Sir Christopher Harris Foresaw Culture Wars

Sir Christopher Harris Foresaw Culture Wars

Sir Christopher Harris who has died was for many years a stalwart of the National Press Club. He will be remembered for his constant cautioning of practitioners in their political coverage on emphasising what sounded good instead of what actually worked.

Christopher John Ashford Harris third baronet of the Harris Baronetcy of Bethnal Green, County of London foresaw the way in which journalists were increasingly being drawn to the ideological in place of the practical.

A member of the club under the newsmaker category Sir Christopher for many years ran the family importing and merchandising business Bing, Harris & Co and was also a main board director of the Todd Corporation.

He was to the fore when New Zealand abruptly sought new markets in Asia and he constantly iterated Singapore as a nation with valuable pointers for New Zealand. He was a man of action and put his various skills at the disposal of the political parties that echoed his point of view especially in the Wellington electorates.

He was worried about the effect on Wellington of the evaporation of its manufacturing and productive sector and a pet project was to restore to Wellington its floating dry dock in order to boost heavy engineering.

His platform skills were applied to the National Press Club notably in the vote-of-thanks summing up of guest speakers.

He was a lay expert on Captain Cook. He delighted in publicly presenting the explorer as the personification of kindly yet determined informed endeavour that became reflected as Sir Christopher saw it in New Zealand’s own pioneering history of method and order.

An orderly approach that he increasingly saw as being eroded by doctrinal rather than disciplined priorities and in many ways he foresaw the onset of today’s culture wars.

Always affable he successfully disguised any irritation he might have felt at any of the more extreme doctrinal points of view put forward by guest speakers or indeed by any of the club members themselves.

In many ways Sir Christopher was redolent of a distant age, and of an elite class. One that paradoxically installed in the Westminster realm the foundations of the extreme political liberalism that he found himself so severely at odds with.

The baronetcy had been established by his grandfather Sir Percy Harris a British House of Commons Liberal MP who did much to introduce the welfare reforms of Britain’s immediate post war era.

His father Sir Jack Harris and his mother Lady Patricia Harris became in New Zealand public intellectuals of an ultra-liberal persuasion.

Sir Jack was at the helm of the Save Manapouri campaign which paved the way for the Green Party. Lady Harris was a constant figure in the early days of New Zealand television. She was the author of Dining In and Dining Out in New Zealand, a book which remains a minor classic.

The family’s globe-girdling influence stemmed from the Bing, Harris & Co business fortuitously begun in Dunedin just in time to catch the Otago gold fields discoveries.

The family returned to Britain and then repatriated itself back to New Zealand to take control of a business which because of its diversification into so many mercantile sectors continued to prosper in 1934, the year of Christopher’s birth.

He was a pupil of Wanganui Collegiate and it was here that he notched up national school records in the 22O and 44O yards. In later years he was to establish a sporting reputation as a deep sea yachtsman based at Wellington’s Royal Port Nicholson club.

It was indeed as a collegiate figure and club man that Sir Christopher will be recalled. He tended to discard small talk and pleasantries in favour of discussing hard edge topical issues.

He was as genially at home with the grandees of the Wellington Club as with the more diversified and more sceptical devotees of the National Press Club.

Russian Oligarch Funds New Zealand Legal FirmsRussian Oligarch Funds New Zealand Legal Firms

National Press Club Inc Submission to Law Commission

The National Press Club Inc takes the opportunity of drawing the attention of the Commissioners to the circumstances in which a known Russian oligarch funds New Zealand legal practices to engage in litigation in New Zealand.

This submission follows a previous one filed on August 8 2021 in which in this same context we raised with the Commissioners the matter of jurisdiction and also of what is now quite widely recognised as Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation.

We wish now to point out the continuing funding by a United States resident the Russian oligarch Sergei Grishin of litigation against John Bowie proprietor of the Lawfuel website which is based in Wellington.

Our affiliates have recommended that we now notify you about such litigation being conducted at a time in which the international community seeks to curtail the activities of oligarchs within countries condemning the invasion of Ukraine.

We have been shown documents to the effect that at least two Auckland legal firms currently conduct litigation in New Zealand on behalf of Sergei Grishin.

We have similarly been shown documents that indicate that substantial moneys are being sought from the plaintiff.

We may assume that such funds are destined for the benefit of Sergei Grishin.

We appreciate your response to our original submissions and trust that this latest development in this affair will similarly engage your attention

 

Peter Isaac

President

National Press Club Inc

Newspaperman Jon Morgan pictured at the book launch with fellow Fairfax era colleague Richard Woodd

Jon Morgan became a newspaper reporter at the age of 16 in 1966. It was the high noon of print with 42 daily newspapers nationwide. Zig zagging his way mainly through what was to become the Fairfax then Stuff chain he contrived to remain on a payroll until 2018. In maintaining this half century trapeze act Morgan looks back at what can be seen now as a gradually crumbling print news industry.

He appears to have kept employed by keeping constantly flexible and grasping whatever opportunity or story came his way and following it wherever it led him.

Perceiving that times they really were a-changing we follow Morgan as he gradually eases himself away from the assignment book and onto the specialist track as an agricultural reporter a manoeuvre that sustained him through to his final working days. He additionally armoured himself against the increasingly lethal arrows of outrageous fortune by embellishing himself with a high profile in his chosen agrarian field.

A surprise to many print practitioners will be the immense number of awards adorning the field of agricultural journalism in general and Morgan in particular. The by now roving rural reporter enters his name into seemingly every one of these and appears to have emerged as a consistent victor becoming in the process an agricultural sector statesman officiating in show judging among other rural rituals.

Morgan we can see now entered journalism in its last few years as a bona fide blue collar calling prior to admission to the trade being taken over by the universities. His description of the final days of on-the-job journeyman training and those who administered it should alone ensure his book a place in any official archive of industrial apprenticeship history.

The presentation of this book is of short and sharp lavishly illustrated pieces centred on a march past of personalities. These are divided between sketches and vignettes of his own vintage colleagues and of his raw material which was mainly the farmers he wrote about.

Time has not mellowed his memories and quite a few of these brisk appraisals are caustic and deliberately incautious. Neither does Morgan spare himself. He routinely scolds himself for an enduring attitude of frivolity. Still, he seems to have kept his feet on the ground, and in pretty much the same patch the North Island’s Central Districts.

As the outline of his own end game begins to loom spectrally on the horizon Morgan becomes progressively more distressed at the way in which his employers start to abandon farm coverage. His impatience accelerates as his bosses then segue into actually attacking farmers for muddying the cherished fashionable urban cultural ideals now taking over editorial direction..

Morgan in vain sought to point out that it was the people in the provinces and notably farmer subscribers who still wanted their information in print rather than on a screen, and by the way supplied the wealth that the metropolitan newspapers depended on.

Nobody it seems listened. The newspapers stepped up their critiques of what they saw and portrayed as the brutish ways of farmers. A still greater share of revenue from still profitable print versions poured into a variety of speculative electronic alternatives.

Jon Morgan seems never to have been lured by the siren song of the public relations world. He entered the industry just as television arrived, yet he stuck with print.

He floats the perplexing and largely unvoiced issue of why so many stories in the internet era give the impression of being bottomless mixes of opinion and conjecture the meaning of which readers are left to work out for themselves and solve rather like crossword puzzles.

One is left with an impression that whatever the future holds for the energetic yet now out-to-graze newspaperman it will not be at a Media Studies establishment or at a J School.

National Press Club Warning Taken up by Westminster Reformists

Wealthy clients and oligarchs from autocratic countries are using prestigious London law firms to intimidate and silence journalists according to Westminster legislators seeking to stall powerful entities using the legal system to “intimidate and destroy” reporters.

A cross party slate of British MPs has urged the government to intercede in protecting journalists from a trend first revealed in the middle of last year by the National Press Club which then alerted New Zealand’s Law Commission to the development .

The intent of the British Members of Parliament with their proposed legislation is simple enough. It is to stop high end law firms with well-resourced clients from inflicting on the media and citizens from what the reforming UK parliamentarians describe as abusive legal actions.

These are known as Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation, or Slapps as they are now described. The parliamentarians say Slapps is a form of legal harassment that exploits the legal system by using expensive procedures to silence journalist and also critics and watchdogs.

Identified as practitioners of Slapps were what the MPs defined as elite law firms.

The debate in the House of Commons was secured by former Conservative cabinet minister David Davis MP (pictured above.)

The MPs argued that what attracted bona fide people to the English legal system also attracted those with nefarious intentions and those with exceptionally deep pockets and what were described as exceptionally questionable ethics also.

One reform advocated by the MPs was for judges to have the power to “rapidly dismiss” a case if it was designated as falling into the Slapp category.

They also advocated punitive costs to deter the misuse of courts by those bringing Slap cases. They recommended in addition the establishment of a defamation defence fund via a windfall tax on the law firms that the MPs described as deriving immense revenues from the misuse of courts.

The National Press Club’s submissions to the New Zealand Law Commission were made on August 5 2021.

These submissions (below) relate to proceedings in the High Court of New Zealand between the representatives of a prominent Russian businessman resident in California and a Wellington legal publisher.

The National Press Club seeks the opportunity to draw your attention to elements of the laws of defamation and libel and the interpretation of them in the context of this recent case.

We perceive the danger in which the sources of an international story become revealed and in doing so become inevitably disclosed to the world at large.

We would like these points in the case to be considered:

  • An absentee plaintiff through their agents can precipitate a defamation action in the New Zealand High Court.
  • This same absentee plaintiff and their agents can successfully order the handing over of correspondence such as emails that have passed between the journalist and their source.
  • In spite of New Zealand’s court system said to be already congested with cases of varying degrees of magnitude of severity a civil case such as this one was accorded a ready fixture.
  • The defendant who had substantial costs awarded against them was given no indication of a countervailing deposit made by the plaintiff or through their local agents.

The reason that we seek the attention of the Commission in this matter is that the outcome of this case has created alarm within a number of organisations with which we are affiliated or involved internationally

These include the Overseas Press Club of America, the Committee to Protect Journalists and the Alliance for Journalists’ Freedom.

The common cause in seeking the consideration of the Commission of a review of laws is that the case indicates that international stories covered in New Zealand can be suppressed through an action brought about by an absentee plaintiff and that a Court here can order the handing over of documents revealing sources and their information.

We note the Commission’s willingness to evaluate ideas leading to the review of laws and our particular anxiety aroused by this case is about the determined and continuing move for the defendant to hand over information connected with the case, and thus their stories.

The Court was made aware of the plaintiff’s urgency expressed via their agent to have this story source data made available to them.

We note that the original stories underpinning this case were derived from events and actions in other countries, the United States and Russia.

Therefore the possibility must be considered of the consequences to individuals connected with the original series of stories should their involvement in them become more widely known.

Should New Zealand be perceived internationally as a door of entry to successful litigation in this sphere then we suggest that rules embodying discovery and disclosure in a case such as this one be reviewed in order to protect third parties.

In regard to disclosure we suggest that full disclosure be mandated in regard to a plaintiff’s deposit, its presence or otherwise, in the matter especially of absentee plaintiffs.

These submissions are made in cognisance of the Commission’s stated belief that it “is critical that the current views of New Zealanders inform our recommendations,” and similarly in the spirit of the Commission’s objective of seeking ideas in this context.

We note in the judgment summary the reference to “fishing expedition”.

Our submission centres on our worry that in the matter of a globalised case such as the one under discussion here that the order of disclosure inherent to this case is likely to pose severe consequences for third parties in countries beyond the New Zealand jurisdiction.

In any deliberations we may take the liberty in the matter of jurisdiction of reminding the Commission of regulations applying in the UK which provides that the Court will not have jurisdiction to hear a defamation claim where the prospective defendant is resident outside of the UK, European Union or the Lugano Convention states (Norway, Switzerland and Denmark), unless it can be satisfied that England and Wales is clearly the most appropriate.

Isaac is greeted by Wanganui Club’s Henry NewrickClimate of Fear

Mainstream media’s horror of association with any scepticism about climate doctrine meant that it was unable to assess the result of the general election with any objectivity, claimed National Press Club president Peter Isaac addressing a Central Districts audience at the Wanganui Club.

Speaking immediately after the general election Isaac cited as an example of the reporting of events through the “climate filter” the mainstream’s failure to explain the disappearance of Winston Peters and his NZ First party.

Mainstream commentators could not bring themselves to point out that the party had been evicted as any meaningful political force at all just because it was seen by its own loyalists as having forsaken them in being captured by the climate ideology of its coalition partners.

There followed now a quicksand effect in which the New Zealand First party the more it tried to extricate itself from direct association with climate ideology was viewed by its base as sinking deeper into it.

The mass pine tree planting scheme was designed to appease its Green and Labour party coalition partners yet the most obvious outcome was in alienating NZ First’s base in the productive sector which saw pastoral farming being eliminated and thus the disappearance of small rural communities.

Isaac told the meeting that Winston Peters’ mentor the late Sir Robert Muldoon had privately told him (Isaac) that Winston Peters was destined to be a future prime minister.

Mr Peters however now failed to follow Muldoon’s and his own principle of putting the practical needs of New Zealand “first.” Especially above any foreign ideology.

Isaac suggested that Mr Peters himself had become lulled into thinking that he could be seen to be part of a foreign-originating ideology, and somehow reconcile it with his New Zealand first foremost and always stated priority just because the mainstream media in its zeal presented the climate doctrine as universal holy writ, unchallengeable.

His voter base meanwhile remained unimpressed by compromising with an abstract ideology centred in New York and instead saw only the practical and applied damage it was inflicting on New Zealand’s productive sector. So Mr Peters’ base melted away silently and until the last moment, unseen.

PICTURED: Isaac is greeted by Wanganui Club’s Henry Newrick. Wanganui City Councillor Helen Craig presents a copy of From The Sea to the Mountain. See also:- https://www.mscnewswire.co.nz

Wanganui City Councillor Helen Craig presents a copy of From The Sea to the Mountain

Greatest Living Adventurer Dies

Greatest Living Adventurer Dies

Bernard Diederich who has died in Haiti was New Zealand’s greatest living adventurer. The National Press Club Lifetime Achievement Award holder sailed before the mast on the Pamir during World War 2, graduated to tankers, and then took up ocean sailing as a hobby which is how he arrived in Haiti.

It was here that he started a newspaper, jousted with Papa Doc Duvalier, and then became during its heyday Time magazine’s Central America correspondent, a position which made him the global expert on all the region’s various dictatorships, and in this he was much assisted by his personal friendship with Fidel Castro.

Another friend was Graham Greene and he and Greene toured the region together giving Diederich the material for his last book Seeds of Fiction.

Bernard Diederich’s career coincided with the high point of print journalism before electronic media eroded the status of practitioners and their freedom to follow a story wherever it led them.

He returned quite regularly to New Zealand to visit his family roots in Martinborough and also to speak to the National Press Club, notably about his coverage of the US incursion into Grenada in which he interposed himself on a dinghy.

Krystyna Tomaszyk’s Last Journey

Krystyna Tomaszyk’s Last Journey

The death of Krystyna Tomaszyk QSM concludes the most storied of all New Zealand’s immigration epics of living memory. The National Press Club stalwart and her mother were part of a near thousand-strong contingent that fled Europe in 1944 via Siberia, Isfahan, and Bombay, eventually settling in a refugee camp home in Pahiatua.

Most of them stayed in New Zealand and Krystyna became a prominent civil servant while authoring several books on this experience known as the Polish Children.

Always superbly turned out and talking in perfect English, Krystyna over many years brought an aura of cosmopolitan class to the club’s proceedings. She was active in many other organisation, notably the National Library Association. She travelled widely, often on charitable work, notably those connected with Mother Theresa.

Women who step outside their contemporary stereotypes still detonate a wide field of conflicted emotions and responses. A new documentary on hard line infectious diseases clinician Dr Siouxsie Wiles provides the evidence.

Dr Wiles carried the bad news about the severity of Covid. She said the virus was the priority and not the economy or even the comfort of the population.

Her various prognostications were justified.

The documentary reveals how attention focused only slightly on Siouxsie Wiles the scientist and instead focussed on the clinician’s persona which is underwritten by her signature purple frizz hair do, and by her general flamboyance characterised by her choice of nom de guerre, Siouxsie.

The camera follows the colourful clinician in a domestic milieu point-counterpoint style in which she alternately giggles at herself and fires off life-and-death pronunciamentos about the virus threat.

Social equity desiderata permeate the politico-media class.

This documentary by National Press Club member Gwen Isaac indicates however that there remains beyond the elites and their world, well, another world.

It is inhabited by those exhibiting a bewilderment amounting to suspicion and hostility about females who having ventured into the sharper edges of real science then proceed to cross over into other preserves such as entertainment and public education

The outbreak in the United States of the Covid 19 contagion ripped through Washington and New York. An eyewitness was and remains National Press Club NZ member Victoria Gaither. She was swept into the pandemic when an entire branch of her family was wiped out by it. In the Washington press she recorded her feelings on discovering that that for her the plague data had taken on a new face, one comprised of her own close relatives........


Washington, DC

Today news broke the drug Remdesivir might help patients recover quicker from the corona virus. Today, I also received a text saying my auntie Leslie Leake of Southeast Washington, DC died from the corona virus. While the drug isn't going to help Leslie, her daughter Nicky Leake or son John Leake Jr, who all died within weeks of contracting the deadly virus, I'm hoping it helps other Americans. 

But, today, I'm not thinking about all the other Americans just my two cousins, Nicky and John Jr, and auntie Leslie. Nicky worked at Washington Hospital Center and if you look at her Facebook page you can tell she loved her job but most of all she loved her family and children. She wanted the best for her kids and would stop at nothing to make sure they had the best. When her daughter, Eniah, graduated from high school last year, she pulled out all the stops. Eniah walked the red carpet at grandma Leslie's house, the hub, of family activity. Eniah's uncle John Jr would have been in the mix taking photos and fussing over Eniah. John Jr. was the clown! He always had a laugh and had the ability to make people laugh. A long career at the USPS, love of food, travel to Africa, and active at his family's church, Master's Child Church Worship Center. When the USPS come out with Journalist Gwen Ifill stamp John Jr. made sure I knew about it being a Broadcaster and fan of Ifill. Cousin Nicky also give me permission to use her photos in my presentation on Slavery in America in Foxton Beach, New Zealand. That was Nicky willing to help her cousin broadcaster and photojournalist. 

Mother Leake as many called her was the core, strength, glue, and lifeblood of the Leake family! She was the face of strength! Before covid-19 took her, she was heartbroken over daughter's Nicky's death but she died never knowing her youngest son, John Jr, was gone. While she was fighting for her life at George Washington Hospital, son John Jr. was fighting for his life at Howard University, so tragic and sad. In one family, three deaths and as I write, her husband John Sr. and grandson, Donte, have tested positive for the corona virus. The President calls this a silent virus but today its not silent as a church family, friends, extended family, colleagues, neighbors from near and far all grieve and asking 'why'? Why did this virus take so many in one family? Why did this invisible virus creep through the Leake family and wipe them out? Why are African American and Hispanic communities suffering from corona virus? Why, why, why? On his Facebook Live, Bishop Melvin Robinson Jr. the family's pastor, notified church members of Leslie's passing. It was just a day before he notified the church family of John Jr. passing. 

A mother, daughter, and son all gone within weeks of contracting the corona virus! The 600 Block of Alabama Ave Southeast Washington, DC will never be the same, summer cookouts, 4th of July, Easter, Christmas, and Thanksgiving will never be the same because at the end of the day three souls are gone. It's like the puzzle isn't complete and you can never find the pieces to put it back together again. Leslie Leake, Nicky Leake, and John Leake Jr., you are our missing piece to the puzzle! We love you!

Victoria Gaither

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