Government of the Media, by the Media, for The Media.


I MUST HAVE MISSED the news bulletin in which the appointment of Jack Tame as  People’s Prosecutor was announced. I guess Winston Peters missed it, too. Otherwise, why would he have put himself in the dock on Q+A last Sunday morning? (6/9/20) Not that Winston was ever in real trouble, not from “James” – as the NZ First leader kept calling him. Winston’s been around too long to be seriously discommoded by an ambitious young journalist less than half his age. But, as he angrily told Tame and his producer, he had plenty of other things to be going on with, 40 days out from a general election in which he is fighting for his political life and legacy, than to submit himself to the inquisitorial fury of People’s Prosecutor Tame.

Anyone who knows anything about the way current affairs shows like Q+A are put together will share Winston’s outrage. Securing the appearance of a prominent politician on such shows is always a delicate exercise. The person, or, more likely, his or her minders, will want to know what the programme intends to talk to their boss about. And believe me, if they are told that the programme intends to ambush him with a whole series of questions of the “Are you still beating your wife?” variety, then the show’s producers will be told, very politely, to fuck right off.

So, you can bet your bottom dollar that Winston and his minders weren’t told anything remotely like that. He’d made himself available for an interview on the understanding it would mostly be about the tragic loss of the live-cattle-carrier capsized by a typhoon in the East China Sea. He did this believing, perhaps naively, that he was dealing with honest broadcasting professionals, not media bushwhackers.

You can also lay down a fairly heavy bet that Tame and his producers talked through the interview with considerable care, deciding exactly when the ugly shift from friendly interviewer Jack, to pitiless inquisitor Jack, would take place. Equally likely is the encouragement Tame would have been receiving through his earpiece from the control room as the interview unfolded. Were it a case of an interviewer gone rogue, Tame would have been shut down immediately. So, the Tame-Peters interview didn’t just happen – it was organised.

Just think about that for a moment. The leader of a political party – precariously poised on the edge of political oblivion – is invited to appear on a television programme whose producers’ and host’s intention is to ambush and embarrass him. Not, it is important to note at this point, to question him on evidence gathered by its own journalists, and about which he, having been given fair warning, will be invited to make comment. No, no, no: that would be what honest-to-God professional journalists would do.

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I’ll never forget my old boss at The Independent Business Weekly, Warren Berryman, drumming it into me that real journalists don’t do ambushes. The subject of a story must always be offered the opportunity to respond to its content. It’s called “fairness” and there was time when TVNZ understood the meaning of the word.

Not anymore it would seem. If Tame had anything solid in the way of evidence of Winston’s and NZ First’s wrongdoing, then he and his producers kept it to themselves. All we got to hear was a quick-fire series of questions cleverly constructed to leave their guest with nowhere safe to go. Perhaps, they really did have the goods on Winston, and what they were trying to winkle out of him was a flat denial, which they could then expose as a lie – as the cameras rolled. Then again, maybe they didn’t.

Which leaves me – and I’m pretty sure a pretty large chunk of the Q+A audience – wondering what TVNZ’s game is. This is, after all, a public broadcaster. That should mean, at the very least, that the highest possible standards, not just of journalism, but also of common human decency, are drummed into every single staff member. Because, you know what, they used to be. Back in the days when news and current affairs constituted a sort of holy order, separated and secured from Hunter S Thompson’s “cruel and shallow money trench where pimps and thieves run free and good men die like dogs for no good reason” – i.e. the rest of the television industry.

For what it’s worth, this is what I think their game is. I think it’s about the substitution of the news media (young journalists in particular) for the people. And since democracy itself is about “government of the people, by the people, for the people”, what we’re actually looking at is a bunch of journalists who no longer put much faith in democracy. Because, you know, there are so many people out there who are racists, misogynists and homophobes. As such, they shouldn’t really be allowed to govern the country – should they?

What we’ve got is a bunch of journalists who, wittingly or unwittingly, are dragging us all in the direction of government of the media, by the media, for the media. They’re doing it for us – of course they are – because, you know, most of us really aren’t up to the job of doing it ourselves.

Joining a political party, earning the trust and confidence of its members, being selected as a parliamentary candidate, getting elected. It’s all so tedious, so demeaning. Having to listen to ordinary citizens, secure their votes, stay on their good side. So much easier to cast the cloak of the media’s protection over the weak and stupid. So much more satisfying to slay the monsters – like Winston Peters – who, these journalists are pretty sure, are cheats and misleaders, live on the people’s airways, or luridly on private-sector newsprint.

Because, you must know that if the media doesn’t take on the role of the People’s Champion; the People’s Prosecutor; if charlatans and extremists aren’t lured in front of the cameras and microphones to be ambushed and politically executed; then there’s every possibility that the people – idiots that they are – will re-elect them.


  1. Chris this is your best criticism of media we have seen this year good on you; as we need to ask ‘who actually allowed this shambolic assault on a senior politician’?

    Where was the guiding rule of “first use a “no surprises policy” as I clearly remember John Key swiftly made a rule around this policy of “no surprises”in his first year of Government aided by the stealth of Steven Joyce sending our a ‘memo’ to all media staff to ‘beware of making any negative remarks about Government or risk your job’ so someone now has mounted a political hit o the current Government and this must be investigated.

  2. What a perplexing stance to take Chris.

    Do you recall the Simon Walker TV interview with Rob Muldoon back in 1976? The questions weren’t on the list Piggy had requested and he hated it. Muldoon accused Walker of nitpicking and called him a smart Alec. Muldoon was caught with his pants down (awful image). At least Muldoon didn’t start calling Simon, Steve or Shane.

    Peters couldn’t possibly care less about the diabolical loss of the livestock ship with almost 6000 cows onboard, most of which were pregnant. He and has party have already condoned the diabolical trade before the wreck, it’s crew and the cows have even been located. The crew had a say and going or not. The cows didn’t.

    It was clear the line of questions to Peters were contrived but that’s irrelevant in my opinion. Had Peters been given advance notice of the questions, he would have had a contrived answer prepared. We are in an election campaign where bullshit, dishonesty and skulduggery are always nearby. I know I’d much rather have genuine real responses to meaningless, contrived and perfunctory responses. The performance by Peters was by far the worst I’ve ever seen of him and it was VERY telling. It reflected extremely badly on him. He’s a man who has built his career on holding other politicians to account, all the while escaping the spotlight being turned on his own questionable and at times highly dubious actions and those of his party. The worm has now turned. My only regret is it didn’t happen sooner.

    As an aside. Why would educational institutions be made smoke free? Do you think such a location has greater significance than the general workplace in terms of being smokefree? Would politicians who smoke be aware of these important factors?

    Yesterday, Winston Peters and Dunedin candidate for NZF Robert Griffith stood right in front of a NO SMOKING sign and ……SMOKED. What a far king diabolical act of arrogance.

    The clip is very telling. Ignore for a moment the actions of our Deputy PM for a moment who is expected to lead and set an example to at least his own party members.

    Concentrate on the actions of Robert Griffith. He is clearly holding a cigarette in his left hand and flicking it. He becomes aware he is being filmed smoking at a university right in front of a no smoking sign. Look what he does next. He attempts to conceal his left hand behind his back while he transfers the cigarette into his out of view right hand. While doing this he is obviously telling Peters they have been sprung. This is not only a glaring example of NZF arrogance. It’s also yet another pitiful example of their transparency by attempting to hide the fact it’s even happening. This has become the epitome of NZF in recent years.

    Well past time they were exposed and sent packing.

    • ” Peters couldn’t possibly care less about the diabolical loss of the livestock ship with almost 6000 cows onboard, most of which were pregnant. He and has party have already condoned the diabolical trade before the wreck, it’s crew and the cows have even been located. The crew had a say and going or not. The cows didn’t ”
      Totally agree 100 %

  3. Pundit on pundit action! yesssssss…I suspect Chris still has rather a soft spot for Winston when it comes down to it. Because what James/Jack did has become standard presenter ‘gotcha’ behaviour. Sure the handlers motivations may differ from time to time, but many viewers and listeners do not necessarily like it much either–as seen with public reaction to journos post Covid briefing questions of Jacinda Ardern, Ashley Bloomfield and Chris Hipkins.

    Unless it is the ‘other side’ on the receiving end, then a spot of ‘gotcha’ is more acceptable to some! Myself, I hear it every morning now on Radio New Zealand and wince inwardly. The bias towards one interviewee over another is now detected by the microsecond pauses in the relentless questions, a slower delivery allows the subject more response time, an easier ride. National leaders from Bridges to Muller and Collins get this more often than the PM does imo. And the increasingly on the nose “sorry to interrupt Minister…” mid answer, and a fresh question inserted–well sod off and don’t interrupt then f***face–would be my rejoinder, which is no doubt why I am unsuitable for high political office.

  4. A case of Pot calling Kettle -black- I reckon Chris.

    You of all people; accuse ‘media’ of media for media.

    Winston is a big boy- been around politics for a while – as you astutely acknowledge.

    He was rolled fair and square.

    His reaction compounded his inability to answer valid questions about where he had authorised taxpayers money to be channeled and whether there were any gains for NZ first.

    If you cant take heat get out of the kitchen.

    Vicissitudes of politics.

  5. Well said. MSM have made themselves part of the story for too long; not good here when mainly only OAP’s – Peter’s fans – listen to or watch them, but often just for the company anyway – and this age group won’t budge in their loyalty. They think Peters is the only politician who cares about them.

    • aom.

      I remember the Walker / Muldoon interview well as a young fella who enjoyed that sort of thing.

      My only regret is that it was ended just as piggy started to lose the plot. So many interviews are cut short in similar circumstances siting they had run out of time. I would love to see any politician throwing a tantrum as that act alone shows viewers more than anything that was said in the interview. I recall then Deputy PM Bob Tizard losing it in an interview. I think it was with Paul Holmes. Tizard ended up ripping his mic off and storming off the set. I recall Holmes saying to him “this does not loog good”. On another occasion Tizard knocked a female journalists mic away when he was angry and felt she was to close. Perhaps I’m a tad sadistic but any politician known for being grumpy is fair game. Winston First is normally very good at handling difficult questions but those skills have now been replaced by desperation. He knows in his heart of hearts that the Winston First Party is dead in the water. He knows his legacy is on it’s way to the nearest landfill and he will blame anybody and everybody for that. Everyone of course except himself.

  6. Brilliant article Mr Trotter. Nice to see you not following the baying hound critics thirsting for Winston’s blood.

    Tame put himself in the same category as Hoskings ( who should be old enough to know better) in not knowing the difference between an interrogation and an interview and was justly reprimanded by Peters. Actually I thought Peters was a bit rough on James…sorry Jack.

    The self -important attempts to ‘ambush’ Peters by Tame were a bit more obnoxious than Tovah’s simplistic ‘gotcha’ techniques .

    I felt that Peters owned Tame or Perhaps we could say that Peters Tamed it?
    Almost made me want to vote for Winston but I like Jacinda and her party too much.

    • Yeah.
      Winston naive? Really? He’s the most cynical untruthful crook of the lot and he’s been doing it for yeeeears.

      But these young whippersnappers just don’t have respect these days or something.
      *shakes fist at sky*

  7. Political leaders block in their timetables for the week:
    Monday 7.30am RadioWhatever, 8.00am RadioSomethingelse, 9.00 Radiolessformal
    Tuesday 6.30am TVWhatever, 7.30am TVSomething else.

    Most radio news starts with ‘National Leader Judith Collins says…’ or ‘Prime Minister announces…’

    December comes. Politics shuts down. It’s there every day of the year and seems to be then media’s raison d’etre but Santa takes over and politics is not important.

    Suddenly it’s January 16th or thereabouts, the switch is turned on and politics is important again, front and centre, the most important thing in then world.

    I agree with the sentiments about Q+A’s approach. Ask someone to your birthday party for a good time but really you’re getting them there to knee-cap them because they looked at your girlfriend at the club the week before.

    Sure get the charlatans on. If they won’t come, editorialise about that. Announce the questions they won’t front up to answer. Get them on under false pretences you’re a charlatan yourself.

    I suppose Tame will get some media award for demonstrating the similarity of the media and politicians and for taking one for the team.

    He wanted to give Peters the chance to expose himself as having poor ethics and the way to do it was by showing he had questionable ethics himself.

  8. The interview was a disaster for Rt Hon Winston Peters.

    To paint it as a victory would be as the British tried to do with their defeat in France with the movie: “Victory at Dunkirk”.

    Dunkirk was the beginning of the end of the British Empire – an event quickly followed by the sinking of the battleships Prince of Wales and Repulse in the South China Sea just before Singapore fell. And that was the end.

    Question is: How soon before Winston’s Singapore?

  9. I concur. Its NZ media millennial ‘news influencer skullbuggery!’
    Nothing to see here, move on, oopsie daisy, “Mr Winston Sir! Are you a crook?” Mr Winston replies, ” Look here you little Millennial pakeha maori boy(?). Where I come from, people do not ask such questions of an Honorable person such as me! However, I will humour myself by subjecting my sensibilities to this trite imposition you beg from me and give you a response that you can quote. ‘No! Nadda! Never! Now bugga orf!”

  10. ” What we’ve got is a bunch of journalists who, wittingly or unwittingly, are dragging us all in the direction of government of the media, by the media, for the media ”
    Where have you been Chris ? the fourth estate has become more politicised since 1989 and the rightward drift has gone on culminating under the previous National led government with some outrageous biased media reporting and tactics including Media Works being ” bought ” by Key with that infamous deal done early in the first term.
    The damage was amplified during his time with his government being given a free run and never seriously being questioned or held accountable for some pretty controversial actions and legislation by a compliant sympathetic media.
    Gotcha hatchet jobs and ingrained negative news stories with the hard to disguise ” slant ” against the so called left in this country seems to have prevailed.
    Judith Collins got it right when after her ” light dusting ” by Tame an exasperated Collins realising her customary easy ride was missing commented you would have not got away with this under John Key or words to that effect.
    Peters interview was a missed opportunity as the questions he was being asked i for one would have liked answers to.
    Another example of selling our collective soul to neoliberalisim is that we always valued accountability particularly in our politicians and expected the fourth estate to question and probe their actions to ensure we were always factually informed by what the peoples government was doing and why.

  11. Goid work Chris.
    Not a Winston fan.
    But have long been irritated with Jack Tame’s style. Sniping little yapper who never waits for an answer. Constantly interrupts. He is worse than his guru John Campbell. Both Gotcha journalists of the worst kind. Gotcha gotcha gotcha job done. Painful to watch.
    If I owned Q & A I would ditch him in a heartbeat and put in you Chris. I’m sure you’d dismantle politicians in a much more cunning way than that little rookie.
    And now he’s also a political expert on some radio panels?

    • Ae. Young Jack is just like one of those yapping irritable ‘Jack Russell’ dogs that you just want to kick the shit out of. Metaphorically speaking.

  12. After thinking Winston had done a pretty good job supporting Jacinda and Labour over the past three years, esp in Question Time, I’ve been aghast at how he has now turned on them for cheap campaign points scoring.
    The polls show how that’s going down like cups of cold sick but now he’s on the slippery slope he’s just unable to control himself (see Donald Trump 101).
    If he hadn’t had the hangover from hell I suspect he’d have done better against “James” but instead he could only resort to juvenile name calling (see Trump 102).
    Labour/Jacinda trusted him against all the odds and he’s had more than his share of wins but then repaid them by pissing all over the tent, inside and out.
    I feel most sorry for Tracey Martin, an outstanding, caring and hard working minister about to be dragged into oblivion by this silly old fool

    • Hahahahahaha priceless! I am picturing him, all hung over, wonky and wobbling, as he pisses all over the tent. What a sight!!!

  13. Would be swell to see a bit more Hunter S Thompson journalism on this blog, a little less pompous puffery.
    And in the MSM as well.
    Who after all defends the indefensible while illuminating the exposed, and foisting archaisms upon the discommoded.

  14. Winnie and Bob Jones. One I want to hear more from. One supported Left govts. They’re not the same person.

    My twisted guts consent to this terribility.

    Amen (apparently) Macchiavelli.

  15. I’ve just watched the ‘interview” between Jack Tane and Winston Peters. Normally I don’t mind Peter’s being hung out to dry in media interviews. However on this occasion, to my surprise, I sympathised with him.

    I thought Tame was insufferable as the “advocate” for the People. He was smug and arrogant. Despite Peter’s protestations, which he ignored, he persisted in asking questions that Peter’s was not prepped for, justifying this with statements along the lines that “the People have a right to know.” I have not conferred on Tane the right to ‘prosecute’ Peter’s or anyone else for that matter on my behalf.

    I asked my self whether Tane would take the same approach with Jacinda. I suspect not, because I suspect he is in Jacinda’s camp.

    Back to Peter’s. I thought he looked like he’d been up most of the night enjoying a glass of whisky or five with his mates. He then made an effort to be present on Q and A at a relatively early hour. I thought Tane’s ability to read the situation was woeful. Tane would probably have gotten further with Peters if he demonstrated some empathy and maturity; instead of playing the role of a smart arse gotcha interviewer.

    Once again Jack – you are not the People’s prosecutor. Time for you to go and refresh on how to be an effective tv interviewer.

    • Ocon,

      “I suspect he is in Jacinda’s camp”.

      Beep! wrong in epic fashion.

      He’s apprenticed to Mike Hosking and works for TVNZ. Enough said.

      • Jacindafan- good point. (apprenticed to Hosking)
        Both Tame and Peters are good for entertainment value.Bit like Trump, boxing matches and road accidents.
        Jack/ James whatever his name is tried unsuccessfully to tame Winston. Entertaining but not much else.

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