Monday, 05 October 2015 11:23

Clumsy Emails Crash Through News Noise Level

 Interview with National Press Club president Peter Isaac

Q: We are now well into the internet age. You were a major player in the predictions industry. Looking back, where would you say you rank?

A:     Let us look at my foolish prediction made in this same feature several years ago about the citizen-journalist. I forecast well-intentioned amateurs taking over. In the event what has happened? Almost the opposite. Highly organised special-interest groups such as the Taxpayers Union are making the running. They are the ones revealing the sister-city jaunts and all the other newsworthy elements of local government life that were once a staple of the press. So my prediction of lone-wolves doing the leg work was wrong. What has happened is that doctrinally driven and very organised groups have taken the lead. Not the individuals that I had predicted.


Q: There seems to be this drift to the right in the internet political spectrum?

A: I utterly failed to see this. The evidence of this imminent swing was there to be seen, perfectly clear in the wisdom of hindsight. The chorus of symmetrically similar views from the mainstream print and the broadcast media bored the socks off everyone. Even if they  agree with it, people wanted some variety. This came from the right in the form of these agenda emails and blogs. The usual liberal and leftie ones are still there. But they have no pick up.


Q: How did this step-change come about?

A: It had its beginnings in elements of talk-back radio and this is pretty much where it stayed and still stays. But these outfits such as the Taxpayers Union picked up on it, detected the trend, and pursued it.


Q: The Taxpayer Union relies on clumsily designed mass emails to get its counter-message across?

A: This surprised me too. My thinking had revolved around slick web sites padded with entertainment sucrose and with the emails merely calling attention to them. In the event they went direct and the email became the message.


Q: This pick up happened quickly?

A: This surprised me. When I started receiving these emails I thought they were banging their heads on a brick wall. The reason being that the journalistic mentality usually has to be led backwards over a story, rather than have their reportorial faces slammed into it.


Q: Let us turn to the big picture now. You are an old print man. How do you see the chains?

A: The problem for the chains is that the advertising agencies are successfully persuading them to aim at those in their teens, twenties, and thirties.


Q: What is wrong with this demographic?

A: When did you last see anyone under the age of 50 read the print version of a newspaper? They are compounding this with these full front page splashes. This is all the more weird with the Dominion Post which is a broadsheet. They are forever seeking to make the pulling out of a bath plug seem like the sinking of the Wahine. Print must distinguish itself from broadcasting. John Campbell found himself on the eclipse because his bosses kept seeing numbers that indicated that frantic sensationalism was falling as a viewer demand.


Q: Is this pick up of these rightward email news-breakers a long or a short term phenomenon?

A: They are doing the old fashioned leg and tipster work and as long as they do this there will continue to be pick up. Curiously the same thing now applies on the email commentaries, however highfalutin’. The New Zealand Initiative, the rump of the old Roundtable, also now enjoys pick-up via its rather more stylish email bulletins.


Q: Is there a formula here?

A: ACT started it with their cheeky emails. You are about to delete it. Then you think to yourself – better have a look, might be something important . Someone else might see it. Pick it up. The others followed in ACT’s footsteps with these acerbic snippets. Meanwhile our friends on the left of the political spectrum relied on their web sites and their ponderous essays therein.