Hamish McKenzie - news commentator, London, Ontario

Monday, November 21, 2005

Breaking news from New Zealand, as interpreted from a distance of 15,000 km

Nicky Watson dates Warriors' teen star

The Story

Twenty-eight-year-old stick-figure cover art Nicky Watson is dating 19-year-old pig-skin chaser Simon Mannering, a star of a local sports team. Simon is originally from Nelson. Watson used to be married to Mannering's boss, Eric Watson, who is more than twice Mannering's age but still probably couldn't beat him in a fight. Mannering is 10.8 years younger than the average age of Watson's five most recent partners.

News Value

The romantic lives of minor celebrities are always in the public interest -- and for good reason. It is widely accepted that stability in relationships of public figures is usually indicative of a stable economy and solid governance. It remains to be seen whether the union of Watson and her teenage lover will flourish to the same degree as, say, our burgeoning tourist industry, but the fledgling couple does offer hope to a country that has just suffered a significant drop in economic confidence. Safe in the knowledge that Watson will have the rippled and supportive arms of a recent high-school graduate to sink into at night, investors should soon feel free to return their attentions to spending and restoring faith in a robust economy. Certainly, this budding partnership at least goes some way to deflecting attention from the already troubled relationship of Prime Minister Helen Clark and her cantankerous toy boy, Winston Peters.

Victorious Wood back on air

The Story

Prime-time TVNZ presenter Susan Wood will return to her job on Monday night. She had earlier taken TVNZ to the Employment Relations Authority over a pocket money dispute. After some sulking, TVNZ eventually agreed to pay Wood her full pocket money, provided she stop crying on national television.

News Value

As Judy Bailey proved, newsreaders are the mothers of the nation. Except when they're guys, in which case they're regarded as kinds of pseudo-queer ventriloquist puppets. But that's beside the point, which is that newsreaders are the mothers of the nation. Who can dispute that? Don't try to tell me your mother didn't read you news before you went to sleep at night. I for one have many fond memories of my mother's soft voice lulling me to slumber with the daily round-up of rural events from the Alexandra region.

Anyway, where was I? Oh, that's right -- newsreading mothers. Well, clearly we all think it's very important that our mothers are paid fairly, so Wood's heart-wrenching saga has been very dear to us. Her return to the soft-news desk on Monday night will mark not just a victory for savagely underpaid teleprompter readers but a stirring triumph for the children of New Zealand. When you tune the telly to TV1 at 7 o'clock tonight, take a moment -- just a moment -- to pay tribute to the sacrifices Wood has made for you.

Herald's criticism treason, says Peters

The Story

Winston Peters, hurt after the national newspaper said nasty things about his limp performance at APEC, took the unusual step of lashing out at his media adversaries, accusing them of treason. The Herald, which is, of course, above such petty insult-flinging, ran the story with the ugliest picture of Peters they could find and a judiciously-placed "[sic]". The story is the latest in a series of Peters-mocking pieces that apparently seek to bring down the government.

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Sure, it might seem like it's nothing more than a running squabble between a moody foreign minister and a prominent advertising leaflet, but the repercussions of a story like this are not insignificant. Which is to say, they're significant.

Let's take treason, for a start. As the reputable Wikipedia explains, "treason is the crime of disloyalty to one's nation". Traditionally treason was punishable by death, even "an extended and especially cruel death". It's not unreasonable, then, to suggest that the Herald could soon face extinction at the hands of Winston Peters after being forced finally to succumb to the Otago Daily Times' long-held ambitions for national dominance.

Ha! Nah, just tricks. The ODT's got its hands full enough just trying to cover Roxburgh and surrounding districts.

Seriously though, if Winston and the Herald continue to not get along, the New Zealand media faces the concerning prospect of a complete collapse in public confidence -- for if the media can't harness the respect of politicians, who can?