So why did Fairfax change their story?

May 23rd, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Whale Oil blogs:

Earlier today I busted Fairfax with their radical censorship of an article that was published yesterday.

Huge amounts of the original article were expunged and replaced with additions that made no sense. So much was removed that it shows clear manipulation of the story by someone.

WOBH contacted Labour and received an emphatic denial that they were involved in censoring the story. The spokesman for David Cunliffe said “We aren’t that powerful”.

Contact was also made with John Key’s people who as predicted said it wasn’t them.

I stand by my statement earlier that John Key probably laughed out loud when he saw David Cunliffe was calling him a liar.

It is worth following the links to the original story.

The Stuff article, here, originally had as its lead paragraph David Cunliffe saying the Prime Minister is a liar and his word can’t be trusted. They also had a direct quote from him saying “John Key tells lies”.

Now my reaction when I saw the original story was that it just made David Cunliffe look shrill and nasty, and that the more people who saw the article the better.

When Fairfax changed the story an hour later, I assumed they had got the quote wrong and Cunliffe never said what they reported.

However it seems Cunliffe does think it is a good strategy to go around NZ, and call John Key a liar. That’s fine. But why did Fairfax change the story to hide that? Did they think it was defaming John Key? Or did they think it made Cunliffe look too shrill?

Answers to those questions would be welcome.

It also raises the bigger issue of the practice of some media to significantly amend a story, and not note that have amended it. I think significant changes should always be noted.

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Will take more than want

January 22nd, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Finance Minister Bill English says he wants Google, Apple and Starbucks and other multinationals to pay more tax and hopes the issue will be raised at economic talks this week.

One can want them to do many things, but they’re not going to. Of course they will locate their tax base in a country with a lower company tax rate.

The minister said this morning that getting corporates to pay their fair share of tax required international collaboration.

“We’re very keen to see them pay more tax. The tricky bit is that it requires combined international action,” he told Radio New Zealand’s Morning Report.

“A whole range of countries are going to need to agree on tax rules for companies like Google and Apple and Starbucks and any number of corporates that you can think of.

Yep there is no unilateral solution. But even multinational co-operation has its limits. It takes just one country not to agree, and that is the country where those companies will be established for tax purposes. It will be good if they can get agreement.

Although Google and other companies had local offices in New Zealand, their tax bills were believed to be out of proportion with their reported sales in this country.

That’s because tax is paid on profits, not sales. ‘ll use a good example.

The latest APN financial statement has revenue of $461 million. Their tax was $652,000. Their tax as a percentage of sales was 0.14%. This is clearly out of proportion to their sales, and APN should immediately pay a fairer proportion.

How about a fair “living tax” of 5% on sales? This would mean APN pays tax of $23 million instead of $652,0000 and Fairfax would pay A$100 million instead of zero. Isn’t this the logical outcome of repeated reporting by APN and Fairfax of other companies’ tax bills in relation to their sales instead of their profits?

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A newspaper that pays no tax complains about tax avoidance!

January 16th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Dom Post editorial:

Taxes are what we pay for a civilised society, according to the great American Supreme Court judge Oliver Wendell Holmes.

If that is so, then aggressive tax avoidance is an offence against civilisation.

I’d love to know what the Dom Post defines as aggressive tax avoidance. I presume it means tax avoidance done by other companies, but not by ourselves.

Google, for instance, whose slogan used to be “Don’t be evil”, in 2012 paid a mere $165,000 in tax in New Zealand. Amazon paid $1.6m tax on sales of $46.5m. And Apple paid $2.5m on sales of $571m. Does anyone think these companies are paying their fair share?

I’ve got a much better example. Fairfax Australia (owns the Dom Post) paid no tax at all last year on revenue of A$2.01 billion. That’s outrageous I’m sure the Dom Post agrees, and I look forward to them joining with the NZ Herald to campaign on their owners paying more tax. The fact it means they may have to sack a few editorial staff to afford their increased tax bills I’m sure is not what is preventing them from not being total hypocrites.

Or maybe the Dom Post will say you can’t compare them to Google and Apple because tax is paid on profits, not revenue. Well yes they are, so why the hell did the editorial not mention that actual profits made by Google and Apple in New Zealand? They made a conscious decision not to tell their readers that essential piece of information.

For the record I’m all for the IRD taking court action against tax avoidance that is artificial, as defined in the Tax Act. They do this on a regular basis. For example, they are battling APN (NZ Herald) for $48 million.

Some will argue that companies are entitled to minimise their taxes. Tax avoidance, after all, is legal, unlike tax evasion. Some even say that companies owe their loyalty only to shareholders, not the taxpayer, the government or their fellow citizens.

This is plainly wrong. Taxes provide the schools, hospitals, infrastructure and social services on which we all depend. Corporations benefit directly from state-funded education, research, roads, courts and public health programmes. So they should contribute to “the cost of civilisation”.

I agree people should pay their taxes. Fairfax has paid no income tax in the last year. This means they are not contributing to the cost of civilisation. According to their editorial it doesn’t matter what their taxable profit is, as that may have been minimised by accountants. Amazon paid tax equal to 3% of their revenue. As the Dom Post seems to think you should pay tax on revenue, I think Fairfax should pay A$60 million immediately as their contribution to the cost of civilisation.

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Fairfax’s 2014 predictions

January 2nd, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Fairfax gallery team make 20 predictions for 2014:

1. National will get a lift in the polls early in the year as the economic news gets better.

2. John Key will reshuffle his Cabinet lineup in the first two months of 2014.

3. At least one of the Green MPs will step down before the general election.

4. Two of Labour’s “old guard” will go on the list to give themselves the option of quitting after the election without triggering a by-election.

Jones is one of them. I presume they mean list only. Not sure who the other will be.

5. Brendan Horan, Eric Roy and John Hayes will not be MPs by the end of the year.

6. Irrespective of the election result, David Cunliffe will stay on as Labour leader.

That’s a big call, and I would’t predict that.

7. The Genesis Energy sale will go ahead, but for the election campaign National will call it a day on the partial privatisation programme.

That’s not a prediction. National said some months ago there were no more planned.

8. Conservative leader Colin Craig will stand in the East Coast Bays seat, his party will get into Parliament but will not cross the 5 per cent threshold.

Agree they will make it.

9. The economy will start flagging late in 2014 as rising interest rates start to bite.

10. The brawl between Judith Collins and Steven Joyce over who will inherit John Key’s crown will heat up as the election approaches.

11. Mr Key will give the thumbs up to talks with all of National’s potential allies: ACT, the Conservatives, the Maori Party and UnitedFuture. But he will make it clear NZ First will be his last cab off the rank if he is in a position to form a Government.

Key may rule them out again, as he did in 2008 and 2011.

12. The Maori Party will win two seats at the election.

I said at least two. If they get 2% party vote they get a third seat.

13. Mr Key will visit the White House and host a high-profile return visit.

14. ACT will not get more than 1.5 per cent of the vote.

That high?

15. New Zealand’s push for a temporary seat on the United Nations Security Council will be successful.

I predicted the other way.

16. A senior member of David Cunliffe’s office will quit.

Statistically likely

17. Housing will be one of the most contentious themes of the year, prompting National to announce further measures to help low-income and first-home buyers.

18. There will be upsets in the seats of Napier, Mt Roskill, Te Tai Hauauru, Ohariu and Maungakiekie.

19. The election will be held in October.

20. National will form a Government with at least two other parties.

Another big call. I like that they are willing to make predictions. Would be fun if other gallery teams did the same, and one could judge them all at year end!

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Fairfax scores their predictions

January 1st, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Fairfax score their 2013 predictions:

At an annual salary of almost $145,000 plus allowances, Brendan Horan will continue to believe he is needed in the House and will tough out the criticisms and stay on in Parliament – unless the police intervene. 10/10. With a backdated pay rise before Christmas, this is a prediction with legs for 2014.

Rarely lose if you predict an MP will hang on!

Official interest rates will end the year no higher than they started it at 2.5 per cent, and if the Reserve Bank moves at all it will be to cut the OCR. 10/10. Predictions vary as to when the bank will move in 2014, with March the new favourite. But it flatlined in 2013.

It’s been 2.5% since March 2011, so a fairly safe and accurate prediction.

David Shearer will win unanimous support for his leadership from his caucus in the February vote, and remain safe from any serious challenge throughout the year. 0/10. As wrong as a wrong thing. No-one knows for sure how the vote went, but unanimous it wasn’t. Neither does jumping before you are pushed qualify as “safe from a serious challenge”.

I thought he would stay also.

Aaron Gilmore will return to Parliament and be joined by a least one other replacement list MP – though Gilmore will make no better an impression in 2013 than first time around. 9/10. We were simply too kind. One mark off because we did not pick how much worse he could be. The luckless Mr Gilmore out-did his own bad press as he came and went in just a few months. 

Could mark lower for not predicting he would go, but to be fair no one did.

5 Arise Sir Lockwood Smith. The former Speaker will be knighted in the Queen’s Birthday honours. 10/10. A bit like putting a dollar on the All Blacks to beat Japan, but on the money all the same.

As inevitable as the sun rise.

Hekia Parata will remain in Cabinet but lose the education portfolio. 3/10. We were holding our breath when the OECD figures showed New Zealand’s rankings plummeting but John Key held his nerve and she not only kept her seat at the top table, she kept the education role too.

Most of the plummeting is for kids who had their primary education under the last Government.

Labour will rewrite its list selection rules to give the regions and the unions less power, but not without a major controversy. 6/10. They rewrote the rules along those lines, but we failed to pick the major controversy would be around gender quotas and the late-but-unlamented “man ban”.

I’m not at all sure the new rules give unions less power.

National will fail to find a cross party “consensus” on changes to the MMP rules, but Opposition parties will pledge to implement the main Electoral Commission recommendations if they win power. 7.5/10. Sure enough Justice Minister Judith Collins used the “no consensus” line to justify no change, but the Opposition has not waited for the election but is rallying behind Iain Lees-Galloway’s member’s bill.

I’d score that one 10/10

The referendum opposing the sale of state assets will get the numbers and go ahead in October. But the partial sale of Mighty River Power will go ahead, after the Maori court challenge over water rights fails. The Government will also sell shares in Meridian and Genesis in 2013.7/10. The referendum went ahead (but in November) and the Government did sell three of its planned partial privatisations, although it opted for Air NZ ahead of Genesis after the share market developed indigestion over energy shares.

I never thought Genesis would go ahead in 2013. I believe Solid Energy would have, if it had not near collapsed.

10 John Key will make international headlines again for a gaffe to rival the Beckham putdown, but he will resist the urge to become a full time talkback host. 2.5/10

No gaffe, gov’r

11 Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples will bow to pressure and give up the co-leadership, opening the way for Te Ururoa Flavell. But Dr Sharples will not relinquish his portfolios. On the button! It’s a shame they don’t give more than10/10.

A good call.

12 Maurice Williamson and one other minister will announce they will not stand for re-election in 2014. 4/10. Come on Maurice – don’t keep us waiting! Oh, all right then, stay. Chris Tremain did surprise everyone with his decision to call politics quits. Kate Wilkinson and Phil Heatley were pushed out of Cabinet and have joined the exodus.

Keep watching – but maybe not for Maurice!

13 A new Right-wing party will emerge, offering to fill the need for an ally for National. But National will be less than enthusiastic. 6/10. There are a number of contenders including the 1Law4All Party that recently pamphlet-bombed some suburbs with policies that hark back to Don Brash’s Orewa speech. There is also a rumoured ACT-like party in the wings, but so far National only has eyes for its existing allies – and Colin Craig’s Conservatives.

A bit generous there. The party cited is a fringe party that will make no impact. Unless they have a significant leader or funding base, hardly counts.

14 The Government will launch the year with a major economic policy promising to boost job numbers and make employment its top priority. 9/10. It made the promises all right, with a John Key speech launching a big push on apprenticeships. Forests also gave their all for a series of glossy “business growth agenda” booklets. But did anyone notice?

Safe prediction that the Government will focus on jobs.

15 A minister will resign over allegations surrounding events that emerge from the past. 10/10. ACT leader and minister John Banks quit after he was hauled into court to defend his disclosure of donations during his campaign for the Auckland mayoralty.

Possibly a bit generous there. The resignation was not over events that emerged from his past. The events were well known in 2012.

16 As a consolation for missing out on the speakership, National list MP Tau Henare will be offered a diplomatic post in the Pacific. 3/10. Sure enough he missed out to new Speaker David Carter and was apparently sounded out on whether he was angling for a post, but it seems no formal offer was made.

His Excellency Tau Henare – has a ring to it :-)

17 The Greens will not top 15 per cent in any major poll in 2013. 9.5/10. The third party’s support has held up remarkably well during the year, but it only hit 15 per cent once – in the volatile Roy Morgan survey – and never bettered its target mark. So we are claiming vindication by a nose.

More recently Labour seem to be taking support from them.

18 Andrew Little and David Clark will be promoted to the Labour top 12 and Nanaia Mahuta will not hold the prime responsibility for education by year’s end. 6.5/10. Two out of three aint bad. Ms Mahuta gave way to Chris Hipkins in education. He hung on despite being on the wrong side of the leadership spill. David Clark did scrape into the top 12, before being demoted after the change at the top. Mr Little is still waiting . . .

Cunliffe demoted Clark to 20. still unsure why.

19 Growth will fall short of Treasury’s pick of 2.3 per cent in the year to March but the economic mandarins will be closer to the mark on unemployment, which will be near their 6.9 per cent forecast. 0/10. Don’t take investment advice from us (or Treasury). Growth actually bettered Treasury’s forecast reaching 2.7 per cent in the March year, while unemployment fell to a surprisingly low 6.2 per cent – though there was some questioning of the data.

A good one to be wrong on.

20 David Bain will be paid some compensation, even though a second review will be more ambivalent about his innocence – but he will get less than $1 million. 0/10. We are still awaiting the final outcome.

A new review will start once the judicial review action by Bain is dealt with.

Their overall score was 133/200. Not bad.

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The new Radio New Zealand CEO

June 13th, 2013 at 4:11 pm by David Farrar

I understand that the new CEO of Radio New Zealand is Paul Thompson. This has not yet been announced publicly.

Paul is currently the Group Executive Editor of Fairfax New Zealand. He has been a journalist basically all his adult life, starting as a cadet reporter at age 17. He has been Editor of both the Nelson Mail and The Press.

I predict the appointment of someone with such a strong media background will go down well with Radio New Zealand staff. My congratulations to him on the appointment.

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Stuff to go paywall?

June 10th, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Press reports:

Fairfax Media is looking at paywalls for its online publications in New Zealand, plans to cut staff and may close some publications as it faces the strains from falling advertising.

The Fairfax Media business in New Zealand includes newspapers such as The Press, magazines and online news websites, such as Stuff.

In Australia yesterday, parent company Fairfax announced plans to cut total group costs by A$60 million (NZ$72m), above the A$251m already promised to the market following a restructure of its print and digital operations.

As part of the update yesterday, Fairfax released details of digital subscription for its news websites in Australia with packages from A$15 to $44 a month.

In New Zealand, acting managing director Andrew Boyle said just when or how paywalls would be brought in here remained to be seen.

I’m sort of looking forward to the paywalls coming to New Zealand. I’d say it will lead to many more people coming to blogs, as they won’t be able to get their news from the main media websites.

It will be a good opportunity to boost resources at the blog, and try to fill the gap left by the newspaper sites.

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Fairfax’s 2013 projections

January 5th, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Fairfax gallery team have made their 2013 projections:

1. At an annual salary of almost $145,000 plus allowances, Brendan Horan will continue to believe he is needed in the House and will tough out the criticisms and stay on in Parliament – unless police intervene.

2. Official interest rates will end the year no higher than they started it at 2.5 per cent, and if the Reserve Bank moves at all it will be to cut the OCR.

3. David Shearer will win unanimous support for his leadership from his caucus in the February vote, and remain safe from any serious challenge throughout the year.

4. Aaron Gilmore will return to Parliament and be joined by a least one other replacement list MP – though Mr Gilmore will make no better an impression this year than first time around.

5. Arise Sir Lockwood Smith. The former Speaker will be knighted in the Queen’s Birthday honours.

6. Hekia Parata will remain in the Cabinet but lose the education portfolio.

7. Labour will rewrite its list selection rules to give the regions and the unions less power, but not without a major controversy.

8. National will fail to find a cross party “consensus” on changes to the MMP rules, but opposition parties will pledge to implement the main Electoral Commission recommendations if they win power.

9. The referendum opposing the sale of state assets will get the numbers and go ahead in October. But the part-sale of Mighty River Power will go ahead, after the Maori court challenge over water rights fails. The Government will also sell shares in Meridian and Genesis this year.

10. John Key will make international headlines again for a gaffe to rival the Beckham putdown, but he will resist the urge to become a fulltime talkback host.

11. Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples will bow to pressure and give up the co-leadership, opening the way for Te Ururoa Flavell. But Dr Sharples will not relinquish his portfolios.

12. Maurice Williamson and one other minister will announce that they are not standing for re-election in 2014.

13. A new Right-wing party will emerge, offering to fill the need for an ally for National. But National will be less than enthusiastic.

14. The Government will launch the year with a major economic policy promising to boost job numbers and make employment its priority.

15. A minister will resign over allegations surrounding events that emerge from the past.

16. As a consolation for missing out on the Speakership, National list MP Tau Henare will be offered a diplomatic post in the Pacific.

17. The Green Party will not top 15 per cent in any major political poll in 2013.

18. Andrew Little and David Clark will be promoted to the Labour top 12 and Nanaia Mahuta will not hold the prime responsibility for education by year’s end.

19. Growth will fall short of the Treasury’s pick of 2.3 per cent in the year till March but the economic mandarins will be closer to the mark on unemployment, which will be near their 6.9 per cent forecast.

20. David Bain will be paid some compensation even though a second review will be more ambivalent about his innocence – but he will get less than $1 million.

No 13 could be interesting. Not sure about the unions having less power in Labour list ranking, as they just gave them increased power in leadership selections.

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Fairfax scores its 2012 predictions

December 31st, 2012 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Fairfax gallery team put up 20 political predictions at the start of each year. I like that they are game enough to do so, as events can be hard to predict.

They have scored their 2012 predictions and got 126.5/200. Their best prediction:

3. Former forecaster Brendan Horan will prove to be NZ First’s own weather bomb.

Soothsaying at its very best. The embarrassing allegations about his use of his dying mother’s money, and his expulsion from NZ First speak for themselves. He was the party’s weakest link, goodbye. We thought it was worth a good 10/10 but the auditor gave a generous 12.5/10 noting it was “luck bordering on genius”.

A good call indeed. Balanced with:

17. NZ First will pick former North Shore Mayor Andrew Williams as its deputy leader.

Winston Peters is still teasing that an announcement will be made “soon” but after a year we are still waiting so . . . 0/10

I think they will annoint one in 2013, and it will be Tracey Martin.

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Fairfax slashes newspapers values by 80%

December 29th, 2012 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The NZ Herald reports:

Fairfax Media, which publishes the Dominion Post, Press and Sunday Star Times newspapers, slashed the value of its New Zealand mastheads by more than 80 percent in a group-wide writedown of its traditional publishing assets.

The New Zealand holding company, Fairfax New Zealand Holdings, valued its local newspaper titles at $175.2 million as at June 30, down from $950.1 million a year earlier, according to financial statements lodged with Companies Office. Value is allocated to the mastheads based on how much a company expects to recover from the asset, and is reviewed annually.

Ouch. That is a huge devaluation. Realistic, but painful.

The bulk of the remaining value in its titles is in the North Island publications such as the DomPost and Waikato Times, valued at $112.5 million, compared to $564.1 million in 2011. The South Island publications, including the Press and the Nelson Mail, were written down to $54.9 million as at June 30 from $343.2 million, while national publications such as the Sunday Star Times and Cuisine magazine, were valued at $7.7 million from $42.8 million.

Some might say $7.7 million for the SST is still too generous!

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Fairfax sells remainder of Trade Me

December 16th, 2012 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Fairfax Media is reportedly selling its remaining stake in Trade Me for about A$650 million (NZ$810m).

If the sale were to proceed, it would considerably pay down the company’s debts.

The stake is reportedly being sold to a range of New Zealand and Australian institutions in a placement through UBS, according to market sources.

The quoted sale figure would exceed what Fairfax paid for Trade Me in its initial investment five years ago.

Fairfax bought the online auction company from founder Sam Morgan and his fellow private investors for NZ$700m in 2006 and previously recouped NZ$364m by selling a 34 per cent stake through Trade Me’s initial public offering in December 2011.

Morgan went on to be made a board member at Fairfax.

In June, Fairfax further sold down its holding by 15 per cent at a discounted price of $2.70 a share, retaining 51 per cent of the company.

The sale is surprising because it is regarded as the best asset in the digital arm of Fairfax, said Lance Wiggs, a former Trade Me insider who worked on the initial sale to Fairfax.

‘‘It does make sense for investors that you want to separate your assets, one old media, one new media. If I was Fairfax I would want to own Trade Me, not old media,’’ Wiggs said.

The purchase and sale has been a net gain for Fairfax. However I do wonder at the wisdom of selling the only part of your business that actually made money!

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The Fairfax front bench ratings

December 15th, 2012 at 8:24 am by David Farrar

Fairfax have rated the respective front benches. Their ratings on a one to five star scale are:

  • Tony Ryall 4.5
  • Paula Bennett 4.0
  • John Key 4.0
  • Gerry Brownlee 4.0
  • Judith Collins 4.0
  • Chris Finlayson 3.5
  • Bill English 3.5
  • Steven Joyce 3.5
  • David Carter 2.5
  • Hekia Parata 0.5

The minor parties:

  • Russel Norman 4.5
  • Peter Dunne 3.5
  • Winston Peters 3.0
  • Hone Harawira 3.0
  • Tariana Turia 2.5
  • Metiria Turei 2.5
  • Barbara Stewart 2.0
  • Pita Sharples 1.5
  • John Banks 0

Labour

  • David Parker 4.5
  • David Shearer 4.0
  • Jacinda Ardern 3.5
  • Grant Robertson 3.0
  • Clayton Cosgrove 2.5
  • Maryan Street 2.0
  • Su’a William Sio 2.0
  • Nanaia Mahuta 1.0

A fair few there I’d dispute, but each to their own!

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SST online edition three weeks out of date

November 11th, 2012 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Is Fairfax abandoning having online editions of its Sunday newspapers? Previously it was mainly the Sunday News that was embarrassingly out of date, but now it is the Sunday Star-Times also.

The lead story on the SST home page is from three weeks ago. The most recent column is from five weeks ago.

Under latest edition, there are some sports stories from today, but none of them are on the SST homepage. The most recent non sports story is two weeks old.

Now many of the SST stories are on the Stuff website main page, which is good. But what is the point of having a homepage for the newspaper itself if they are not there also? Fairfax, in my opinion, either needs to drop having the SST as a separate sub-site within Stuff, or they need to keep it up to date.

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SST editor made redundant

October 19th, 2012 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

A media source tell me there has been a major upheaval at Fairfax and Sunday Star-Times Editor David Kemeys has been made redundant.

Next month a new role will be created of Chief Editor for Fairfax, in charge of the Sunday Star-Times and all online media.

The SST has been losing readers for some years. It will be interesting to see who gets the new top job, and if they can turn it around.

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Fairfax fairly fucked

June 18th, 2012 at 12:43 pm by David Farrar

The announcements today by Fairfax are massive. In summary, they are:

  •  The Sydney Morning Herald and (Melbourne) age to move to tabloid format on 4 March 2013
  • SMH and Age websites have most content go subscription only
  • Two printing facilities to close
  • 1,900 staff to be let go over three years
  • A$248m of restructuring costs, which will lead to A$215m annual savings
  • Sale of 15% of Trade Me for A$160m
  • Metro newspapers may go digital only (no print edition) if print advertising and circulation revenue declines materially

It will be interesting to see what happens to Fairfax in New Zealand.

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Fairfax’s 2012 predictions

January 2nd, 2012 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports the predictions of the Fairfax Gallery team:

1. Speaker Lockwood Smith will be our next High Commissioner to London and will be replaced as Speaker by Primary Industries Minister David Carter.

Agree

2. Labour will be comfortably over 30 per cent in the final polls of the year and David Shearer will be well-ensconced as leader.

Not so sure about comfortably, but agree Shearer will be well-ensconced.

3. Former forecaster Brendan Horan will prove to be NZ First’s own weather bomb.

Yes, have heard many a story about Mr Horan’s exploits when working on television. Will be interesting to see if any emerge with substance.

4. Parekura Horomia will not leave Parliament. A fate-tempting one this, after our previous failures picking the end of the Ikaroa-Rawhiti MP’s career and a similar track record with Jim Anderton. (In Mr Anderton’s case, it was only when we stopped picking he would leave that he felt free to go).

Agree – not in 2012 anyway.

5. A minister will be forced to resign over an employment issue or an ethical lapse.

Disagree for 2012. But probably at some stage in the three year term.

6. Continued economic problems in Europe spill over into Asia, forcing the Treasury to cut its forecasts, scotching hopes of a return to surplus by 2014-15.

If Asian growth falls, then yeah that goal will be damn hard to meet. But not entirely convinced Asia will be badly affected.

7. NZ First will be under 5 per cent in the polls at the end of the year. And probably at the start as well.

Agree.

8. Labour will signal key elements of its tax reforms are for the scrapheap, starting with the $5000 tax-free band.

Beyond doubt. They were pledging to borrow money for tax cuts – the very thing they spent years campaigning against.

9. The Greens’ election score of 11 per cent will be its high point, and the party will not better it in polls during 2012.

Disagree. I think they might poll better in an individual poll, but prob not on the average of the polls.

10. John Key will sign a free trade deal with Russia, but not before the Apec meeting at Vladivostok.

Agree.

11. National’s Alfred Ngaro, the Greens’ Eugenie Sage and Labour’s David Clark will be the surprise performers among the 2011 backbench intake.

I agree all three should be sucessful MPs. I’d also watch Mark Mitchell and Holly Walker.

12. ACT will choose a new leader, and it won’t be its sole MP, John Banks.

Banks may be co-leader, but I agree unlikely to be sole leader.

13. Whatever the state of the sharemarket, and however much the opposition protests, the partial sale of Mighty River Power will go ahead, raising about $1.8 billion net.

Yay.

14. The Maori Party will have a change of leader – and with two co-leaders in a three-person caucus there are not too many options.

Obvious, but I’d say 2013 rather than 2012 perhaps.

15. In a return to form, Winston Peters will reveal a scandal in a government department and drip-feed information in the House over several weeks. Deja vu all over again.

He’ll try but I suspect he has less people who will go to him with a scandal now.

16. Despite current predictions, the rebuild of central Christchurch will not be in full swing by year’s end, prompting the Treasury to delay any significant impact on economic growth from the construction work.

Sadly this may be right until the insurance issues are sorted.

17. NZ First will pick former North Shore Mayor Andrew Williams as its deputy leader.

Please yes.

18. 2012 will be a by-election-free year. That’s a hope as much as a prediction.

Probably, yes.

19. John Key will visit Europe during the Olympics in London. What a lucky coincidence.

No idea.

20. The Maori Party will beat last year’s record and go through more than three press secretaries.

Heh, quite possible.

They also had some less serious predictions:

2. Foreign Minister Murray McCully will dye his hair blond, just so he can fit in at the office.

Ha, classic

3. Green MP and Rhodes scholar Holly Walker will tweet about something other than morning tea and frocks.

Heh.

4. Labour deputy leader Grant Robertson will find a new way not to say he wants to be leader.

Grant is getting very practised at this.

10. Standing orders will be revised so the media can broadcast pictures if a fist-fight breaks out in the chamber.

They’ll publish anyway of course, regardless.

13. After a tireless search, Labour broadcasting spokeswoman Clare Curran will finally find an example of New Zealand journalism that is better than anything from overseas.

Yes, have never worked out how slagging off the entire NZ media industry, forms part of Labour’s media relations strategy.

17. Labour MP Shane Jones will watch The Sound of Music in his hotel during a regional development conference.

LOL

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Fairfax’s 2011 predictions

December 31st, 2011 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Fairfax gallery team have reported on how their 2012 predictions have gone. I like the fact they are game to make predictions, and sometimes quite specific ones. The summary is:

  1. National will form a government after the November 26 election – 10/10
  2. Botany will be a Clayton’s by-election – 8/10
  3. Judith Collins will become defence minister after the retirement of Wayne Mapp – 3/10
  4. Mercurial NZ First leader Winston Peters will stand in an inner-Auckland seat to maximise coverage of his bid to return to Parliament – 0/10
  5. The Maori Party will not improve its current tally of five seats –  6/10
  6. MMP will survive the referendum, meaning a second one will not be necessary – 10/10
  7. Labour president Andrew Little will not win New Plymouth, but will get into Parliament on the list – 10/10
  8. Labour will campaign on a new top tax rate on income above $120,000 a year – 8/10
  9. The Government’s popularity will drop mid-year as the rising cost of living, slow economic recovery and cuts in public spending usher in a mild winter of discontent – 3/10
  10. Labour leader Phil Goff will survive till the election, but not long after – 10/10
  11. Kris Faafoi’s majority in Mana will rebound in line with Labour’s traditional dominance in the seat – 6/10
  12. The Greens will beat their 6.72 per cent share of the vote from 2008 and bring in at least one fresh female face – 8/10
  13. National will campaign on partial listings of minority stakes in some state assets, including some of the bigger SOEs – 10/10
  14. Steven Joyce will take over the education portfolio – 0/10
  15. The Maori Party will hold its nose and see the new foreshore and seabed law into force despite Hone Harawira’s opposition – 10/10
  16. Georgina te Heuheu and Sandra Goudie will signal an end to their political careers – 10/10
  17. Rodney Hide will hold on to ACT’s Epsom lifeline – 1/10
  18. Revenue Minister and UnitedFuture leader Peter Dunne will finally realise his haircut is his biggest electoral liability and change it – or even admit it is a hairpiece – 5/10
  19. Another senior Labour MP will announce they are bailing out of politics at the next election – and unlike the retirement of George Hawkins and Pete Hodgson, this one will be a surprise – 0/10
  20. John Key will come back from “kicking the tyres” during his Hawaiian holiday and declare himself “relaxed” about his chances in election year – 10/10

Overall they got 128/200 – the same as last year. I’ll cover their 2012 predictions once they are published.

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The new Fairfax poll

July 27th, 2011 at 8:33 am by David Farrar

Fairfax have started polling again, with Research International. Stories are:

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Fairfax kills NZPA

April 7th, 2011 at 7:06 am by David Farrar

The NZ Herald reports:

The New Zealand Press Association, which has supplied news to newspapers for more than 130 years, faces closure after one of its owners withdrew its support.

The Wellington-based news agency’s 40 staff heard last night that Fairfax Media had given notice of pulling out of a co-operative ownership agreement with APN, publisher of the Herald, and independent newspaper companies.

NZPA’s board announced a review of the agency’s future, and a final decision is expected in a month.

Fairfax’s decision has one almost inevitable consequence – NZPA will close after 132 years, and New Zealand will jave no national news agency, such as AAP in Australia and AP in the US.

Fairfax seem to have not only killed off NZPA, but also stopped their staff from reporting on it. The one story on the Stuff website, reads like a Fairfax advertorial about why this is a good thing etc. No outside comment at all.

Very different to TVNZ. Often TVNZ is itself the news, and the TVNZ news department reports on that pretty much as they do for any other agency. Where are the Fairfax stories about the criticisms of their decision?

I think the decision is a disaster for parliamentary reporting, and bad for the overall news industry.

NZPA are the one news agency in Parliament that cover every bill before the House. When other media are safely home in bed, there will be a NZPA reporter noting what time the House rose, and what bill was being debated at the time. Likewise on select committees, they are often the only news agency there (apart from the excellent Select Committee News, which is subscription only).

What I also liked about NZPA is they complement the other press gallery agencies. The other agencies naturally focus on stories which sell – which will make for good television, can run on a front page etc. But NZPA are not about “sexy” stories. They just faithfully produce concise factual and relevant stories about what happened – reporters in the old fashioned sense.  And not just about Parliament, also from the courts and elsewhere.

This is partly why NZPA was so liked and respected by MPs and staff. In my 2009 survey of MPs and press secretaries on the press gallery, NZPA was rated the top agency.

NZPA also used to act as a pool, where member newspapers would share content with each other. This ended in 2006 – again due to Fairfax. Karl du Fresne has an excellent blog post from Jan 2010 on this. He noted:

What this all boils down to is that we know a lot less about ourselves.

As Ellis put it in his thesis, the information flows that help New Zealanders build and maintain a collective picture of themselves have been impaired.

NZPA has survived, but only as a shadow of its former self. It’s ironic that this profound change has happened with little public awareness and even less debate, but reporting on itself has never been one of the newspaper industry’s strengths.

The other sad aspect of the announcement is 40 or so NZPA journalists look to lose their jobs. I know a fair few of them, and they are are excellent reporters. NZPA Political Editor Peter Wilson is a national treasure. Peter’s been there for decades, and his weekly column (only carried in provincial papers) is a first class analysis of what is happening.

In the near future, Fairfax and APN won’t have the cost of NZPA anymore. I hope they see that as an opportunity to hire more journalists themselves to cover the gap NZPA will leave, and enhance their ability to cover important stories, even if not front page stories.

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Scoring the Fairfax 2010 predictions

January 1st, 2011 at 12:20 pm by David Farrar

I always admire Fairfax gallery staff for having the balls to make some predictions every year, and be judged on them. They have just self-scored their 2010 predictions and marked it as 128/100 – down from 145 in 2009 and 138 in 2008.

The story does not appear to be online, so no link, but here is the summary:

  1. The Government will play follow- the-leader with Australia’s tax reform plans, putting business tax cuts at the top of its reform agenda. 4/10
  2. There will be ructions in ACT and at least one of its MPs will signal an end to their political career. 10/10.
  3. Hone Harawira will be trouble. 10/10.
  4. Jim Anderton will not announce an end to his parliamentary career. 0/10.
  5. Prime Minister John Key’s “elegant” solution to the foreshore and seabed issue will turn out to be another way to write the same law, with minor tweaks, that Labour passed. 10/10
  6. The Government will signal partial asset sales will be part of its 2011 election campaign. 8/10
  7. Chris Carter will be relieved of the Labour foreign affairs role and his frontbench seat. 10/10
  8. Former Green MP Sue Bradford will run for the Auckland super- city council. 0/10.
  9. 9 The national standards fight will end in a points victory to the Government over education unions. 8/10.
  10. John Key will have a White House meeting with US President Barack Obama, but will make a second trip to Washington too. 5/10.
  11. Labour will struggle to get its poll rating over 35 per cent, although Phil Goff will survive as leader. 10/10.
  12. Two National MPs will announce their retirement from politics. 10/10.
  13. The economic outlook and Budget deficit will keep improving, lowering the forecast debt mountain. 0/10.
  14. John Key will reshuffle his ministers, or have a reshuffle forced on him. 8/10.
  15. The Government will put a woman in a top advisory role. 10/10.
  16. The Australia-New Zealand income gap will widen again. 10/10.
  17. The Government will water down or even scrap the requirement for ACC to be fully funded by 2019. 0/10.
  18. Labour’s Rick Barker will signal his retirement. 0/10.
  19. The 2010 Budget will make Bill English’s 2009 effort look like a lolly scramble. 7/10.
  20. John Key will admit, at least once, to not being “relaxed”. 8/10.

I thought they did very well with (2) and (7) as both were very specific and occured. Hopefully the full article will appear online as the commentary with the scoring is amusing.

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Fairfax’s top 25 lawmakers

December 27th, 2010 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Fairfax gallery staff give us their top 25 lawmakers:

  1. John Key
  2. Gerry Brownlee
  3. David Parker
  4. Simon Power
  5. Grant Robertson
  6. Tariana Turia
  7. Steven Joyce
  8. Judith Collins
  9. Annette King
  10. Bill English
  11. Phil Goff
  12. Trevor Mallard
  13. Te Ururoa Flavell
  14. Keith Locke
  15. Metiria Turei
  16. Tim Groser
  17. Pete Hodgson
  18. John Boscawen
  19. Hone Harawira
  20. Hekia Parata
  21. Sir Roger Douglas
  22. Tony Ryall
  23. Anne Tolley
  24. Amy Adams
  25. Shane Jones

Tony Ryall below Metiia Turei and Roger Douglas??? Really???

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The SAS Photos

January 22nd, 2010 at 7:15 am by David Farrar

Appalled is my reaction to the decisions of APN and Fairfax to run photos of SAS soldiers at work in Afghanistan, which show their faces.  The reported defence is:

Herald assistant editor John Roughan said the paper stood by the decision to use the picture which, he said, had real news value.

“The soldiers were in a public street, in a major city, visible to anybody, wearing their uniforms, carrying their guns, photographed as the New Zealand SAS.”

For fuck’s sake, they are not in Kabul to go to the movies. They are there because they take part in some of the most dangerous operations possible against the Taliban and associated forces.

By all means, run the photo – but why the hell didn’t you black out the face of the solider? There are some things more important than news value.

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Fairfax restructures

July 2nd, 2008 at 9:49 am by David Farrar

Fairfax is making up to 40 staff redundant as it restructures. Insiders tell me there are 190 – 200 subs nation-wide so that is a large number of redundancies.

I am told by said insiders that the announcement was brought forward by two days when someone accidentally posted details of it on the Fairfax Intranet. And it seems the way it was communicated has been sub-optimal.

But despite that, it does seem to be a quite different kettle of fish to what APN have done, which is outsource almost all sub-editing to Pagemakers – a very controversial move.

From what I can tell Fairfax is saying that subs will remain with each paper for local and sports news, but that centralised hubs in Christchurch and Wellington would sub-edit financial and world news plus features across all Fairfax papers.

Putting aside the obvious commercial imperative, and the impact it has on current staff (restructuring is never pleasant) I am not sure it isn’t a bad idea. Financial and world news doesn’t tend to be local and building up centres of excellence in those specialised areas makes some sense to me, while keeping local subs for local news.

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Maori voters supporting National

June 21st, 2008 at 12:55 pm by David Farrar

Today’s Fairfax poll is fascinating – now for the main result which is barely changed from May (27% gap closes to 24% gap), but the ethnic breakdown.

Now the number of Maori respondents will be very small (around 15% of 1,100 respondents would be around 165 Maori respondents only) but even with that it is unprecedented that Labour is almost in third place with Maori voters. They have National on 39%, Maori Party on 22% and Labour also on 22%. Labour ir normally way way ahead of National amongst Maori voters.

A sample of 165 has a margin of error of 7.8%. Large, but when the parties have a 17% gap, still arguably significant enough to say National leads amongst Maori voters.

I have just calculated the probablity that on those results National is in fact ahead of Labour amongst Maori voters, and it is 99.79%. So that certainly is significant.

It would be interesting to know how it differs between Maori on the general roll and on the Maori roll.

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Not touchy – there were two polls

May 23rd, 2008 at 2:52 pm by David Farrar

The good folk at Fairfax have informed me that there was no change to their poll on Stuff as I blogged yesterday, and no complaint from the 9th floor. I was confused ((c) Mike Williams) between a poll on the main Stuff site and a poll on The Press site. Now The Press’ site is part of Stuff with the same look and feel but it is editorially independent.

So both polls were on Labour Leadership. I saw one which merely had Goff vs Clark (The Stuff one) and then the other one which had references to this being hypothethical (the Press one) and did not realise they were different polls, and assumed it was the one poll which had been changed.

So my stuff up, but in my defence it can be confusing. Look at the front page of Stuff today and their poll is “Did Michael Cullen’s tax cuts meet your expectations?” with a “Yes” and “No” option. Then go to The Press front page and their poll is “Hooray – tax cuts are here. But is Finance Minister Michael Cullen’s generosity enough” with options of “Yes”, “No” and “I didn’t want a tax cut anyway. I’ll send it back.” They are asking (again) similar questions but in a slightly different way.

Fot those interested the Stuff poll had:

Goff 4,398 56.2%
Clark 3,433 43.8%

And The Press had in relation to would Goff be a good sucessor:

Yes 1,510 75.4%
No 316 15.8%
Your hypothetical question is not welcome 177 8.8%

I’ve amended the original post to make it clear it was wrong.

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