Briefly on The Nation

This is a bit more of a positive feedback post to The Nation (on TV3) for enhancing the quality and content on their shows immensely.

Employing Lisa Owen in a lead role has improved the line of questioning in interviews (and my interest in the show) significantly. Rather than treating the interviews as a points scoring exercise, she appears to take the same approach in each interview – ensuring she is well –informed (at least she appears to be so) on the issues, the arguments and the broad criticisms while never deploying an attack dog attitude that has crept into the repertoire of many other journalists.

Additionally, the inclusion of alternative material that is contentious but necessary for debate. As I see it, filtering information to make a story sound more credible, often has the opposite effect – it looks (and is) disingenuous. Addressing alternative content particularly if it’s highly contentious within the specific field of inquiry, shows a willingness to extend debate rather than manipulate viewers toward taking a specific stance on an issue.

For instance, last week’s episode Patrick Gower interviewed,  Jeremy Scahill (investigative journalist, documentary maker, author) regarding US led drone killings program, as a response to the extra-judicial killing of Daryl Jones. This suggests to me that the producers and journalists are approaching issues with open minds, and attempting to remove the largely propagated myths of our US soft current affairs viewing. Giving viewers access to the different information sources available.

This week Owen interviewed Wilkinson and Pickett (not ot be confused with Piketty!) the authors of The Spirit Level that talks about inequality. from an economics perspective in a language that non-economists can easily digest. Among economists, this is a highly contentious work, but introducing it into the mainstream discussion, allows viewers to consider issues from alternative perspectives. Rather than play out like a book review, the authors much like the previous week with Scahill were challenged on their arguments, then their ideas were considered in context of NZ and debated by a panel.

I do wonder if The Nation have taken a leaf out of the book of the  award winning current affairs show Native Affairs in fine tuning the style of the show, from  political hackery to genuine debate and discussion on interesting and topical issues. But irrespective of how they came to the decision to change up and improve the show, it is in my view, working.

My only criticism for this week is not with the content, but perhaps with the placement of particular content. Patrick Gower interviewed Ben Uffindell, whose mostly brilliant political satire on his Civilian blog is largely unmatched in NZ. The problem was not the content, but perhaps the placement. He was interviewed after a serious debate on inequality which felt very awkward, the content of which leaked into the important panel  discussion on inequality, which also then became to borrow a phrase from Peter Dunne, ‘awkward and embarrassing’. I absolutely think there is a place for political satire, I just wonder if the producers might consider ending the show with it rather than inserting it into part of the serious space for discussion.

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3 comments

  1. I didn’t watch but was wondering how they were going to fit The Civilian Party in with the debate on inequality. That was a programming gaff: the inequality debate is current affairs, and The Nation a current affairs show; Ben is entertainment. Significant the media has trouble defining the difference anymore.

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  2. Hey,

    Nice post. One thing I’d note is that the Spirit Level does not talk about inequality from an economics perspective – in fact they make it quite clear they aren’t interested in most of the economics literature on the subject, as they think epidemiology is methodologically superior.

    This is disappointing, as there is a lot of good economics literature on the subject, including the short-comings and value-judgments associated with the measures they use.

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    1. Thanks Matt! Will amend. I have the book but haven’t had time to read it, yet! I presumed because of the discussion on inequality (with specific reference to economic and wealth), that it derived from the field of economics. oops!

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