On Sunday there was a story about Paddy Gower and his detached retina in the Herald on Sunday. Really? I hear you ask. Really? Yes, really.
Pam Corkery will have sprayed toast crumbs over her dressing gown.
The reporter has become the news. Not for anything newsworthy, though. For his retina detaching. He cannot even claim to be the architect of this event.
With all the stories to tell out there in Aotearoa – stories of real hardship, genuine overcoming of adversity, actual struggle – we are treated to a TV presenter’s, sorry, political editor’s, week old trip to hospital.
The media has made itself the news.
This is a symptom of a greater malaise of the mainstream media that was in evidence throughout the election campaign. They have tight control of the narrative. They choose the framing for every issue. They see themselves as part of the story.
Take the headline “Gower gets one in the eye over election”. Not the poke in the eye some would like to give him, but a tragic medical misadventure. Poor Paddy, cast as victim of politics.
But Paddy is also constructed as an amazing guy. He is “dynamic” and “sharp.” He is a “father of two” deserving of your empathy. He is witty, bantering with the medicos before he goes under the knife.
He is a hero, fighting through personal injury to front the election coverage. He thinks of his son as he goes into his surgery. He takes time to reflect after his ordeal, shaking off the “heaps of shit” he got from “all sorts of people.” Luckily, he has supporters. An All Black, no less, who compares him to another All Black, just so we are clear of the kind of battle-through-the-pain-barrier-for-the-sake-of-NZ kind of guy he is.
The political barbs for the left are surrounded by cotton wool, but they are there.
He has a dig at Hone Harawira – shudders at the thought he might have dreamt of the Mana leader in his anesthetized state.
There’s a plug for The Nation and two for Paul Henry.
In an effort to masquerade as real journalism, the story is accompanied by diagrams explaining a detached retina, giving it legitimacy and pseudo-scientific gravitas. But there’s also a selfie – a down-but-not-out Gower tugs at our heartstrings with a photo in hospital, complete with needle stuck in his arm.
This kind of story should make you feel sick. It should make you feel angry. It tells us that it is time for those of us who care about the real stories in New Zealand to be heard.
The fourth estate in New Zealand is a sell out where journalists write stories about other journalists, spinning them in a web of self-referential social media and celebrity.
We need investigative journalists. We need writers willing to follow a story from beginning to end. To make us question the world around us, not subtly treat us as unthinking sheep.
The left relied on social media this election to disseminate its message. Is that enough? Or do we have to try to reclaim some of the mainstream narrative?
American political journalist Helen Thomas said, “We don’t go into journalism to be popular. It is our job to seek the truth and put constant pressure on our leaders until we get answers.” How about we see some of thatHerald on Sunday?
Rachel Jones moved from armchair critic to political activist in recent years, spurred on by some really stupid National Party policies. She was the Labour candidate for Tauranga in 2014 and refuses to go gentle into that good night.