Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Stephen Stratford: the website

I have a new website, www.stephenstratford.co.nz, where I set out my stall and tout my wares: book editing, manuscript assessment, turning corporate-speak into readable English, that sort of thing. 

The more people link to it, the higher I go up the rankings on Google. 

You know what to do.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Wintec Press Club: Mihi Forbes and Annabelle Lee

The Wintec Press Club lunch is held three times each year on behalf of the journalism students, and staged by the Wintec School of Media Arts. The star-studded guest list always features big names in politics, media, entertainment, sport, business, law and the arts. And me – I am now a lifetime member.

The students get to mingle with big-name media types and newsmakers: most tables have one or two students who get to meet industry veterans. It’s a brilliant idea and I have always enjoyed talking with the students and doing my best to discourage them from entering the profession, suggesting they do something useful or lucrative instead.

At our table were Hamilton mayor Julie Hardaker and, on my immediate left, Tim Macindoe, MP for Hamilton West and the Nats’ senior Whip. I wish I had known that when we were chatting. I would have asked him, “What does a Whip do, exactly?” Instead we talked about teenage suicide and Tauranga, where I spent my first 17 years quite happily but he shuddered at the memory of spending just 18 months there. He was very arts-friendly and, like me, a devotee of the free Wintec Press Club pens. On my right was a mature student, a Mormon so I couldn’t ask her to pass the wine. Instead we talked about her work with the homeless in Garden Place and abused children. It’s not all gay hilarity at the Wintec Press Club.

Other guests included novelists Mandy Hager and Charlotte Grimshaw, bloggers Michelle Dickinson of Nanogirl and Elizabeth Marvelly of Villainesse,  former politician Don Brash and, bafflingly, Bevan Chuang.

The speakers at these events are usually eminent media types types – last time it was TV3’s Paula Penfold – though once it was Pam Corkery and the time before that Rachel Glucina. This time it was two major Maori journalists: Mihingarangi Forbes (above left) and Annabelle Lee (above right). Forbes was a reporter/presenter at Maori Television’s Native Affairs, Lee was producer. Both left this year. Carol Hirschfeld, general manager production,  and Julian Wilcox, head of news and production, started this trend when they exited in 2014.

As our gracious host Steve Braunias said, there has been “an exodus of talent” from Maori Television: if it was careless to lose Hirschfeld, and then reckless to lose Wilcox, “it’s just kind of freaking nuts to further lose people of such blazing quality as Mihi and Annabelle”.

Both speakers kicked off in Maori. Forbes, a Wintec graduate, suggested that if the Maori King’s claim to Auckland succeeded he would rename it Hamilton Heights. This went down well with the locals. Forbes was very funny throughout, but also deadly serious about the problems facing Maori journalists. Especially female Maori journalists.

Forbes and Lee’s main topic was the series of programmes they made about the finances of the Kohanga Reo National Trust Board, starting with A Question of Trust (September 2013).

That turned out to be “a release valve for frustration”, with many viewers asking for investigation into all sorts of Maori organisations.

Both women send their children to kohanga reo, so know the organisation at ground level. Lee described it as “endless working bees and fundraisers” in contrast with what happens at the top.

After the next story, Feathering the Nest (October 2013), they received threats, Native Affairs was banned from Turangawaewae, people booked to come on the show “unbooked” themselves. “How dare these girls challenge their rangatira?” was the reaction from the usual male suspects: Derek Fox, Willie Jackson, John Tamihere, Dale Husband. “We’re female, we’re younger than them.” Fancy that, old blokes being sexist.

Both said how much they appreciated the support they’d had from the mainstream media, singling out the Herald’s David Fisher and especially TV3’s Tova O’Brien who would ask questions on their behalf when the kohanga reo people wouldn’t let them in to a press conference.

Forbes said that Maori Television wouldn’t show the final programme: “Yeah, and that’s basically why I quit.”

After the formal part, there were solid questions from the floor that elicited excellent answers. Then came a long statement from singer Moana Maniapoto about something or other. When I woke up, everyone was tucking into dessert.

For the journalism students – and probably most of the audience – this might have been the most useful Wintec Press Club address ever. Forbes and Lee were frank about the problems facing all journalists today, and especially Maori journalists who want to work in a Maori way, which involves respecting one’s elders while also asking questions and holding the powerful to account. Speaking truth to power doesn’t go down well when the powerful are old and male and the people speaking truth are young and female. Possibly it’s the female part that is the problem.

There was also the small matter of there being in Maoridom no such thing as six degrees of separation, so pressure comes from all sides. And referring to Newstalk ZB’s Rachel Smalley’s complaint that there are too few women on-air, Forbes noted the greater “paucity of Maori in mainstream media”. Well, yes. There is marginal and there is marginal.

At the end, Steve Braunias said, “The elephant in the room is Maori TV. Man up and tell us – what the fuck happened?”

Forbes replied that after Julian Wilcox was replaced by Paora Maxwell, “I didn’t want to be there any more. I hated it.”

Lee said simply, “All of the above.”

So here are Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan live in 2010, with “You Won’t Let Me Down Again”:

Danyl McLauchlan at the Dim-Post quoted a chunk of the above under the title “Maori TV and the mediapocalypse”, and commented:
What happened at Maori TV is one of the most clear-cut cases of establishment censorship imaginable. Journalists started asking uncomfortable questions; the establishment got angry and imposed a new leader on the organisation who shut everything down. There’s a hell of a book in there. (The lack of public outrage is, presumably because mainstream New Zealand doesn’t really care what happens in Maori institutions).
It’s also a reminder to progressives – who advocate for more public-funded media in response to the collapse of the commercial media model – that state-funded media has its own problems.
Good. But he prefaced it with “QuoteUnquote has an overview of the latest Wintec Press Club’s (notorious) luncheon featuring  Mihingarangi Forbes and Annabelle Lee as guest speakers”.
Our host at the lunch, Steve Braunias, took exception in the comments (third one in):
Minor things. It’s not “(notorious)”, just an event. And Stephen Stratford claims I said “Man up”! I didn’t.

Oh yes he did. I take notes at these events and recorded this comment because he said it to two stroppy women, which we all thought was quite funny – it got a big laugh. Evidence: a reporter’s notebook:

Monday, September 14, 2015

In the Court of the Crimson Corbyn

Andrew Rawnsley in the Guardian on the Corbyn victory:
When an opposition party chooses a new leader in the wake of defeat, the event has the potential to be a moment of rebirth: sorrows can be put aside, a line drawn under past failures, the party may dare to dream again.
It was like that for some in the crowd at the Queen Elizabeth II conference centre when it was declared that Jeremy Corbyn had become Labour’s crimson king by conqueroring [sic – this is the Guardian] the party with a haul of votes that obliterated his rivals.

We must all wish the British Labour Party well. Meanwhile, here are King Crimson live in San Francisco in December 1969 with “Epitaph” from their debut album, released in October that year, In the Court of the Crimson King. Sample lyrics:
Confusion will be my epitaph….
The fate of all mankind, I see in the hands of fools

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Waikato Times letter of the week #56

This is from the edition of Tuesday 8 September. As always, spelling, punctuation, grammar and logic are exactly as printed in the Waikato Times.

Vaccine thoughts

In a pro-vaccination story in the Waikato Times on Friday, September 4, Dr Noni McDonald says that natural isn’t best, natural kills. Well, isn’t that the way it was meant to be? Survival of the fittest?

Today’s problems stem from the fact that mankind has interfered with nature far too much for our own good. Overpopulation, food shortages, pollution, to name just a few, are all the result of man’s meddling in the natural course of events. Diseases are the natural way of maintaining the proper balance of life on this planet. All species of life have survived for millions of years without the need for vaccines to keep diseases controlled.

We are doomed if we continue to strive to keep everyone alive for far longer than would naturally be the case. Perhaps we are doomed, anyway, but why hurry things?

If an animal other than a human is born with a defect that is not naturally survivable, it is allowed to die or is put out of its misery. Why do we keep our own alive to perhaps live a life full of suffering and ill health?

Wouldn’t it be kinder to let nature take its course without intervening?

Gregory Roberts

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Yorkshire graveyard humour

This is for Yorkshirepersons Peter Bland, Chris Else, Josh Easby and my mother, from The Week’s “Pick of the week’s correspondence” in its 29 August issue:

A grave error
To The Times
My favourite gravestone typo series is that of the Yorkshireman who chose for his aunt’s headstone the epitaph: “She was thine.” Finding that it had been carved “She was thin”, he complained to the stonemason: “You’ve missed out the ‘e’.” On his return, he found that the alteration had been duly made: “E, she was thin.”
Patty Icke, Warwick

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Entrepreneurial policing

Katy Balls reports in the Spectator that Sheriff Stephen Jessup of McInTosh County in Georgia has taken an innovative approach to dealing with drug crime:

“He took out an advert in a local paper calling on drug dealers to anonymously dob each other in to get rid of their competition: ‘Attention drug dealers. Is your drug-dealing competition costing you money? We offer a FREE service to help you eliminate your drug competition!’”