Coddington walloped!

by / June 11, 2007

The New Zealand media disappoints me, and quite regularly makes me angry. More often than not, something written somewhere will have me choking with indignation on my Weetbix usually about once a week.

But what convinced me that I would probably vote with my feet, as Don Brash might have put it, in the near future was a discussion I had a few weeks back with Jim Tucker – the head of the Journalism Training Organisation.

Of late, and perhaps due to panic about my impending graduation and going into the real world, I’ve been harbouring notions of studying journalism in the United States. All the academics and ex-student journalists I have spoken to thus far were supportive and offered oodles of advice about application dates, GREs and money.

But Tucker’s response was not what I expected. Instead of attempting to upskill at one of the top journalism skills in the world, I should just settle with Massey Wellington. (No offence to Massey Wellington intended.)

And asking around other student journalism friends, I found that I wasn’t the only one to have been told this. A good friend had in fact been told that a Masters in Journalism from Columbia – you know, where Pulitzer prize winners are made – wouldn’t get him a job in New Zealand.

What sort of profession is this where idealistic, excited young people are actively discouraged from seeking further training overseas? I’d never really believed in the whole ‘Tall Poppy Syndrome’ aspect of our culture until that conversation.

It was right about then that I decided I didn’t want to work as a journalist in New Zealand any more.

Ironically enough, I was introduced to Tucker at a seminar by a visiting academic from Columbia University’s j-school in New York. An expert on the reporting of race and ethic issues, Arlene Morgan shook her intellectual fist at the quality of the New Zealand media, and was left speechless over Deborah Coddington’s Asian Angst article.

So it’s heartening to see today that the Press Council agrees wholeheartedly.

I first read the article in January this year, having been back in the country for about a week, and it made me very, very angry. Not only because of its mangled statistics and unabashedly sensationalist language, but because I had just spent two months in China and had been treated with nothing but respect and kindness – despite the fact that I was an ignorant foreigner who couldn’t even ask where the closest toilet was in Chinese and got drunk a lot on 60c beer.

Other people who are a whole lot more informed than myself have written about the result of the three complaints here and here. Coddington, quite predictably, is attempting to save face by criticising the Press Council.

The decision on its own is not enough to keep me in the country, but it gives me hope that when I get back things might be different.

***

While we’re on the topic of the Press Council, Salient and VUWSA have actually made their own complaint, over the absolute travesty of a story about the Opiegate scandal in the Sunday Star Times. Despite the fact that they had two weeks to research the story, and a former Salient staff member advising them, they still got it wrong. It’s quite a convoluted process, with each side sending in their responses and back again.

We’ll keep you posted.

About the Author ()

Nicola Kean: feature writer, philanthropist, womanly woman. Nicola is the smallest member of the Salient team, but eats really large pieces of lasagne. Favourites include 80s music, the scent of fresh pine needles and long walks on the beach.

Comments (8)

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  1. Tristan says:

    “It was right about then that I decided I didn’t want to work as a journalist in New Zealand any more.”

    Y’know, there is a way out of this dilemma – work in a different country, one which actually has some decent newspapers (say, the Guardian or the Independent) and who will hire idealistic excited young people….

    And since NZ newspapers steal 99% of their ‘World’ section stories from overseas, you will end up getting printed in the Dom Post and the Herald anyway – problem solved!

  2. Richard says:

    Nicola,
    Go to the USA or wherever and train as much as you like. But do so with your eyes open – that the NZ population is just too small to provide meaningful support for quality journalism (as in a well-paid profession). Do it for love, or a calling, by all means but you’ll probably need to stay overseas if a decent income is important. I say this as a publisher of 20 years – I struggle to pay our top editors w. 25+ years experience $100K and juniors maybe $35. Compare this with 25-30 yo’s on $100 with the telcos and you need to be sure money is not that important – or at least just one thing to consider. If you want to work in New Zealand.

    My 1.5c worth

  3. Bryan says:

    I don’t think you count as a ‘tall’ poppy

  4. Nintendo says:

    Good point, Bryan. So pretenscious.

  5. Nicola Kean says:

    Uh, I think perhaps Bryan was referring to my lack of stature.

    Does it make me pretentious to point out that you spelled pretentious wrong?

  6. Nintendo says:

    No, I guess I was wrong, you ARE a great journalist! Thanks for the correction, that was awesome of you! You’ll go far!
    Congratulations!!!

  7. Janina says:

    Journalism is a vocation. It will never bring you the bucks… just the sweat. I have worked both as a journalist in NZ and London. If anything, the difference I have discovered is commercialisation. And yes, bigger population, more resources, more opportunities. But trying to bring NZ up to an ‘international’ model simply won’t work. You will write for NZ media because you can’t help yourself. You in some way want to contribute back to a democracy that has brought you up, and obviously instilled some desire to write what you believe are truthful stories for your culture, your community. That’s why most OEers come back at the end of the day. It’s meaning.

  8. Glenn says:

    Miss Kean writes “… I had just spent two months in China and had been treated with nothing but respect and kindness – despite the fact that I was an ignorant foreigner who couldn’t even ask where the closest toilet was in Chinese and got drunk a lot on 60c beer.”

    I guess they didn’t take you around back of the stadium to show you the executions (for any one of almost 70 capital punishment violations* – including non-violent crime), or the nearby van where they cut them up to sell off their body parts. Yeah, those anti-capitalist commies are really good guys under all that totalitarianism! Abandon your hopes of becoming an informed journo and have another 60c beer you self-confessed ignoramus…

    * http://www.amnesty.ca/take_action/actions/china_death_penalty.php