John Drinnan 's Opinion

Media writer for the New Zealand Herald

John Drinnan: Cup coverage needs to improve

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Television New Zealand needs to change gears for its yachting coverage now Emirates Team New Zealand have won the Louis Vuitton Cup and will compete for the America's Cup.

Some folk have raved about the graphics from the American host broadcasters, and their role will probably increase.

Peter Lester is an excellent and informed commentator for yachting fans, and Martin Tasker is an experienced yachting reporter, if a little bit dull.

The story about his apparent live-mike accident where he said he planned "to do the Jewish woman" added some much needed colour to events.

It seems the TVNZ coverage needs to get some more wind in its sails to ensure this is a huge event in TVNZ sports coverage.

It needs someone like Peter Montgomery - so long as it's not too much like Peter Montgomery.

"PJ", by the way, has not presented TVNZ America's Cup coverage for several years, and is broadcasting for NewstalkZB from San Francisco.

Someone like former radio man Andrew Saville could be good.

Time zones mean the best hookups are on Breakfast TV and that works out fine during the weekdays. But coverage at the weekend, when New Zealand won the Louis Vuitton Cup, was choppy.

TVNZ spokeswoman Georgie Hills does not see any problems, saying coverage has been enhanced by dedicating more cameras and resources to the decisive stages.

"One of the upsides of fewer boats competing is that they've been able to put additional cameras on each boat and the high-speed showdowns are covered from more angles which makes for dramatic viewing," she says. "The audiences are building nicely towards the America's Cup itself. We're really pleased with the way it's trending for us as the competition has progressed."

Labour pains

Journalists in the EPMU trade union have ensured they aren't sullied by its affiliation and financial support for the Labour Party and can retain their independence.

Yet two journos are among the 60 delegates who will be taking part in a highly political event - voting on who should lead the Labour Party into the next election.

EPMU senior national industrial officer Paul Tolich said the union and the journos were aware of the issue of maintaining political independence.

They were delegates for the wider EPMU union, were sub-editors and did not represent journalists, Tolich says.

It seems no big thing with two votes among 60 that will then define the EPMU's more significant role in helping decide the wider affiliate unions' 20 per cent stake.

But it flies in the face of the traditional separation of journalists within the EPMU.

Union journalists opting out of affiliation and financial support for Labour goes back to 1993 when the non-affiliated journalists' union Jagpro merged with the Printing Union, which had close links to Labour. That union subsequently became part of the EPMU.

The aim of opting out was to preserve the notion of independence or objectivity, countering common accusations that journalists are biased to the left ... although others accuse the media of being biased to the right.

But for mainstream newsrooms, it remains important that journalists are not party-politically aligned.

Few believe delegates' votes will be personal.

The union says the votes of the 60 delegates are confidential, and no decision has been made whether the union as a whole will back a candidate.

It will be surprising if the EPMU does not take some guidance from its former secretary, Andrew Little - a former president of the Labour Party and now an MP for it.

Press for success

What is it in the water at the Christchurch Press that nurtures so many high-flyers for Fairfax Media?

On Wednesday, Fairfax appointed group digital editor Sinead Boucher as group executive editor, replacing Paul Thompson.

Thompson was a former editor of the Press and Boucher was assistant editor of the press.co.nz, assigned to develop its digital presence.

Another former editor of the Press, Tim Pankhurst, went on to be editor of the Dominion Post and then head of the Newspaper Publishers' Association.

The current editor of the Press, Joanna Norris, came up through the ranks.

In June last year, an editor at the Press, Andrew Holden, was promoted to take over as editor of Fairfax's Age newspaper in Melbourne.

The company has been making big changes with a trend to creating hubs for content, and NZ has an increasing role, providing lower-cost sub-editing for some Australian Fairfax titles.

Boucher has been appointed after a period of upheaval at Fairfax with layoffs at provincial papers and the decision to sell its photos to a US archive service.

These have been among the final tasks for Thompson. "There's been a lot of upheaval and we have probably been through a painful period in a lot of ways," Boucher says.

"I don't think that is over, but I think it will change. The next few years are a period of constant change and transformation.

"I think what we need to do is focus on good things."

Radio daze

Paul Thompson faces significant challenges when he takes over as chief executive of Radio New Zealand on September 9.

RNZ staff I spoke to were wary about the arrival of a new CEO selected by a board dominated by National appointees, after the party had a long-running battle with his predecessor, Peter Cavanagh.

A well-placed source said that nervousness came to a head a few weeks back when political editor Brent Edwards spoke passionately at a farewell for Cavanagh, criticising how RNZ had been run by its board.

Given the past antipathy towards RNZ from National, the staff are probably justified in being nervous.

Thompson is also from a print background rather than radio.

His supporters say he is focused on new technology. Thompson has been working behind the scenes for several weeks and is expected to quickly set up a large-scale review of RNZ and its programming.

Good rapport

Former TVNZ head of Maori and Pacific programming Paora Maxwell is expected to soon be appointed chief executive of Maori Television.

Maxwell, who left TVNZ in February, is understood to have been selected from four finalists. He had a close rapport with the chairwoman of Maori TV, Georgina te Heu Heu.

The appointment has drawn a mixed reaction from staff.

Maori Television will be paying its departing chief executive, Jim Mather, for a two-month sabbatical that ends shortly before he starts a new job.

Mather is highly regarded in Maoridom and broadcasting, and is credited with bringing stability to Maori Television after years of dysfunction. Many believe that with the appointment of a new CEO, Maori Television is at a crossroads.

- NZ Herald

John Drinnan

Media writer for the New Zealand Herald

John Drinnan is the media writer for the New Zealand Herald. A business journalist for twenty years, he has been editor of the specialist film and television title "Screen Finance" in London, focussing on the European TV and film industry. He has been writing about media in New Zealand since the deregulation of the television industry in the late 1980s. He is focused on the business side of the digital revolution in media.

Read more by John Drinnan

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