Sunday, August 20, 2017

Change may come

Today the New Zealand Labour Party officially launched its campaign (Facebook video above). The turnout was far larger than planned—some 2400 people who had to split among four venues to get them all in, and that was after reportedly turning away hundreds of people. Party launches are usually for hardcore supporters, but this—this was something next level.

I’ve seen quite a few of these campaign launches over the years, including several I was at in person. But even from home I could tell that the energy was very different, stronger, than I have seen. Even the sometimes negative Patrick Gower of newshub said, “I have covered the Labour Party for 10 years and never seen scenes like today.”

I’ve been watching New Zealand politics for over two decades, and the last time I saw this much energy around a Labour campaign was 1999, the year NZ Labour won government from National. Could this year be like that? Could Labour be about to win government? Absolutely.

The energy behind this campaign is only one of the reasons for this increasing possibility. We’re also looking at generational change. The National Party Leader, Bill English, is 55 and has been in Parliament for 27 years. Labour’s Jacinda Ardern is 37, and has been in Parliament since 2008. This freshness is why so many people have been comparing her to Emmanuel Macron, 39, who came out of almost nowhere to become President of France, or Canada’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, seen as a young leader for a new era, though he’s the ripe old age of 45. I don’t know that the international comparisons are relevant—people will say what people will say, after all—but what is indisputable is that Jacinda Ardern is very different from anyone New Zealand has ever seen. If she becomes Prime Minister, she will be the youngest Prime Minister since Edward Stafford became Premier (as the office was then called) in 1856.

It’s also important to point out that Labour will see the Green Party back in Parliament. Yesterday, I wrote about how support for the Green Party is there, but there’s more evidence: Polls. The latest Roy Morgan poll has the Greens on 9%. The latest UMR poll has the Greens on 8%. Stuff’s “Poll of Polls” has the Greens on 8%. The only logical conclusion is that the Colmar Brunton poll is an outlier, and the Greens WILL be back. The stronger they are, the more likely that the Greens will be in government, and the stronger they are, the more influence they will have.

So, what sort of government will Jacinda Ardern lead? She outlines that in her speech (at roughly the 48 minute mark in the video above). It will be a government that’s committed to lifting children out of poverty. She will lead a government that recognises that climate change is the “nuclear free” issue of this generation. A government that cares about the people of this country, and not just those who are already well off. The kind of government New Zealand needs—and deserves.

Let’s do this.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

The support is there

The biggest question arising from the latest Colmar Brunton One News Poll, aside from why the poll results were reported so poorly, is where did the Green Party support go? Answering that will suggest the way forward, so it’s important. However, no one knows for certain, so it’s all just speculation and supposition. Here’s mine.

As I said in yesterday’s post, much of the Greens’ 15% support in the July Colmar Brunton Poll wasn’t about the popularity of the Greens, but about the unpopularity of the Labour Party, which was polling at 24% in that poll. Left-leaning Labour voters who were unhappy with their own party really only had one alternative: The Green Party. It will be in Parliament, its policies have always been the most closely aligned with Labour’s (from their perspective, at least). I also think that many Left-leaning Labour supporters felt that the Greens’ Co-Leaders were more appealing than Labour’s leader at the time, Andrew Little. I say that because in that July poll, Andrew was tied for third place in “preferred prime minister”, and he was tied with his own deputy, Jacinda Ardern, on 6%—nowhere near the 24% who said they’d vote Labour.

After Jacinda Ardern became Leader of the Labour Party, things changed—dramatically. In the latest polls, Labour has skyrocketed in popularity, and so has Jacinda Ardern, to the point where she’s now tied with the National Party Leader, Bill English, for “preferred prime minister” at 30%. For Ardern, that’s close to the party’s support—37%—a near parity that Andrew Little never achieved, which reinforces my belief that disaffected Labour voters didn’t like Andrew.

Meanwhile, the Greens had their own problems. Former Co-Leader Metiria Turei had revealed benefit fraud from some two decades earlier, and was pilloried in the news media and by the punditocracy. On the other hand, her admission made her popular among party supporters.

A short couple weeks later, however, and on the eve of a new poll that showed a drop for the Greens, she stepped down from co-leadership of the party and announced she would not return to Parliament. I won’t play “the blame game”, but on social media play was fast and furious. Some blamed Turei herself for the predicament, but many Greens supporters blamed Labour for not being supportive enough—though what “enough” meant varied quite a lot. I saw plenty of Greens supporters—the most hardcore of which don’t like Labour very much—say they’d switch to Hone Harawira’s Mana Party. The Colmar Brunton poll shows that didn’t happen.

Nevertheless, there was a strong part of the Greens supporters who were angry that Turei was forced out as co-leader, and, based on the evidence, I believe they told pollsters they were “undecided”, as I said yesterday. So, the 15% support the Greens had in the Colmar Brunton poll in July included a large number of disaffected Labour supporters who'd gone “home” in the most recent poll, and other Greens supporters who were pissed off about the way Turei was treated, and who are probably not fans of the Labour Party (since so many aren’t) had nowhere to go. Hurt, angry, but still with a green heart, so to speak, they became “undecided”. To me, this seems the most likely scenario.

I think “undecided” was the best name for them: They couldn’t or didn’t want to support Labour or any other party, they didn’t like what had happened, and so, they truly didn’t know what they were going to do. They really were undecided.

Labour’s gains, meanwhile, came somewhat from the Greens, sure—those disaffected Labour voters. But support for National and New Zealand First was also down, those voters had to go somewhere, and Labour was the only party to rise by a large number. Meanwhile, the number of voters calling themselves “undecided” also declined, though still at 13%.

What this means is that the Greens’ almost certainly didn’t lose all their lost support to Labour, even though the headline reporting made it look that way. Actual voting behaviour is always far more complicated than polls suggest or journalists report.

The reason this matters is that if the Greens support really did move to undecided, it should be fairly easy to win them back—certainly easier than winning over, say, National or New Zealand First supporters. Because they’re unlikely to take votes from Labour, given the popularity of Jacinda Ardern, campaigning to win undecided voters is their best strategy, anyway, regardless of whether their support went there or elsewhere.

And finally, one more point. In the July Colmar Brunton Poll, the combined support for Labour and the Greens was 39%. In their latest poll, that support was 41% at the same time support for both National and New Zealand First dropped. In polling, it’s always important to look at the trends, and what we see is the Centre-Right declining and support for the Centre-Left increasing. This is important for changing the government, and Labour and the Greens are STILL the only two parties publicly committed to doing that.

So, where did the Greens’ support go? Many places. But the most important thing is that support for the Centre-Left is rising, improving the chance the government will change, and if these trends continue, we WILL see a Labour-Greens government.

If we stay the course and keep telling our message to voters, especially undecided voters, we can change the government. Let’s do this.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Something’s not right

Yesterday, TVNZ’s One News released their latest opinion poll conducted by Colmar Brunton (video above). Newsmedia all over New Zealand reported it as being disastrous for the Green Party who, based on that poll, were in danger of being turfed out of Parliament. But then we found out they were rounding the result for the Greens downward. And then I also noticed something far more troubling.

The poll results as reported really were disastrous for the Greens, who fell from 15% to 4%. National fell three points to 44%, and Labour surged from 24% to 37%, a clear indication that changing leaders really helped Labour, especially because in the “Preferred Prime Minister” beauty contest poll, Labour’s Jacinda Ardern is now tied with National’s Bill English at 30%. In the last Colmar Brunton poll, former Labour Leader Andrew Leader was tied with his then Deputy Ardern on 6%, meaning they were tied for third place. Things definitely are looking up for Labour.

But based on the reporting on this latest poll, Labour may have trouble forming a coalition, especially if the Greens are out of Parliament. The trouble is, the reporting was deeply flawed.

The Greens are actually on 4.3%, but journalists rounded it down to 4%. In ANY other field, rounding to the nearest whole number would make sense, but in political polling it creates a false impression of relative strength/weakness. After all, the Greens are closer to 4.5% (a figure some journalists used) than they are to 4%.

This matters first because it creates the false impression that the Greens will be out of Parliament. In New Zealand, a party must win 5% of the Party Vote or win one Electorate Seat in order to be in Parliament. While the Greens are pushing hard for the Nelson seat, it’s been held by a National MP who’s been in Parliament for two decades and been a minister many times. If the Greens lose that seat, they'll need to get 5% of the vote.

The reporting made it sound like they had to gain an entire percentage point when, in fact, they need 0.7%. That’s not splitting hairs because it’s a much lower number of votes they’ll need, and because one percent sounds much more difficult than seven tenths of one percent, and in election campaigns impressions influence voter behaviour (there is no President Hillary Clinton, for example, in part because journalists were reporting that polls showed she was certain to win). Of course, when you factor in the margin of error alone, the Greens could possibly be doing much better (or much worse) than was reported, but that complicating factor was never mentioned, either, as far as I can tell.

This fudging of the numbers made me look a little harder at the reported numbers, and I noticed something even more disturbing.

Look at all thse percentages reported: National 44%, Labour 37%, NZ First 10%, Greens 4%, Māori Party 2%, and TOP (The Opportunities Party) 2%. That adds up to 99%. So, we can guess that the other 1% must be for all other minor parties, including the Act Party, which is in Parliament because of deal with the National Party that allowed them to win the Electorate Seat of Epsom here in Auckland. On Election Day in 2014, Act got 0.69%, so if true this time that would mean that 0.31% must be divided among all the other very minor and fringe parties, right?

And this is where there’s a HUGE problem with the reporting of the poll: Most reports, incuding One News’ own televised report, only included the headline figures, which includes ONLY those who have decided who they’ll vote for. The reporting completely omitted any mention of the number of undecided voters. In fact, the poll found that 13% of voters were undecided (down from 20% in the July poll; this was reported on their website, not on television). That 13% could decide everything—the fate of the Greens, whether Labour or National forms government, how many seats any minor party that wins an Electorate Seat might get. Or, they might not vote at all, but no evidence supporting that possibility was reported, either.

Undecided voters matter for the Greens because their voters who abandoned the party did not all go to Labour. The Greens’ 15% figure from the last poll included disaffected Labour voters who “came home” in this poll, thanks to Jacinda Ardern, and that accounts for some of the Greens’ loss in this poll. But the Green’s natural level of support is around 8% of the electorate, give or take, and—trust me on this, because I’ve seen it first hand—hardcore Greens supporters don’t particularly like Labour (I’m being nice), so it’s highly improbable that all the sudden they jumped to Labour for the first time ever.

My suspicion is that a chunk of the Greens’ support called itself “undecided” in this poll, because they truly don’t know who else they’d vote for (and some of the Labour supporters who were previously “undecided” are now again supporting the party; given poll movements, this is a reasonable assumption). The most common party I heard Greens talking about switching to was Mana, which would be included in that 1% of “also ran” parties. So, clearly Greens voters didn’t actually go there.

This is not Colmar Brunton’s fault, of course, but the fault of One News and subsequent re-reporting. The undecided figure should have been widely reported because it matters so much—or were they more interested in spinning a narrative that the poll is “disastrous” for the Greens and they “could be out of Parliament” when the same poll, especially when undecideds are taken into account, also suggests that the Greens could do just fine?

The reality here is that, historically, undecided voters in New Zealand don’t make up their minds until late, sometimes in the last two weeks. This means that the election is still anyone’s game, and it was irresponsible for New Zealand news media to report this poll as drama when the data doesn’t support that as the only conclusion, or even necessarily the most likely.

We all deserve better.

Addendum – August 19: Since I posted this, I realised there’s one more point I should add: To win Government, Labour does not need to take votes from the Greens—or New Zealand First, for that matter. The undecideds are up for grabs, and if Labour gets a good share of that, and takes some votes from National, then it can form government with the Greens whose vote will likely recover to their regular levels of support if we get balanced and responsible reporting. Those who are promoting the narrative that Labour is trying to “steal” votes from the Greens are often mischief-makers on the Right, as well as some on the Left who didn’t realise, thanks to poor news media reporting, that there were so many undecided voters to draw votes from.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

A moment of distraction

The photo above is one I shared to Instagram two days ago. The reason I shared it was that I needed something a little light that day, so when I saw the barstools, a sarcastic post was the only natural conclusion to the adventure. I never intended to share it here, but the reason I'm now sharing it is the same reason I did then: I need a distraction.

The day I posted the photo was the same day that Don—who I’ve now started calling “P45”*—made his infamous fiery defence of nazis and white supremacists. I saw his idiotic rant several times that day in different contexts, and each time I found myself yelling at whatever screen I was facing. Of course I knew that was pointless, but I also found that I was feeling an irrational, instinctive rage every time I heard that man defend nazis.

So when I saw those barstools and thought they were funny, I shapped a photo and shared it with a sarcastic caption, thereby taking the piss out of those stools (which I really DO think are ugly) and myself (even though I really DON’T care about the “distressed look”; whatever makes someone happy, I reckon).

In the couple days since I posted that photo, which was autoshared to my personal Facebook, as usual, I’ve sadly still found myself yelling at whatever screen I was facing whenever P45’s infamous rant was re-broadcast somewhere as commentators all over the world rightly condemned him for it. I’m still as thoroughly disgusted now as I was when I first heard him—maybe even more so, actually, which means I need a little levity more than ever.

So I return to my photo and my own pseudo rant. But unlike P45, my rant wasn’t real or consequential. But at least mine wasn’t—um, uh, …the fact is, I STILL have no words for what that thing polluting the White House said. No words. And no sympathy whatsoever.

At some point, when it won’t send my blood pressure into the danger zone, I’ll put my thoughts down, because everyone—the great and the small—needs to utterly denounce him for what he said, and for everything he is and represents.

But, not today. Today, I just needed another brief break.

*Long-time readers will remember that I started calling the current occupant of the White House “Don” because it was a way for me to express my contempt for him without using the obscenities that are so often in my mind when he says or does something imbecilic (every single day, in other words). I read somewhere that he insisted that everyone—all his staff, and maybe even his wife and kids, for all I know—call him “Mr.” followed by his surname that I will not mention. I also noted that everyone in the media and politics called him by the full version of his first name. I surmised that he would hate anyone calling him “Don”, and so I did. But calling him by ANY of his names, even when the intent was to show disrespect, still showed too much respect. So, it’s now “P45” which is derived from “president 45” because, sadly, that’s what he is. But calling him “P45”, with just the letter, reminds me of the videotapes the Russians supposedly have of him, and that makes me laugh a bit. And these days, I’ll take every opportunity to laugh that I can get, because they are so very, very rare.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Australian circus

The video above is a monologue from the TV3 programme, “The Project”, a sort of current events infotainment show. Host Jesse Mulligan often delivers pointed messages about topics of the day, and this one shared yesterday is a good example.

The backstory is that it was revealed that Australia’s Deputy Prime Minister, Barnaby Joyce, has New Zealand citizenship by descent because his father was a New Zealander. He claims he had no idea. This is a huge problem for him because, unlike New Zealand and many other countries, Australia forbids dual nationals from holding office in Australia. It’s an even bigger problem for the current conservative government because they hold a one seat majority in the Australian House, and if Joyce is forced out, the government could fall and new elections could be called.

Julie Bishop, the Australian Foreign Minister, went on the attack, alleging that a Kiwi working for an Australian Labor Party Senator contacted a friend of his, a New Zealand Labour MP, to make enquiries. There’s apparently an element of truth to this, but it almost certainly didn’t happen the way Julie imagines. In any case, the Australian news media were contacted, the New Zealand government confirmed that Joyce is a New Zealand citizen, and the game was on.

However, as Jesse shows in the video, Julie is being extremely silly in her attack. New Zealanders living in Australia are treated appallingly badly, and when the New Zealand government complains about the latest outrage, the Australian Government completely ignores them. Julie had a tantrum, declaring that she’d find it hard to build trust with anyone in New Zealand involved in ''allegations to undermine the government of Australia"—which means NZ Labour if they win the election next month. But wouldn’t that mean Australia would first have to start actually working with the NZ Government?

There’s actually a huge irony in Julie attacking the NZ Labour Party for supposedly trying to “undermine” Australia’s government, when she herself just meddled in and tried to influence the New Zealand election next month—although, to add another layer of irony, Julie attacking Labour is likely to help them, and certainly won’t hurt them at all. New Zealanders don’t like it when Australia throws its weight around and tries to bully Kiwis—which their parliament seems to do like once a year. It makes Julie a hypocrite to whine about New Zealanders supposedly “undermining” her government when she just did the same thing to New Zealand.

Julie also looks more than a little silly using THAT attack as a distraction, as if we wouldn’t notice. She’s really only upset only that people found out that Barnaby Joyce is a dual national, not that he actually is one and could be forced out of the Australian Parliament.

For his part, Barnaby Joyce claims he didn’t know he was a New Zealand citizen by descent. Yeah, right. He obviously knew his father was a New Zealander, and in the past year numerous Australian MPs have been forced out of Parliament when they were revealed to be dual nationals. Yet Barnaby seriously expects us to believe that despite all the controversies with dual national MPs, and despite the fact his father was a New Zealander, it NEVER occured to him that he might be a dual national? Right. Okay, then. I don’t believe him, but I’m not Australian, so that doesn’t matter.

Interestingly, the fact that Barnaby is a dual national, and New Zealand permits dual nationals with NZ citizenship to run for office, Barnaby could run for our Parliament any time he wants. I’m not sure any of our parties are quite rightwing enough for him, but maybe they could make some sort of accommodation just for him—the ol' Anzac Spirit and all that.

These days, the Australian government looks like a clown-filled circus, and this is only the very latest reason. Amid the chaos, Julie has managed to make herself into an international joke and laughingstock, which isn’t exactly a great accomplishment for someone who’s supposed to be a foreign minister, and Barnaby looks a bit dim. Oops.

Oh well, the Australian Government couldn’t possibly care less what we think about them or their antics, so we may as well just enjoy the hilarious show they’re giving us. It’s terrible, though, that ordinary Australians have to put up with the antics of that government. As an American, I know what it feels like to be embarrassed by the government of one’s homeland. But, then, I'm also a dual national like Barnaby, so may I should cut him some slack. Um, no.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Seen being seen

There are electorates in New Zealand that are strongly associated with either the Labour Party or National Party, and a lot more that are at least theoretically competitive. New Zealand’s electorates are drawn by a non-partisan commission, so the concentration of supporters has to do with the demographic make-up of those electorates. It’s nothing untoward, but it still can be kind of annoying when you support the minority party.

For all but six of the 21+ years since I arrived in New Zealand, I’ve lived in an electorate with an electorate MP from the National Party. Those six years were when Labour’s Ann Hartley represented the Northcote Electorate. I worked on her 1999 and 2002 campaigns, but in 2005, when she lost the seat to the current National Party MP for the electorate, we lived in the Coromandel Electorate (then as now it had a National MP).

When we moved back to Auckland, it was back to the Northcote Electorate and its National MP. I voted for the Labour candidate in 2008, 2011, and 2014, and worked for the candidate in 2014 (my friend Richard Hills, who is now an Auckland Councillor). Each of those years was worse for Labour than the year before, and each time I saw the Labour candidate in Northcote lose and Labour failing to win government.

Nearly six months ago, we me moved to the Hunua Electorate in the former Franklin District (which is now part of Auckland Council). The electorate has only existed beginning with the 2008 election (from 1996 through 2005, it was part of the Port Waikato Electorate, which was abolished in 2005 when the boundaries were redrawn). Since 1996, the voters in the area have always elected a National Party MP, and usually by substantial margins, making this the MOST pro-National Party electorate I’ve lived in.

There’s only one election hoarding (sign) near our house, and it’s for the National Party’s candidate. A little further away, there’s a settlement with several signs, including one for Labour, but you have to travel to the bigest town in the electorate, Pukekohe, to see large numbers of signs, including a lot of Labour signs.

So today when I cleared the letterbox I saw the flier I shared on Instagram (photo above), and it was really nice to finally see something from my side, as it were. we’ve received at least a couple fliers from the current National Party MP, at least one of which was paid for by the taxpayer (perfectly legal at that time), as well as the taxpayer-funded newspaper I mentioned in the photo caption. Because I’ve been in the printing and publishing industries for so many decades, I know how much a paper like that costs to produce. That MP, Judith Collins, is from the Papakura Electorate, which the Hunua Electorate mostly surrounds. So, one could argue it was an easy mistake, but it was sloppy and also kind of annoying to receive a taxpayer-funded paper from someone who’s not even our MP. I put our copy directly into the recycle bin, unread.

Aside from the National Party stuff, we also received a badly colour laser printed flyer from NZ First promoting a public meeting, and two separate copies of a flier promoting a new racist pressure group fronted by a former National Party leader who later became leader of the Act Party before he failed to win an election for them, too. Maybe the bitterness has kind of festered?

All of this is much less than what I was used to seeing in Northcote, where we constantly got things from various parties, and hoardings were everywhere. Here, it’s suprisingly—well, peaceful, is probably the best word. But campaigning IS happening in the electorate—just not where we are. The local business group is having a candidate forum later this month which I hope to go to so I can actually meet the candidates.

Every election since the Hunua Electorate came into existence, I’ve known the Labour candidate, though apart from 2011, when Richard Hills was the candidate, I only knew them through social media. Labour has a policy of running candidates in every electorate in the country, but when the electorate is unwinnable, the Labour candidate can be a sort of “sacrificial lamb”. In Hunua, a painted stick would win with a 16,000 vote majority just as long as it wore a National party rosette (which is not a slam against the current MP, just the harsh reality of this electorate). Because of that, Labour has sometimes had candidates they wanted to “train” run in unwinnable electorates like Hunua so they could get campaign experience without risking anything. Their real job is to promote the Party Vote for Labour, because it's the nationwide Party Vote total that matters, and even unwinnable electorates can add to a winning nationwide tally.

So, I have no illusions or high expectations for success in this electorate next month. Although I’ve never met the current MP, and he’s a bit of an invisible backbencher, I haven’t detected any sort of groundswell against him. The National Party will also probably win the Party Vote in this electorate, unless there’s a huge nationwide swing to Labour, in which case it will tighten up dramatically (this last happened in 2002 when the National Party suffered its worst-ever election defeat under then-Leader of the Opposition, Bill English).

While I’m realistic about what the results of the election will be in this electorate, I nevertheless like to see Labour promoted. That’s not just a “fly the flag” kind of thing, but a long-term marketing necessity. Sure, the electorate is currently overwhelmingly pro-National Party, but as more and more housing developments are added, the demographics will change. Also, people who already support Labour, or who might do so, need to know the party is here in this electorate, too, and wants their vote. Being seen matters for both groups.

And that’s why I was especially glad to see the Labour Party flier show up in our letterbox. By itself, it won’t influence this year’s election, but it’s part of the necessary groundwork to one day make this electorate competitive, and that’s something that’s absolutely possible. Something as simple as a flier—being seen being seen—is part of what will make the possible, probable.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

New media realities

All media companies are trying to figure out how to do their work in the Internet Age. Publishing ink on paper is not longer enough, and neither is a text-based website alone. Instead, a multi-media—what experts call “rich content”—is now necessary for any company in the news and information business. This is mostly a good thing.

The video above is from The Atlantic, a venerable American magazine founded in 1857, and it talks mostly about media coverage on television. The video was shared on their YouTube Channel—a print media company that has moved ot a lot of online publishing made a video that’s available online talking about other media companies that themselves make their content available online. It kind of completes the circle.

But all traditional print media companies are now multi-media, as are traditional broadcast news and information companies, though some do it better than others. You’d expect a broadcaster to do a good job of posting video online to an open platform like YouTube, and the USA’s ABC News does a pretty good job on their YouTube Channel. Similarly, the Associated Press—a company that used to be called a “wire service” because news stories from overseas were sent to newspapers by telegraph, then teletype before branching into radio and television—post a large numbers of videos with varied subjects to their YouTube Channel.

Newspapers are a much more varied bunch. The New York Times does a good job with their YouTube Channel, posting both current topical news items and more “back of the paper” items that may add more context or detail to a print story, or they could even be independent of anything in the print or online editions. The Guardian’s YouTube Channel is similar. At the bottom of the heap, papers like the Chicago Tribune have a YouTube Channel that seems like an afterthought because it’s poorly curated and not updated very frequently.

New Zealand’s newspaper sites—that of the New Zealand Herald and the papers owned by Australian company Fairfax—are similar to the Chicago Tribune: Slowly updated with new content, content which isn’t terribly newsworthy most of the time, and often not terribly interesting. Their YouTube Channels are so useless, in fact, I felt there was no point in providing a link (both the Herald and Stuff do have channels, of course, but if you look at the URLs I reluctantly included for those Channels, you’ll see the publishers couldn’t even be bothered to get a proper YouTube address—even I have one of those!).

If someone goes to the Stuff website, many stories have videos made by Fairfax journalists. Visitors to the New Zealand Herald website will find the same thing. What is incredibly annoying about those videos is that none are embeddable on other sites (like this blog) so that if I want readers to see the video, they need to go to the site, presumably so the site can keep the visitor or, at least, have them see ads. In fact, it’s almost impossible to watch a video on those sites without sitting through an unskippable ad—even when the video IS an ad! That’s not just annoying, it’s contrary to the developing ethos of online videos, namely, that they’re easily sharable, and that long ads can be skipped. This does explain why both newspaper publishers have rubbish YouTube Channels.

As bad as the Herald and Stuff are, there are good New Zealand options. First is Radio New Zealand (now known as RNZ). Their text news coverage is first rate, and they have two YouTube Channels: A general Channel that has much of their programming and RNZ Live News, which is used for livestreaming news and the recorded versions. Newsroom is a relatively recent start-up news site that offers conventional text stories as well as video. The site is gaining particular attention for its investigative journalism, which the TV broadcasters seldom do these days. The Spinoff is a 3-year-old sometimes irreverent site that provides news and commentary from a more or less Left and younger perspective. It has a related YouTube Channel that doesn’t do stories as much as explain things, though it’s not well managed. It also produces podcasts.

These days there are also plenty of online-only options. There are sites like Vox (whose YouTube Channel is what Newsroom’s should be like) and BuzzFeed, for example, that produce a wide variety of content, including text and video. But there are also some that specialise in video information, including ones I’ve shared before, like [links are to their YouTube Channels] TED-Ed, CGP Grey (who also is part of a podcast called Hello Internet), ASAP Science, and The Thinking Atheist (which is an online radio show with audio released as podcasts, and also videos released on his YouTube Channel, where his podcasts are also available), among others (and countless more that I haven’t shared on this blog).

There’s clearly a number of different approaches to the changing media landscape that various organisations are taking these days, and they have various funding models to make them work (a topic in itself). What they all have in common is that they’re trying to meet the consumers of news and information where those consumers are, and that primarily means on mobile devices, and it may mean text, video, and/or audio content.

I firmly believe that newspapers printed on paper are doomed, and they will die out far sooner than anyone realises—and twice as fast as media companies want to believe. Magazines will evolve, as The Atlantic, for example, is doing, but printed versions of most magazines will probably die out, too. Even the name we gave to newspapers and magazines as a class—periodicals—has become irrelevant as newspapers and magazines alike publish stories online between their print editions, and that often includes things that never make it to their print editions—not just the obvious audio and video, but even just text-based stories. This is what “periodicals” are evolving into.

Many people are sad about all this change, and plenty of older people are finding it difficult to cope with the new online realities. Younger people—digital natives and digital immigrants alike—are adapting quite well, and many now expect as a matter of course to be able to access breaking news and in-depth information in text, audio, and video formats on their phones and tablets. I know I certainly do, and I would be very annoyed if I couldn’t get that content on my phone—not that this is ever problem.

So, the ability to access news and information in a variety of multi-media forms, and being able to access that wherever we are, is becoming the norm. I worry a bit about those who cannot adapt, but I worry more about how the huge amount of choice on offer can make it easier to spread low-quality stuff, or bad or misleading information (regardless of whether it's bad or misleading deliberately or accidentally). And that’s why I say all this change is mostly a good thing.

I hope it proves to be very good.