Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Media managers

I've been watching the news on TV and reading the papers for a while now and would like to think I know something about how it works. In realty I of course I know as much as any other regular viewer I guess and so to the thousands upon thousands of you out there studiously completing degrees in media studies please skip over this post for I feel it will simply tell you something you may have learnt in your stage one paper, FTVMS101: How to watch the news.

I admire the way that competent media managers keep things in the news and therefore in the publics mind, thoughts, bus-chats, pub-wailings, dinner table conversations, and so on and so forth.

There are two categories of media managers that are the best at what they do. The first are the ones involved in the political process and the second are the ones involved with the Police.

The first one is self evident. Political media managers seem to need to do two things and that is break a story or make a story. Breaking a story is as easy as tipping off a TV3 jorno that John Tamahere may or may not have paid tax on a payout when he left the Waipareira trust and that Labour campaigned against so called 'Golden-handshakes' at the 1999 election (even though this is not a Golden-handshake in the manner in which the term was used at the time) Breaking the story seems to be easy when there is one to be broken, it is harder when the event 'broken' would not have done so if there was no media to create interest for the story. For instance, the JT affair is not a real story in that it would not exist if it were not for the media creating the interest in it. On the other hand a huge earthquake that wiped out Hamilton (it is coming, I can feel it) would be of interest to people even if there was no media. The former story is harder to break as it requires skill to make it of interest to people and the later is interesting simply because it is real and could happen to us. Political media managers seem to need to work quite hard to make political stories relevant to the public.

Police have it easier. People are always going to be interested in stories that involve the Police. I guess it comes from fear, but maybe it is simply interest in the community that we live in. They don't need to make stories in the sense that political operators do. They have a different job and that is to catch the crook. One of the ways in which Police do this is of course from public input, it is therefore vastly important to attempt to jog the publics mind and keep them thinking about a crime. The Police media managers are clever, they keep things in the news for ages. Take for instance the Korean woman who was killed recently, the story stayed in the media for a week or so. This was in part due to the Police drip feeding information out to the media and thus onto the public. Each night we got an update on the case first a picture of a missing woman, next night a picture of her house, then her car. Then they told us that her body was found a couple of days ago floating in the Waikato river. Then the next day there are shots of divers going into the water. Each new day contains a re-run of what has happened and each day the publics minds are jogged, aiding the police in their job. The same can be said for the Iraena Asher case, each day more information would come out. As the news items came out giving the public a little bit more each evening, the story of the night in question was built up piece by piece. It would seem the Police released just enough information to make a news bulletin, saving some for the next night to ensure the story stayed in the news. Even when it became apparent that the Police had made some kind of mistake with regard to the handling of the call, they continued to slowly release information about that. This insured the case stayed in the media for longer, increasing the chances of a closure of the case.

The key in both cases is of course drip feeding. Bits of the story come out at a time so that it stays in the media gaze and in the publics minds for the greatest amount of time. The challenge for media managers is to know what will make a story and how to extend the amount of time that story is given prominence. The Police to keep the events in question in the publics mind, thus increasing the likelihood someone may remember something. The politicians drip feed information for stories in order to extend the time they are able to bash other politicians in the media. Rodney Hide is great at this and dribbling out mud to sling at JT has given him more media exposure over the past two weeks than he has had in the last 6 months. The story around JT came out in the first day with the the question over his conduct when receiving a final payment - painted as a golden-handshake. The rest of the allegations surrounding the Waipareira trust are part of that drip feed of information and simply secondary to the main thrust of the issue. However it keeps the main issue in the publics mind, hopefully eroding confidence in him It seems we can only expect more if his blog ( is anything to go by:

"Sunday Star Times Political Editor Helen Bain reports the following on her former boss John Tamihere:

[T]he government must be bracing themselves every time they switch on a news bulletin or unfold a newspaper

And if rumors swirling around parliament solidify into fact, there will be more to come.

That's right. Strap yourselves in."

So dribble, dribble. And conversely the government media managers will try to put it out of the media by pointing out that there is a investigation underway to determine the status of the transactions. Its all very intriguing unless one simply sees it as a media managed beat up.


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