Thursday, October 14, 2010

Eating Media Lunch: the sequel

Every few months Steve Braunias puts on a convivial lunch, Media Bites, for his 200 closest friends and his 26 journalism students at Wintec. It is sponsored by NBR, and good on them. Last time Paul Holmes was the guest speaker and dwelled on his awesomeness for an hour. There were way more than 60 minutes in that hour. Jim Anderton would have been more modest.

This time the speaker was Michael Lhaws, former mayor of Whanganui and currently employed as a talkback host and Sunday-Star Times columnist. He is not a journalist, then, but he has been on the receiving end of journalists a fair bit. Braunias gave a brilliant – no, really – introductory speech in which he explained that there had been many no-shows and cancellations because so many who had accepted now found that they couldn’t bring themselves to be in the same room as Laws, presumably because he had recently said something stupid, embarrassing and offensive. When they accepted I guess they never saw that coming. 

I had been promised that fellow attendees would be Wendyttle, whom I know slightly, and Bill Ralston, whom I don’t but would have liked to have met. Both sadly were no-shows. 

Unlike Holmes, who granted us an hour of unscripted idiocy, Laws delivered half an hour of scripted idiocy. He was wrong about almost everything, as ever. He talked 90% bollocks, 5% sense and 5% was unintelligible. But at least he was funny. 

Among the bits that made sense, he said of the journalism students present:
They should be doing something useful like saving children in third world countries, or sweeping the streets. But no, they want to be in journalism.
Every time there’s an opinion poll, politicians and journalists always feature as the least trusted people in society. We all know why politicians are there. But why are the media there? Maybe it’s something students need to ask themselves as they consider joining their blighted profession.
He claimed that Finlay Macdonald was a liberal. Who knew? But he seemed to be using the word in the Republican sense, i.e. as shorthand for commie. I do hope this usage doesn’t catch on here. 

He claimed that the fuss about Paul Henry was “a gratuitous gang-bang of an individual by the media”. He meant the MSM, but as far as I could tell bloggers were uniformly hostile to Henry too, as were, you know, ordinary people.

Then he started talking about himself so I tuned out. But he was undeniably entertaining – is that blusher above his cheekbones, I speculated, or natural ruddiness? At his age you’d expect the latter, but the colour demarcation was so sharp that I leaned to the former. Perhaps he was going for the inverse Adam Ant look? – and if he steered some of the students away from journalism and towards a more honest and lucrative trade he might, on balance, have done some good.

The best bit of the lunch was when a tall, slim, pale, grey-haired and well-groomed man in a white suit – he looked like Neil Tennant, the Pet Shop Boy – turned up early with a loudhailer and announced that Laws was a fascist bastard. This was not a stunt, Braunias said later – the man was a genuine lunatic.

But then Braunias is a journalist, so can he be trusted?

Here is an account of this event from a proper journalist, Bruce Holloway.

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