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The Political Busker Reborn

Readers may remember Ben Easton for a variety of reasons (such as the shadow of his former being emerging from prison after a hunger strike) but perhaps not so much where he came to grief in Wellington as The Political Busker.

The link takes us back to 2006, where Ben made Central Wellington his own version of Hyde Park. The idea of the Political Busker was to bring some truth to the news from the streets. I’m not sure where he is now but after having his benefit cancelled by WINZ I recall reading that his confrontations with the council became increasingly frustrated by court processes and he eventually ended up in prison.

But what makes me think of Ben today is This Article.

Publicly funded reporters will be employed by news publishers around the country in a first-of-its-kind scheme unveiled today to address declines in local news coverage. It’s the result of a government-approved collaboration between RNZ, publishers and the government’s broadcasting funding agency.

Eight reporters will be recruited to report local news around the country under a new scheme created by the Newspaper Publishers Association, RNZ and the government’s broadcasting funding agency New Zealand on Air (NZOA).

The Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) will generate news and content available to media outlets including RNZ, the country’s biggest newspaper publishers  – Stuff, NZME and South Island publisher Allied Press – and small local publishers too.   

One million dollars to fund the scheme comes from the $6m Joint Innovation Fund for RNZ and NZOA established by the government in last year’s Budget to create “more public media content for under-served audiences” including regional New Zealand.

How do you feel about this?

Admittedly it’s a decade later and Ben’s attempts at establishing a coal-face reporting career were cut short by WINZ (or was it political pressure on WINZ to shut down a pro-father voice who had come out of a bad Family Court Case) but now we see something similar happening here.

I don’t imagine this is going to be any sort of Democratic Truth Machine, forgive my skepticism, for a few reasons.

There are enough past media-staff around communities that will be happy with a bit of easy part time work, that know how to fill the main criteria, the deadline issue, and that will generally require cooperation with local agencies. They will be a benign force with easily withdrawn cooperation.

So, I don’t see this going down the track of the hard hitting free-lancer turning over toadstools.

Years ago it was the mostly suburban journalists that you had any chance of getting a fair hearing with. Mainstream journalism was a corrupt force by the end of last century.

Aside from that there’s the obvious question of the state spreading it’s broadcasting fingers into the commercial sector and freedom of the press … and the clamber for the jobs that might be pursued by political parties … yes, you could imagine the Greens wanting a 17 year old kid/climate fanatic reporting for a council that’s declared a climate emergency.

And then I ask, will it be more of the same, bad-man good-women news.

A space to watch, and by the way, anyone seen Ben lately?