US media will be asking themselves why they failed so badly, and whether their biases towards political elites influenced the election of Donald Trump.

For years, conservative groups have attacked mainstream media, saying they were out of touch with a revolutionary shift in public opinion.

Now, extreme right wing organisations will be cheek by jowl with Trump at the White House.

In my view, US media did lose the plot. Faced with criticism, they defended their performance and turned media freedom into an issue, making themselves a big part of the story.


That's entertainment

In my opinion, media should also question the degree to which election and news coverage have merged with entertainment.

Amid the tears on social media about the perils of Trump, one tweet stood out. It was from Seth MacFarlane, the creator of the subversively funny animated series Family Guy.

"How much of [Trump's] victory do you think was an unquenchable lust for wilder entertainment?" he asked.

There was irony, too. The background music to Trump's victory speech was the Rolling Stones' You Can't Always Get What You Want.

Media lessons

Trump's election is a momentous change, and it may seem over the top to link events in the US with changes to local media.

But New Zealand media are also facing challenges as they try to make news coverage entertaining, in order to bring in audiences.

Part of their solution is the morphing of news and current affairs with entertainment. That change is advanced here, as it is in the States.

I find it disturbing that some media have started reporting on reality TV shows like Real Housewives of Auckland as though they are real-life.


In my opinion, as objective reporting has fallen out of fashion, that has spurred the division into liberal and conservative audiences. We are going the American way.

Comedy news

TV3 confirmed yesterday that it was further embracing entertainment in its coverage of news and issues.

It is dropping prime-time current affairs in the 7pm timeslot, for a new brand of comedy news to replace Story.

It has signed up to a New Zealand version of the Aussie comedy show The Project, with the involvement of the 7 Days comedy team.

The new venture will be a co-production between the TV3 news department, headed by Hal Crawford, and the entertainment department, led by Andrew Szusterman.

The TV3 entertainment department has long fought to control the 7pm timeslot, and after rating slumps for Campbell Live and then Story, it has convinced new management that the news department cannot cut it.

The good news is that MediaWorks' owner Oaktree Capital is still investing to make TV3 viable against TVNZ1 and Seven Sharp.

However, I wonder if The Project will have sufficient budget, and whether it will be more comedy than news.

The Project is successful in Australia, where it plays on the Ten Network. But even with good writers, good budgets and brilliant presenters, it can still be patchy.

A daily live prime-time TV show will be hard work. It will need charismatic talent, but with the departure of Paul Henry at the end of the year, TV3 has no real stars.

Henry has the wit to make The Project work, but he will only appear on the show in guest spots.

TV3 declined to discuss Heather du Plessis-Allan's future when Story finishes at the end of the year. The channel confirmed that her co-host Duncan Garner is to replace Henry when he leaves his simulcast radio and TV show, to be renamed AM.

Henry's departure - and his unwillingness to take a key role at 7pm - is a serious blow to TV3's owners as they try to find a new investor.


MediaWorks still appears to be convinced that local content is important and that the 7pm show is a key watershed for evening viewing.

They may well be right. However, that is certainly not the way that I watch TV using my MySky, or on Netflix.

I am not ruled by timeslots and I wonder how many viewers are.

Rather than taking a financial risk against Shortland Street on TVNZ2, I wonder whether MediaWorks would be better off financially if it ran a strong US sitcom in the 7pm timeslot.

• There is an ironic twist to The Project. The format TV3 is buying is controlled by a company owned by Rove McManus, the comedian- broadcaster who is a close friend of John Campbell.

Campbell became a cause celebre for fans of serious journalism when he was pushed out of the 7pm timeslot by TV3 and his show was replaced with Story. That was a move towards the comedy-news format, and away from journalism, which is set to continue with TV3's new show.