New Zealand Newspaper Chains Fairfax and NZME
Must Be Allowed to Merge to Survive        

National Press Club president Peter Isaac
interviewed about Commerce Commission
upset merger veto.......

Napier - MSCNewsWire/National Press Club/EINPresswire
- Monday 14 November 2016

If someone from the two chains contacted you and asked, What should we do now? What would you tell them?
My instruction would be to turn their strategy on its head and go in next time at this democratic literary end which means furnishing evidence of the freedom that the two pending proprietorial partners already allocate to their individual newspaper editors, and have done for many years.

The Commerce Commission would require evidence?
The Commerce Commission response indicates that it wants working real-life examples of the chains’ ability to allow their editors and thus their newspapers to enjoy the freedom to say pretty much what they want to say. I would suggest for example that Fairfax management for one refers to the separate nature of The Dominion and The Evening Post which for so long co-existed under their old INL banner. They were entirely separate in regard to editorial staffs. They looked utterly different and had quite different contents and opinions. Similarly now with the Waikato Times, for example, which happily still co-exists under the Fairfax banner. Similarly with for example the Nelson Mail and of course with the The Press of Christchurch, Southland Times also in the stable, and so on.

Can we assume that the Commerce Commission is aware of this?
The point that the two groups need to make is that it is simply not in their interests to have their combined newspapers all singing the same song. These newspapers must reflect their own communities and the issues therein. In my many years involvement with INL/Fairfax in a number of regions I cannot recall even one incident of the management strong-arming anyone, anywhere, to follow this or that party line.

Isn’t the Commission of the opinion that they will publish just the one nationwide daily?
They have tried this from the Wellington end and also from the Auckland end on several occasions. The result has always been the same. Failure. The national daily business model does not exist here and the reason is that subscribers insist on localised news from their own localised newspaper. The proof of this theory is the litmus test in the form of the chains’ holdout, the flourishing and regional Otago Daily Times. Even Rupert Murdoch could not get off the ground a national daily here.

There are no guarantees that this hands-off legacy will continue?
You have now several government-sponsored referee organisations. The Press Complaints Commission, the Advertising Standards Commission to name just the direct ones. So in the event of the amalgamation there exists in place these pressure valve authorities on subscriber daily newspapers. The state determinedly holds onto its own broadcasting channels, so there is a ready diffusion for the result of any such arbitration. In fact, if I had anything to do with the two newspaper chains and their dealings with the Commerce Commission I would start lobbying now for the re-instatement of Column Comment on the government’s own television channel.

Column Comment was the de facto newspaper referee for decades and was taken very seriously by newspaper people at all levels, more seriously, I think, than the channel itself realised. I know a version of it has been reproduced on the government’s Radio New Zealand. But it was the television delivery that carried the punch to the readers and thus to the industry itself. I don’t think anyone would suggest that such Column Comment commentators as Ian Cross, Keith Ovenden or the late Neil Roberts, among other presenters, could be bought.

It is said of the New Zealand press that it is either boring or sensational?
You could say the same thing about the press anywhere in the world. A point not fully understood about the industry in New Zealand is that for legislative regulation reasons it took much longer here to establish Sunday newspapers than it did in the rest of the English-speaking world. When they did emerge I do concede that they tended toward the sensational. But if you look at the chains’ bulldog editions, the Saturday ones for weekend carryover, then they contain a greater proportion of what you need-to-know instead of what you-want-to-know frivolity.

Where are the proprietors going wrong then, that they need this shotgun marriage, and yet have now been left dangling so embarrassingly at the altar?
They thought that the Commerce Commission would see things from their point of view, the one centred on economics. In the event the Commission saw things from the literary angle. Bureaucrats and newspaper people share one thing in common--they must not make assumptions with legal outcomes. This is a resounding lesson to the industry.

Your advice to the still-betrothed newspaper chains is?
To fence off their spread sheets and get onto the Commission’s own wave-length which in the Commission’s own words is this literary liberal democracy preservation one. The chains’ message should be clear. It should be “if we are not allowed to merge then we will even overtake China within 10 years because there will be no daily newspaper proprietors in New Zealand whatsoever, and thus no daily newspapers free or shackled.”

Still, there remains the argument now that others will rush in and fill the gap?
They will and they will be part of the free-model that the hitherto two subscriber daily chains will have already filled with their own weekly free-sheets. Nobody not even the Horton family has been able to start up a subscriber daily newspaper. Once they go, they have gone for ever.

In spite of the media being such a studied subject at universities, there is little in the public domain about newspaper economics?
You have this argument to the effect, Oh! We will have as they do in London these free dailies. But in New Zealand there is insufficient commuter intensity to underpin them. Even in Auckland. As it is in New Zealand the weekly free-sheets do best in rural-provincial areas where the population is older and there is thus a lower take-up of screen-delivered free-model news and information in general.

Your point being?
That once the current chain dailies disappear, the ones that dot the nation from Invercargill to Whangarei that they cannot be replaced by other subscriber dailies. Only by free sheets.

You were surprised at the Commerce Commission’s decision to stall the Fairfax-NZME merger?
I was and I was in good company- -that of the two chains for a start.

Then you must have shared with them an underpinning belief?
If you read between the lines of what emerged from the episode then we all got it wrong. The assumption was that the Commission as a government organisation would have been primarily pre-occupied with the cost in human terms of a centralisation of mechanical services, notably of the rotary presses. In the event the Commission saw the fusion in an intellectual context and said so unequivocally in terms of what it saw as this need to preserve the “liberal democracy” through diverse newspaper ownership.

You didn’t see this?
I did the same thing that the strategists of the two chains did. I forgot my history. There is a strong backbone for this kind of regulatory reaction. The News Media Ownership legislation designed to keep Lord Thomson out of New Zealand remains the best example. So I was party to a fault that I routinely accuse everyone else in the industry of committing which is that of a failure to put issues into historical context. Background in other words.

Do you think it is curious the way in which certain journalists post Commerce Commission have turned on their paymasters and accused them of being out of touch?
This is pretty much confined to older opinion peddling wafflers who talk in terms of the bosses needing to bring their editorial, data and privacy codes up to “international best practice” and suchlike. The proprietors are not running localised versions of United Nations. Not so widely known is the reason behind the often contradictory nature of daily newspaper content. They are in fact purchased and read by baby boomers and beyond. Yet the editorial formulation is aimed in large measure at the age categories which no longer actually buy newspapers but who view them via the internet editions, the free model in other words. . These are the people in their 20s 30s. It is this category, the early home-buyers, that the property sector, overwhelmingly the major advertiser, needs to reach.

How would you approach the government itself, the ultimate arbiter?
I would quietly ensure that MPs became aware of something which is in fact considered best practice in some other OECD nations which is taxpayer subsidy of dailies in order to keep them afloat.

Final point?
If I was remotely responsible for the return match with the Commerce Commission I would illustrate on what a delicate economic thread hangs these nationwide subscriber daily newspapers. To reinforce this point I would ensure that there was someone with no particular axe to grind, perhaps one of these academic types you refer to, who would step up and point out what a remarkable job the two chains have done in maintaining this score or so of daily newspapers in a population equivalent to that of many global cities and how this feat can only be sustained by the proposed amalgamation. The stormiest metropolitan editor I ever worked forwas the late Frank Haden. The unbiddable Haden loved imagery. He would say that it was the taste that any story left in the mouth of the reader that mattered. The taste the two chains with their revised submission should leave to linger in the collective palate of the Commerce Commission is this:-

Even if we wanted to, tried to, align our daily newspapers in a constant state of editorial harmony we could not achieve it. The reason is that our subscribers would bar us from conspiring in such regimentation by the simple act of cancelling their subscriptions. They would in response throw in their lot with the digital free model.






Lifetime Achievement Award
Presented to Family of
Mike Robson who
Led Rupert Murdoch
Era Interests Here

At a ceremony in Wellington in November the National Press Club presented its Lifetime Achievement Award to the family of the late managing director of the INL Group Mike Robson. The citation read:- In recognition of Mike’s extraordinary contribution in many roles and over many years to journalism.
Mr Robson died suddenly in 2000 at the age of 61 at the height of his powers in guiding New Zealand’s 12th largest company with its interests in daily newspapers, commercial printing, periodicals distribution and retailing along with broadcasting.
Mr Robson’s career began as a sports reporter on the New Zealand Herald. He gravitated to general reporting and it was now that he became a wire service correspondent in the United States and Europe. He then became editor of Wellington’s Evening Post and it was here that Mr Robson’s low-key and thoughtful approach came to the attention of INL managing director Alan Burnet. Mr Burnet appointed him as assistant managing director. Upon the retirement of Mr Burnet it was Mike Robson’s turn to take over as managing director.
The skill of this duo, according to National Press Club president Peter Isaac, was to integrate the diverse media and printing organisation into direct input electronic handling and then to ensure a smooth transition into the internet era. Mr Robson’s death occurred only several months after INL’s internet site Stuff went live.
Their success in bringing about this transition was characterised by Mr Burnet going on to lead the government’s Communications Advisory Council responsible for setting national standards and governance.
Singled out at the gathering for special mention was Mr Robson’s easy relationship with the then proprietor of New Zealand’s INL Group, Rupert Murdoch. The strength of this working relationship, it was noted, played out to the benefit of the group’s journalists of that era.
It was observed that Mr Robson’s era encompassed Wellington’s epoch as Oceania’s media city with its two newspapers which co-existed long after other centres had been forced to shut down their evening daily.
The holding of the presentation ceremony in the heart of Wellington’s entertainment district symbolised Mr Robson’s tenure as editor of the Evening Post which had flourished through exercising a street-level ability to portray Wellington in all its nooks and crannies and diverse ways of life. It was said that Mike Robson never fell into the “trappings trap.”
The plaque was presented to representatives of the family by National Press Club vice president Peter Bush, an early colleague of Mr Robson’s on the New Zealand Herald.
In response, Mr Robson’s widow Marjie recalled how her husband possessed a literary passion as counterweight to his sporting enthusiasms. This had been nurtured by his parents during his years growing up on a Pukekohe dairy farm. His quest to educate himself had accelerated during his tour of duty in the United States where the couple had met. She recalled that when Mike had enrolled at university in the United States the other students stood up for Mike, imagining him to be one of the professors.
In the photograph (above) Master of Ceremonies Bryan Weyburne with Marjie Robson, son Toby and National Press Club vice president Peter Bush.


1.  Media lawyer Graham Holmes with The Dominion’s long time financial editor Terry Hall.
    2.  Pixers pose.INL Photographers Barry Durrant and Peter Bush


Tuesday, 08 November 2016 10:10

Out of Favour
Editor Richard Long
Set up Boss’ Golf
Encounter With
Bill Clinton

Former editor of The Dominion Richard Long,(pictured) a long-time colleague of Mike Robson’s presented the gathering with an insight into his boss’ sense of fair play. As editor of The Dominion, he recounted, he had one day pounced on the fact that his morning newspaper in circulation terms had nudged The Evening Post out of its customary stop-selling slot. Unable to resist the opportunity he had had published in his own newspaper The Dominion a few paragraphs to this effect.

Mike Robson had made it clear to Long that this was not the kind of skiting he welcomed pitting as it did, one group daily against another. He, Robson, was not impressed.

Anxious to get back in his chief’s good books, Long now twisted and turned seeking an opportunity to redeem himself. It was now that salvation appeared in the avuncular form of United States ambassador Josiah Beeman. The ambassador had an approval problem too. He was still looking for a suitable golf partner in New Zealand for his own boss, visiting United States President and golf buff Bill Clinton.

It was now that Long saw his own game opening up. Mike Robson was the obvious partner, he advocated. Diplomatic and tactful in terms of ensuring parity between his own swings and those of the President. A natural partner. And so it was that Mike Robson found himself teeing off at Millbrook with Bill Clinton.

Sometime afterward and by now feeling a certain glow of managing directorial favour re-radiating in his direction, Long delicately took up the matter of how the presidential game had actually gone?

Clinton, responded Robson, had been a predictably tough competitor fighting over every swing and claiming at every opportunity the presidential mulligan or no-count fluffed shot. For his part Robson felt that he had maintained an easy focus in spite of there being as part of the presidential entourage someone with a golf bag that in fact contained an armament designed to disable any low flying and thus threatening light aircraft.

The only unforeseen element came at the conclusion of the 18 holes, explained Robson.

Oh, what was that? Asked Long

Clinton wanted to do the 18 holes again “now.” At that moment .





Tuesday, 08 November 2016 10:45

New Zealand Herald Triumvirate

National Press Club Lifetime Achievement laureate Graham Stewart (pictured at the presentation) was on hand to greet the young Mike Robson when he signed on as cub sports reporter. Mr Stewart’s award was for his constant career in photo-journalism characterised in the second half of his career by his presence as a leading independent book publisher specialising in documentary subjects, notably transport. In this entrepreneurial role Mr Stewart was cited for his effort in generating employment for journalists. Also a presence at the Herald in that era was Sir Terry McLean who Mike Robson always described as one of his enduring mentors. Sir Terry was an inaugural laureate of the National Press Club’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

Pictures below

1.  Peter Bush, Toby Robson, Marjie Robson
    2.  Krystina Tomaszyk and in background National Press Club          Life Member and INL editor Paul Cavanagh, and Barry              Durrant


Wednesday, 09 November 2016 09:51

Commerce Commission
Tells Newspaper Chains
to Re-Write Their Story

National Press Club/MSCNewsWire

Adjudicator wants new angle on
proposed merger filed by March 2017 deadline

Napier, MSCNewsWire, Wednesday 9 November 2016 - Just as everyone else including the proprietors themselves were giving up on newspapers the Commerce Commission has seized the print cause with a vigour and enthusiasm absent for many years now from the industry itself.

The Commission which arbitrates on New Zealand’s mergers and acquisitions from the competitive point of view has fastened upon newspaper diversity as their reason for vetoing the merger of the nation’s two newspaper publishing chains, the locally owned NZME and the Australian owned Fairfax.

As if mirroring the newspaper editorial quest for a new angle on something familiar, the Commerce Commission instead of fastening upon the mechanical aspect of the consolidation especially in regard to printing instead focused on the loss of editorial independence attendant upon such a merger.

Giving this point a big headline the Commission observed that such a single-owner concentration of publishing would put New Zealand only one place behind China with its single party ownership of the media.

The result of the first round of the merger application by the two chains has thus come as a surprise to the applicants.

The feeling had been that any objections to the fusion would be related to print production economies and thus the loss of jobs ensuing from the telescoping of the two chains comparatively numerous printing works.

One reason for this is that the two applicants in their joint submission outlined a surprisingly small joint saving from centralised mechanical production.

In effect the Commission in the manner of a stern but fair editor has told the two operators to come back to them. Next time with a better story. The deadline for filing is March next year.

The meaning of the Commission’s intent is in fact spelled out in its emphasis on what it describes as the need “for a well-established liberal democracy".

This it made clear was not attainable with “one organisation controlling nearly 90 per cent of the country's print media market.”

The Commission’s confidence in the economic future of print media will in a curious way re-invigorate the two supplicant chains as they seek to define a winning formula to compete with the free model in which social networks of one description or another have taken over the subscriber system once symbolised by print dailies.

It is obvious that neither of the chains foresaw the Commission adopting this editorial content diversity angle. The Commission in a curious way has revealed the emphasis that certain sectors of society still place on news as news.

From the MSCNewsWire reporters' desk   -  Tuesday 8 November 2016


Friday, 11 November 2016 09:51

Trump-Brexit Trademarks
Identical on both sides of Atlantic

National Press Club/MSCNewsWire

Why Trump’s Victory Really was Super-Brexit

Napier, MSCNewsWire, Friday 11 November 2016 - Donald Trump’s victory has been described as “super Brexit” most notably by the president-elect himself. We now examine some of the similarities and we begin with the decision which can now be seen as a dangerous one for President Obama’s highly visible pro Hillary campaigning. This was all the more curious since it was then known in the United States that UK Premier David Cameron’s similar campaigning for his cause Remain had represented more of a burden than a blessing. President Obama’s campaigning was compounded by the intervention of Mrs Obama who had hitherto been universally admired just because of her public detachment from partisan party politics. Main points of similarity summarised:-

Presidential – Prime Ministerial Pleading & Campaigning
In both Brexit and Trump the leaders of the in-power establishment parties joined in the fray. British Premier David Cameron actively campaigned to remain in the EU. President Obama actively campaigned for Hillary Clinton and in doing so was joined by Mrs Obama. In both causes and in both countries this frenzied campaigning can now be viewed as having the opposite effect of the one intended.

Financial Sector Backed Lost Causes – Remain and Hillary
Hilary Clinton’s campaign and the Remain campaign were both openly backed by the financial sector

Non university voters backed the winners
In both causes in both countries Brexit supporters and Trump supporters were solidly drawn from those who had not attended university

Opinion polls were wrong on both sides of the Atlantic
Polling organisations were continuously wrong in both countries and in both outcomes

Movement leaders both emerged from outside established political parties
Brexit leader Nigel Farage had his own party. Donald Trump had had no previous political experience

Both victorious leaders ignored and talked over mainstream media
In the United States Donald Trump actively expressed his contempt for his media entourage describing members as “the worst people in the world.”

Mainstream media was wrong footed
A characteristic of the mainstream media in both countries and from the outset was an inability to concede that either Donald Trump or Brexit had a chance of success

Project Fear aftermaths on both sides of the Atlantic
Following Brexit the communication organisations responsible for monitoring and then making known shifts in public opinion started a diversionary campaign. This took the form of the generation of an atmosphere of public fear, uncertainty, and doubt about the effects of the events which they had failed to predict. This development is now evident too in the United States following Trump.

From the MSCNewsWire reporters' desk  - Thursday 10 November 2016 

Monday, 15 August 2016 14:44

The Guardian
Letter Affair

In which the president of the National Press Club seeks to explain the mystery of why he was the recipient, among many others, of an email soliciting donations from the British publishing organisation which owns The Guardian and which has cash reserves of around $1 billion.  

At first glance you believed that the begging letter from The Guardian was counterfeit?

It seemed to be a too perfect pastiche of The Guardian style. Also it seemed improbable to imagine that a newspaper that called it so utterly wrong for Brexit would then brazenly send out a letter soliciting donations so soon after. So I hedged by reporting that it was probably phony.

You then realised that it was genuine.

In hindsight the donation solicitation would have been set up prior to the referendum. It was beyond The Guardian to have imagined that the vote would have gone against Europe.

Why was that?

They live in a bubble in which they only talk to each other or people with a similar outlook. In their mind the wish had become the fact. The pervasive nature of this was demonstrated when the staff of their sister paper The Observer in the immediate aftermath of Brexit still touted the Boris Johnson/ Michael Gove leadership axis.

So they sent it out anyway?

You have to credit them for such semi divine self-belief. They are a secular priesthood. A democracy of the select.

A few hours after the referendum vote you came out on the MSC Newswire- National Press Club-EIN Presswire proclaiming that the Brexit result also very much represented a protest vote against what you described as The Guardian-BBC “syndrome?”

I should have added University to this. These are the three pillars that sustained the old pre-Brexit Britain. The BBC chieftains managed to keep a lid on their internal pro Europe sentiment until the actual vote. But then the lid blew off and became Project Fear.

Why are they all so excited by Europe?

When you use the term “Europe” here think France. Think just Paris. From their point of view it is so much more exciting politically than anything we have in the Westminster sphere. You have running around still between government and academia such characters as Che Guevara’s sidekick Regis Debray. You have the lightning rod of the Paris 1968 Maoist riots Daniel Cohn Bendit firmly installed as a Member of the European Parliament. And so on.

In regard to the soliciting letter from The Guardian and your original scepticism what was the element that made you particularly so wary?

The use of the word “interrogating” as a substitute for reporting, covering, or just writing about events. It was so deliciously strangulated in The Guardian manner in order to convey the impression of a higher calling. Of their dwelling on a superior plane to that of ordinary mortals, certainly mere reporters. I also thought it was odd that the imploring email came so temptingly my own way. I flattered myself that I was being fitted.

You subsequently discussed the curious situation in which an organisation with one billion NZD equivalent in reserves could send out a donation canvassing letter. Then do so over the name of a person with an annual income approaching one million NZD. Then send it out to people with a tiny fraction of these savings and this income.

The readership of their weekly edition in New Zealand has a strong public sector following notably among teachers of all varieties and those in the social sphere. In other words public servants. Some public servants in New Zealand do have an annual remuneration approaching the one million NZD mark, and I should have mentioned this.

Still, this is by New Zealand standards a favoured income group. Are there any lessons here for the two merging local newspaper chains?

The Guardian weekly edition has taken over from what remains of Time magazine and the vacuum of the defunct Newsweek. It has become New Zealand’s news magazine of reference. Until some 30 years ago these same chains used the Guardian re-print/ agency service. In recent years the local chains have swerved away from this serious feature approach toward the current celebrity contemporary culture version.

Have you had any personal encounters with The Guardian?

One recalls Patrick Ensor toiling away at the centre of the Wellington-based chain. I have to say that I wondered what he was doing here. Then he reappeared back at The Guardian as editor of the weekly international edition. It occurred to me then that he was in New Zealand to experience a reality check. I have a notion also that but for his untimely death The Guardian might have sidestepped its foppish eternal protestor aura characterised so vividly and so recently by its bizarre post Brexit appeal for funds.

Is there any particular observation of Ensor at work in Wellington that leads you to this conclusion?

He would use a term to describe this or that person or collective of them. It was that they were “self-regarding.” If you look at the begging letter wheeze you would have to describe it as such. One can be assured that all who had anything to do with its authorship and distribution remain quite in the dark of all its irony and unintentional humour

Anyone else?

Going back a bit I spent time with Malcolm and Kitty Muggeridge at Robertsbridge. It was the first time I ever encountered yoghurt, I recall. Malcolm, and I use his own words, described The Guardian for which he had worked pre-war as being “essentially fraudulent.” The Guardian had successfully blocked a book that Muggeridge (pictured) wrote about his experiences while working there, and continued to do so even after Muggeridge turned it onto a novel. So his view was necessarily jaundiced. Curiously, both Muggeridge and Ensor were National Press Club speakers. Muggeridge a foundation one.









Monday, 14 March 2016 13:57

Connie Lawn is First to Talk to
NZ Washington Ambassador Tim Groser


Greatest farm surplus ever is the
prime problem for the career trade negotiator

MSCNewsWire-EIN-National Press Club Service, NAPIER, 14 March 2016After a lifetime massaging trade deals as an official and then as a Minister of the Crown, Tim Groser finds himself negotiating his trickiest mercantilist tightrope to date. As his country’s freshly installed ambassador to Washington the urbane yet wily bureaucrat must bed down his country’s role in the TPPA which he last year described as “New Zealand’s biggest ever free trade deal.”

His problem? How to get value from the Trans Pacific arrangement for an agrarian nation at a time when parties to the arrangement, along with the rest of the developed world, enter the era of hyper farm surplus?

Nothing unusual in this, even though the surplus is of greater magnitude than anything that has gone before.

In the past, trans Pacific parties such as the United States, Australia, and New Zealand have shared a simple solution. This was to ship the surplus to the always hungry Soviet Union, or Russia as we would describe it now.

This is no longer possible due to the US invoked and vigorously policed embargo on sending anything to this old disposal market.

Neither does the vast North American market offer much hope. Nobody is more conscious than Mr Groser of the surgical delicacy required in persuading Canada to sign up to the TPPA in the face of the opposition from its French-speaking dairy farmers, the most protected anywhere on the globe.

Should Mr Groser turn his attention to Europe he can only contemplate still greater surpluses as more farm categories come off the restricted production quota list. Next off the rank, the EU sugar beet production limits.

And yet...and are never static. Mr Groser would never utter it, and may even have disciplined himself never to think it. But daily the odds are increasing in favour of Britain’s exit from the EU.

From his Washington command-post, it is hard to imagine that Mr Groser does not see just one more trade deal, on top of all the other ones to which he has been a party?

As he suavely goes about his official rounds, might not Mr Groser be forgiven if his thoughts are pulled away from a Pacific contemplation to considering now the nearby Atlantic Ocean?

As someone as close to the epicentre of world trade as it is possible for anyone to reach, might he not just be contemplating from time to time, oooh, something like a new Commonwealth Preference regime?

One in which Euro-soured Britons return to the supplier that rescued them until quite recent times from what Mr Groser and his diplomatic colleagues would delicately describe as “food insecurity.”

When the dean of the White House Press Corps and holder of the National Press Club, Lifetime Achievement Award Connie Lawn (pictured with Mr Groser) was first through the embassy doors to discuss events with the the new ambassador, these and other elements of realpolitik became the background tapestry to the official politesse.

The lesson of very recent years, and to which the Russian embargo bears witness, is that not only is the United States run from Washington. But in large measure, so is Europe.

Photo: Dr Charles Sneiderman

Wednesday, 18 May 2016 14:24

Seriousness of Purpose is Club's Priority - President

This past year again saw the National Press Club adhering to the times and more specifically to an era in which the mainstream media pre-occupation adheres to contemporary culture rather than with the club’s mainstay of politics and hard news.

Even so our event earlier this year in handing back the green parrot artefact to the Green Parrot restaurant displayed a certain whimsicality on our behalf, admitted National Press Club president Peter Isaac in his annual report tabled at the annual general meeting in May.

The restoration event commemorated the era in which people from diverse occupations and callings were able to take up the role of newspapermen.

"Thanks to the wisdom of successive committees the club has refused to be panicked by the blend so evident today of the accelerating confluence of technical and sociological currents."

Instead the policy had been to conserve the club’s resources in order that they be deployed with an underpinning seriousness of purpose, he emphasised.

The club retains and develops numerous affiliations with other national press clubs and these "permit us to be engaged in the major ethical events of the era with routinely remaining at the very top ranking of these national sites."

One of the reasons for this was the club's new operational affiliations with the Napier-based news service MSCNewswire and the Washington-based EINPresswire service.

MSCNewswire he noted now has claims to being the pre-eminent dedicated internet news service in New Zealand and with its emphasis on commercial news is the one with the major international pick-up.

Touching upon membership issues Isaac noted that it was with deep regret that he had to report that Lifetime Achievement Award holder Connie Lawn remains severely stricken with Parkinson’s Disease. Two veterans of World War 2 also battled the effects of the passing years - Life Member Denis Adam and long time stalwart Mick Bienowski.

Wednesday, 18 May 2016 14:44

Fairfax –APN New Zealand Merger Must Focus on Unified Christchurch Print Hub

Up up and away from Auckland (and Wellington)

Napier, MSCNewsWire, 17 May 2016 - Airfreight will determine the cost-efficiency and thus the success of the pending merger of the New Zealand subsidiaries of the Australian Fairfax and APN media chains which must now look to the skies for the mechanical economies of scale they know they must now find.

As it is the sparsely populated New Zealand is host to the two chains’ scattered printing plants strung out in a line between Auckland and Dunedin.

The opportunity exists for a forwarder to present the merging group with a scheme that would allow it to consolidate all its mechanical activities into one site.

A case for Christchurch would be the forwarder’s master stroke.

A problem for the two chains is the constant pre-occupation with three dimensional mechanical production issues at the expense of the idea ones, the ones that do not require capital investment, and which are central to success in the internet age.

In the event much of the Auckland and Wellington dailies are early material anyway with their sports updates, soft-peddle business re-hashes, generic environmental stories, and columns by local celebrities usually talk-back types presenting their glimpses of the blindingly obvious, along with political activists. Their vehicle, travel and property supplements meanwhile are hardly of hold the front page grade urgency.

A problem for the two subsidiaries is that in the past they have found it hard to cooperate and this curiously has become more evident in a shrinking market.

There was their failure to cooperate in the matter of the TradeMe acquisition. Indeed a suitable study for one of their question-marked “investigative” pieces might be entitled – What has the Newspaper Proprietors Association Been Doing?

In fact the NPA, as it is known, was the victim of its own success in the matter of cashing in at the height of the market on its collective shareholding in Reuters.

The old family proprietors trousered their winnings and sensibly left the field to the two Australian chains.

Enter now the problem of representatives around the NPA table who were several steps removed from the real decision-making which of course now took place in Australia. They were in the position of being policy implementers rather than policy makers.

There began to emerge a distracting preoccupation with things such as scholarships and also with an increasingly proliferating and bizarre swathe of awards.

Curiously, too, the emphasis went on makeup hubs at a time when subeditors and other process journalists can efficiently work from their own kitchen tables.

The Christchurch Press Johns Road printery adjacent to the South Island’s international-grade airport indicates that such an eventuality may have been anticipated.

But experience indicates localised pre-occupations with mechanical processes of the type that have become near-irrelevancies in the compoundingly disruptive internet age.

Wednesday, 08 June 2016 14:45

Encounter with  Muhammad Ali in  New Zealand’s  Hutt Valley

The night I nearly dropped into Ali’s lap.

Napier, MSCNewsWire, Wednesday 8 June 2016 - The death of Muhammad Ali brings back the time in 1979 when Hutt Valley boxing enthusiasts brought to New Zealand the most recognisable persona on the planet –Ali. The centrepiece of the club fund-raising scheme was a dinner at the Trentham Race Course.

Tickets were $100 each. There were no free ones. I duly stumped up, anticipating that I would not be disappointed. And, I wasn’t. Though not in quite the way I had expected, writes National Press Club president Peter Isaac.

Curiously, the price of the tickets, rather than the opportunity to rub shoulders with the pre-eminent global celebrity of the era who as world heavyweight champion was also the pre-eminent athlete, determined the theme of the evening.

The throng was now in the upstairs bar of the race course members stand and everyone was obviously determined to redeem their investment in their ticket. The focus was on the bar tenders. It was now that Ali demonstrated his first trick. There was no fanfare. Suddenly he was among us. Though not of course drinking.

Nobody seemed particularly surprised. The business at the bar accelerated. Ali seemed happy enough chatting with the Hutt Valley boxing officials who had arranged his visit. The hubbub increased in volume.

Presently, the compere of the evening Bill McCarthy called the meeting to order. Or tried to. Ali chimed in now announcing that this was the moment we were to see his biographical film The Greatest, the one with the enchanting score.

Nobody wanted to put too much distance between they and the bars. Ali and his wife of that era Veronica Porsche now sat down on the front row of the seats laid out before the screen. Helpfully, as I imagined it, I thought I would lead the way, and plopped myself down beside Veronica.

Eventually the film began. A problem now was that a particularly resolute imbiber kept insisting on silhouetting himself on the screen, several jugs in each hand, and walking front of Ali, his wife, and of course, me.

On the third iteration, I thought I had better do something about this intrusion as the man took the same route in search of re-fills.

My course of action took the form of my standing up and seeking to stall the man’s progress, and directing him to a less-intrusive path.

His course of action was to shove me aside with his fistful of empty jugs.

Off-balance, I gyrated over Ali’s lap. There was just enough time to conjure up the form that his instinctive reflexes might take, before recovering my balance while bestowing a sheepish smile on Veronica, as equally impassive as her husband.

Later we went down to the dinner itself. Ali amiably delivered some old jokes, notably the one to the effect that Larry Holmes was so ugly that when he cried his tears ran upward to avoid coursing down his face.

There were some catcalls, notably from someone who was quite an important businessman in Wellington at that time.

“I know you,” said Ali pointing to the man. “You follow me from place to place. Same person. Different form.”

Later we adjourned upstairs. The busy bar trade resumed. Ali looked at his watch. Grasped Veronica by the hand – and melted out into the night. He had done what he said he would do and in the time he had allocated to do it.


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