Blog Archives

Getting the news out, James Norcliffe

Surviving 7.8: New Zealanders Respond to the Earthquakes of November 2016
Phil Pennington and Radio New Zealand
HarperCollins, $35.00,
ISBN 9781775541103

 

New Zealanders, Cantabrians in particular, have, over the last half-dozen years, become reluctant experts in earthquakes. We have experienced the wobbly ones, the shuddery ones, the bumpy ones, the noisy ones that just go whack – a whole hitherto unknown taxonomy of geomorphological effects. The Richter scale has become as familiar as the bathroom scales and referred to as often. One of our favourite websites is Geonet, and glib, hackneyed epithets like earth-shattering and world-shaking have taken on a whole new oh-so literal meaning.

Thus, when, just after midnight on November 14, 2016, we were woken by a long rolling shake that seemed to go on and on forever, my wife and I knew at once that we were experiencing another Big One, but we knew, too, that it wasn’t Christchurch this time; it was farther away. Our first thought was the Main Divide, our second thought was Wellington, and we were immediately concerned for friends and family in the capital.

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Posted in History, Media, Non-fiction, Review and Sociology

Fiasco, Jon Johansson

Hit and Run: The New Zealand SAS in Afghanistan and the Meaning of Honour
Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson
Potton & Burton, $35.00,
ISBN 9780947503390

As someone who has been around the political traps a fair while, my heuristic for judging political actors in and outside party politics is not the colour of their political stripe. Rather, there are people one would want to share a trench with; others, one would not – and, although rare, the odd person best sent to the enemy trench for the chaos they would cause. My trench is very multi-partisan as a result, and Nicky Hager, a friend, is emphatically in it. He’s exhibited, over a long time, courage and commitment when challenging the unequal power of the state over matters mostly concerning their coercive powers, as well as showing strength of character to withstand the blowback for doing so.

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Posted in Media, Non-fiction, Review and Sociology

Protect, promote, and attract an audience, Wayne Hope

Māori Television: The First Ten Years
Jo Smith
Auckland University Press, $45.00,
ISBN 9781869408572

The birth of the Māori Television Service in March 2004 coincided with nationwide protests against the Labour government’s plan to entrench, legislatively, Crown ownership of the foreshore and seabed (in response to a Court of Appeal decision legitimising prospective claims based on Native Title). A 13-day hikoi beginning in Northland arrived in Wellington on May 5. Over the same period, Tariana Turia announced that she would oppose the legislation and resign her ministerial portfolio. The formation of the Māori Party two months later appeared to signal a political resurgence of the pan-Māori Te Tino Rangatiratanga principles which had been advanced through the language and land rights struggles of the 1970s and 1980s, and by the Mana Motuhake Party in the 1990s. In this context, the establishment of a Māori Television Network was an historic accomplishment. The New Zealand “colony-to-nation” myth, which had informed mass-mediated constructions of national identity, could now be openly contested. Māori journalists, broadcasters, and programme-makers could foreground and develop their own cultural knowledges in contradistinction to assumed monoculturalism.

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Posted in Maori, Media, Non-fiction and Review

Fake news, bad news, old news, Gyles Beckford

Don’t Dream It’s Over:  Reimagining Journalism in Aotearoa New Zealand
Emma Johnson, Giovanni Tiso, Sarah Illingworth and Barnaby Bennett (eds)
Freerange Press, $40.00,
ISBN 9780473364946

I’m a dead man working.

My family tells me, my colleagues and competitors tell me, my friends tell me: end of career, old technology dinosaur, attached to printed and spoken words. All past, no future. This collection of essays, interviews, and homilies tells me so often in its more than 350 pages.

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Posted in Media, Non-fiction and Review

Cartoonist with bite, Dinah Priestley

Murdoch: The Cartoons of Sharon Murdoch
Sharon Murdoch (with commentary by Melinda Johnston)
Potton and Burton, $40.00,
ISBN 9780947503239

Anne Tolley crouches watchfully inside a beneficiary’s uterus, high heels digging into the soft pink flesh, her two fists blocking the fallopian tubes. The cartoon is startling, funny and elegant. Labelled “Reproductive Politics”, it illustrates the Health Minister’s remark that she wanted to find ways to stop “at risk” beneficiaries having more children. I used to believe that most of us women do not have the bite to be successful editorial cartoonists. But I was wrong. The editorial cartoons of Sharon Murdoch have plenty of bite and anger, which she manages to combine with elegance and subtlety. In seven years, Murdoch has gone from being the cartoonist of her popular crossword cat Munro to being represented as editorial cartoonist in major New Zealand papers, notably the Press, Dominion Post, Waikato Times and Sunday Star Times.

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Posted in Media, Non-fiction, Review and Sociology

Rethinking the past, Melissa Laing

Re-inventing New Zealand: Essays on the Arts and the Media  Roger Horrocks Atuanui Press, $45.00, ISBN 9780992245382 As I opened a blank document to begin this review, a tweet popped up in my feed from Morgan Godfery: “Sure,” Godfery writes

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Posted in Art, Essays, Media, Non-fiction and Review

For us there is only the trying, Paul Morris 

Tell You What: Great New Zealand Non-Fiction 2015
Jolisa Gracewood and Susanna Andrew (eds)
Auckland University Press, $30.00
ISBN 9781869408244

Greatest Hits: A Quarter Century of Journalistic Encounters and Notes from Lost Cities
David Cohen
Mākaro Press, $35.00
ISBN 9780994106544

In their introduction, editors Jolisa Gracewood and Susanna Andrew ask why “doesn’t New Zealand have its own equivalent of the Best American Essays or Best Australian Essays series?” Their selection of 29 “essays” is expressly designed to address this very real lacuna. As one who has long lamented the priority given to the New Zealand short story, the short poem, and the long novel over the essay, I had high expectations for this collection. What was it that I was anticipating? If not the wisdom of Montaigne, Hazlitt, Lamb, Orwell, James, Hunter S Thompson, Hughes, Baldwin, Epstein, Ozick, E B White or, more recently, Daum, Jamison, D’Ambrosio and Zadie Smith, then at least reflective first-person narratives about experience that deeply engage the reader, not as moral fable or advice, but as dialogue, a conversation that suggestively and subtly indicates some shared and significant experience and understanding. They should, of course, also be superbly written and entertaining.

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Posted in Essays, Media, Non-fiction and Review

Lifting the lid, Colin Peacock

Dirty Politics: How Attack Politics is Poisoning New Zealand’s Political Environment
Nicky Hager
Craig Potton Publishing, $35.00,
ISBN 9781927213360

The Catch: How Fishing Companies Reinvented Slavery and Plunder the Oceans
Michael Field
Awa Press, $40.00,
ISBN 9781927249024

“Laws are like sausages. It is better not to see them being made.” That zinger, attributed to Prussian statesman Otto von Bismarck, is still a go-to piece of wisdom today for those pointing out that plenty of nastiness goes on behind the scenes, which most people either ignore, or remain blissfully ignorant of. Some journalists today say the same applies to the unsavoury side of getting a good story. For instance, when Mediawatch asked an Australian reporter about the families of Pike River victims being pressed for exclusive and personal interviews, she fell back on that same saw. Some reporters even call their own workplaces “sausage factories”, pumping out cheap, filling content for public consumption day after day, rather than prime cuts.

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Posted in Economics, Media, Non-fiction, Politics & Law and Review

Development journalism, Alex Perrottet

Don’t Spoil My Beautiful Face: Media, Mayhem and Human Rights in the Pacific
David Robie
Little Island Press
ISBN 9781877484254

It’s easy to read a book written by a journalist, especially if it covers wars, environmental disasters, independence struggles, and what happens when you try to report on them.

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Posted in Media, Non-fiction, Pacific and Review

Auckland’s newspaper wars, Grant Hannis

Extra! Extra! How the People Made the News David Hastings Auckland University Press, $45.00, ISBN 9781869407384 Histories of New Zealand newspapers are usually boring. I’m sure anyone who’s tried to read Guy Scholefield’s 1958 history of New Zealand newspapers has

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Posted in History, Media, Non-fiction and Review
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