

  16. How is Sanctuary institutionalised, Tim? And please don’t reply by using your trademark beltway phrase.

    Comment by Dan — September 15, 2012 @ 5:11 pm

  17. Armstrong’s spleen-venting brings to mind the following quote by George Orwell:

    “Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed. Everything else is public relations.”

    Comment by deepred — September 15, 2012 @ 6:16 pm

  18. Edwards is not a journalist and does not have to put up with the trouble a journalist had to go through to get material. He just collates other people’s material .

    Which is fair enough. But if he wants to criticize particular instances if journalism then he needs to put forward an argument with a little more thought and effort.

    Campbell is more of a political commentator than journalist.

    It seems to me that they have both taken aview over the nature of media coverage of the TPP based on their already decided opposition to the TPP.

    Looking at the Guardian over the past few years it seems to me there’s been more commentary and less journalism because of financial constraints and more blog-style material thats cheaper.

    I can see why journalists get a bit peeved with blog stuff. In general is all care and no responsibility.

    Comment by NeilM — September 15, 2012 @ 7:58 pm

  19. “surely there’s a better medium…”

    Actually I noticed Vernon Small on Friday venting – in approximately Armstrong’s terms, though more briefly – on twitter.

    As to GC’s ‘ignorance’ of these matters I won’t speculate. And I wonder why Armstrong is reading Bryce Edwards when his deadline is approaching like a bullet train. Perhaps it’s useful?

    Comment by lyndon — September 15, 2012 @ 8:27 pm

  20. Seems to me that Armstrong is concerned that that no one takes much of his wisdom and insight about the sanctity of John Key and the National Party.

    It really is not on to question, let alone, criticise either Key or National. They are perfect.

    Comment by peterlepaysan — September 15, 2012 @ 8:44 pm

  21. Ha, 20 posts mostly proving Armstrongs point about polemic and bitterness from the urb lib beltway greenies

    Comment by Tim — September 16, 2012 @ 11:57 am

  22. What’s a beltway, Leon? And can you see if from your window?

    Comment by Judge Holden — September 16, 2012 @ 12:14 pm

  23. The beltway, Judge Dredd, is that thingy on your tummy you stare at a lot and then make important statements about how the neo-libs are teacher haters who burn the environment before they settle down for meal of milk fed working class baby veal.

    Comment by Tim — September 16, 2012 @ 1:29 pm

  24. So, wim/tusel, “the beltway” is a thing that only exists in your imagination? Interesting as an insight into your psyche, I guess … but otherwise not so much.

    On the actual Armstrong post … I get that it must suck to feel you’ve traveled all the way to Tokyo for no particular purpose (as nothing much happened, and whatever did happen you couldn’t see), but to then bitch about how other people comment on it is the journalistic equivalent of an author moaning that critics don’t “get” how hard it is to write a novel. Which is about as boring a trope as has been invented in the past few hundred years.

    Comment by Flashing Light — September 16, 2012 @ 3:11 pm

  25. So tell me flushing blight what insight does it give you?

    Comment by Tim — September 16, 2012 @ 6:43 pm

  26. Blogging is to journalism wot reality tv is to tv. It’s cheap, entertaining and says a lot about human nature.

    Twitter is politics reduced to bitchy one-liners.

    Comment by NeilM — September 16, 2012 @ 7:08 pm

  27. That you use cliches to communicate, wim, to compensate for not having anything to say.

    Comment by Flashing Light — September 17, 2012 @ 3:06 am

  28. I have been reflecting on this a bit more. It seems to me much of the problem with NZ journalism is it’s political reporting, which is dominated by the opinions of a bunch of journalists who are economically dry and pro the current neo-liberal establishment. Gower, Armstrong, Garner, Plunkett, Hoskings, O’Sullivan are all examples of this. These guys deserve short shrift when they bleat about the blogsphere attacking them because they are little more than paid bloggers, and often lazy ones at that. Norightturn often kicks the press gallery into touch with his efforts.

    But then you see what I consider to be two spankingly good stories broken by newspapers in the past few days – the revelation that the guy who built the CTV building is a fraud and the story today in the dompost of the apparent corrupt behaviour of Sir Ngatata Love – and I know only journalists in the MSM would ever have uncovered and reported on them. The question is how do we promote the sort of actual journalism of the kind we see in those to stories when advertising is moving online and the MSM is increasingly relying on personality driven opinions for their political coverage. I have always favoured the idea of a small monthly surcharge, administered by the ISP on behalf of the government, on all broadband/data accounts. I wonder what people would think if their got your monthly ISP bill and it included a $5-10 government surcharge that was used in the same way as the TV licence fee is used in the UK to provide an excellent print journalism via the Listener, public service TVNZ, National Radio as a sort of BBC radio 2 and 4, Concert FM as a sort of Radio 3 and Kiwi FM doing the same sort of job as BBC radio 1? Such a publicly funded service would provide a benchmark standard for private print, radio and TV to keep them honest and thus would raise standards all around.

    Comment by Sanctuary — September 17, 2012 @ 11:13 am

  29. @ sanc

    You quote two stories broken by privately owned media as a reason for me and the rest of the country to subsidise a public media service. Something doesn’t quite compute there.

    Comment by insider — September 17, 2012 @ 12:23 pm

  30. @29 – natch.

    @27 – you mentioned insight in terms of psyche so please do elucidate.

    Comment by Tim — September 17, 2012 @ 6:24 pm

  31. Wim,

    if you feel the need for diagnosis and/or counseling, I suggest you consult a professional rather than begging for help from strangers on the internet.

    Comment by Flashing Light — September 18, 2012 @ 4:10 am

  32. flushing blight – you said that you had insight into my psyche so why won’t front with the details??? Are you a bullshit artist?! (that’s a rhetorical question mind).

    Comment by Tim — September 18, 2012 @ 8:07 pm

  33. Reaction to this has broken pretty much along expected tribal political lines. Gordon Campbell either has The Gift of Wisdom or operates from a narrow ideological base. Depending on whether one has the gift of wisdom or operates from a narrow ideological base.

    His claims for his style of journalism are quite remarkable:

    In my view, those tasks of Evaluative Journalism are as essential and as difficult, as anything done in the name of Objective Journalism, which is often a mechanical procedure. And a parasitical one, as often as not – highly dependent on those on whom it feeds, and careful to avoid incurring the displeasure of its hosts.

    I would have thought it much harder to present differring view points objectively than to just have someone give their opinions. But I suppose that does presuppose that there can be valid differing options rather than the Godd vs the Neo-Liberal Evil.

    And the sort of crusading journalism he is championing is not some recent invention a courageous blogosphere. Pilger et al have been practicing it for quite sometime.

    Being Left Wing doesn’t provide some sort of infant access to the truth.

    Comment by NeilM — September 19, 2012 @ 12:59 am

  34. Instant, not infant

    Comment by NeilM — September 19, 2012 @ 1:00 am

  35. tusel,

    I see I’ve hit a nerve and understand you are feeling quite sensitive about this particular subject. What is it about your psyche that worries you so much that you feel the need for advice from strangers? And don’t you have friends you can talk to about this stuff?

    Comment by Flashing Light — September 19, 2012 @ 2:23 am

  36. Yes flushing blight you have nailed it again. Jeenus.

    Comment by Tim — September 19, 2012 @ 3:32 am

  37. But wim,

    You keep on coming back to this. It’s eating away at you, mate! Can’t you just let it go and return to what you do best? You haven’t even managed one “beltway” in the last three comments, and we’re all worried about you.

    Comment by Flashing Light — September 19, 2012 @ 7:22 am

  38. But but flushing blight you *still* haven’t cut to the chase and let me now about my psyche? Are you scared of me? Do you have beltway issues?

    Comment by Tim — September 19, 2012 @ 7:58 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a free website or blog at

%d bloggers like this: