Hold The Presses!

Hawke’s Bay Media: Must Try Harder! Part 3

Are my expectations too high, or is the quality of most Hawke’s Bay media just not up to the level our region deserves?

We have a big, vibrant, smart region. But if its media industry is anything to go by, you would be forgiven for not noticing it.

Newspaper

Earlier this year Hawke’s Bay Today took home a few gongs at the annual APN Regional Publishing awards.
Now, this is a commendable achievement, but I can’t help but feel they could still do better.

Our local paper and its pre-merger forebears, Napier’s Daily Telegraph and Hastings’ Herald Tribune used to have large subscription bases and would regularly win prestigious Qantas Media Awards for their reporting and photography. Recently it hasn’t been so fortunate.

A lot has changed in the newspaper industry over the last few years. Interactivity and instant news gratification is what readers now want. The internet and social media have taken large chunks out of the market of those who don’t diversify and as a result subscription numbers have fallen for many “analogue” publications.

Hawke’s Bay Today has been one of them. The paper won an award a couple years ago for best paper with a circulation under 30,000. That wouldn’t be such a bad award, or figure if Hawke’s Bay’s population wasn’t over 150,000. The paper itself got thinner and thinner. From the standard two section broadsheet to often only one very skinny section. Hawke’s Bay Today and APN’s solution? Halve the size of the paper from broadsheet to tabloid!

At the time I was a bit sceptical – the proof of a paper will always be in the reading, not the packaging. For a short time the content seemed to get better – printing tweets and comments submitted online was a nice bit of interactivity, but overall the contents still disappointed me. There still seems to be a consistent lack of investigative journalism and too many re-written press releases. The Art Deco Bus debacle is a good example. Too often there appear to be lots of statements from local councils and officials, but few hard, probing or basic questions asked by the paper. What are they afraid of? These big organisations need the media just as much as the media needs them!

Hawke’s Bay Today, like most papers, has its own online edition, but it too seems to have been suffering. I commented on an article online a few weeks ago and took two days for the comment to be posted, long after the article had gone from the web pages “cover” and lost relevance. On other occasions, I have had a reply email that my comment has (finally) been posted from one of APN’s other satellite publications. Where’s the local online love (and no, not that way)?
The site is also slow in breaking and updating news, when compared to bigger papers, so it’s no surprise they are often getting scooped by Stuff and The Dominion Post. No matter the size of the operation, I would think with the nature of modern-day media that every paper would have a dedicated, full time online team. Hawke’s Bay Today’s page doesn’t seem to have that facility.

I mentioned to HBT editor Andrew Austin when I last saw him that I felt there was something missing from the paper’s website. He said they preferred to look after the paper itself, rather than ‘giving away’ news online. This concept has its merits, but I also feel it’s majorly flawed. Reading the huge amount of news, opinion, blogs and information that Fairfax ‘give away’ every day on Stuff actually makes me want to buy The Dominion Post! Just as APN’s mother-ship site makes the NZ Herald even more appealing.

However, I do find APN’s regional publications come off worse for wear in terms of design and interactivity when compared to Fairfax’s – the Hawke’s Bay Sun looks and feels like a mini Stuff, while Hawke’s Bay Today and its fellow regional publications almost feel like the Herald’s web designers were scared that they might usurp their own website, so have nobbled them a bit.

Grade: C
When compared to Hawke’s Bay’s other media formats of radio and television, our newspaper is by far the leader in communicating with and interacting the Hawke’s Bay community, but I have high expectations, and still feel there is massive room for improvement and that all Hawke’s Bay media must try harder!

Radio Gaga

Hawke’s Bay Media: Must Try Harder! Part 2

Are my expectations too high, or is the quality of most Hawke’s Bay media just not up to the level our region deserves?

We have a big, vibrant, smart region. But if its media industry is anything to go by, you would be forgiven for not noticing it.

Radio

Local radio has little in the way of local content these days. In an industry controlled by two big networks, far too much content is simulcast from Auckland. At least Mediaworks’ More FM and The Radio Network’s Classic Hits have locally-based breakfast shows, but from there it goes downhill fast.

More FM sticks with local content till around lunchtime, while central Auckland studios take over for Classic Hits before you’ve even had morning tea. It could be worse. In many centres around New Zealand, including Wellington and Hamilton, the Auckland-based broadcast is all they get 24/7. I pity anyone who has to listen to Marc Ellis and his cohorts over breakfast.

Straight out of high school in 1995, I worked for “Hot 93 FM”, at the time one of the few Hawke’s Bay radio stations that were still “Live and Local 24 Hours a Day” (I was the short end of the 24 hours a day stick, doing the weekend midnight till dawn shift). The only simulcasting was the news and everything else was done with a stack of CDs, a run sheet and the skill and talent of the announcer. It was a simpler time, but a better time for the core fundamentals of radio. So much relied on the station’s interaction with the community.

It really was Hawke’s Bay’s station – you knew the announcers and would see them around town. There was always someone at the station, so in the event of an emergency, earthquake etc., you could turn on the radio and instantly find out what was going on. Not anymore.

Soon after I left Hot 93, simulcasting started to take a real hold on the station, as it went through technological and multiple ownership changes and eventually became the More FM station you listen to today on the same 92.7 FM frequency.

Today there is far less local interaction. It’s hard when 90{3919f50c199a8627c147b24d329ff0de8aa05e3a462fa3330e11cd9ea56ed948} of your announcers are 500km away physically and even further away mentally. I might not mind simulcasting so much if it wasn’t for almost all of this small selection of Auckland-based broadcasters being so bloody banal, bland and boring. I find myself forever swapping stations and eventually listening to my MP3 player to escape the depressive drivel these “personalities” (allegedly) get so handsomely paid to spurt. This is the battle New Zealand radio currently faces and is largely losing as listeners prefer to download and live stream their personal selections of music, without the ads and annoying announcers.

Every year hundreds of young people with dreams of becoming the next Jay Jay, Mike, or Dom go to broadcasting schools around the country. With such a small employment base, with simulcast stations employing a minimum number of announcers for a maximum amount of profit, very few can achieve their dream. That’s a hell of a waste of talent, not to mention a waste of thousands of dollars in student loans all for nought, while the same old crew dawdle along on our airwaves.

I suggest reverting to the “live and local 24 hours a day” format where the regions rule themselves. Local news, local advertising, and lots of local interaction (separate stations looking after their own operations and finances might also lessen the likelihood of massive networks incurring massive debts). Let graduates and listeners live their radio dreams, keeping the talent we develop locally and rejuvenating an industry that has become distant and disjointed.

Grade: D – Must Try Harder!

Look Mum, I’m not on TV!

Hawke’s Bay Media: Must try Harder! Part 1:

Are my expectations too high, or is the quality of most Hawke’s Bay media just not up to the level our region deserves? We have a big, vibrant, smart region. But if its media industry is anything to go by, you would be forgiven for not noticing it.

Television:

Recently I’ve seen a number of signs promoting TV Hawke’s Bay as “Hawke’s Bay’s OWN TV Station” but is it?

If you look at their programming guide you are only likely to find around 4.5 hours of actual Hawke’s Bay input. Half an hour is “Chatroom”, a local talk show that runs three times a week and is then repeated the following day, and “Welcome to Hawke’s Bay” an infomercial-esque, up to four hour long, montage of local images and video set to music, with an occasional local guide segment featuring a local winery or tourist attraction.
For a time they did feature quite a good little series of adverts featuring local businesses, but I haven’t seen them for a long time. On the bright side, they did at least get rid of that horrid advertorial in which Willy de Witt overreacts terribly to how wonderful a vineyard’s wine is.

The greatest proportion of TVHB airtime is occupied by mainly German or European programming – not exactly what I’d call my region’s OWN station material. Some may argue that producing local television programmes can cost a lot of money, but TVHB can’t be importing all these shows for free. Surely more local content wouldn’t hurt too much financially.

I’ve always thought that local media outlets, be they print, radio, or television, have the perfect opportunity to get the public’s voice out to the masses. Who wants to see more of and about Hawke’s Bay, than the residents of the region? Where are all the programmes on TV Hawke’s Bay made for and by local schools, the region’s youth, how about airing local sports matches? I’d far sooner watch the Napier City Rovers play, than any Bundesliga match.

Television Hawke’s Bay current programming shows a lack of commitment to the region and a lack of creative thinking in getting local programming on the region’s screens.

Must Try Harder!

Grade: F

Wanted: One New Napier Mayor

Take a look at the contenders for Napier mayor and despair, Napier!

Four current Napier City Councillors make up the majority of those looking to replace long-term Mayor Barbara Arnott in this October’s local body elections. This might not seem too bad to some, as NCC loves to remind us how low our (continual) annual rates increases are and just how little debt the city apparently has (this depends on which figures you look at and how deeply according to some dissenters). But if you look at how far the city has come in the last decade or more (the time since there was any great upheaval in Napier’s governance), you will see we have not gone very far at all. Some may say we’ve actually gone backwards.

So when the same old guard that lauds their revitalization of Marine Parade, after more than 15 years of doing nothing about it (other than mowing the 2km of grass between the now closed (by this same council) Marineland and the Aquarium (can you remember the can-am cars and bumper-boats?)), or “listening to the public” and finally building a sheltered inter-city bus terminal after years of complaint and protest put their hand up to replace their glorious leader after years of compliant silence (this could be explained by the code of conduct each council must sign), you can excuse my cynicism as I cast an opinionated eye upon the contenders:

John “Bertie” Cocking (3 term “at large” councillor): Long-time proponent and icon of Napier’s Art Deco obsession was the first to put his hand up and stand for mayor almost the instant Arnott announced her retirement.
Art Deco has been the obsessive focus for the current council for years. I don’t actually mind the architecture and buildings, but so much focus and money has been poured into it there has been little chance for anything else (especially tourism-wise) being able to get a word in edge-ways that it’s little wonder Napier’s tourism industry has been suffering as we become a one-trick tourism pony.
Cocking’s alter-ego also lent his name and face to the problem-plagued “Bertie’s Buses” which look set to keep costing Napier ratepayers (who, as far as I can tell, never actually got a say on the purchase) long after the council that bought them is voted out.
John is considered to be one of the better financial minds on the NCC, his financial skills are lauded by many. It was this financial nous that got him a place on board of Venture Hawke’s Bay. How is that organisation going these days?
John / Bertie was the second highest poling councillor at the last election, behind the retiring deputy mayor Kathie Furlong, so he must be popular somewhere. But I just can’t trust my council in the hands of anyone who uses a picture like this on one of their election hoardings like in the last election.

Bill Dalton (2 term “at large” councillor) Might well be Hawke’s Bay’s most negative blogger I ‘take one for the team’ occasionally and have a read to see what he’s been complaining about recently. For me, at least, it isn’t inspiring, or elation-inducing reading. As someone who promotes his ideas for cooperation between Napier and Hastings over A Better Hawke’s Bay’s empirical amalgamation plans, he seems overly critical of Hastings people. That can’t be helpful.

Rob Lutter (3 term ward councillor): In the last election nobody voted for Rob, yet he was still elected! Admittedly no one stood against him, but as a Taradale Ward councillor I think he may not be too popular with his ward constituents any more after the upgrade of Taradale’s shopping centre saw the addition of parking meters. Combine that with leases in the shopping centre skyrocketing (not the councils fault, but certainly not helpful) and many shoppers and a number of businesses have been driven out of the village.

Michelle Pyke (1 term “at large” councillor) As the unsuccessful mayoral aspirant in the last election, you would have expected her to be a more vocal, opinionated proponent for change. Instead she has been very quiet (as have all her fellow councillors). The only time I have heard her speak up recently was when defending the council and championing her role as the “voice of the unrepresented”. I don’t know who these “unrepresented” are, or how they’ve gotten along over the last 3 year term, but I’m taking the silence as a bad sign.
If all else fails, she can always go back to offering career and financial advice to lotto winners.

The others:

Stuart McLauchlan
A managing partner with legal firm Langley Twigg, past president of the Hawke’s Bay Chamber of Commerce and current chairman of the economic development agency, Business Hawke’s Bay had signaled his interest in standing for mayor earlier this year too. His youth, knowledge and connections would have been fantastic for the city, but he later decided against standing. As a member of the pro-amalgamation lobby group “A Better Hawke’s Bay” I think he may have had too much of an up-hill battle against an entrenched status quo / anti-amalgamation establishment in Napier.

David Trim
There may yet be hope for Napier, as someone other than a current councillor finally puts their hand up for nomination. Local businessman David Trim has indicated to the local paper that he will be contesting a place either as mayor, or as councillor in October’s local body elections.

Hawke’s Bay Today believes there may yet be at least one other contender for the Napier mayoralty. For the sake of a prosperous, cooperative, diverse and fully represented Napier advancing into the future, I do hope so!

One Little Word

My Dad has a beautiful but. You can hear it coming a mile off. Yes you read right. Dad is one of the most considerate, fair people I know. A side effect of this is he always seems to see both sides of a problem, so when weighing up pros and cons of an issue or item, he will list all the good aspects, BUT, then list all the negatives.

One little word can make all the difference.

I catch myself using “just” far too much. “I’m just turning off the computer” (after I’ve checked my email, surfed three news sites, updated my Facebook status, sent two tweets and waited for their replies). “I was just about to do that” (after reading my book / playing PlayStation / oh crap, I completely forgot about that, but I’m not going to let on).

Anyone who watches the plethora of police / highway patrol / breath-testing shows will know that “a couple” of drinks never actually means “two” (unless it’s a couple of litre-sized glasses).

Similarly when a girl says “Oh, you’re so sweet, let’s just be friends” she never means she wants to be friends with you, and especially not “friends with benefits.” I only learned what that expression meant in the last few years. Up till that point, to me, “friends with benefits” meant my (male) mate had a Sega Master System, and I only had a Commodore 64, but I digress.

One little word that will get you chucked out of the Frame household faster than anything is “the”. Especially when it is used as the prefix for “Hawke’s Bay”.

To all the reporters, TV weather people, associated media and general public, may I just say this: “THERE IS NO ‘THE’ IN HAWKE’S BAY!” The same goes for Wairarapa, Waikato and Manawatu, but you still see those three little letters creeping in to daily usage.

“The Hutt Valley” in Wellington, by comparison is fine, as it was a valley named after someone named Hutt (sadly, it wasn’t “Jabba the” – I checked)

“The” is what’s known as a definite article, so must refer to, or precede a noun (naming word) i.e.: the cat, the book. “The Hawke’s Bay Hospital” or “the Hawke’s Bay region” is fine, as they describe the Hospital that is located in Hawke’s Bay and the region known as Hawke’s Bay. But describing the region solely as “The Hawke’s Bay” doesn’t work as it doesn’t describe anything – The Hawke’s Bay what? You don’t say “The Auckland”, “The Canterbury” or “The Otago”, do you?

“Aha!” you may say, the big body of water the region semi-surrounds is Hawke’s Bay, isn’t it? Well, no it’s not. To quote Wikipedia: “The bay itself is Hawke Bay, whereas the region which surrounds it bears the bay’s former name, Hawke’s Bay.”

”Hawke Bay” was named by Captain, then Lieutenant, James (as a Star Trek fan, I always want to add a “T” in the middle here) Cook after Sir Edward Hawke, First Lord of the Admiralty in 1769, when Cook discovered it (as well as Australia, but we don’t care about that part as much, do we?)

And in any case, using correct grammar and “the” would make it “The Bay of Hawke”, just as our nation’s fellow famous bays are named “The Bay of Islands” and “The Bay of Plenty”

So endeth the lesson, dear reader and media-type. There is no such place as “The Hawke’s Bay”. Please stop referring to it as such, or we may exile you to The Chatham Islands!

Why The Warehouse Should Form a Political Party!

I tweeted a thought the other day, wondering if The Warehouse was the Steven Joyce of NZ retail. The Warehouse tweeted back asking what did I mean (awkward!), so I explained that Mr Joyce is considered the “Minister of Everything” for his many and varied portfolios and general “Mr Fix it” role in government and that the Warehouse is the “Retailer of Everything” selling CDs, books, toys, clothes, appliances, plants, food, etc. etc. etc. The Warehouse tweeter seemed happy with my explanation and NZ blogging and Twitter icon Moata Tamaira opined to me, “If only The Warehouse could go into politics.” “Hmmm,” I thought, why not?

Think about it – The Warehouse would be the perfect political party. Its red branding, egalitarian “Where EVERYONE gets a bargain” slogan and work in the community would appeal to socially minded voters, while its massive retailing empire, overseas trading ability and the sheer volume of money that flows through the company (the amount of GST they accumulate each year must be staggering) would appeal to those of a more capitalistic bend.

Too often politicians are criticised for “not living in the real world”, well the Warehouse is certainly part of the real world and has become such a feature of everyday life for New Zealanders that it would be the perfect interface between politics and the public. Go in store to buy a new pair of pants and pick up some shares in a state-owned power company at the same time (Note: I do not know what The Warehouse’s stance is on asset sales, I’m just using it as an example). Buy a DVD and you could also file your tax return at the checkout. Purchase some oil for your car and pay the registration at the same time. Brilliant, eh? Need to talk to your local member for parliament? Look no further than the information kiosk, or attending to the clean up in aisle four – in the Warehouse Political Party “public service” really does mean serving the public!

As Peter Dunne’s (499 people formerly known as) United Future discovered, politics is all about support and membership. This is from where the term “card carrying member” originates. The Warehouse already has financial contributors in the millions. Every day thousands of New Zealanders shop there, that’s a lot of grassroots support. Want to join the Warehouse Political Party? If you have a Warehouse store credit card, you could already be a member!

So there you go. It’s a little over a year to the next general election, the current mob in parliament (on both sides of the chamber) don’t seem to be making any new friends, or keeping many old ones and a gap has opened up with United Future ceasing to have an actual future, or a present for that matter, so it would be the perfect time for a new party to sweep into power and who better to do it than The Warehouse?

Remember my Name – F(r)ame!

I was reading an article in an issue of The Profit a few weeks ago about a local radio announcer and had to have a bit of a giggle. It was nothing to do with the person, or the station at the centre of the article, but the fact they were referred to as a “celebrity”.

They say, if you say a word too many times, it loses its meaning. Well, over recent years, “celebrity” certainly fits that bill. Andy Warhol’s quote about everyone getting “15 minutes of fame” has become less of a cliché and more of a mantra, a life-goal for thousands who’s lives seemingly require attention and adoration of hundreds or thousands to be fulfilled or credible.

I can’t help but feel that Hawke’s Bay is too small or close-knit to have celebrities. Dave the radio announcer is merely our mate Dave, the radio announcer. Margaret the city councillor is just Margaret, the city councillor. Yet we have people (too often the media) insisting on calling them celebrities.

As an example, every year maybe a dozen people die on Hawke’s Bay roads. Most of these local, unfortunate and untimely road deaths receive a few column inches in one article in the Hawke’s Bay Today and nothing is heard (or read) of the event again. Yet earlier this year one road death, that of Hannah Eaton, a model, mother and the wife of a Hawke’s Bay Magpie rugby player and former All Black, died in a car accident in the Waikato region. This tragic event received weeks’ worth of coverage – 7 articles in total.

Now, I don’t know the Eatons at all and I am sorry for their loss. My problem is with how it was covered. I tend to think that everyone’s life is precious and equally important, so what I want to know is why the Hawke’s Bay Today featured so much of this incident, when they normally don’t feature much of similar death that happens locally. Was it because she was married to someone famous or was perceived, by someone at the paper, to be a celebrity?

Some may say I’m just reinforcing New Zealand’s infamous “Tall Poppy Syndrome” by denouncing the celebrity phenomena. But what constitutes being a celebrity? What qualities, above and beyond us mere mortals, do they require? What significant improvement or difference to the world do they make? If the examples set by those who don’t need naming, because they receive far too much attention as it is on our televisions and women’s magazines are anything to go by, it’s very little. They feature in poorly “unscripted” TV shows that follow them around doing things regular people do, or “strand” them on some desert island with a bunch of similar “celebrities” to see who can “survive” the longest or “outlast” their competition (anyone in these circles being capable of “outwitting” anyone else is a bridge too far, apparently). Their every meal, fashion choice or romantic liaison deserves cover-story status on thousands of publications. What a joke.

I think there should be less focus on celebrity and far more focus on credibility. Why not focus more on those people who truly deserve celebrating? Caring parents, influential teachers and business leaders, people who make a real difference to our world and lives.

Last month I nearly lost my father – he is my “celebrity”, my hero and inspiration. He had a cold that had stealthily developed into pneumonia. He was taken to the hospital, where he actually stopped breathing and spent a couple days in Intensive Care Unit, unconscious, hooked up to a ventilator. The ICU of any hospital is not somewhere you really want to end up, either as a patient, or as a close family member. It’s where those who are the sickest, the most at risk of dying are looked after. One thing that sticks in my mind is the staff – the doctors and nurses who work in this most tense and delicate environment. Friendly, caring (to both patients and shell-shocked relatives), calm, informative, skilled and utterly professional. Bells, whistles and buzzers would go off at random intervals and they would barely blink an eyelid, just do what needed to be done. Dad has since made a full recovery, but it was a close-run thing. I think the staff of the ICU deserve celebrity status, but they’d just say they were only doing their jobs.

Where in the World is Z Kennedy Road?

I’m a little geographically confused. I regularly get my petrol from Z Kennedy Road in Napier. With a name like “Z Kennedy Road” you would think it would be located on, well, Kennedy Road, right? Wrong!

Napier’s Kennedy Road starts at the lights where Wellesley Road bisects it, about 50 meters from the central city service station, which is physically located on the corner of Station Street and Tennyson Street (which ends at the same Wellesley Road corner).

But the confusion doesn’t end there – I was having a look at the till receipt from a recent petrol purchase and noticed it lists Z Kennedy Road’s address as “256 Dickens Street”. This would put it across Station Street and somewhere in the middle of Countdown supermarket’s car park!

With such geographic bamboozlement, uncertainty and inaccuracy, perhaps the people of Napier could claim Z Kennedy Road as a sovereign territory, surely the world’s smallest (look out Vatican City!). It could be a very affluent nation – I hear there’s a very good chance of finding rich petroleum reserves not too far underground (that’s if we decided to drill).

International relations, too, would be a strong feature of our new nation’s economy, with the neighbouring ‘Kingdom of Burger’ and plentiful food sources nearby in The Duchy of Pak n’ Save.

Backing onto the Napier – Gisborne rail line, the “Napier Peoples Republic of Z Kennedy Road” (a bit of a mouthful, admittedly) could conceivably claim that too, as the New Zealand government certainly doesn’t seem to want to operate or look after it.

So if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to the United Nations to lay our claim. All we need now is a flag and national anthem. Any ideas?

Pay no Attention to the Giant Man in the Pink Tutu.

It all started with a Tweet.

About a year ago, on my early morning walk to the bus I catch to work, anybody driving past would have thought I was either ballet dancing, or having some form of seizure.

It had rained the night before, and the footpath was littered with snails scrambling (or, at least moving as fast as snails can) for higher, drier ground. I, in turn, was trying to avoid stepping on any of them. Not because I’m overly environmentally minded, but thinking more along the lines of Karma – If I was a snail just out for a wander, minding my own snaily business, I’d feel very put out if some giant, inattentive biped was to step on and squish me, so I was doing my best to avoid any casualties.

As I side-stepped (and occasionally pirouetted) I realised how odd this must look to any passing observer and once I was out of the escargot minefield and on the bus, I tweeted about my experience and what it must have looked like.

Chel Adams, who runs Aurum Coffee in Hastings replied later saying she would pay good money (or coffee) too see me doing that in a pink tutu. Now one thing you don’t do with me is joke about free food, as I take food (especially the free variety) very seriously, so the challenge was on!

Over the months, the wager grew to coffee AND cheesecake, but time and money were not on my side, sadly and the bet lay dormant (albeit with constant reminders from a growing group of Twitter friends) for some time until the stars aligned last month. I managed to find a pink tutu that actually fit me almost perfectly (a hard ask, considering I’m 6’8” tall guy) from the Napier Operatic Society’s Tabbard Costume Hire and on a chilly Thursday, I made my way, tutu and all, to Aurum Coffee in Heretaunga Street East to make Chel’s day:

Was it worth it? Absolutely! Chel was kind enough (in between fits of laughter) to give me more coffee and cheesecake than I could have hoped for and I even helped out behind the counter making coffees for some very bemused looking customers. Would I do it again? I don’t know, but apparently Chel has plans for various costumes and me.

This could require a lot more food and possibly alcohol…