New Zealand’s Most Famous Tabloid Editor Said it Does not Exist in the First Place
New Zealand’s last tough-talking Front Page era editor, the late Frank Haden, declared that the press in any official court room or other such tribunal would always emerge much the worse for the experience.
Therefore he stated the press should take every precaution against appearing before such a body for any kind of judgement at all.
The reason for avoiding court rooms and the like he stated was that “the public hates the press.”
This meant in practical terms that those seeking to represent the general public in any deliberations involving the press either separately or collectively would inevitably grasp their opportunity to “savage” the press.
Therefore he stated the press should always avoid, somehow, all such appearances, because it was simply not going to win. It could only come out of the encounter much the worse for it.
The press, insisted Haden, was reluctant to accept the loathing in which it was held and thus found itself before juries and other such panels in the fond and misguided belief that it’s clams would fall on receptive ears.
Instead, the crusty Haden insisted, the officially constituted panel would simply become a lightening rod through which the public hatred of the press would be transmitted.
It is hard not to consider the likelihood that the Haden dictum figured in the twice-declared no by the Commerce Commission to the nation’s two predominant newspaper chains ardently seeking permission to merge.
It is hard too not to entertain the notion that the Commission had no sympathy either for the individuals before them who were advocating the merger.
The two-act episode was a startling re-affirmation of Haden’s Law.
It holds that the press and those who work in it in any appearance before any group formed to represent the common weal, the considered opinion on the public benefit, will simply act as a conductor for the public antipathy to it.
The second part of Haden’s Law can be stated by saying that the only avenue open to the press in this entire matter is to do its utmost to avoid any exposure at all to these constituted courts of public opinion.
Haden’s views were expounded many years ago and were widely heeded at the time if only because of the distressing experience of the industry’s libel lawyers in a string of fixtures.
Since this raffish era and with the disappearance notably of Truth the tabloid tyranny largely subsided.
The institutionalisation of the press through the mandatory university induction process ensured a commonality of voguish opinion and thus stated views.
The era of politesse thus became well established. Gone are the Woodbine-smoking renegades who once inhabited Vulcan Lane and Cuba Street.
In their place are corporate employees nurturing their careers and sharing a similar liberal outlook. They are about as threatening to societal values as the Vienna Boys Choir.
The most interesting element in their newspapers is now the surreal debate over who owns them, and how.
The newspapers management, no longer now “bosses,” have the appearance of well-intentioned pillars of society, doing their best.
But who have been publicly slapped in the face, twice, for subverting society.
SO how did Haden’s Law propounded so long ago, and in an era in which the tabloids were often villainous, now so evidently, re-emerge like a bolt, two bolts, of lightening from the heavens?
Because the two chains in seeking to please everyone, pleased nobody.
The more they sought to personify diversity in all its forms the more constricted they appeared. Their quest for plurality led them to losing their singularity.
In Frank Haden’s era the unbridled cheek of the press meant it was feared and loathed with a sprinkling of respect.
Haden himself was the last practitioner to have worked for all of Australasia’s dynastic publishers – the Fairfax, Packer, and Murdoch families
Today, the corporatist harmonised fashionable wisdom-friendly version has instead inspired an attitude of low-resonating indifference of the type that in turn has inspired two Commerce Commission verdicts in its disfavour .
Even given their joint tendency to treat the world as if it had started this morning, the two chains who are said to be contemplating a return and third match, this time with an appeals court should now heed Frank Haden’s Law.
Stay away from these types of convocations be they judicial or quasi judicial.