5 Jun 2016

Are the media too much in love with themselves?

From Mediawatch, 9:09 am on 5 June 2016

Public interest in TV presenters is nothing new, but are the media too interested in what their own personalities are up to these days?


The hosts of TV3's Story loved it when one of them was bagged on the front page of the Waikato Times this week. But was that the real story?  Photo: Screenshot

On The Panel recently, host Jim Mora pointed out that Hilary Barry would be reading the news for the last time on TV3 about an hour later.   

His guest Oscar Kightley didn't care.

"Why do media always make other media people into a story? We're supposed to report the news - not be the news," he said. 

Presumably he didn't click on a piece for website The Spinoff by another RNZ presenter - Jesse Mulligan:

"Hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders will watch Hilary Barry deliver her final bulletin on TV3 this Friday night, but the real tragedy is that only dozens will get to attend the party afterwards when she receives her leaving present from MediaWorks. What will they give her?"

What followed was a series of stories about underwhelming farewell gifts various presenters have had down the years. It prompted the New Zealand Herald’s media columnist John Drinnan to ask: "Does anybody really care about this stuff - apart from the media?"

The Herald certainly did. It turned The Spinoff’s yarn piece into an actual news story:

"The former executive producer on axed TV3 show Campbell Live has revealed the "shitty" parting gift given to host John Campbell on his last day."

Flowers, in case you’re wondering...

If that didn't hold readers' attention, the Herald posted a link to another online story halfway through it - one about TV3 presenter Duncan Garner getting stuck in a lift illustrated with seven social media selfies.

These days, it seems, the media will make news out of almost anything a TV presenter does or says - and anywhere they go.

Shortly before she left TV3, Hilary Barry bailed out of Paul Henry’s TV3 show one morning while it was still on-air. She flew to Wellington and back to Auckland again in time to present the 6pm news on TV3 that day.

The reason? To preserve her 'Gold Elite' status with Air New Zealand.

The papers seized on this too, not because they thought this was unprofessional, but - presumably - because they wanted to run Barry’s Instagram photos from Lyall Bay near Wellington Airport and the selfies she took on the plane with fellow host Mark Sainsbury.

Who - or what - was really the Story?

This week, another TV host put herself at the centre of a real news story that has dominated the entire week's news agenda - housing in Auckland.

Ngaruawahia is one of the places where people without homes in Auckland could end up under Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett’s emergency housing response plan, announced just before the Budget last week.

In her Herald on Sunday column last weekend, TV3 host Heather Du Plessis-Allan dissed Ngaruawahia like this:

"It's no fault of the people who live there, but the town is rotting. It's preferable to hold on for Mercer than to stop to pee in Ngaruawahia." People going there, she wrote, would "have homes - but no hope".

Last Monday, the Waikato Times recorded local anger about her comments in a story with a photo of her with teeth blacked out, and a moustache and horns drawn onto her head with a marker pen.

On TV3’s 7pm show Story that day, she was chuffed, describing the front page picture as "juvenile, but great".

The mayor of Ngaruawahia had invited Du Plessis-Allan to come to town and see for herself - an invitation the host herself was fishing for on Facebook last weekend like this:  

"Maybe this calls for a trip down State Highway One to visit the place. I'm keen. Just need someone to show me around."

Even though the visit was all set up already, the mayor appeared live on the show to set it up again. 

"I have agreed to visit Ngaruawahia to see if it is a good place to send Auckland's homeless, which is, remember, what this is all about - the homeless," Du Plessis-Allan told viewers that night.

But if all this was really about the homeless in Auckland who might end up in Ngaruawahia, why not take some of them there to see for themselves whether the place would be good for them or not?

Reporting back on what was billed as "Heather's tiki tour," Du Plessis-Allan found Ngaruawahia a nicer place that she had imagined it to be when passing through in a car with a full bladder previously.

But the town's Housing New Zealand houses, she reported on Tuesday's Story, were actually all full up. 

That was the real story.