Armstrong fires back

writes in the NZ Herald:

Here is a blunt message for a couple of old-school Aro Valley-style socialists:

Get off our backs. Stop behaving like a pair of tut-tutting old dowagers gossiping in the salons. In short, stop making blinkered, cheap-shot accusations of the kind you made this week – that the who went with John Key to Vladivostok and Tokyo concentrated on trivia, interviewed their laptops and parroted Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet press releases. …

Do the likes of former Listener columnist and Greens propagandist and former Alliance staffer and now Otago University politics lecturer have the faintest idea of the difficulties, obstacles and logistics of reporting an overseas trip by a prime minister, especially one which incorporates a major international forum like Apec?

Does it occur to them to actually pick up the phone and try to talk to those journalists about what is happening and why things are being reported in a certain way?

Of course not. That would risk the facts getting in the way of, well … interviewing their laptops and having yet another ritual poke at the parliamentary press gallery.

To read their drivel while stuck in a Tokyo traffic jam with your deadline approaching faster than a Japanese bullet-train makes your heart sink. …

But never mind. The rules that apply to journalists in terms of accuracy do not apply to Campbell and his echo chamber Dr Edwards – who is not be confused with Dr Brian Edwards, another blogger, but a far more original one when it comes to ideas and analysis.

Bloggers can blog when they like at what length they wish. Admittedly, they are normally not being paid for the privilege. Journalists are. But on a trip like last week’s one, the hourly rate slumps drastically by virtue of the hours worked.

Few media representatives travelling with John Key would have got more than four or five hours’ sleep each night – probably less – because of the Prime Minister’s schedule, which ran from 6am (earlier if a flight was involved) until well into the evening.

Days were spent clambering on and off buses in 35C heat and 100 per cent humidity.

Time has to be found within that schedule to write news stories and other articles – but not just for the following day’s newspaper. News organisation’s websites have to fed – especially if there is “breaking” news.

Deadlines in Asia are punishing, as countries such as Japan are three hours behind New Zealand, meaning deadlines are effectively even tighter.

Then there is the no small matter of filing stories back home. Equipment breaks down, mobile phones that are supposed to be in harmony with Japan’s system turn out not to be.

To Campbell’s credit, he does do his own digging. He is also a regular attendee at the Prime Minister’s weekly press conference. His blog is one of the more valuable. But he does have a blind spot with regards to the press gallery.

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.

Edwards’ blog is the extreme example of the fact that most blogsites rely on the mainstream media for their information and then use that information to criticise the media for not stressing something enough or deliberately hiding it.

Unlike the mainstream media, the blogs are not subject to accuracy or taste – and sometimes even the law.

It is the ultimate parasitical relationship. And it will not change until the media start charging for use of their material.

Monday’s media summary by Bryce will be an interesting read.

For my 2c I think John makes a very fair point about the reality of being a working journalist on on overseas trip, and the coverage of issues.

To be fair to Edwards, what he does everyday is not so much about blogging. His summary was originally circualated by e-mail, and it was his collection of links that people most valued. I know, as I sponsored it.

Since then his narrative around the day’s stories has become more prominent, and that is what most now read. Few actually read it I suspect on Bryce’s blog. Most I’d say read it off the NZ Herald and NBR websites, who as I understand it pay Bryce for his work – so not quite an unpaid blogger!

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