GUEST BLOG: Rachel Jones – A superficial discourse analysis of a superficial media story



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.

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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.


  1. Yes! Just what I was thinking, but written in a way that is publishable, rather than what was careening around in my brain. I am sick to death of the msm and their ‘beating up’ of stories, and woeful ignoring of others. Thanks Rachel.

  2. Yes the media now talk to themselves about themselves. Just because they are interested in one another’s private lives and opinions doesn’t mean we all are. I for one am not in the slightest bit interested in them personally.

  3. A great example of the lows the major news outlets have sunk to of late. Your witty analysis of the contrite self-serving nature of many news media personalities is excellent.

    That said, I try hard each day to look at each of them on their merits, sometimes they surprise me, but not very often.

  4. Right on Rachel! I’ve become increasingly enraged and sickened by self serving – self promoting media that seems intent on their own celebrity status rather than full and unbiased investigative reporting.

  5. This, in a perfect nutshell, is where we are at, with the NZ media 2014.
    However , it’s been pretty damn obvious for a long time !
    I mean, I can’t even recall the likes of Gower, Garner et al. pre 2008, but it’s obvious that they have been groomed by Steven Joyces’ old company Mediaworks for sometime now, since National came to office.
    Selected for their naive ideological bent, they are narcissistic, egotists, willing to stretch the truth to the point of lying, unfairly character assassinate and quite willing to not let the truth get in the way of a what they perceive to be a good story. Add to that, probably a very good salary package and neo- liberal pay masters and you have got a problem.
    Just as an aside ,it’s amazing that under Nationals’ direction the tax payer stumped up $40 million to keep the Mediaworks propaganda machine, ie (Radio Live, TV3 and the Sunday Star Times) going, after it ran into financial difficulties awhile back!
    Can you imagine a Labour government getting away with that?
    They are now grooming a new batch with the likes of Tova O’Brien, Brooke Sabin and Lisa Owen.
    The only way around this is to set up other newspapers, radio and TV stations, (an expensive process ,granted), or take these people on more when they are trying to dish the dirt or obfuscate the message.
    It’s a problem that needs to be solved otherwise it’s going to be more of the same.
    Unfortunately, most people still get their political messages by TV ,radio or print !

  6. I wrote this for a narrower audience but now that I’m drunk I think you guys might like it . x

    Labour in Labour .

    We , are the Labour Party’s problem . And it’s up to us to fix it .
    True Political parties are not , in themselves , able to do much other than facilitate the sentiments of us lot . The People .
    Fake political parties , like National and ACT etc do what they like for money for themselves while we can all go fuck ourselves . And based on the premise , I’ve never had so much weird sex in my life .

    I actually don’t much like the Labour Party if I have to be truthful . I loath the National Party with a passion , don’t get me wrong and only because they’re in themselves utterly loathsome . Individually , as people , they are hideous , odious , vicious , nasty , cruel liars and I know , as is the way of Karma , that they’ll boil in their own greases by and by .

    In the meantime , we have the Labour Party as an option .

    And the Labour Party is weak . Weak and pasty . It’s like a limp biscuit . A feeble , poorly arranged vase of wilting flowers on a dusty mantle piece in a dingy room in a cold , draughty working class house in a bleak town at the end of a windy , gravel road on the south side of a gorse covered hill . The NZ Labour Party has as much charisma as a Christian comic book . They only ‘Bad Ass’ thing it’s ever done was to shit out the likes of roger douglas and look where that got us .
    And remember ? What ever NZ politics is , it’s a reflection of us , the people . If we genuinely want change in our politics , [ we ] must change first .
    That’s why all this analytical blather is worthless , and boring as bat shit . ( I don’t mean to be unkind but OMG ? I’m boring . I look at me and I go ‘ Yawn ! ‘ Then I have sex with me , as per above , which makes me feel like such a slut . )

    The very first thing Labour should do is sack it’s campaign management team . Who ever came up with the feeble minded slogan ” Vote Positive ‘ is clearly taking bribes from National Party campaign managers . Who ever writes David Cunliffes speeches should stick to generic sympathy card messages . ” We are so sad and sorry for your loss ” etc . The Labour Party needs a Glen Greenwald mind behind it . Not the mind of a taxidermied Guinea Pig . The Labour Party should drop its pride and seek help from great minds instead of taking council from garden gnomes during schroom season .
    I’d go further and say that the Labour Party is doomed . It’s a Zombie Party . It would get better polling results if , in fact , it renamed itself as The Zombie Party , which would be ironic too since The National Party has clearly cornered the Zombie market .
    The Labour Party needs a new working title . Something new like ” The Human Species Party ” . It should lose the colour Red too . It’s a colour that screams Communism louder than a Chinese Politburo banshee with its balls caught in a black smiths vice .
    Remember . We’re now a country of working poor where 163,000 people are unemployed ( I was sure it was more ) yet there are 800,000 people on or below internationally recognised poverty levels . Those NZ working-poor are not going to vote for a party that espouses any hint of communism . Is that why the working poor voted for jonky in unprecedented numbers ? A minute tax break only coming into force three years from now is better , no matter how vile and callous , than a promise of higher taxes without the promise of lowering basic costs like electricity , food , transport , housing , money etc . ( Yes , I know what they said but talk’s cheap , as we know . )
    The Labour Party Dog has been given a bad name by the parasitic Neo Liberals so we may as well hang it . So lets fucking hang it then . Lets move with the times ?
    Unless … Unless there’s a massive and shocking change that galvanises the imaginations of the public . Something that’s impossible to ignore . Like Assange , Snowden and Greenwald talking at the Auckland Town Hall .
    Oh , yeah right . OK then . We’re fucked .

    • I kind of agree with what Countryboy said about the Labour party dog – and I’ve always voted Labour /Greens.

      I know the names Progressives, Values and Democrats have been used before, but something along those lines might have better connotations than Labour does now – the Nact Party and the MSM have successfully tainted Labour (along with the Greens and Mana) as dangerous communists along the lines of North Korean dictators, while successfully dragging “the centre” much further to the right in the public’s perception.

      We need to get away from the stereotypes of left and right which they can make so much use of and come up with something that implies a more people centered, ethical, innovative and forward looking philosophy, with a focus on human rights, as opposed to one that is based wholely around the pursuit of money and power for their own sakes, as the Nact Party is.

      Labour, sadly, is able to be portrayed as a grim, controlling and backward looking party based on the unions, and meeting in grimy halls in back streets. As the union movement has been more or less killed off (sadly, and ironically by the actions of Roger Douglas et al to start with), Labour can easily be portrayed as no longer relevant. And who wants to be a part of that. All the talk of the current vicious power struggles within the party just makes the picture worse.

      Time for a new party maybe, or as I said a complete reinvention and rebranding of the existing party, although with what’s happening in Labour at the moment I doubt if that would be possible. And in the meantime Shonkey marches forward into his Brave New World. Perhaps we are all fucked.

  7. I have known for years that the Main Stream Media has descended into purveyors of puerile pap and pettiness for what few readers or viewers remain who might take any of it seriously. These bloatedly self-important twonks seem incapable of reliably reporting a fact, of recognising and understanding complex issues, or of offering a critical analysis in any depth whatever.

    That they are all too apt to regard their readership or viewers as lacking the attention span beyond that of a two-year-old is a classic case of Freudian projection. Themselves lacking the attention span or the work ethic to put in the hard yards needed for real journalism, they pamper themselves that ‘provide what the public wants.’ That newspapers have been haemorrhaging subscribers for years ought to have given them pause – and television might themselves take heed of their demographics, and all.

    I/m no fan of Pam Corkery, but when she sounded off at some media lackey as a ‘puffed up little shit’, I thought, ‘Welcome back to the human race, Pam.’

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