26 Feb 2018

Portrait of the PM goes sour

From Mediawatch, 3:53 pm on 26 February 2018

A fawning portrait of New Zealand's PM has been condemned as creepy and sexist hours after it aired in Australia. But while that made headlines here, her part in a recent overseas broadcast marking a political milestone for women went completely unreported here. 

Charles Wooley introduces his report on Jacinda Ardern for Channel 9 in Australia.

Charles Wooley introduces his report on Jacinda Ardern for Channel 9 in Australia. Photo: screenshot / Channel 9 You Tube

'The Kiwi that Soared', was the title Australia’s Channel 9 gave reporter Charles Wooley’s piece when it screened on 60 Minutes last night.   

It quickly became a report that soured.

The backdrop on screen was that moody shot of the PM from her recent feature in Vogue which was aimed at US readers.

"New Zealand has had two women prime ministers before, but neither made possibility and opportunity feel as contagious as Ardern," Vogue's writer gushed. 

"She has spoken about issues of poverty and homelessness in her country with a blend of Bernie Sanders’s bluntness and Elizabeth Warren’s fearlessness," Vogue went on, before focusing on her clothes. 

Gushing stuff, but it sparked none of the criticism the 60 Minutes piece has generated.   

Wooley focused on Jacinda Ardern's looks, her relationship with her partner and - repeatedly - her pregnancy.

"I've met a lot of prime ministers in my time, but none too young and not so many so smart, and never one so attractive", Wooley said, before admitting to being “smitten” himself.

Online critics across the ditch swiftly condemned it as sexist and creepy, with mainstream media commentators following suit over here today.

“Is he talking to two four year olds?” asked Newstalk ZB’s Mike Hosking, puzzled by the reporter’s old-fashioned delivery and his gushing approach.

But infants would not be among those Wooley believed were “counting backwards” from the due date to work out whether she conceived during the election campaign.

It was a claim that made Ms Ardern grimace.

Jacinda Ardern reacts when Charles Wooley asks when her baby was conceived.

Jacinda Ardern reacts when Charles Wooley asks when her baby was conceived. Photo: screenshot / Channel 9 You Tube

“Wooley is so incredibly and relentlessly creepy,” wrote The Herald’s Steve Braunias, who reckoned the report followed in the footsteps of noted Aussie horror movies.

“It ought to come with an R18 certificate. It ought to come with a sickbag, too. Only those of strong constitution will be able stop themselves throwing up a stream of vomit that could travel the entire ditch between here and Australia,” he wrote.

But social media outrage aside, Newstalk ZB’s Australian correspondent Murray Olds reckoned 60 minutes’ report had gone down well across the Tasman

"It wouldn't surprise me to see 60 Minutes doing okay last night on the back of that story. She is attractive, she is smart, she's terrific on television and she's having a baby and she's very, very popular," he told Hosking.

He was echoed by a veteran Australian entertainment reporter on Radio Live this afternoon. 

“Maybe Charles Wooley was on a hiding to nothing as an older man interviewing a younger woman,” said Peter Forde.

He pointed out 60 Minutes’ report was for domestic consumption in Australia, and he didn't see it as sexist.

“I reckon most Australians will have looked on it with envy, seeing a politician who is young and looking at the world with fresh eyes,” he said.

He might be right. Australia’s recent political pregnancy story was not a happy one. No-one lived happily ever after once the scandal surrounding deputy PM Barnaby Joyce broke last month.

The 60 Minutes report was not thrown together in a hurry after a couple of hasty interviews. Wooley had been shadowing Ms Ardern for a while. 

He was at Waitangi last month, and that much-documented barbecue breakfast she handed out featured heavily in his report.

“Malcolm Turnbull doesn’t do this,” Wooley declared, hovering behind her as she flipped bacon rashers on the grill.

But on Waitangi Day itself, Ms Ardern appeared on another news programme overseas which probably pulled in a bigger audience, but it went completely unreported here.

The BBC's all-female broadcast from the UK House Oof Commons to commemorate 100 years of the right to vote.

The BBC's all-female broadcast from the UK House Oof Commons to commemorate 100 years of the right to vote. Photo: supplied / BBC

To mark the 100th anniversary of women getting the right to vote in the UK, BBC Radio aired a special edition of it’s Today Show (the equivalent of Morning Report) live from the House of Commons.  

The programme’s hosts and guests that day were all women, among them Ms Ardern who was in a prime slot in the rundown after the 7am news.

She was asked the questions that she’s become accustomed to answering: all about how she will balance the demands of leadership and parenthood, and coping with the carping of critics.

But she had to improvise when she was probed about New Zealand’s trade and diplomatic ties with a Brexit-era UK.

“New Zealand's prime minister said a post-Brexit free trade deal with the UK was a "significant priority" and stressed her country was seeking an agreement that would be "progressive and inclusive,” the Mirror newspaper reported that day.

"We are here, ready and willing," the Mirror quoted her as saying.

No-one reported that here, or anything she said to the BBC that day.

Maybe it would have been different if the BBC's women in charge that day had pressed her on when she conceived and whether we can expect a boy or a girl - rather than asking questions about actually running the country.