Tuesday 24 May 2011

Why oh why can't we have a better press corps?

(with apologies to Brad DeLong).

Eric has covered off last week's budget well, so I had thought of writing a parody of the reaction of different interest groups, in the spirit of Fred Dagg's farmers' lament about the lack of a black-singlet subsidy or a gorse retention scheme in one of Muldoon's budgets. But this sort of response is already self-parody, so what is the point?

So instead I am going to put in a plea for better media coverage of future budgets. Here are some suggestions:
  1. Don't publish any press releases from interest groups; instead, interview the spokespeople and ask each one two questions: First, "please comment on those parts of the budget that did not relate to your sector"; and second, if you had to put the same total resources into your sector as in this budget, how would you have allocated it differently?".
  2. Don't publish any press releases from opposition parties; instead, interview the leaders or finance spokespeople and ask each one, "please state the areas in which you would have spent less money".
  3. In a one-marshmellow-now, two-marshmellows-later exercise, promise to give twice as much coverage to anyone whose response is "I haven't had time to fully digest the information yet, let me get back to you tomorrow with a more considered response".
  4. Simply refuse to quote any statement with the words "bold", "imaginative" or "Titanic" in it. (To be fair, on the last of these, I didn't see a deckchairs cliché this year, but it will be back.)
Other suggestions are welcome. And while we are at it, could someone please ask Phil Goff why, if a fall in unemployment following a small increase in the minimum wage during a boom period is post hoc ergo propter hoc evidence that a large increase during a recession would not reduce empolyment, why he isn't promising to raise the minimum wage to $20?


  1. And what's wrong with "Titanic" comments - apart from the cliché?

    NZ's largest ever deficit & largest ever nett debt with no serious cuts and no serious attempt whatsoever to fix the economy?

    I guess at least Captain Smith did try to turn the ship around!

  2. I think Seamus just hates cliche.

    A large deficit is appropriate in dealing with earthquake. But most of it is the big structural nonsense that really needs more serious review.

  3. 'Don't publish any press releases from interest groups;'
    'Don't publish any press releases from opposition parties;'

    When I rule the world this will be my media policy. I can't say its ever worked for any other totalitarian regime, but this time will be different...

  4. Isn't Seamus blogging a sign of the apocalypse? Harold Camping's calculations must have been only a week out.

  5. Anonymous, if budget criticisms that refer to rearraning the deckchairs on the Titanic were a) accompanied by suggested alternatives that involve serious major alternatives, and b) were made in 1972 (the earliest use of the Titanic metaphor that I can find), then I would accept it as an apt metaphor. Absent both of those conditions, however, use of the cliché is a sure sign that the speaker hasn't given the matter any thought and so should be filtered by the media.

  6. Seamus

    Would the place to start not be finding a journalist who actually know some economics?

  7. Dr Ganesh Nana tells us there will ALWAYS be entities willing to lend NZ money - the deficit and government spending are not the issues.

    Good thing he is just an economist?

  8. Shane. How many journalists repeat what Ganesh says without ever thinking about what he says? A better press corps would ask questions about the things he says.

  9. Why don't the press corp ask the curly questions? I'd guess it is because they fear losing access to the politicians/newsmakers. When prominent and powerful folk pick and choose who to give interview time to (fully within their rights of course) and a non-critical public don't demand accountability, but rather are more interested in their cult of celebrity, then it should come as no surprise that the true investigative journalist is on the endangered species list.
    Of course thats just my rather cynical take on the issue :)