Sunday, 9 May 2010

From behind the door: The interminable art of trying

Well the morning started off abysmally - late as usual with nary a cup of coffee in sight, and blood on Wall Street slicing the prospects of a straightforward dollar story thrown out the window as the third-quarter earnings of New Zealand's biggest phone company loomed large over me and the boss wasn't in yet and the other boss was in but not making coffee and once Telecom posted its result there wasn't time for me to pick it up because we hadn't had the conversation and it should've been a bit more organised, but that's the life of being behind the door in an office of three, soon to be four, maybe even more, but that's just mere speculation.

So I got through the usual malarkey of getting my soundbite from Mike, he's a good bloke, and my friend says he's very pleasant on the eye and she knows these things so I'll probably tell her to come along next time me and Mike meet up for a beer, though that's likely to be a long way off with the budget looming and other things on the go that I don't even know about yet, and now I'm way off topic so I should get back to finishing off my currency story 'cos it's already 9am and we're trying to get it out earlier and earlier and earlier and Jonathan's got the Telecom result and he's going to do a cheap and nasty version and later on in the day he says we should've sat down and discussed this and made sure that I'd picked it up 'cos I'd done a preview the afternoon before and Telecom's - and the wider telco sphere in general (though I can't call it the telco sphere 'cos Jon hates the word telco and he's the boss after all) - my baby and even though it was challenging at first, I do quite like writing about phone companies and broadband and mobile phones and all the stuff that seems to come in the telecommunications sector.

So I'd managed to encapsulate the cliff that Wall Street dived off after some guy's finger got a little itchy, then I read through Jon's write-through on Telecom and prepared to dial in for the conference - 40 minutes of which was the usual PR flackery that goes on and on and on and turns into a war of attrition until people can actually get an opportunity to ask these masters of the universe questions about the state of their business and what it actually means, and that if the level of disclosure across all the divisions of their company is so great why don't they answer questions when asked, rather than just fob it off as commercially sensitive information, and you know that while you might get something, someone else will use it, which is sometimes a blessing in disguise, 'cos sometimes after an hour and a quarter of listening to people more intelligent and knowledgeable than you, you really don't want to ask your questions because they've been answered in roundabout ways and they aren't really that interesting anyway and you've just taken up 2 minutes that someone else could've used, but instead you gave a nice soundbite to another guy but that's alright because you know that you secretly use their work to give yourself a decent background on the issue, and then you get off the conference and you realise that you don't really have a story, because the numbers were pretty bland, even if they did beat Guy's forecast slightly, and the XT report was pretty lame, even if it did call management immature, which the boss wanted in the write-through, so I had to go for a wander with the boss and try and get my head around what I was going to write about, then I talked to Alan, 'cos he's absolutely lovely and always gives you a good quote and tries to give you something even when there's nothing there, and so I came up with something, and eventually got the write-through, and then the stock price fell to a new low, and I'd already written the story, so I threw that at the top, and lo and behold, it made it to the usual suspects, and everything was alright, but two days on, I'm no wiser about what happened, and if anything, perhaps a little more confused - so until the next thing comes out, it's all business as usual.

And that's life from behind the door.


Of course that's just my opinion. I could be wrong.

For some reason I was rather excited about the prospect of an hour-long special commemorating the glory days of Nightline - 20 years was a decent whack, and much of that was through my formative teenage years (though it had to contend with the delightful Newsnight on TV2 which was tops in my book).

After watching that self-indulgent twaddle on Friday, I felt the need to have my own little whine (cue the old blog routine....).

I like 90s nostalgia. I guess that's the rub of it when you're around my age and everything seemed so much better when it was wrapped in nihilistic, self-effacing apathy. Man, Gen X was coooooool.

Anyway, back to my grizzle - TV3 had a wealth of footage to screen. They had 60 minutes (minus advertising to do it). And what did we get (barring the tributes to Ralston and Dylan Taite)?

Talking heads and voiceovers over montages that didn't mean a hell of a lot. Oh, and people saying it was so great then because we could do whatever we wanted 'cos we were a fledgling network with nothing to lose.

Sad, sad, sad, sad.

Don't mean to be a bit of a nonce, but I woulda liked to see the old Belinda/Joanne duo bounce off each other for five minutes, but I guess that was too much to ask. Allusions through interviews about your own programme are a bit, well, lame.

And there was so much to choose from. Crikey.

I guess everyone was just too hyped up to get a free night on the company card than go through the archives and tee-up some awesome stuff.....

Ah well. Venting over. Sorry about that. We shall resume normal service soon.....


(Oh, and this vapid piece of crap parading as news could have at least tried to find the top five most outrageous things Belinda Todd did when she was on Nightline rather than just pilfer five grabs from the show....... Jeeeeeeez)

Here's a 1991 Nightline mash-up for y'all who wanted to see some of the good stuff....

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Footfalls echo in the memory, down the passage we did not take

I can't blame poor old Dr Reynolds - he hasn't really been in New Zealand very long.
But his choice of words in laying the blame for XT's repeated failure over the past three months could've been better.
"Enough is enough" he cried in his opening plea to the media (and all credit to him for fronting up for what was a gruelling - and often ill-informed - session with hacks from all over).
Unfortunately the only image I can conjure up with this particular phrase is one of one-eyed hatred and ignorant bigotry. Something that was just as powerful at splitting the nation as the foreshore and seabed - and perhaps a tad more depressing when you boil down the root causes.
Admittedly, you can almost understand his frustration with Telecom's french partner, Alcatel-Lucent and p'raps 'twas dark irony the phone company's flack were playing at, but I don't think so.
So credit to the telco for fessing up and paying out to its customers - I can almost feel the pain the CFO's going through opening up the cheque book yet again - but definitely a "could try harder" over the historical allusion.
Oh - and big ups to the flack at Telecom for being accessible and human - we (read me) had a bit a mare last week with to-ing and fro-ing over a regulator's statement - don't get me started on that one - but all is well after a good old-fashioned conversation. It's good to be a hack.

Monday, 15 February 2010

I'm the most terrific liar you ever saw in your life

There's nothing I like better than sloppy PR - it gives me a warm feeling when people try to sneak in something under the radar to no avail.

Take Friday's late night announcement by that wonderful institution, NZX. They let the market know at 5.45pm on a Friday that they were going to have write off $20 million from the value of their TZ1 carbon registry which they sold for a stack of cash. No harm in that I suppose, but you'd expect a little more transparency from the bourse regulator about a fairly material impact on its balance sheet.

It wasn't the first time the NZX has put something out late on Friday, but the result was much more satisfying - investors weren't too keen on the announcement, and 8.9% was slashed from the share price, taking it close to a 10-month low.

That's not necessarily a good thing, as the NZX is a very well run company (if somewhat toothless regulator), but it is satisfying when something that looks like a stupid PR ploy backfires.

I can only hope our Labour Minister isn't trying something similar - she put out a fairly innocuous looking document today calling for submissions on a discussion document on Part 6A of the Employment Relations Act. Ms Wilkinson's statement says the law is required to be reviewed after three years, and "affects industries such as cleaning, food and laundry services, where work is often contracted and the change of a contract can create a restructuring or redundancy situation."

What this means, I have no idea as I can't quite draw myself to wade through the document at this stage, but a bit more clarification in the minister's release would've been nice.......

Maybe it'll be some weekend reading.....


Thursday, 11 February 2010

Nothing sways the stupid more than arguments they can't understand

Here's one for Jacinda and Darien - if you're going to come out swinging at some batshit crazy idea like reintroducing a youth minimum wage, don't just run your attack lines, point out why it's batshit crazy and somewhat (read very) concerning that the Labour Minister is thinking about it.

Youth rate affects workers under the age of 18. Unemployment rate for people between 15 and 19 is 27%. That's roughly 45,000 people. Take out the 18 and 19 year olds and that's what, about 30k? And your participation rate at this level is 53%. Why?

Because they're kids.

They're meant to be in school. Or training. Or figuring out what they're going to do with their lives. Unemployment isn't the most important thing to be worried about at this age.

What's concerning is that the government is considering providing an incentive to employers to tap the labour market at the expense of training (vocational and otherwise), and leaving the 20-24-year-old age brack, with its unemployment rate of 12%, participation rate of 74% and total number of people out of work at about 27,000.

Making school kids a more attractive option for employers is the wrong incentive to offer if you want them to consider some kind of training if school doesn't work out for them.

Making a song and dance about how they need more protection from employers ain't the way to go about it.

And it's not a very good lead-in to have another dig at the gummint's incompetence in creating youth employment opportunities.

So guys. Just look at things like a reptile and they'll all fit into place.

And gawd's sake, it's Roger!!! There's no real need to make a song and dance about what he's doing.....

Jeeeeeez - next you'll be telling me people take Wishart seriously......


Sunday, 7 February 2010

Goddam money. It always ends up making you blue as hell.

Interlude as I reconsider my silence all these years.....

Isn't it curious that when Helen took over and came out swinging at Winz, it was all about the culture of extravagance with the department's management, and since John picked up the reins it's all about the culture of extravagance by the benes.....

Just sayin'....


Saturday, 5 December 2009

the blog and turfs and the brandywine bankrompers

I was seriously considering throwing in this blogging thing earlier today - as an experiment, it's essentially failed (if you take aside its initial incarnation as a diversion while at work and the brief flurry while I was at school).

That was until I read an old compadre of mine this afternoon that incensed me for no apparent reason. It's an innocuous entry that makes a small contribution to the ongoing battle between Lew and Chris Trotter over the future of the country's political left.

Yet it was this simple statement that got my goat (my emphasis added):

Lew at Kiwipolitico has the kind of post up at the moment that reminds me why mainstream media is such an unsatisfying read/consume when it comes to political commentary.

There's a common refrain in the blogosphere that the mainstream media has failed, yet I remain unconvinced - yes it has its short-comings, but it can't be everything to everyone.

And that seems to be the over-riding concern for a number of my friends - it doesn't coin things in a paradigm that they've bought into.

For every lament as to why our top political commentators aren't delving into the growing divisions of the Labour Party movement, we get insightful pieces from the likes of Colin James, Pattrick Smellie (I'm contractually obligated for this one), and Fran O'Sullivan as to how political language is being re-written, why Don Brash is a naive idealogue rather than the spawn of Satan, and what the government is doing wrong in addressing youth wages.

They are doing what they do, and the majority of them do it very well, even if it doesn't touch on a number of keystone issues that the blogosphere wants to enter the main lexicon.

To be honest, the internal politicking of the wider left-wing movement in New Zealand isn't actually that important when it doesn't have any power, or prospect of taking power in the next five years (just saying).

What I'd be much more keen on seeing would be the internal divisions of the labour movement, which will have a lot of power in the coming years.

So I guess this is really just a gripe, and I've fallen into that trap that so many bloggers (and New Zealanders) do of identifying a problem without providing an answer. So let's pull a Kevin Smith a la Zack and Miri and tack something into the credits: ummmm, bloggers can do thier ultra-specialised commentary that will be taken with a vat of salt and MSM columnists (why am I even getting worked up over columnists - excepting Garth George, Michael Laws, Jim Hopkins, Richard Long, etc etc etc) can stick to their turf of churning something out in 40 minutes as deadline looms.....

Oy vey...