10 August 2009

Helen Clark and UNDP sycophancy

If there is one thing that keeps me in the UK and which frustrates and angers me the most about the idea of returning to New Zealand (or even to Australia), it is how journalism almost does not exist in the mainstream media. At least with the Times, the Observer, the Telegraph, FT or even (cough) the Guardian, there are journalists – people not afraid to research a topic and ask hard questions, to be a devil’s advocate for the opposing point of view. Sadly, it appears that metaphorically sticking your tongue up the arse of your subject is de rigueur among New Zealand reporters

The most recent example is the sycophancy dressed as journalism being trotted out by Tracy Watkins in the Dominion Post, who has written two articles profiling how Helen Clark is getting on leading the UN Development Programme. Watkins could just as well have been working for the Labour Party to produce such inane twaddle. The first article would be better seen in the NZ Woman's Weekly or the like. I do love how the talk of scandals was brushed to one side though, "disgruntled staff" you see. Because, presumably, you only listen to disgruntled staff when they work for the private sector, not the altruistic people loving United Nations.

You can of course read the latest instalment here, which goes on about five crisis that have ravaged the world in the past year (food, financial, fuel, swine flu and climate change), though you might ask some hard questions about how many of these are real and how many still exist (food and fuel disappeared as financial came).

Watkins could have asked what have been the achievements of the UNDP, how many countries it has weaned off of aid since it was formed in 1965? The answer of course is none.

Watkins could have talked to critics of aid, especially UN based aid operations. Funnily enough she didn’t.

Watkins could have asked how much of the NZ$5 billion budget of the UNDP goes on administration, how much the average UNDP employee receives in income (tax free) and the UNDP’s travel budget? In other words she could have discussed why UN employees are some of the best paid (and least hard working) “public sector” workers in the world.

So the article is essentially an interview with Clark. Nice for Watkins to get her jaunt to New York of course, but that could have been done over the phone. Watkins could instead have used her trip to meet with different groups who have differing views of the UNDP or the UN, but that might have upset Clark – and you can’t do that can you?

She finishes with a so-called “factbox”, which says precious little.

It talks about New Zealand’s aid, ignoring aid raised through private charities and distributed through such charities, like World Vision (who I do NOT endorse). For example, talk about the aid given by the US ignores that around 80% again is given and distributed privately. In short, aid doesn’t have to involve force.

So what could Watkins have done? Well maybe she could have looked at the long list of scandals involving the UNDP and asked Clark what she’d be doing about it on her NZ$500,000 tax free salary. Scandals? You mean the New Zealand MSM hasn’t been doing its job to find out what the UNDP is about? You betcha! Watch this space.


ZenTiger said...

Agree. Not sure what Tracy Watkins thought she was doing as far as journalism goes. Maybe she was too busy being a tourist to ask the hard questions? Maybe her visit was funded? Maybe not just politicians swan about the globe using other people's money?

I really gagged when Helen Clark casually announced 300,000 people a year die from global warming.

They die from natural weather events. The spin never stops with this mob, and our reporters seem to run with puff pieces rather than anything of substance.


Well said Liberty.

For starters Tracey could have looked ath the UNDP watch and similar blogs, or even google UN scandals or something.
That would have been an easy start for her.
I have just blogged on the matter.

Brian Scurfield said...

As a fellow NZer living in London, I agree with you about the appalling state of NZ journalism. It does put one off returning doesn't it?

Sus said...

Scott, why not draft that post into an opinion piece for The Dom-Post?

Anonymous said...

Let's face it. Tracey was on a shopping trip to Bloomingdale's at Fairfax's expense. Clark was a side issue as far as she was concerned, and any interview merely ate up valuable shopping time.