Sunday, January 23, 2022

Derek Mackie: Today's News - where facts never get in the way of a good story

The scene: Today’s News - a typical TV Newsroom in Aotearoa 

 News in Aotearoa is no longer the dreary, detached reporting of factual information and events, allowing free rein to the viewer’s own, often sadly misplaced opinions. 

 Today’s News is authentic, insightful and relevant. It has evolved to guide the viewer to the right answer, every time, by applying the news team’s youthful, yet highly experienced, bias and judgement to each story.
Complementing this approach is the practice of disregarding or denigrating unsanctioned theories and viewpoints - aka misinformation - that distract and confuse the audience, often leading them to undesired conclusions. In extreme cases, this can even adversely affect people's voting preference at election time. 
As a mainstream, state-funded news channel, we at Today’s News pledge NOT to let that happen. 

 Today’s News is unashamedly as much about public re-education and the promotion of minority, race and gender issues, as it is about imparting officially vetted and approved information. And, as a staunchly impartial media organisation, we are proud to deliver it, without fear or favour….subject to content meeting the terms and conditions of the Public Interest Journalism Fund provided through the generosity of the government. 

 Once the domain of mature and worldly journalists, contemporary news reporting is now a young person’s game. In fact, once you hit 35 you’re already on the shortlist to present light entertainment programmes like BreakfastTV, Fair Go and Seven Sharp, if you’re lucky…. or radio, if you’re not! 

 Today’s News is buzzing with young, keen, ambitious reporters; all fiercely individual, yet imbued with an identical social and political conscience. The cream of the recently indoctrinated, with their Bachelor in Communications, majoring in Linguistics and Politics. Appearing every night at 6pm to give the nation their take on Today’s News. 

 Older reporters, with years of experience, struggle to keep pace with the rate of social transformation and cannot accept the single truth narrative that is so fundamental to modern, progressive, democratic societies. They are simply unable to deliver our premier enhanced news product to you, in the unquestioning way you deserve. 
As the saying goes, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks! 

 Our in-house research studies have shown conclusively that, in Aotearoa, the over 40’s lack the mental susceptibility required to openly embrace the cultural and identity assimilation necessary for a truly fair and equitable society. 
One in which our unique indigenous people will eventually assume their rightful place as outright leaders of a dual-partnership governing arrangement, which will benefit us all equally….although, some may very well benefit more equally than others. 

 The more mature find this inevitable transition highly challenging and ask too many inappropriate and awkward questions. For their own good, they need to be sensitively managed through our current social enlightenment, until they ultimately congregate with their peers in peaceful retirement villages, specially built to care for them in their golden years, and lock them down if necessary. 
But there are a few “old hands” who have managed to chart a course through the gender, racial and ethnically diverse-rich waters and have emerged fully reconditioned on the other side. They are a shining example to us all and show what can be done when the chains of scepticism, enquiry and logic are cast off. 

 Now, let’s immerse ourselves in Today’s News. 
A key part of every day is the news editors meeting to discuss which stories will run on the evening bulletin and in what order. 
The following extract typifies the in-depth analysis and attention to detail applied to every story before it goes to air, to ensure you, the viewer, gets the most appropriate news experience, scrubbed clean of misinformation.

 Time to be a fly on the wall and meet the team. 

Ed (aka Boss) - News Editor 
Simon (aka Si) - chief newsreader 
Jessica (aka Jess) - political correspondent 
Mihingarangi (aka Mihi) - Maori Affairs correspondent 
Barbara (aka Babs) - Pasifika correspondent 
Jorja - junior correspondent (aka dogsbody) 

Ed: Nga mihi. Did I pronounce that right, Si? 
Si: Hold the Nga a little longer, then nice and punchy on the mihi. Personally, I prefer Hoke mai ano, but either’s fine. 
Mihi: What makes him such an expert? I’m the Maori Affairs correspondent. You should be asking someone who’s actually part-Maori.
Ed: Yeah, but Si uses more Maori reading the news than the rest of you put together. 
Anyway, it’s shaping up to be a big news day today so we’ve got some tough decisions to make. The big breaking story is that Lorde will be singing at Jacinda’s wedding! 
How do you want to play that Jess? 

Jess: This is a massive political story, Ed. It’s what we’ve been waiting for. I thought we’d finally have to run the Three Waters piece which we’ve had parked for the past few months, especially with the combined march on parliament planned by Groundswell and most of the local councils. 
Ed: I’ve told you before, Jess. That story will never air. It breaches the T’s & C’s of our PIJF grant which we rely on to pay my, and all your, six-figure salaries. 
Jess: Exactly Boss. But now we can do an exclusive with the PM and Lorde and discuss wedding song choices instead and their political influence in a social justice context. 

Si: Tukua ahau. I thought the purpose of the PIJF was to get us to report topics of interest to the public, like Three Waters. 
Ed: That’s why you’re a newsreader and not a reporter, Si. You’ve not been trained to dig to the bottom of the swamp in search of true meaning and the real story. You just accept things at face value. 
Si: Te nga koe. 
Mihi: Give it a rest, Te Reo boy! 

Jess: Can we get back to it, please. I want the centrepiece to be that Lorde based her big hit, Royals, on Jacinda. You just have to listen to the lyrics - ruler, queen bee - all the tell-tale signs are there. 
Ed: Have you fact-checked that? 
Jess: Mostly. Just have to ask Lorde herself and it’s done. 
Jorja: Sorry guys, I just Googled it. Royals was released in 2013 and Jacinda didn’t even become leader of the Labour Party until 2017. 
Ed: Sounds a lot like social media misinformation to me, Jorja. Or is it disinformation - whatever! 
You’re not long out of uni. You have to be very wary of facts in our business. They can be a minefield for inexperienced reporters who don’t know how to defuse them and make them safe. Just like quicksand, they can drag a good story down and smother it. 
Jorja: Sorry Ed. Still got a lot to learn. 

Jess: Us journos call it MisDis, Ed. It’s become so common in the last few years. I never realised how bad it was until the PM told us about it at her daily Covid truth conferences. 
I miss those so much. All that one-on-one kind and caring time with Jacinda…and that smile! You’re like a deer caught in the headlights of an oncoming Labour campaign bus. You want to run but you’re mesmerised. And anyway, Jacinda’s driving and she’d never knowingly kill a dumb animal so you know you’ll be safe. Does that make sense? 
Ed: No more than your average article, Jess! 
So, subject to Lorde agreeing to accommodate your facts, it sounds like we’ve got our bulletin lead story. 
Make it clear she can always go back in the MIQ lottery draw if she doesn’t play ball. 

Ed: Right, Mihi. What’s our compulsory Maori discrimination story tonight? 
Mihi: I’ve got an exclusive. A PhD student, specialising in public transport discrimination, has produced a Covid-funded research paper showing that, when running for a bus, Maori are possibly up to 10% more likely to be left behind by a pakeha driver than non-Maori. 
Si: Aroha mai. 
Mihi: What are you apologising for? 
Si: Ever since I went on the cultural competence training course I can’t help apologising for any pakeha racist behaviour. 
Ed: This is dynamite. Any other news outlets got wind of this? 
Mihi: Stuff was sniffing around but I’ve got the student in a safe-house. 

Ed: Have you read the report? 
Mihi: Well, I’ve skimmed it, as per standard procedure. The most obvious example is based on anecdotal evidence from a friend of the research student who saw a lady from behind wearing a hoodie, who he thought was Maori, running for a bus, which pulled away at the last minute. 
Si: Classic systemic racism! 
Ed: Is that all the data? 
Mihi: Of course not! There’s also an account of a Maori guy flagging a bus down but it drove straight past. However, he wasn’t anywhere near a bus stop at the time and was wearing a gang patch. 
There are plenty of others but those are by far the clearest examples. 
Ed: OK, that seals it. And the first example lets you play the sexism card as well as the racist angle. 

Jorja: What’s the confidence level of the sample data? 
Mihi: I was hoping nobody was going to bring that up. The report quotes 50%. That’s good, right? 
Ed: What does that even mean? 
Jorja: Well, in theory, the result is statistically meaningless. 
Mihi: Oh, come off it! Since when was low statistical confidence a valid reason to trash a great story? 
Ed: I completely agree. We’re running with it. 
And Jorja - you need to make sure you ask appropriate questions. The kind that gives us the answers we want. 
Jorja: Sorry, Boss. 

Ed: Well, Babs. You’ve been very quiet up till now. 
Please tell me you’ve got something better than an immigrant workers visa scandal or a Covid super-spreader event at a Pacifica church. 
Babs: Actually Ed, I have. And it’s pronounced Pass-i-fee-ka, for future reference. This story is so good it could knock the PM off the top spot! 
Ed: No story’s that good …..even when it’s that good! Read the PIJF small print. 
We still haven’t found our Opposition-bashing headline yet so you might get cut tonight. 
Babs: I think you’ll find this covers Pasifika and the Opposition, rolled into one. 
Ed: I’m all ears, Babs. 

Babs: Yesterday, at the hairdressers I was reading a Newshub article[1] on MP’s favourite Kiwi holiday destinations. It had a profile piece on Chris Luxon. 
One of his favourite places to go is Banks Peninsula, which was once a French settlement. He even likes researching the history of the place names and the original French settlers. 
He used to work in Canada and they speak French there. He obviously loves France and it’s not much of a leap to expect that he’s a big fan of Tahiti. 
Ed: In the Cook Islands? 
Si: Kao! It’s in French Polynesia. 
Babs: Exactly, Si. I felt the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. Being one of the more senior reporters on the news team, I remember years ago covering a story on the aftermath of nuclear testing in Mururoa. 
Ed: And!! I’m not getting anything, Babs. This is getting more tenuous than an overloaded bungee rope! 

Babs: Well, Ed. Mururoa’s part of French Polynesia and is close to Tahiti, give or take a thousand kilometres. Now surely you can join the dots? 
Ed: What bloody dots? Are you saying Luxon’s irradiated? Is that why he’s lost his hair? 
Babs: Highly unlikely but consider this. As we’ve established with absolute certainty, Luxon probably loves Tahiti, which is French, and is close to a nuclear testing area. He’s probably been there, or at the very least thought about going. So, applying reason and logic, why else would you potentially go there unless you were clearly pro-nuclear! 
It’s the obvious conclusion any self-respecting TV reporter would reach. Now do you see? 
Ed: Eureka! The scales have fallen from my eyes! Stories like this are gold. They start with a hunch then mushroom into a translucent cloud of supposition and conjecture. 
Si: Ataahua, Ed! You’ve got such a way with words. 
Ed: Well, I was once a reporter myself, Si, many moons ago. Just like herpes, being a journo’s in your blood. You never lose it! 
Mihi: Great analogy, Boss. I’m gonna use that when I show the next graduate intake around and the try-hard asks why I joined Today’s News. 

Babs: Hey guys! I hate to interrupt your mutual appreciation party but there’s more. This is one of those stories that just keeps on giving. 
Back in the 80’s, Greenpeace was always sailing in and disrupting the nuclear testing programme. The French don’t like that sort of thing so they sent a couple of secret service agents to blow up their boat. It was a huge story at the time. 
Ed: Ah! I see where this is going. You’ve found out Luxon was a French agent! 
Jorja: According to Wikipedia, Mr Luxon was only 15 when the Rainbow Warrior sank. He could still have done it though, I suppose. 
Babs: No, that’s being ridiculous, guys! 
What I’m saying is that Luxon’s certainly probable covert pro-nuclear leanings and love of all things French, also mean that he may, very well, tacitly approve of the sinking of the Rainbow Warrior and so must be, by extension, anti-environment too! 
And he’s probably a closet climate denier into the bargain - but that’s another story for next week. 

Ed: Wow! This could be huge. I feel another National Party leadership challenge coming on already. 
Have you fact-checked any of this? We’ll have to have all our ducks in a row when we go to air. 
Babs: Not as such. It’s more of a high level opinion piece, really. 
Ed: Have you got any proof, however flimsy? Has he even been to Tahiti?
Babs: I thought Jorja could do that bit. She’s a whizz on Google. I’m more of a creative, wild ideas person. 
Ed: Well, it’s exactly the kind of story we love to run on this channel. Hard-hitting, controversial, anti-right wing. 
It’s got everything…apart from the detail and supporting evidence. I’m sure Jorja can find that in the next two hours, one way or another. 
I’m making an executive decision here. We’re running it! 
Babs: That’ s why I love this job. 

Ed: Where are you going Jorja? 
Jorja: I thought I better get Googling. To back up Babs’ story. 
Ed: Plenty of time for that. I want to hear what you’ve been working on.
Jorja: It’s an environmental piece. Something that will appeal to the kids, like you said. An ideal filler between sensationalism and sport. 
Ed: Great. Let’s hear it. 

Jorja: It falls into R & D, as well. A startup Kiwi technology company has invented a device to stop pods of pilot whales beaching. 
Ed: Really! That’s great…for the whales. Maybe not so good for our ratings. Everyone loves to see a good whale-beaching, unless the bloody thing dies, of course. Go on. 
Jorja: It’s an underwater sound system which is anchored near the mouth of a bay that is known for whale strandings. It mimics the cry of an orca, which is the major predator of pilot whales. When they hear it they swing back out to sea and, mostly, live happily ever after. 
Si: I love whales. Whalerider is my favourite wildlife doco. 

Ed: Has this doohickey been trialed? 
Jorja: Yes, but there was one unexpected adverse outcome. The noise also attracts real orca so, as you can imagine, not the ideal result for at least one pilot whale. 
Ed: Well, it’s better than losing the whole pod. 
Why do they call them pilot whales, anyway? They’re not very good at missing land, are they? I wouldn’t want one navigating my new luxury yacht, I can tell you! 
Jorja: You’re so right, Ed. 
They’ve also found that with continued testing, the orca, being highly intelligent as you know, have figured out that near the areas where the unit’s located they’ll likely find pilot whales, so now they fan out at the approaches to these bays and wait for an easy feed. 

Ed: Not sure we want to report that bit. It’ll scare the snowflakes who think orca are big cuddly swimming pandas that only eat seaweed. 
Oh yeah, and make sure you blame whale strandings on climate change. That way we keep the Greens happy and can say Aotearoa’s doing its bit to fight the effects of global warming. 
Our Facebook and Twitter pages go nuts if we don’t link climate change to at least one story each night. 
Jorja: I can’t find any evidence for that. Do you still want to run it? 
Ed: Sure! Just make the story what you want it to be. Chop out the bits that don’t fit the narrative and improve the bits that do. 
Standard media journalism that I’m sure you covered extensively at university. 
Jorja: I’m so lucky to have you as my mentor, Ed. 

Ed: So people, we’ve got our stories. 
We’ll lead with Jacinda and Lorde, what else! Then follow that with…well, it’s got to be the Luxon story, Babs. 
Babs: Yes! Second on the board. 
Ed: Sorry, Mihi. That drops you back to third. Unusual, I know, but tonight’s exceptional. 
Mihi: That’s borderline racist! 
Ed: Then Jorja’s feel-good story takes us into sport. 
It’s great to see my team getting back to basics and demonstrating good, old-fashioned investigative journalism, fully supported by a hefty dose of wild speculation and unverified half-truths. 
Keep up the good work. 


Derek Mackie is a geologist with a keen interest in current affairs.


Janine said...

Derek. If our other political parties don't have the means to seek out alternative media outlets, which I am sure many of us would watch, then we will keep getting served up the same nonsense. Personally, I haven't watched New Zealand tv for a long time. If people are really serious about trying to change our media I suggest we ALL switch off for a week or so. If nobody watches they become irrelevant. Just basically talking to each other. It's actually pretty easy...a bit like discarding an old pair of slippers that have passed their used by date.

Also, all these " celebrities" now appear to have "become" the news not report the news.

Tova O'B and her employment dispute. The ageing Hillary B with her endless " off the shoulder" photo shoots and other ( unknowns to me )
being pictured with airbrushed, cute family shots appearing on my tablet.

Ray S said...

Ouch!that hurts, but the truth always did.

Doug Longmire said...

Brilliant Derek !!
That was a superb "documentary" !! So true.

Doug Longmire said...

I recall watching the TV 1 news, reporting on the Tonga volcano and tsunami.
You could see that the reporter was almost having to bite her tongue to avoid saying that the tsunami was caused by "climate change", which is the standard TV1 procedure when reporting any natural event.

Vaughan said...

Why are you supporting the name change of the Govt with calling NZ Aotearoa
this is only helping the advancement of their agenda

Derek Mackie said...

You may have missed the point. The article is satirical and is making fun of the media who constantly use Aotearoa.
Using New Zealand doesn't work in this context.