Very sad

April 27th, 2010 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The Treasurer of the Parliamentary Press Gallery has stepped down after admitting he used press gallery funds for his own personal use.

A statement from the executive said NZPA reporter Ian Llewellyn made the admission in writing.

I was stunned when I read this last night, and am incredibly saddened by the revelation.

I’ve known Ian for over a decade, and regard him as an excellent journalist and a really good guy. This is so out of character for him that I almost couldn’t believe it.

According to the executive, Mr Llewellyn said he had been in financial difficulty but had made some repayments.

While financial difficulty is no excuse, a thought that crossed my mind was that if Ian had crossed over to the dark side (comms/pr) he would have been better off financially, but NZ has been better served by the fact that not all the experienced journalists do cross over. Again, this is no excuse.

Press Gallery chairwoman Jane Patterson and deputy Vernon Small said they were extremely disappointed at the breach of trust by a longstanding office holder and colleague.

As much as my thoughts are with Ian, I also feel very sorry for Jane and Vernon. Having to deal with this must have been very unpleasant for them. Also Ian’s NZPA colleagues especially will be finding this tough.

The Press Gallery intends to ask an independent auditor to examine the accounts covering the period in question, the statement said.

“Given the watchdog role the Press Gallery plays, it intends to handle this matter as openly as possible, and is intending to seek advice from the police.”

Yeah, there really is no choice but to do it publicly.

The statement said Mr Llewellyn has promised to pay back any missing money.

“The Press Gallery voted today to recommend to the Speaker of the House that Mr Llewellyn’s accreditation be suspended pending the outcome of the audit.”

Ouch. I can’t even recall the last time that happened. I’m not sure if it will ever be feasible for Ian to return to the gallery, but I do hope there is a way he can remain with NZPA. It would be sad to lose Ian from journalism, and he is paying a high price in terms of publicity for what he did.

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MPs survey of the media

September 29th, 2008 at 3:20 pm by David Farrar

Last week I set up an online survey for MPs, asking them to rate various media organisations and senior gallery journalists on a scale of 0 to 10. Just under one quarter of MPs responded, and the results are shown below.

As the media often rate how well MPs are doing, I thought it appropriate to reverse this and ask the questions in reverse. The media are a hugely powerful filter, and it is appropriate (in my opinion) to have some focus on how well they are perceived to be performing.

The questions were:

  1. For each media organisation please give them a rating from 0 to 10 for how well you think they do in their parliamentary reporting. This should take account of all relevant factors – accuracy, fairness, thoroughness, relevance, substance etc.
  2. Now for some individual senior members of the press gallery, please rate from 0 to 10 how well you think they perform at proving fair, accurate, unbiased and informative reporting on Parliament. You can skip any that you do not feel able to rate.
  3. Finally can you indicate your party grouping as National, Labour or Other. Your individual identity is not sought by us, and we have no way or interest in identifying individual respondents. However we would like to summarise results for all MPs and by the three groupings to see if they vary by party grouping.

It is important that these be read in context, so make the following points:

  1. This is the opinion of MPs only. It does not set out to be an objective rating, and should not be seen as such.
  2. MPs get reported on by the gallery. While this makes them the group of NZers potentially best able to have an informed opinion on the media (which is why I surveyed them), it also gives them a conflict of interest. MPs may score journalists lowly due to personal run ins with them, or the fact they are too good at their job! This should be borne in mind.
  3. I only e-mailed the survey to the 121 MPs, but it is possible that one or more responses was filled in by a staff member who has access to the MPs mailbox. I think this is unlikely, as most staff are very professional. However MPs were not required to prove their identity to vote, as confidentiality of individual responses was important. You need to know the Survey URL to be able to vote.
  4. National MPs made up 43% of responses, slightly above their numbers in Parliament. Minor Party MPs were also slightly over-represented, Labour MPs under-represented and some MPs did not give a party identification.
Media Mean Median Mode Minimum Maximum Range
NZ Press Assn 6.1 6 6 4 9 5
Newsroom 5.8 6 5 1 10 9
Trans-Tasman 5.5 6 6 0 8 8
NZ Herald 5.3 6 6 0 8 8
Scoop 5.2 5 5 0 10 10
Newstalk ZB 5.1 6 7 1 8 7
Listener 5.0 5 3 1 8 7
NBR 4.9 4 4 1 8 7
Radio NZ 4.8 6 3 1 9 8
Radio Live 4.4 5 1 1 8 7
Sky/Prime News 4.3 5 5 0 7 7
The Press 4.2 5 1 1 7 6
TV Three 4.1 5 6 0 8 8
Dominion Post 4.1 4.5 1 1 7 6
TV One 3.9 5 5 0 6 6
Maori TV 3.7 4 5 0 6 6
Herald on Sunday 3.5 3.5 7 0 7 7
Sunday Star-Times 2.7 3 3 0 5 5

NZ Press Association tops the rankings with a mean or average 6.1 rating – and received no very low ratings from anyone. The two Internet agencies were in the top five, indicating MPs like the fact their releases are carried in full. Trans-Tasman also does well.

Television generally gets ranked lowly with all four stations in the bottom half. Sky News actually ranks highest.

Radio is middle of the field with NewstalkZB being the highest ranked radio broadcaster.

The newspapers range the spectrum. The NZ Herald is up at 5.3, Press at 4.2 and Dom Post at 4.1. I would have them all higher, but this is a survey of MPs, not of my views.

Now the sample sizes are of course very small (but of a limited population) but let us look at how National MPs ranked media compared to all the other MPs:

Media All Mean Nats Mean Others Mean Difference
TV One 3.9 6.3 2.2 4.2
TV Three 4.1 6.2 2.6 3.6
Maori TV 3.7 5.2 2.5 2.7
Sky/Prime News 4.3 5.5 3.3 2.2
Sunday Star-Times 2.7 3.5 2.1 1.4
Radio Live 4.4 4.8 4.2 0.6
Radio NZ 4.8 5.0 4.6 0.4
Dominion Post 4.1 4.2 4.0 0.2
Herald on Sunday 3.5 3.5 3.5 0.0
Newstalk ZB 5.1 4.8 5.4 -0.6
The Press 4.2 3.8 4.6 -0.8
NZ Herald 5.3 4.2 6.1 -1.9
NBR 4.9 3.3 6.1 -2.8
Listener 5.0 3.3 6.3 -3.0
NZ Press Assn 6.1 4.3 7.4 -3.1
Trans-Tasman 5.5 3.3 7.1 -3.8
Scoop 5.2 2.8 7.0 -4.2
Newsroom 5.8 3.0 8.0 -5.0

National MPs ranked the four TV channels much higher than other MPs did. Maybe this is minor parties upset that they do not get on TV much?

Despite the generally accepted lean to the left of Radio NZ, National MPs ranked Radio NZ higher than other MPs did. And while some on the left attack the NZ Herald at favouring National, National MPs actually ranked them lower than other MPs did. The Listener and NBR also get accused of leaning right, but again get ranked lower by National MPs.

The Nat MPs also rated the online media very lowly.

Now the journalists. I decided not to list all members of the press gallery, but only those who are relatively senior, and are more likely to have a reasonable number of MPs have formed opinions about them. Looking back I could have included more.

If any journalist is unhappy about being missed out, happy to include you next year. Now again it is worth remembering these are only the opinions of those MPs who responded to my survey – it is not an objective rating.

Journalist Mean Median Mode Minimum Maximum Range
John Armstrong (NZH) 6.4 7 2 2 10 8
Peter Wilson (NZPA) 5.8 5 5 3 8 5
Audrey Young (NZH) 5.7 6.5 7 0 10 10
Ian Templeton (TT) 5.6 7 7 0 9 9
Jane Clifton (Listener) 5.6 6 6 2 9 7
Barry Soper (Sky & ZB) 4.9 5.5 7 1 9 8
Ian Llewellyn (NZPA) 4.9 5 5 1 8 7
Vernon Small (DP) 4.6 5 6 1 8 7
Colin Espiner (Press) 4.5 5 6 0 8 8
Guyon Espiner (TV1) 4.4 5.5 7 0 7 7
Tim Donoghue (DP) 4.1 4.5 2 1 9 8
Brent Edwards (RNZ) 4.1 4 4 0 7 7
Tracy Watkins (DP) 3.8 4.5 6 0 7 7
Duncan Garner (TV3) 3.7 3.5 3 0 8 8
Gordon Campbell (Scoop) 3.6 5 5 0 7 7
Ruth Laugeson (SST) 2.7 2.5 2 0 6 6

John Armstrong tops the ratings, followed by the NZPA Political Editor Peter Wilson. Generally MPs ranked journalists slightly higher than media organisations. As can be seen by the minimum ratings showing, some MPs were very harsh handing out zeroes. Did WInston multiple vote? :-) (Note I have no idea if Winston did vote)

And once again we compare responses between National MPs and other MPs.

Journalist All Mean Nats Mean Others Mean Difference
Laugeson 2.7 4.2 1.6 2.6
Clifton 5.6 7.0 4.5 2.5
Soper 4.9 6.2 4.0 2.2
Campbell 3.6 4.8 2.8 2.0
Edwards 4.1 4.8 3.5 1.3
Llewellyn 4.9 5.2 4.7 0.5
Young 5.7 6.0 5.5 0.5
Garner 3.7 3.5 3.9 -0.4
Espiner G 4.4 4.2 4.6 -0.4
Wilson 5.8 5.5 6.0 -0.5
Armstrong 6.4 6.0 6.8 -0.8
Watkins 3.8 3.0 4.4 -1.4
Donoghue 4.1 3.2 4.9 -1.7
Small 4.6 3.2 5.6 -2.4
Espiner C 4.5 2.8 5.8 -3.0
Templeton 5.6 1.8 8.5 -6.7

Again very interesting. The SST is generally seen as hostile to National, but Ruth Laugeson is ranked much higher by National MPs, than by other MPs. Likewise the Gordon Campbell and Brent Edwards (both left leaning) are ranked higher by National MPs than other MPs.

Also for some reasons National MPs ranked Ian Templeton very lowly. Maybe they don’t like his weekly chats with Clark and Key, ignoring the lesser MPs?

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Review of Absolute Power

April 28th, 2008 at 7:05 am by David Farrar

Ian Llewellyn of NZPA has done a review of the Helen Clark biography “Absolute Power” by Ian Wishart. It’s a fair and balanced review in my opinion. I am not sure which papers will carry the review, but here are some extracts:

The book, released last week, is a collection of articles which attempt to prove Wishart’s thesis that the current Government is corrupt and Prime Minister Helen Clark entered Parliament under false pretences to push a hidden agenda.

The book is similar in many ways to Nicky Hager’s book The Hollow Men, and they share many of the same strengths as well as flaws.

They also both reveal as much as about the author’s world view as they do about their subjects.

Both gathered exhaustive (and in places exhausting) material and did meticulous research, but the impression is the evidence has been gathered and presented to reach a pre-determined position.

I think that is a very fair call. Ian Wishart didn’t just form a view as he started to put his book together that Helen Clark was no good – he has been of that view for some time.

In Hager’s case it was that National was controlled and driven by dark forces ranging from big business, the religious right and foreign interests.

Wishart aims at the other end of the political spectrum and sees Miss Clark as someone who would do anything to get into power and do anything to hold on to it, all in order to push a hidden feminist, socialist agenda on an unsuspecting New Zealand.

It is unclear whether political blindness or naivety colours both authors’ views as they often see quite ordinary political processes as something far more sinister.

In Hager’s case, the lobbying of big business and internal caucus power struggles were proof of conspiracy. …

The fact that people join or lobby political parties to push a view that they believe is a better way for the world seems to be lost upon both authors.

I can’t agree too strongly here. Hager would have you believe that every business donor and supporter is motivated by self interest and greed, rather than a genuine belief in their views and policies being best for NZ. Likewise Wishart does fall down when he reads too much into fairly predictable stuff such as the PMs Office not being very helpful too him.

This is not to say that Wishart’s compilation of all the scandals under Clark is not valuable. People have become so used to them, they hardly register now, and the one thing they all have in common is that in almost every case Clark or her coterie lied and covered up – from paintergate to corngate to speedgate (yes I know all those gates sound lame but they make for easy reference) to doongate.

Much of the book is spent on Wishart’s arguments over whether it is ethical to get into the personal lives of politicians.

He concludes that it is necessary to expose hypocrisy.

Some of the material is an interesting take on political events, such as the downfall of former police commissioner Peter Doone and similar events.

It also documents the habit of many politicians to say one thing in opposition and another in government.

Wishart believes his book portrays a pattern of behaviour that makes Labour and Miss Clark unfit to hold office.

For his followers and those who dislike the current administration, the book will be a gospel.

Miss Clark’s supporters will dismiss it as the ravings of an obsessed individual.

The vast majority of the population will simply not care either way as they accept things are not black and white; instead there are many shades of grey.

Most people accept that others are prone to make mistakes and get things wrong, as much as they get things right.

In the end Absolute Power is not Absolute Gospel, but neither is it entirely Absolute Nonsense.

NZPA should be congratulated for doing a review of the book, rather than just ignore it. I suspect those on the left will not like the comparisons to Hager’s book (which is treated like the Koran by some Labour Ministers as they refer to it daily), but likewise some on the right will not like the dismissal of much of the book as reading too much into everyday politics.

When you have upset people equally on both sides, then you are often spot on :-)

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