Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Ralston Gripe

I have been saving something for this day: Bill Ralston's column of 26th April, in which he made his predictions for the Mount Albert by-election, predicting that David Shearer would not be chosen as the candidate and that Melissa Lee," a trained media professional" had a good chance. How can something that feels so right be so wrong? Well, let me count they ways; no, let me not, because Ralston was wrong in every respect, save one:
National has the advantage of being in government and can therefore summon up money from business contributors who want to curry favour.
In short, National solicits bribes; I did not expect to hear this from Mr Ralston but it is nice to have confirmation. Mr Ralston might also, if he wishes to retain any credibility, declare whether he has received any payment from the National Party or from John Key; you will recall that John Drinnan asked a similar question, and received the response: "I'm not a public figure, I don't have to answer your f****** questions." This, you will note, is the response of a Herald columnist to a Herald journalist.

But, then again, is Ralston doing the Tories any favours? Melissa Lee has disappointed him, so he now washes his hands of her. I suppose that is the great thing about being a columnist. You never have to take responsibility for your opinions and predictions, you never have to declare your financial interests and, when you stuff up, you move forward, blaming everyone but you. As Mr Ralston himself says:
One of the advantages of political commentary, which must annoy the hell out of politicians, is that you generally have the benefit of 20/20 hindsight when analysing what has been going on. Whereas politicians are often forced into making their calls unaware of some of the facts or potential fallout, guys like me can be blissfully wise after the event.
Or you can be blissfully contradictory, or blissfully self-interested. Or you can be blissfully ignorant, like John Roughan :

When you or I act in a judicial capacity - as parents or employers or some other position of authority - we naturally demand an explanation from somebody accused of wrongdoing.When a staff member makes a serious accusation against another, the boss does not give the accused an ultimate right to silence. There are many rights an employee must be given these days, including perhaps access to a lawyer, but sooner or later a satisfactory explanation will be demanded. If none is forthcoming is is natural to assume the worst. Criminal law differs from natural justice in this respect I suppose because the penalties are so much greater, often a loss of liberty, and proof must reach a higher standard.

I would have thought it prudent to avoid topics of which one knows nothing, but Roughan wears his ignorance on his sleeve. Clearly, he knows nothing about the Employment Relations Act nor of the meaning of the phrase "natural justice" (still, he is right: we heard a lot from David Bain before the trial and a lot after the trial, but nothing during the trial; of course it is his right to decline to speak and it is natural that he should prefer facing John Campbell than Counsel for the Prosecution, but it did leave something of a hole in the proceedings). Does anybody check these columnists' work before publication? Or do the likes of Ralston and Roughan have contracts which allow them to write whatever they like, however idiotic such writing might be? Or do their editors not care?

I think it is the last: there was a time, not so long ago, when newspapers lived by their reputations. The quality of their reporting and of their opinion was crucial. But now it is all just copy. It helps keep the advertisements apart. The facts often are wrong, but the paper will print a correction if a reader notices an error. The opinions are mindless and prejudiced; but they are entertaining, which is all that matters.

Here's a song from Mount Albert:

1 comment:

Tim said...

I have naught to say but Amen!!