Scoop Election 08: edited by Gordon Campbell

WTF: On The Listener, past and present

April 29th, 2008

Scoop Image – Lyndon Hood
*****
“It’s clear that [Pamela] Stirling’s approach to the eco-column – like her approach to the Listener – has been a lot more right of centre than the line of the old days.Stirling took over in 2004 and she says that for a long time the Listener had been the house journal of the Alliance Party. Stirling says the magazine is more centrist and allows everyone to express a view.”– John Drinnan, NZ Herald, April 18

In the same spirit of allowing everyone to express a view, let me just say that IMHO – as someone who worked on the Listener before and during Pamela Stirling’s time as editor – the above version of history is inaccurate. It is not the first time the former Listener as ‘house journal of the Alliance Party’ line has been floated by Stirling. Whether this is the intention or not, the effect is to portray her tenure as having more journalistic integrity than her predecessors, and her staff as being more professional than staff in the past. One wonders what steps she took, during those alleged dark days of Alliance house journalism, to disassociate herself from such a publication, and the career platform it consistently afforded her.

If she has been accurately reported, Stirling’s assessment of the Listener that she inherited is a slur on previous editors such as Finlay Macdonald, Paul Little, Jenny Wheeler, Terry Snow, Geoff Baylis and David Beatson among others – not to mention on the editor who initiated many of the Listener’s best conventions, Monte Holcroft. At a guess, I’d bet the personal politics of most of those editors would have been anything but radical left. Yet previous editors (and prior owners such as Michael Horton) seemed proud to be associated with the liberal tradition and journalistic standards the Listener used to exemplify. I wonder if many of them would feel the same way about its current incarnation.

The reality is that the Listener was never the sort of doctrinaire publication that the “Alliance house journal” jibe would suggest. Its spirit was liberal, compassionate and contrarian. The voice it had in our national debate was alternative in the best sense, of standing apart from the mainstream and analyzing it critically. It was that contrarian spirit that saw the Listener endorse MMP, and run fair and balanced profiles of Roger Kerr, Lindsay Perigo, Winston Peters and other polarising figures in its pages.

During the years 1999 – 2004 inclusive – which presumably spans at least part of the alleged Alliance house journal phase – the Listener defended Army chief Maurice Dodson, slammed the Clark government over its half baked TVNZ social charter proposals, profiled the US conservative thinker Francis Fukuyama and championed the free speech rights of the Holocaust denier David Irving. If anyone can find a hard left ideological continuity in those positions – or during the 20 years prior to the advent of Stirling as editor – I’d like to see the evidence.

In my experience, we at the Listener tended to have a healthy skepticism towards everyone – including Labour when in power in the 80s ( the Listener invented the term ‘Rogernomics’ and it wasn’t meant as flattery) National in the 90s, and Labour again early this decade. Consistently, the Listener bit the hand of power, and would then explain in 2,500 reasoned words why it felt the need to do so.

What the Listener used to stand for was intellectual depth, critical analysis of the left and the right, good arts pages and Bradford’s Hollywood. It was a great ragbag of a read. Again, I beg to differ with Stirling – the current Listener seems anything but diverse. It exhibits instead an increasingly narrow fixation on the lifestyle choices and social anxieties of a baby boomer elite. Someone recently suggested to me that a typical Listener cover story nowadays would run something along the lines of “Is Your House Making You Fat?”

Politically, the magazine also seems more ideologically narrow now than it was under Finlay Macdonald. Some weeks it looks, dare one say it, like the house journal of the National Party.

Which is, of course, a choice that Pamela Stirling would be totally free to make. She is the editor after all, and calls the shots. Formerly though, the country did think that it used to own the Listener. The magazine felt like a national institution that we all had a stake in. Which is why so many people have felt saddened by its current condition. It has been like watching the decline into premature senility of a beloved relative. Cover story this week – Sassy At 60. Yeah right.

Perhaps weekly general interest magazines are a doomed species anyway. Across the Tasman, the Bulletin gave up the ghost earlier this year.

Circulation figures could eventually decide whether the Listener goes the same way. Finlay Macdonald recalls that circulation fell from the high or mid 80s to around 74,000 over the five years of his tenure. Stirling once characterized this performance to me as the magazine being in‘ free fall’ when she took it over.

Well, break out the parachutes. The last audited survey has the Listener net circulation at 65,559. In all likelihood, some 40-42,000 of that weekly figure comes from prepaid subscriptions. This would suggest the Listener is managing to sell only about 23-25,000 copies over the counter nationwide, in most weeks. Pretty slim pickings if the master plan was for a new mass readership to materialize from the ruins, as compensation for the trashing of the old Listener template.

*****
Full disclosure: the writer was made redundant by the Listener in 2006. He confesses to once planning to write a book about Jim Anderton, and has worked for the Greens. He also thinks Winston Peters did a terrific job on the Winebox, and respects Tariana Turia and Katherine Rich. ENDS

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    1. 31 Responses to “WTF: On The Listener, past and present”

    2. By Stephen Olsen on Apr 29, 2008 | Reply

      There’s definitely an element of “Mirror, mirror on the wall” in this, and that worrying trend towards being forced the top 2 centimetres of a personality-driven view of the world rather than consistent journalism.

      In 2005 I completed a brief study into Listener covers over the preceding five years, and presented this (link below) to the Journalism Education Association of NZ conference that year. The title, A content review of New Zealand Listener covers 2000-2005: A case of “we are what we see”?

      Although more in the line of a rushed assignment than serious scholarship, the conclusion was that I came to the view come to a view that the Listener risked treading ever shallower waters through the trend towards ‘softer’ covers. There was, I suggested, a danger in drifting too far off the identification of New Zealand topics or angles first and foremost and to any further narrowing of the magazine’s cultural window.

      To borrow the line the EPMU has been feebly pursuing in an important campaign on behalf of quality journalism: Journalism (Does) Matter(s).

      Link: http://www.jeanz.org.nz/Listener-Essay_Olsen.doc

    3. By Swampy on Apr 29, 2008 | Reply

      This is supposed to be the Election 2008 blog, not the lefty whinge blog. Please keep to the subject of the blog, thanks!

    4. By Holly Johnson on Apr 29, 2008 | Reply

      If anyone gets that far, the lead letter of the latest issue exemplifies the headless chicken approach. Of all the letters that may have arrived after the timely Hitler-does-Anzac cover story, the most intelligent of them – the one that becomes the lead letter and reflects the magazine’s readers, its position, or something – is one that compares Helen Clark to Hitler? I’d expect more savvy from Investigate.

    5. By Robert Anderson on Apr 30, 2008 | Reply

      Congratulations. This is exactly what has taken place. Findlay Mac and all the others mentioned produced a first rate magazine which was a pleasure to read. Always unafraid to really get into hot issues and give first rate coverage.

    6. By Stephen Day on Apr 30, 2008 | Reply

      I note you omitted that hippy, weed smoking Bogor from your analysis Gordon. I bet he was Alliance leaning.

    7. By Christopher on Apr 30, 2008 | Reply

      The Listener has gone downhill, remarkably fast. I’ve given up on it. Such a fine magazine with a fine pedigree, gone the way of Granny Herald.

    8. By Adam Gifford on Apr 30, 2008 | Reply

      Bogor didn’t smoke. That was the hedgehog.

    9. By Katherine on Apr 30, 2008 | Reply

      Yes it’s drivel these days. I’ve stopped buying.

      I did pick up a Listener a few weeks back and noticed a picture of Gareth and Jo Morgan tearing around the antarctic on motorbikes in the travel column- eco tourism or bad taste?

    10. By Elizabeth Smyth on Apr 30, 2008 | Reply

      Thanks for this fine article. I disagree with Swampy. This sort of article is totally relevant to Election 08. Campbell notes that in the past, “The Listener’ covered the antics of all politicians with a “healthy skepticism’ yet ‘intellectual depth’.
      Perhaps now such depth can only be found on the Net?
      This year,never mind the prediction that world hunger has rising at an astonishing rate,the Listener thinks we need to find out, how to be Sassy at 60,or whether our children’s brains, can possibly get any bigger,and our bottoms any smaller. To which I say…yawn.

    11. By Ben Schrader on Apr 30, 2008 | Reply

      I’ve been buying the Listener over the counter for ages. But since Pamela Stirling has taken over its become a very quick read. The shift to the right means that the magazine has lost its main point of difference with the rest of the mainstream media. For me, this was its great attraction – I could get an alternative point of view. Its new emphasis on baby boomer lifestyle issues simply highlights its irrelevance to those under age 45.

      So I’m not surprised its circulation is plummeting. Any publication that has to resort to having Hitler on its cover to sell copy must surely be in its death throes. Sadly, I agree its only a matter of time before it goes the way of the Bulletin

    12. By Dave McArthur on May 1, 2008 | Reply

      I have invested in the Listener in some way or another for getting on four decades, the last couple as a constant subscriber. Each week I looked forward to its arrival in the letterbox for it provided blessed relief from the dross generated by other media in New Zealand. At times like during our recent invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq I was profoundly grateful to the magazine because it almost alone provided in depth analysis of the real geopolitics of our actions.

      Then I began to notice that I began to leave the magazine lying around in its packaging until out of academic curiosity I would flick through it to check out how it covered the critical issues of our day. Russell Brown and Brian Easton alone seemed to provide stimulation.

      For a while I thought my loss of vital interest must be because I now had much superior journalism available on the Internet now. However as I systematically analysed the Listener’s constant failure to be able to inform me on the issues of our depletion of minerals, our impacts on the climate balances that sustain us, our failure to use our electrical and solar potential in sustainable ways and the real causes of the violence in our society I realised that the Listener no longer has the investigative capacity to explore these issues to their fundamentals. This view has been more recently powerfully reinforced listening to the Listener journalists who appear on National Radio’s panel on Afternoons. I had long given these journalists the benefit of the doubt – we all tend to shape our views to fit those of our employer and perhaps their Listener writing reflected the restricted framework of their institution. However as I listened to their commentary on a wide range of issues I realised their voice in the Listener IS their voice.

      A classic example has been Joanne Black’s commentary on the building code. It reveals a most superficial understanding of the politics of the construction industry and the enormous costs to our country because the Building Code fails to mesh with the RMA in sustainable ways. So all Joanne could do on National Radio was complain and moan week-in-week-out about the personal inconvenience she experienced renovating her home without casting any light on the wider context.

      To me the issue is not a matter of left and right – they are pretty meaningless concepts in the big picture of things. The issue is about whether the Listener is interested in pursuing the truth in relentless and open way. Clearly it no longer is. I thought sales might go up under the new management and that is because I know the McDonalds and the Warehouse also manage to maintain sales by sophisticated marketing. It seems that Listener sales have declined. Perhaps there are more people like me. When my subscription ran out last year I decided then was the time to cease investing in the Listener. It was a sad and difficulty decision to make. However it had become apparent that my investment the Listener was providing poor returns and it no longer provides the unique quality New Zealand journalism I am prepared to pay for.

      I guess one of the finishing acts was the Listener’s decision to cease signing their editorials. That is not the actions of quality journalists. The magazine still expects all its correspondents to sign their letters and pay the public consequences of it – and this can sometimes mean personal verbal abuse and worse. In this contest the decision that editorials are now to be anonymous is an act of hypocrisy and cowardice. It is hard to trust such an institution and I guess that is the crux of it: I have no longer trust and confidence in the Listener. I know the letters and information that it refuses to publish and consider and I compare that with the material it does promote. I still read the Listener but only to catalogue its flawed coverage of issues as I know the magazine does impact on a certain strata of our society, albeit a group that increasingly lacks sustaining influence.

      On another level the Listener is no longer a listener. As its title suggests it was born of an awareness of the power of aural communication. This form of communication is enjoying a renaissance with the emergence of micro radio stations, Internet, Ipod and other means of listening. The Listener is simply not there providing critical analysis and links of this emerging vital media, a media that now far dominates TV, film or broadsheets in my life.

      This discussion is highly relevant to election year. We have little sustaining media in New Zealand and the loss of the Listener diminishes our communal intelligence. Not one of our traditional media is confronting and exploring central issues such as our confusion of energy with the forms it takes. As a result we receive no overview of how and why our society is on the brink of collapse because we describe mineral oil and gas as energy and use them so. This is one of the most fundamental mistakes any society can make and all other societies who have made it have imploded with the consequent inflation and warfare. Any small elements of half accurate analysis of such issues in our media are rendered impotent by being framed within ads and articles for cars, air travel and other wasteful uses of mineral oil. Or in the case of the Listener, the derisory cover page showing life after we have depleted easily accessed cheap mineral oil as life with rickshaws. Yes there is a funny side to the Listener cover concerned but not as its authors intended. The humour lies in the ingenious ways the authors remain in denial of the fundamental issues. There is a tragic side to it because in such denial and poor journalism we have the fertile environment for world wars.

      As mentioned it is not a matter of left and right. Quality journalism asks big questions of both Helen Clark and John Key, for instance. Both are identical in their denial of the fact we are exiting the Cheap Oil/Gas Age. Neither of them has any vision of an alternative age, less still the strategies we can use to transition to a sustainable society. Both react in non-democratic ways that put us all at great risk. See how both Labour and National and other parties have instituted and embedded the fascist Electricity Reforms, for instance. This legislation effectively disenfranchises all individuals and prevents communities from using their electrical potential with any degree of intelligence. This could well impact deeply on the way people vote this year if our undue reliance on Bulk-generated electricity results in a loss of household lighting and heating this winter.

      And the current wave of inflation is only that generated by mineral oil retailing at $US60-$80 a barrel. The next wave for $US100 will be even greater and could result in more severe unemployment, stagflation, asset sales, civil unrest and general bankruptcy that occurred in New Zealand after the 1979 mineral oil price rise. This time households are already heavily in debt, we no longer have all the options available in ownership of our rail, shipping, and electrical resources while the infrastructure sustaining a new mass of cars and trucks and a whole new legion of poorly designed houses dominates now.

      The Listener no longer listens or provides a forum for truly reflective thinking. What are we to replace it with?

      It is interesting that I am finding a forum here on SCOOP. My views can be published here even if no one is interested to read them. That’s OK. The point is that at least SCOOP is here for me and that is why I am taking this time to post this note. My thoughts will not be strangled by the dead hand of the anonymous editors of the Listener.
      Thank you for being what the Listener now no longer is.

      Dave McArthur
      http://www.bonusjoules.co.nz

    13. By k on May 1, 2008 | Reply

      I have a prepaid subscription to the Listener.

      I used to find stimulating and well written commentary in most of its articles.

      Now It’s really hohum. I read it in less than an hour to help me sleep.

      Most of the “GEE WHIZ !!!, HERE’S SOMETHING AMAZING” is stuff that I personally have ALWAYS known. Like, for instance,
      chestnuts with Brussels sprouts, going grey doesn’t mean getting ill, New Zealand’s prevailing winds are from the west, yawn yawn and so on ,und so vater,etc ZZZZZZZZZZZ.

      Joanne Black frequently expresses opinions of a moron. Who cares whether her house stays standing and whether her children get fed? Not me that’s for sure.All those so called innovative columns (Bill Ralston, Linley Boniface Hamish Keith et al)are self indulgent twaddle, The so called Health commentary often has inaccuracies.

      Brian Easton is the only commentator that has, for me, any authority and he’s been writing for the Listener since it was a magazine that excited, illuminated and stirred up controversy and debate about what is happening in New Zealand and the world.

      It just doesn’t any longer.

    14. By Bronwen Summers on May 1, 2008 | Reply

      I too have ditched the Listener. I want strong intelligent, investigative, journalism, stuff that makes me think about the broad issues and I want it in particular during election year. The Listener was the only place where one could read this. Now its lifestyle lifestyle lifestyle, how can the middle class, that the Labour party pander to, afford another latte. Thank goodness for Scoop and Gordon Campbell.

    15. By Kerri on May 1, 2008 | Reply

      I thought I’d always subscribe to the Listener, it was just a necessary item in our household. Now I don’t know anyone who buys it, subscription or otherwise.
      It’s a running joke in our house as we head to the supermarket, trying to guess the cover story this week – will it be health, property prices or our intelligent children this week?

    16. By Ian on May 1, 2008 | Reply

      An attempt at half-pie devil’s advocacy: does there have to be a correlation between the direction Pamela Stirling is taking the Listener and its continuing decline in sales? Mightn’t the decline just be the inevitable fate of any generalist print magazine in the age of the internet? The Listener’s traditional audience is/was the liberal urban middle-class, a demographic which more and more goes to the net for journalism, commentary and reviews. In other words, this might be happening even if whoever’s editing the Listener adds Page 3 girls or ten pages of Matt Robson interviewing Noam Chomsky. (The Bulletin’s fate proves this point: right up to the end The Bulletin was doing substantive journalism, and not drowning in lifestyle fluff. It went under anyway.)

      I’m not trying to defend Stirling’s Listener – it looks pretty dire. (Haven’t actually bought it for about 4 years, so this impression is based on skimming a friend’s copy every week or two.) It’s just that I suspect her editorship is as much a symptom of a bigger problem as the cause.

    17. By Ron Hanson on May 1, 2008 | Reply

      Perhaps there’s no better symbol of the effect of Rogernomics / Neoliberalism on New Zealand culture than the sad plight of the Listener today. From being a staple of cultural and political disussion in this country for decades to the worse than worthless state it’s in now, the Listener was once respected but is now roundly despised. Stirling attempts to paper over the publications move, not just to the right, but into pure ‘lifestyle’ propaganda, but she isn’t fooling many. Quite frankly if it was to disappear tomorrow it would be for the better. New Zealanders deserve than this corporate self-serving dribble.

    18. By TomS on May 1, 2008 | Reply

      The Listener has, Damascean like, had a conversion. To what, well, I would say to succumb finally to the religion of the barbarians who have beaten down every other gate in order to ensure their groupthink contains no alternative. A permanent Amnesia, a high handed dismissal of tradition, an obsession with materialism and a fascination with narcissic introspection now characterises most New Zealand institutions, be it the NZRU or a middle class who think their desire for a new flatscreen TV outweighs the needs of 185,000 children in poverty. That the Listener now whores itself willingly to this new New Zealand should hardly come as a surprise I suppose. When I was young, I used to wonder quite what the phrase “Wenn ich Kultur höre … entsichere ich meinen Browning!” meant, but watching the change in our society over the last 25 years and now the curtain fall on the Listener has helped me understand.

    19. By Holly Johnson on May 2, 2008 | Reply

      The Listener “whoring” itself might be a bit hyperbolic, TomS. Have you counted the ads in the mag lately?

    20. By Helen Robinson on May 2, 2008 | Reply

      I still buy the Listener, mostly because I have a middle-class shame about having TV Guide in my house, and I need to get the TV listings somehow. I have nothing against lifestyle features as long as they are well written and balanced out by more serious articles, but the majority of the Listener’s cover stories over the last few years have essentially been a synopsis of some book which has just come out, with no criticial analysis or counterview. They do continue to publish some good articles in the old Listener tradition – the recent one on sub-standard boarding houses in South Auckland springs to mind – but fewer and fewer people know about them because they are put off reading or buying the magazine in the first place by its attempts to be a second rate version of those magazines that come with the weekend papers.

    21. By Max on May 2, 2008 | Reply

      I’ll never forget the articles Gordon Campbell wrote late 2002 early 2003 preceding the Iraq war. Everything he wrote turned out to be 100% truth. He wrote that it was very unlikely Iraq currently had any WMD, that the US had already decided to invade Iraq anyway, that the reason was oil and that the justifications given by Colin Powell were out and out lies.

      Would I ever recieve such insight from reading the Listener now? Of course not. I used to read the Listener cover to cover every week. Now there is literally nothing in there that’s interesting to me.

      Every other article is unsophisticated pop-psychology. I can’t stand psychology. For example, what’s the point in writing about how brain chemistry produces “teenage” behaviour without analysing the fact that the “teenager” social category is a relatively recent one is Western culture and doesn’t exist in the same way in other cultures in the world.

      The death of a great magazine.

    22. By Karl Hardisty on May 4, 2008 | Reply

      @Helen

      Can I suggest the internet for TV listings?

      In general, the fourth estate in this country – and many others – has transformed into a popularity contest. The rise of the internet has created new outlets for ‘real’ journalism to rise, but like many aspects of the internet, one has to wade through the less stellar content to find the worthwhile. In the longer term social networks will provide frameworks which will form and crystallise into methods of sorting out the good from the bad, but this is still in very early days, as Digg and others show.

    23. By artandmylife on May 5, 2008 | Reply

      I agree with much said above – the Listener has gone downhill dreadfully. I am a subscriber and get it for the books and arts pages which are still pretty good but ‘uneven’. I am FAR from the demographic they seem to aim at . “Your house makes me fat” sums that side up really. I wonder – is the Listener actually Listening?

    24. By Martin on May 5, 2008 | Reply

      Helen, buy a freeview box from trademe, and use the EPG
      It’ll cost less than a year’s worth of the TV Guide

    25. By Keith Ng on May 5, 2008 | Reply

      Not disagreeing with the commentary, but can I offer a glimmer of hope? Since the influx of new staff writers a month or two ago, there has been a substantial change. Some of David Fisher’s articles on the DHB stuff was fantastic, and made me go “woah!”. Granted, it’s become a bit inconsistent since then, and the cover stories are back to baby-boomer wankery, but at least it’s demonstrated what it could be again.

      Give it another chance, eh?

    26. By duder on May 5, 2008 | Reply

      One thing I’ve always found puzzling about this Alliance House Journal theory of Pamela Stirling’s is this: what was Jane Clifton doing there? Right through the period 1999-2004, and earlier, she was the magazine’s press gallery columnist and arguably its most high-profile political journalist. Surely if a sinister cabal of leftists was running it to push Alliance propaganda, they would have removed her and put someone more ideologically sound in. But the fact that she and Stirling — and Bruce Ansley and Diana Wichtel, who also had no discernible left-wing politics — wrote so prolifically in that period and earlier, reveals the Alliance House Journal idea to be insulting nonsense.

    27. By Jason on May 6, 2008 | Reply

      The Listener has been a continual feature of the households I’ve lived in. I’ve fond memories from the large format days with the covers that were impossible to keep intact, and despite dissatisfaction with the increasingly petty and boorish tones of the editorial, and certain of the journalistic, staff, I’ve maintained the subscription for the magazine’s media coverage and out of inertia. (My thanks to Martin for putting me on to the Freeview’s EPG, which thanks to the kind folk at epg.pvr.geek.nz can be used whether not you own a set-top box.)

      However, the current fiasco surrounding the departure of Ecologic columnist, Dave Hansford, from the magazine mark the end of the Listener’s run with me. The bullying , and ultimately futile , legal treat made against the Hot Topic blog, coupled with the Editor’s public posturing on the affair, only add to a scenario that reflects very poorly on the Listener.

      While this issue is being extensively covered elsewhere, e.g., see for a collection of relevant links, for those who have missed it, there is definitely something fishy about Hansford’s departure; at the very least his description of the events surrounding it cannot be squared with those of the Editor, Pamela Stirling. It is open to question which one of them is dissembling, or to be charitable, mistaken; however, there is no nice way of viewing the use of a legal treat by the Listener to stifle what was obviously honestly expressed opinion. Stirling’s public statements that the action was necessary, i.e., “In this case, there were things being said that were absolutely untrue; about the magazine, and myself, and there’s a difference between causing offence and causing harm. This is demonstrable harm, and based on something that is absolutely wrong with no attempt at verification, and therefore we asked for an apology and retraction, and we got it.” (RNZ Media Watch, 27th April), are only possible because the majority of Listener subscribers will be unable to read the censored post and see how reasonably and carefully questions surrounding departure were raised. For Stirling to see this post as producing “demonstrable harm” suggests a very thin skin and what appears to be a rather unusual take on defamation law . That she could quote Voltaire in the same piece was, to me, obscene.

      With my Brian Easton, and Russel Brown-fixes available from other sources, I will be letting my subscription lapse. Now if only Diana Wichtel and Jane Clifton would move to a vehicle that has at least a modicum of respect for it’s readership’s intelligence.

      Hey Max- I agree entirely. I continue to find it strange that the handful of commentators that got it right on Iraq remain marginalised in favour of the talking heads telling us how that they “got it wrong, but…”

    28. By Paul Litterick on May 6, 2008 | Reply

      My own, informal, study of Listener covers (I don’t buy it any more, just look at the covers in bookstores) reveals that most of the people photographed are models and that Jane Ussher’s immense talent as a photographer is wasted.

    29. By Jenny Whyte on May 12, 2008 | Reply

      My favourite “Listener went to crap under Pamela Stirling” story is the one where that boring bald guy from Australia got at least two pages about beauty regimes and not washing your face in the shower because the jets of water make tiny cuts in your skin, thus destroying your complexion, and then about 2 weeks later turned up on the back page advertising his beauty products. A coincidence no doubt. Totally cutting edge centrist journalism.

      As for Joanne Black, words fail me.

      Its just sad really. I’ve read the Listner for as long as I have been able to read. But it really is just rubbish now. Thanks Pamela. Couldn’t you and Joanne just have cut to the chase and gone to work at Woman’s Day?

    30. By Paul Robeson on May 13, 2008 | Reply

      Nice one mate.

      This is extremely important as the Listener is a cultural icon and weather vane.

      It has been extensively dumbed down- though still employs many good writers it is far from as intellectually rigorous as it was.

      My standard joke was that the Woman’s Day was the thnking woman’s Listener.

      And as for my nick name? I knew the music, but much of the rest I read in a Listener article many years back, before going on to read Here I stand (I think his book is).

      Ian Cross was a previous editor too, I think.

      If the Listener can not be relied on for the nation to have a discussion with itself after cricket on a saturday, at the beach, in the backgarden….what can? Not the fractured web that’s for sure.

    31. By duder on Jun 6, 2008 | Reply

      Speaking of the Listener past and present, this very interesting feature just went up on the site of Dunedin student magazine Critic. Lays out the shift to the “middle” pretty clearly, I’d say:

      http://www.critic.co.nz/about/features/129

    32. By Katherine on Oct 5, 2008 | Reply

      If only it was a magazine you couldn’t judge by its cover. It’s a love-letter to the well-to-do from themselves. Did anyone on that staff go to a public school? I started reading the Listener when Fnlay McDonald was the editor and I used to enjoy it. I didn’t realise I was reading a magazine that was not meant for me. Now, however, that is entirely clear. It’s just so private school, so educated parents, so patronising and sniffy and presumptuous. Not to mention arid, stiff, predictable, vain and hysterical, all at once. Definitely not a magazine for all New Zealanders.

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