by Geoffrey Churchman
Last week both the Dominion Post and Kapiti Observer (and it appears, the other papers in the Stuff stable) came wrapped in an apology to Maori ‘for the way they have been portrayed’ in Stuff’s newspapers in the past, written both in Te Reo and English. There’s been plenty said by different authors on Waikanae Watch about pernicious revisionism and it’s superfluous to repeat it here.
The lead author of this cringe-worthy crap, editorial director Mark Stevens, has according to his CV been with the organisation (originally INL, then Faifax, now Stuff) for 25 years, but all of a sudden he has had this Saul-on-the-road-to-Damascus-style conversion to the ‘light’? Hmm.
It’s been apparent to media analysts for some time that the company’s name is ironically appropriate — Stuff is stuffed.
Just these figures taken from the company’s audited accounts filed with the Companies Office over the past 6 years are enough to tell the story:
2014 — $415 million
2015 — $391 million
2016 — $356 million
2017 — $334 million
2018 — $305 million
2019 — $269 million
More than a one third drop in revenue in 5 years. At the the time of writing, the company’s accounts ended 30 June 2020 have not been filed, but there is no need to see them: the trend is glaringly obvious. Readers and advertisers are giving up on Stuff.
Thus when PM Jacinda announced in May this year that the government was going to bail out Mainstream Media companies to the tune of $50 million, to be followed by another handout via NZ on Air of $75 million, they must have collectively felt relieved that their demise had at least been postponed.
The obvious way for the MSM to court favour from the government to keep the public money coming is to demonstrate enthusiastic support for its policies and performance, including its beliefs, whether well-founded or not. And that is exactly what the privately owned Stuff, TV3 (a.k.a. Newshub) and to a lesser but still substantial degree, NZME, have done.
In September we reported on Stuff’s government-funded (to the tune of several hundred thousand dollars) video hatchet job of the Advance NZ political party for its alleged “falsifications” in the lead up to the general election. Why did Stuff not do a similar exposé on the falsifications of the Maori Party, whose electoral support is slightly more? The simple answer is that the movement begun by Billy Te Kahika Jnr (yes, a Tangata Whenua member, but no Stuff apology to him) presented a threat to the narrative of the Government. Although dangerously separatist, the Maori Party mouths the line of the more powerful and, to the Establishment, acceptable PC Brigade.
Stuff is desparately courting the central government, but locally it seems to have abandoned the KCDC. At one time its reporters who live in the area would regularly show up to Council meetings, and even to Community Board meetings, to report deliberations. The only time that has happened in the last few years was last August when Joel Maxwell was invited to the Waikanae Community Board meeting by the present Mayor to witness the disturbed Cr Prvanov’s attack on myself.
Otherwise, Stuff couldn’t give a stuff about the KCDC and doesn’t even print its media releases. As we observed in September, the KCDC has reponded by shifting the bulk of its advertising expenditure to rival Kapiti News (also known as the Guru Illustrated News). Not that the editor of the latter, David Haxton, cares about local political matters either, but he is happy to run KCDC media releases and show up with his camera to any local event the present Mayor is attending.
The risk for Stuff is that its blatantly politically biased approach is going to lose readers and thus advertisers at an even faster rate. While Waikanae Watch has been non-commercial, our counter to this Legacy Media sycophancy has seen an increase in annual pageviews from under 4,000 in 2015 to 118,000 so far this year, with most of December to go. What is the success story and what is the failure story?