The TDB Media Awards: 2013 – the year of the Wahine & 5 Eyes


Suicide Bomber Media Award 2013: JT & Willie

What a year of media. Public Broadcasting was finally killed off, Seven Sharp managed to lower a bar already set beneath expectations, young women triumphantly strode the globe gaining musical, sporting and writing accolades with all the mana and confidence of Kate Sheppard while social media shocked the nation at the abundance of rape culture. John Campbell forced answers and decided to do a current affairs program rather than a lite entertainment variety show and Marriage Equality managed to bring together political foes onto the right side of history.

The year was punctuated by the death of Nelson Mandela, whose example of what a true believer in equality was prepared to endure has inspired a figure who will echo down the corridors of time with as much authority as any who came before him.

It was a year dominated by big news stories told with all the shallowness of the Edge Breakfast Show discussing poverty inequality and economic neo-liberal hegemony.

Let’s pay respects where they are due:

The John Minto Springbok Tour Crash Helmet People’s Champion Award: John Campbell
Campbell’s tireless championing of activist journalism be it the GCSB spying powers, the pain of Christchurch quake survivors dealing with hellish red tape or child poverty is the best NZ has. It is not only the quality of work that is high, to constantly be pushing back against a Media Company always focused on the ratings rather than the quality during receivership takes more courage than we the viewers ever see.

The future of Campbell Live when bosses are looking to emulate Seven Sharp in the form of the Paul Henry Show seems concerning. If John jumped to RNZ, expect the last pillar propping up current affairs on TV to falter. Native Affairs would be all that was left.

Campbell is so popular in a country increasingly becoming polarized that the Government have actively engaged in his show, not to debate the issues, but to attack him personally. The infamous Key interview and Simon Bridges interview weren’t about being held to account, they were there to bash John. Such is the divide in civil discourse, while urban viewers were horrified by Key and Bridges arrogance and rudeness, in National Party hinterlands, they were cheering Key & Bridges on to bash that liberal pinko.

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When the messenger is the target and not the message, politics drops a level in terms of dignity. We are blessed to have John Campbell.


Suicide Bomber Media Award 2013: JT & Willie
What. Were. They. Thinking? Willie & JTs extraordinary lapse of judgment (after a long, long, long history of such lapses by JT) when interviewing a woman about rape in the wake of the roast buster sex assault club was one of those truly gasp out loud as it happened moments. The ramifications of where their questions were leading caused a backlash so quick and angry and righteous that it smote them from the airwaves. How on earth management there at Radio Live didn’t act the second after the broadcast finished is one of the big questions for the media world of 2013. Did they not understand the offense caused? Did they not perceive the ease with which social media could organize a boycott? Or did management shrug and think ‘any publicity is good publicity’ and only clicked when advertisers started calling to pull out?


Best Journalist 2013: David Fisher & Edward Snowden
For years Fisher must have had to put up with the Herald editors whispering that he was a tinfoil hat wearer, but this year’s shock revelations by Edward Snowden put Fisher front and center in revealing the depths of that global conspiracy and its manifestation in NZ. His close rapport with Kim Dotcom makes for a riveting read and with less than 5% of Snowden’s data so far released, Fisher will be the first journalist many will turn to in NZ for breaking news on the revelations of mass surveillance.

Snowden has to be recognized for the incredible debt journalism owes his heroism. To actively plan to walk into the heart of darkness with every intention of highlighting the evil that they do is Journalism in its truest and most powerful form. Every citizen on the planet owes Snowden a debt of gratitude. There are few human beings that can actually be said of. Expect him to play a pivotal role in the outcome of next years election.


Most Shameful News Story 2013: Pike River Mine & Forestry Deaths
The bewildering incompetence and total lack of real regulation that led to the deaths of 29 workers has been compounded by the total lack of justice handed out to the company. The shame that the Government’s pathetic regulation provided these workers with zero protection before or after their deaths is something we can all feel anger in. This is 2013, not 1813. The ongoing killing spree in the forestry industry is the perfect example of how the Government’s ideologically aggressive stance against the union movement has cost them work and safety advice from the front line.


The Mental Pestilence Media Award 2013: Seven Sharp, Simon Whatshisface on Firstline & Racist Cartoons
I’ve tried watching Seven Sharp again so that I can give it a chance, but it’s what Seven Sharp represents which always drives me away. TVNZ can’t sell any more advertising space on Shortland St and they decided to create a current affairs lite show that would appeal to the same Shortland St demographic, so goodbye Mark Sainsbury interviewing the PM to 3 chatty types chatting about chatty stuff. Seven Sharp is what happens when marketing take over current affairs.

Simon Whatshisface on Firstline is such a downgrade from Rachel Smalley. His hesitant delivery, smarmy presentation and self congratulatory half smiles to his own flat quips are only bearable for the crosses to long suffering Sports presenter Sam Ackerman whose facial flinch at Simon’s rudderless presentation is the only highlight left on Firstline. That said, it’s 10 000 times better than Breakfast on TV1.

Racist cartoons by Al Nisbet had people trying to explain to great lengths why the racist cartoons weren’t really racist and that we shouldn’t be so PC because really brown people are bludgers who scam the pakeha guilt to feed their numerous brood while blowing all their benefit on ciggies, booze & gambling. Glad we could have that discussion and appreciate just how garden variety racist some NZers are.


The Pluto Award for being out of the loop: Wellington Press Gallery
Lost in a fog of the own making, the tribal Press Gallery were caught well off guard when Grant Robertson lost the Labour Party Leadership. As social media breaks down the need for proximity to power to be able to comment upon politics, the bubble world of the beltway is becoming increasingly out of touch.


The Michael Laws Willful Ignorance Award – poverty denial – climate denial – mass surveillance denial
We did a lot of denial in 2013. We had politicians refusing to look at any of the numerous freakish weather extremes and connect them in any way with anthropogenic climate change, we had politicians denying poverty and inequality by refusing to even count how many kids actually live in poverty and we had every intelligence agency connected to the 5 eyes denying mass surveillance right up until the latest Snowden revelation showing them doing the exact thing they are strenuously denying. Such denial is an acceptance of the inability to debate the issue and instead resort to a willful ignorance so that their position can’t be challenged. The lack of critical media allows this ignorance to become the norm.


Economic News Story of the Year: Crony Capitalism
Praying for another natural disaster isn’t much of an economic strategy, but then again, this isn’t much of a Government. The hands off free market unless you’re a Facebook friend of Steven Joyce style of Crown largess has bred a level of crony capitalism that makes us look about as straight as a Queensland Cop stumbling upon an ounce of P and $50k in cash.

This crony capitalism has managed to seep into everything, and with it the meritocracy good democracy relies upon. When corporations are banging down Matthew Hooton’s door to launch campaigns at the Government because they are outside the Ministerial social circuit, nepotism has run out of sons and daughters to pretend are competent.

The Sky City deal managed to stink more and more as the year wore on. How this bloated rotting corpse has managed to float this long without rupturing is political zombiesm at its finest.


Best Photo Bomb Of A News Story 2013 – Race Relations Commissioner
Pow. Marama Davidson’s blindsiding of the appointment of Dame Susan Devoy as Race Relations Commissioner was an organic moment that had poor Susan wondering why she said yes. It helped build Davidson as an important social media voice and forced the wider community to confront and challenge white privilege.


Best Current Affairs Show 2013: Native Affairs
Without doubt, the best current affairs show in NZ. The team week in, week out put together grassroots current affairs while providing a narrative to the big issues of the week. Their ethics and desire to ask the hard questions, even of whanau, have built them a vast reservoir of mana. With the maori electorates crucial to the balance of power next year, see the mood of those electorates first on Native Affairs.


Political Story of 2013 – The Cunliffe comeback & Marriage Equality
How long is a year in politics? Lats year David Cunliffe was banished to the back bench for a media manufactured leadership coup and Labour limped along in the polls under the confused leadership of David Shearer, that Cunliffe has been able to come back and make one of the most powerful leadership speeches in modern NZ political history is testament to the man and his personal convictions. It is a political comeback on par with Lazurus, and he is on his way to becoming the next Prime Minister of NZ.

The Marriage Equality debate allowed political foes to reach across the spectrum and join hands in a moment of history turning and made us all wonder why we can’t focus on the other social issues we face with as much grace and dignity as we managed with Marriage Equality.


Biggest Story of the Year 2013: The Madonna-Whore Dichotomy As Popular Culture and GCSBs 5 eyes
The cruelest dichotomy of 2013 was that while brilliant wahine like Lydia Ko, Lorde, Eleanor Catton, Jamie Curry and Hannah O’Neill strode the globe with confidence, at home women were being the target of roast buster sexual abuse clubs. The following dialogue on rape culture ripped the social media world apart and the weight of tens of thousands of historic rapes that had never seen justice peeled back the thin veneer of civility and exposed a poisoned and infected social wound that has never been able to heal.

The bittersweeteness of seeing our best and brightest succeed was set against the reality of rape culture and our total lack of public sphere space to discuss the issues that rape culture exposed.

The other big story of 2013 was the expansion of mass surveillance. The GCSB legislation represented the largest erosion of our civl liberties since the waterfront lockout. How we have been seduced into paying hundreds of millions each year for an intelligence apparatus that seems to answer to Washington above Wellington while legalizing the mass spying on civilians is one of the real low points of this decade. Expect the Snowden revelations to have a major impact on the election next year.


Deserved media mentions 2013:
Mihingarangi Forbes – Intelligent and dignified, the best Current Affairs host in the country. Has done more for race relations in a year than the government have managed in half a decade.
Rachel Smalley – One of the best TV interviewers in NZ Journalism.
John Drinnan – Always insightful & intelligent & first (don’t understand the Whaleoil bro-mance though).
Andrea Vance – Her principled response to being informed that she had been spied upon will be a historic proclamation studied in media classes.
Toby Manhire – Best writer at the NZ Herald.
Steve Braunias – The only column I actually anticipate weekly.
Pebbles Hooper – Her twitter account is viciously funny.
Hamish Keith – The most reasonable voice on twitter.
Finlay McDonald – his twitter account is like a cool grungy late 1990’s edition of the Listener.


The Media Extinction Award 2013: The rise of the blogs
The rise of the influence of the blog in shaping the newsrooms of NZ continued unabated this year from sex scandals to advertiser boycotts, from mass surveillance protests to overthrowing a Party leadership, from debates about misogynistic rape culture to critiquing appointing a squash player as Race Relations Commissioner, from protesting against racist cartoons to advocating for marriage equality, blogs have continued to be a dynamic element in the fourth estate.

Blogs transmit via social media no longer requiring msm to carry the message. The frequency of the retweets and shares via networks of friends carry far more authenticity and authority than any billboard or advert or poster. As the influence of the blogs grow the blurring lines of legal protections and social obligations must make for some test cases and the current debate in Court over Slater’s right to protect sources is the legalistic release of those tensions.

With 2014 being an election year, and with the narrow ideological range offered by the mainstream media, blogs will only gain more ground in leading the political debate, whether that debate will be dignified or in the sewer is yet to be seen.


    • Different era but at the fag end of the 90s Kim Hill daily skewered every duplicitous person imaginable from Winston’s “Tight Five” to the tory tops and their buddies. She wielded a lot of influence in helping bring Labour to office at that time.

      The TDB awards show the changed scene from then, but, but.

      Campbell suitable for radio? He might feel like a caged beast without the visual outlet for his eyebrow raising and shoulderpad twitching body language. Still if the channel is going the Paul Henry route “Campbells Island” will be a goner. It is amazing that there is not someone waiting for him in the carpark each night (that the public is aware of) with some of the challenging angles he presents. He is indeed NZs “Good night and good luck” Edward Murrow type of journo.

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