Jack Tame: Key barely made US headlines

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NZ usually makes headlines in the US for peculiar reasons. Photo / AP
NZ usually makes headlines in the US for peculiar reasons. Photo / AP

In an unusual quirk of a messed-up life, I regularly feel like a fly-on-the-wall watching my own country. Enthusiastic (and dedicated! I swear ... ), I am monitoring news and events in New Zealand. There's still no absolute escape from the 14,000km that separates us.

So when John Key passed through New York and Washington this week, I sat back and watched for coverage at this end.

On the day of his arrival, John Key made the New York Times. Unfortunately, it was a death notice for an Alabama man by the same name.

Indeed the US Press were significantly more interested in covering the Iraqi crisis and President Barack Obama's dinner with Vogue editor Anna Wintour than his catch up with our Prime Minister.

Key shouldn't take it personally. The White House hosts foreign leaders almost constantly — Tony Abbott was here just last week. And hey! It's Anna Wintour.

New Zealand usually makes headlines in the US for peculiar reasons. Business journalists might cover Fonterra issues, and John Banks versus Kim Dotcom made the Wall Street Journal, but the majority of New Zealand stories are Lorde/Royal visit/Middle Earth in nature.

That one time a guy was hospitalised in Auckland with an eel up his bum had my Google news alerts in meltdown.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations get a bit of back-page coverage, though the bigger Pacific players predictably get bigger spreads and I'd suggest the most Americans have never heard of the TPP.

But although the US press might have been somewhat indifferent about Key's visit, we still punch significantly above our weight for a populace only marginally larger than Puerto Rico. The mere fact the Prime Minister can get a regular audience with Obama, let alone a round of golf and a spot on Letterman as well, would be considered a major success by many US political pundits.

And watching it from the outside this week, I was reminded of Key's last visit to the US East Coast. At the time, I worked with a young American cameraman who'd never heard of, or even Googled, Key.

"Your prime minister is really different to our politicians," he said after a few days tailing the PM. "He's like a cool dad."


Jack Tame is on Newstalk ZB, Saturdays, 9am-midday.

- Herald on Sunday

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