Even before meeting him, Anthony Flannery was described to me by a top Australian news executive as a “nice guy, short pants”, a comment that forced a smile and a nod of agreement from another top Australian news executive.
And so it’s proven to be. He was well liked by staff and by management during his time at the Deathstar.
Let’s be fair, Flannery was no doubt chosen because his predecessor, Mad Bad Bill Ralston, caused so many waves for the Good Ship TVNZ, management was no doubt desperate to sail into calmer – but less courageous – journalistic waters.
For those who don’t know, Janet is married to Señor Ralston.
But those editorial waters were so calm that Flannery’s news and current affairs legacy is less about rigor and more about reporting rumour and tabloid gossip.
Since he’s arrived on the scene, TVNZ has moved back into its former 6pm torpor of taking that morning’s Herald front page and dutifully reporting it 12 hours later. After all, they cry, we’re different, we’re broadcast news and a little bit special.
So editorially flabby but what how does TVNZ News rate in a production sense? Dressed up like a hooker on K Road on a Saturday night. Despite across-the-newsroom job cuts Short-Flannel-Pants decided to employ those news shamans Frank N Magid Associates, Midwestern consultant wannabes, who gave us the most pimped up One News Kiwis have ever had the misfortune to view.
Because when the Magids (or Maggots as the hacks like to call them) come in, originality leaves by the back door.
What you get is dull donuts of live crosses set against concrete walls, containing information that is crying out to be placed in the story itself, a formulaic approach that dulls the senses and fogs the brain.
The Maggots favour stories that focus on the reporter, rather than the facts. After all who needs them when in fact you’re a news promoter not a news producer.
Now, which One News reporter would this be referring to?
Short-Flannel-Pants is reputed to have spent more than a $1 million dollars on these puff-piece promoters. Why? Maybe it was because he didn’t have any ideas of his own when it came to the international mystery of how to be relevant to your audience in today’s ever changing media world.
His disappearance back across The Ditch has been predicted for at least a year as his wife and family moved home back months ago.
His new gig as the head of news and current affairs for the Ten network will no doubt suit him. The channel has been labeled “troubled” by Granny Herald (which is tabloid-speak for down-the-toilet-and-sinking-fast), Flannery will be eminently suited to Ten’s ambulance-chasing-court-reporting style of news.
And, as the small battalion of TVNZ’s middle news managers sense that their time of glory has come, there’s no doubt that TVNZ management, still caught in a strange Cultural Cringe Tango, will choose an offshore figure to be their HONCA.
Anyone from the UK or Aussie will do.
After all, a Kiwi couldn’t do it could they?
It will be interesting to see who TVNZ chooses to replace Flannery. Will they go for more of the same or will we see a new direction for the current holder of the Best News crown? Will it be a step forward or a step backward?