Who Are You?

New Zealand commercial media’s fixation on “fame” and too few consumers have made it short-sighted and threatens its own future.

Radio New Zealand’s Wallace Chapman posted a picture on Twitter a few weeks ago praising NZ’s medical system after a member of his family suffered an illness.

This is something I can closely associate with having experienced and written about a similar experience a few years ago.

Mainstream media site Stuff picked up Wallace’s post and made a story out of it.

Wallace’s original Twitter post was soon removed, and fair enough.

The post’s quick removal would likely indicate Chapman didn’t know about the picture being used as a news story and he deleted it to regain some privacy.

While he is a public figure, Wallace and his family are entitled to a private life, and it’s called “Private” for a reason.

Being the caring, social, media Twitter is, Wallace’s situation received a lot of sympathy – several hundred “likes” and loads of supportive comments.

But you wouldn’t know that from the article, because the item chose to focus on how:

Celebrities > Sub-Editors / Proofreaders, apparently..

This isn’t the first time Stuff has blatantly ignored mere social media mortals like myself.

While I was annoyed at that NewShub incident, it wasn’t so much because I might have missed out on “a Warhol” (a “Fifteen Minutes of Fame” unit), rather it was the terrible “netiquette” of using something I’d written or explained without the manners to ask first, or give credit where it was due.

But it does go some way to highlighting how commercial media seem to have issues with their “Social” counterpart.

“Local news” used to be precisely what local media did – Local people and local issues.

But corporate takeovers and simulcast networking ripped the “local” out of local news.

New Zealand’s regional centres started hearing less and less about their own neighbourhood, and more about the big cities, where their papers’ and radios’ management were now based.

It would be like Auckland getting its news feed via Sydney.

But that doesn’t happen, does it?!

Many places, like regional New Zealand, just “didn’t matter” any more.

And neither, evidently, did regional New Zealanders.

Given New Zealand’s abysmal mental health and suicide statistics, it would be incredibly irresponsible of our media to reinforce a perception that half to two thirds of New Zealand (the proportion of NZ’s population that isn’t Auckland-based) “doesn’t matter”!

Along with this “Big City” focus came more attention on “Big People” – The “Noteable“, “Famous“, and “Celebrities“.

Not only could a majority of New Zealand media’s “target markets“, “demographics“,  “consumers” and “customers” (all big words those in the media like to throw around to justify ignoring local news) no longer identify with where items their media was producing were from, they now couldn’t identify with those who featured in them!

So regional New Zealanders, in their usual “Number 8 Wire Mentality” took to social media – creating their own, locally-relevant news sites on the likes of Facebook and broadcasting their local news and issues on Twitter.

I went to a talk on “Media in Hawke’s Bay” last year where the editor of NZME’s Hawke’s Bay regional paper criticised the likes of Facebook, complaining it took so much of the press’ business away from them.

Yet his paper seems perfectly happy producing stories online and in print that have been reaped from local Facebook pages and groups in the days and weeks before newspaper publication.

Such items are often then mocked and derided by commercial media stable-mates and staff for their “regional New Zealand-ness”.

But don’t get me started on that

Recently the head of one of New Zealand’s commercial news media networks had a public whinge via his own network platform at how they were struggling to survive, while semi-“State Broadcaster” TVNZ no longer had to produce a dividend to their shareholders (the NZ government).

“The small public broadcasting news operations and the commercial players can no longer provide enough news to keep our society healthy at a local and national level.” he said.

“Can no longer provide”?!

For the last 15-20yrs NZ’s commercial media networks have actively gutted regional coverage & newsrooms to increase profits for their big city headquarters & shareholders!

If half to two-thirds of New Zealand is good enough to be an income stream for these commercial media networks, then surely, MORALLY, they are good enough to deserve equal news coverage!

And you know what?

If media outlets started paying more attention to their local consumers again, then the locals might become more interested in buying their LOCAL paper/news content again, rather than turning to social media!

Businesses might even start advertising in traditional local media again!

But what would I know?

These network execs “experts” have been regurgitating the same things for years and years and expecting a different result.

And I’m just a writer from regional New Zealand.

I “don’t matter”.

But if I don’t matter, then:

A Glamping Staycation


 

The last time I spent a night in a tent was a high school trip to Kuripapango, (the last stop before you climb the “Gentle Annie” on the Napier-Taihape Road.

It rained pretty much continuously, the teachers got us lost on a tramp and the boys’ bus broke down on the way home and we were stuck on the side of a shingle road for hours, while the girls’ bus carried on home unawares.

Hardly memorable for the right reasons…

Fortunately time heals some mental scars, and it also provides room for development.

In these intervening years the concept of “Glamping” (a portmanteau of “Glamorous Camping”) had been developed.

With bigger tents and more hospitable amenities such as actual beds, couches, and other features (and no teachers to get you lost on walks) Glamping makes for a more refined and relaxed camping experience.

So when, during a period of rather intense issues and times, our Twitter friends Emma & Colin from Meadowood House offered my family a night’s Glamping, in return for making a donation to a local charity we lept at the chance!

Located on Korokipo Road (State Highway 50), fifteen minutes from both Napier and Hastings, Meadowood is far enough from town to be “away from it all”, while still being, well, “close to it all!”

Also within close proximity are several renowned local wineries and right next door is new, award winning Zeffer Cider.

Arriving at Meadowood we were greeted by our host Emma, who showed us to our accommodation for the night – a “Lotus” Glamping tent – kind of like a Mongolian “Yurt“.

With three tents spaced far enough apart amongst a copse of trees to provide a good level of privacy we were also greeted by a number of Piwakawaka – NZ native Fantails!

After settling in to our accommodation for the night we explored the property.

The centrally located house has rooms that can be rented separately, or as the entire house.

The property also has large open spaces and a big, tent-like marquee perfect for events or parties.

Meadowood has been set up so the entire site can be hired out as a whole event and accommodation venue for weddings and the like.

Hosts Emma and Colin live on site with their family, so they can quickly and easily attend to guests’ needs.

Our daughter was quickly playing with theirs’ while the family four-legged food quality controller, the aptly named labrador “Kai” kept an eye on my dinner.

An outside barbecue area features a grill, shade tent with seats and bean bags, a brazier and a spa pool.

Meadowood is far enough away from the light pollution of the twin cities that some amazingly clear star-gazing around the fire, or in the spa is a real possibility during your nights’ stay.

Sadly for us it was overcast overnight, but there were some gorgeous lights close by.

The Art Deco-inspired “Speakeasy” (the house’s converted garage) acts as a bar, a movie theater and a breakfast nook.

Featuring a couches, projector and screen, fridges and the world’s flashest toaster it is a great place to socialise, sample some of the local liquids, or watch some old-time and classic movies.

We wandered back to our tent illuminated by more fantastic fairy lights and settled down for the night.

Our tent was configured with a big, amazingly comfortable and warm queen sized bed for my wife and I, and a single bed for our daughter, along with a comfy couch and storage.

They usually feature just the more intimate queen or king bed for couples, but they can be set up almost however you want.

Far from my last aforementioned experience in a tent this was the warmest, coziest night under canvas I have experienced!

We are woken early the next morning by a mixture of the sun, our daughter and the call of nature (no, not a fantail dawn chorus, the “other” one..)

Meadowood’s glampimg amenities block looks a bit like your typical NZ country longdrop but are far from it.

Flushing toilets and a pristine basin set a more refined tone, while the private, yet OUTDOOR shower proves both stylish and popular.

Over breakfast in the Speakeasy we met some of our fellow guests.

A young ex-pat South African couple were having a tour of NZ’s regions to find somewhere more affordable to move to, while a Mum from author Bill Bryson’s hometown, Des Moines Iowa in the United States and her Auckland-based teacher son were taking a road trip holiday.

While only recently opened Meadowood is indeed proving popular, which explains why they recently won the Hawke’s Bay Tourism “Rising Star” Award!

Hawke’s Bay keeps attracting great people with bright ideas and Emma, Colin and their family.are no exception.

From being friends online to friends “IRL” (In Real Life) it yet again shows how HB’s Twitter community puts the “Social” into Social Media!

Meadowood is well worth a stay if you are visiting Hawke’s Bay or even if, like us, you are locals just needing a break or “staycation”.

Meadowood’s “Glamping” season runs from September through until April (weather permitting). Enquire online for the availability and hours of other aspects of the venue.

Please check them out!

The Councillors Doth Protest Too Much!

Who is writing the script for Napier City Council these days?

It seems part Shakespeare, part George Orwell, with maybe even a touch of farce, or even Franz Kafka.

There certainly appear to be a lot of actors – An Acting Mayor, Acting Deputy Mayor and an Acting CEO.

There is also a lot of strutting and fretting upon the council and electioneering stage in reaction to what could readily be described as “Big Brother”- like activity from council management.

Napier’s Acting Mayor, Faye White, last week criticised her fellow Napier City Councillors for voicing their criticism and concern to media after it was revealed council management ordered the trawling of social media profiles of councillors who were opposed to the development of the Prebensen Drive pool complex in what appears an attempt find possible breaches of the council’s contentious Elected Members’ Code of Conduct.

How did the Acting Mayor air her opinion on the matter?

By criticising those fellow councillors in the media!

Acting Deputy Mayor Claire Hague had done similarly in an earlier August Talking Point that not only echoed the Code of Conduct, but also did the exact thing she was criticising her fellow councillors for – “publicly criticising (our council staff, not to mention the mayor and) other councillors”!

“These actions go a long way to eroding the level of trust and confidence that our community has in the council” she claimed.

But then went on to say, “Real or perceived errors in our work need to be discussed and remedied in private”.

Secrecy, this perceived “gagging” Code of Conduct, and a lack of transparency and public representation in council business have been major issues in Napier politics for years!

Discussing or remedying errors involving public money, public representation, or public facilities should NEVER be done in private!

THAT is what has eroded public trust in this council – potentially beyond repair.

If councillors are basing their votes upon incorrect, or potentially biased information who is in the wrong?

Those who have mis-represented data, or those who merely rubber-stamp everything put before them without doing their own due diligence, first?

Anyone with a thread of moral fibre must put accountability to the public they serve before their own dignity in these cases.

“Sorry” isn’t the hardest word and “denial” isn’t a river in Egypt.

Interestingly Councillor Keith Price claims the EMCC prevented him from going ahead with an interview regarding pollution in Pandora Estuary recently. “The (possible) breach being described that it may give me, as an incumbent councillor, an unfair advantage over those seeking new election.”

So, as the incumbent (“currently holding office”) Acting Mayor and Acting Deputy Mayor don’t these published opinion pieces criticising those standing for office (neither White, nor Hague are seeking re-election) breach NCC’s Code of Conduct?

Or would that only apply if they had voted against the Prebensen Drive pool?

White “would rather wait until I have all the relevant facts in front of me before deciding on next steps” in relation to what must quickly be becoming a serious employment issue between the democratically elected council and their sole employee – the council’s CEO, who council management and staff report to.

But where will she get these facts?

From the same people who recommended the Napier War Memorial needed renovating, its memorial elements gutted and packed away into a shed at the council’s Austin Street depot while the Eternal Flame is sheltered by what looks like a rubbish tin lid?

From those who said Napier Skating Club did not have the “operational expertise” to be involved in running what would become “Bay Skate” despite 61 years of NSC operation?

Hopefully not from those who caused the Friends of the Onekawa Aquatic Centre to lose faith “in council’s ability to negotiate a fair settlement out of court. After weeks of poor communication, misinformation and obstruction.”

Or those who seem so determined to have a new pool complex at Prebensen Drive, despite overwhelming public support for a 50-meter pool at the current Onekawa site prior to the 2018 Long Term Plan consultation, that they will apparently search through social media for anything to try and undermine the elected representatives who oppose it?

Maybe Napier’s Acting Mayor should pay more attention to the suggestions of “outside commentators”, rather than just dismissing them.

In 2017 Mayor Bill Dalton warned that “Napier City could be the first council destroyed by social media”.

Few could have predicted how prophetic those words would turn out to be!

They weren’t related to this most recent issue, but rather in relation to public criticism of an email obtained by media in which the Mayor encouraged councillors to support CEO Wayne Jack’s reapplication for his position, despite the recruitment agency overseeing the process receiving a number of applications for the CEO role.

This call to action prompted an unsuccessful complaint to the Office of the Auditor General that it gave the impression of bias, or predetermination – something not allowed in local governance – in the council’s CEO selection process.

Jack was reappointed CEO by the council soon after.

At that time, in her role as Deputy Mayor, Faye White spoke of her sadness that “the mayor can’t send a confidential email to his councillors” without it being leaked, saying “When the trust goes … it’s never quite the same.”

Indeed.

Napier deserves better!

 

*A copy of this post appeared as a “Talking Point” in Hawke’s Bay Today on Thursday 5 September 2019*