The real 'Public Interest Journalism'

I find it extraordinary that the Ardern Labour Government found the money to pay newspapers for ‘Public Interest Journalism’, but at the same time didn’t care that newspapers steadily reduced the space devoted to reader correspondence.

As a lifetime newspaper reader, I have watched as space devoted to what could be called ‘Ultimate Public Interest Journalism’ has been reduced until it is scarcely larger that an obituary of some obscure biologist, lifted straight from The Guardian UK.

My newspaper reading habit began when in primary school I delivered Wellington’s Evening Post door to door. Now, through the wonders of the Internet and the Pressreader subscription app, I read The Post, The Herald, The Press and the Otago Daily Times on a daily basis. Occasionally, I’ll extend my attention to Hawkes Bay Today and I’m looking forward to my local Wairarapa Times-Age coming on line, as it has now been bought by Stuff.

My earliest recollections are that the Evening Post has reduced its ‘Letters’ space by two-thirds. On any given Saturday in the 70’s that paper would have about a third of a broadsheet page given over to letters alongside the editorial and the cartoon, plus another full page nearer the back. All of this correspondence was under the supervision of a “Letters Editor’ who either published what she received, or published the names of corresponds whose contributions were not shown, with a simple comment “Points noted’. When he/she thought a topic had been thoroughly thrashed out, the person concerned would insert a slightly schoolmasterish ‘This correspondence is at an end’.

This reader involvement was rewarded by some correspondents achieving institutional status. I recall one such who signed off as ‘L C Smith’, who had such an encyclopaedic knowledge of local body issues, that my brother, a one-time City Councillor would phone the Town Clerk for guidance on how to respond.

It is easy to shout ‘conspiracy’ when ones letter isn’t published but enquiries to other individuals and groups, with the same interests as me suggests an ant-Israel bias. One pro-Trump letter writer told me is giving up as it is too hard to get published and a Christian group of Israel supporter has taken to paying for space as advertisers to get their message across. What has it come to when people with a valid point to make must pay?

In order that my letters should not be doomed to rest in the bowels of Gmail, I set out below, my letters for the last couple of months. Some have been published, most have not.


Andrew Tichbon 'Maori wards' (Letters June 14), makes good points about these structures. My take is to accentuate the positive and celebrate the number of Maori and other minorities who have achieved local body success via the general roll system. George Gee (Petone), Ron Mark, Georgina Beyer and William Wong (Carterton) as well as K Gurunathan (Kapiti), come to mind and I'm sure there are others.


Mark Aitcheson, 'Comparative problem' (Letters June 14), makes the puzzling and utterly wrong statement that the average Gazan believes that the Hamas attacks of October 7 were 'cruel and provocative'. On the contrary, authoritative polls show that a vast majority of Palestinians support Hamas' actions. Certainly Gazan support has waned since the true consequences of Hamas vile deeds, has been brought upon them. 

A recent poll conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research reveals that more than eight months into the war in Gaza, 73 percent of Palestinians support Hamas' decision to launch the October 7 attacks on Israel'.

And before yet another correspondent spouts on 'disproportionality', I suggest a visit to Wikipedia to view the entry on 'hot pursuit'.   


Rinal Tamimi ('Hebron to Dunedin' 13 June), omits two key elements from her tribute to her birthplace. Firstly 'Hebron' is an Hebrew-derived word and secondly the Jewish population was forced out by Arab violence in 1949.


Both the cartoon and John Minto's letter (11 June), stress the disproportionality between the number of hostages rescued from Hamas captivity recently and the total fatalities. Minto adds the further calumny of mentioning hostages killed, without telling us that these unfortunates were butchered by Hamas weeks prior and it was their dead bodies which were recovered.

But shouldn't disproportionality be matched with culpability? The people of Gaza elected Hamas knowing their genocidal intentions towards Israel and the crows of delight and the insults offered to dead Jews brought into Gaza, show how invested they were in the October 7th massacre. An appropriate response to Minto and his ilk is: 'You reap what you sow'. 


Geoffrey Mentink 'Beyond black and white' (letters 6 June), naturally chides the US when criticising FPP voting and extolling MMP. If FPP is so draconian and unfair, how come the UK Commons contains many parties, all elected under that system? The problem with the US is not FPP, but the huge amounts of money required to mount political campaigns. Donors don't want to fritter their money away on anything other than two-party slugfests.

The news item 'National security fear as budget slashed by two thirds' (6 June), allows the Islamic Associations to deflect from the obvious and state that international stats depicting zero white supremacist attacks, as ‘inapplicable’ here. It is noteworthy that the two religiously-motivated attacks since Christchurch, were perpetrated by Muslims. Muhammad Samsudeen at LynnMall and a Muslim convert (born a Sikh) who stabbed to death a young Muslim student who rebuffed his romantic overtures. 


Perhaps Marie Leadbetter 'Fairness for Palestine' (Letters 2 June), could explain why both Egypt and Jordan refuse to take refugees from Gaza. Ms Leadbetter seems to have all the facts at hand when it comes to castigating our government and Israel, but doesn't choose to explain why neighboring Muslim states don't want their Palestinian co-religionists in their territories.

Well, the canary in the coalmine has finally chirped. Your 29 May issue carried a sizable advertisement from an Israel support group, the revenue from which your bean counters no doubt dutifully banked.

I have submitted many letters covering much the same pro-Israel and historical correction as the ad, none of which have been published. Accordingly the clear signal is a 'Paid letters column'. So, let's have the rate per word Editor and at least we'll finally know where we are.  

Lois Griffiths 'Tumultuous scene' (Letters 25 May), states that 'The US is not a genuine democracy'. Nor does it purport to be one. The United States is a 'constitutional republic' with a political structure developed over hundreds of years. As additional territories were granted statehood, they signed on to the Constitution. The last so-honoured was the 50th - Hawaii, in 1959.

As for the binary choice between Trump and Biden, wasn't that the situation here before MMP?

My early voting for PM was confined to either the Leader of Labour or the Leader of National.


Bravo Willie for your anti-colonialism speech at the Oxford Union. Seems to me that you both wrote and read your presentation. These are both skills that were brought to these shores by dreaded colonialists, who not only taught your forebears to read and write English, but also enabled spoken and written Maori.

John Cleese should re-fashion his excruciatingly funny: 'What have the Romans ever done for us?', specifically with you in mind.

N Yates: 'So much for the international rules-based order' (Letters 23 May),

may be persuaded to modify his/her concern for the 'long-suffering Palestinian people' 

with some additional research. Just released Hamas video shows brutalised 

young Jewish women being taunted by Hamas operatives with comments like: 'this one 

will be easily made pregnant'. All but one show signs of violent bloody assault with one 

having clearly been punched in the mouth and missing teeth. This took place on October 

7th, days before any Palestinians could feel that they are 'long-suffering'.

Reading Dennis Horne's contribution 'Citizenship' (letters 21 May), I'm reminded of the old adage: 'You can have your own opinion, but not your own facts'.

To state that: 'Jews established Israel by an act of war', ignores the UN Resolution that gave rise to that country. Almost the day after the resolution was passed, Israel's neighbours attacked the Jewish state en-masse in what became the 'Independence War'.

If the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine is so wrong, perhaps Mr Horne could rationalise for us the existence of Jordan, which was similarly carved out of the British Mandate by League of Nations resolution around 1925.    

The Hashemites (Jordanians) are a defined group of Arabs, descended from Mohammad, just as the Jews are a defined group descended from Moses.


Don Hutton 'Team name' (letters 18 May), makes good points about the Crusaders and Crusades. If, in 1096, when the first Crusade was mounted, the Christian forces' aim was to simply target Muslims, why didn't they just pop next door to Spain, where Islamic forces occupied the entirety of Iberia and remained there until forced out by the ‘reconquista’ in 1492? The actual purpose of the First Crusade was to free the pilgrimage sites in the Holy Land, which were being denied them by Muslims.

If people are offended by the militaristic overtones of the names of rugby teams, where's the parallel outrage about the UK Saracens? To my knowledge, despite horrific Islamic terrorist attacks (Manchester Arena for example), no one has suggested that the 'Saries' give up their name or their Islamic star and crescent logo.

 Thanks to Del Carline (Opinion 17 May) for injecting some balance into the AUKUS debate. That we can remain neutral and stay out of the non-nuclear second tier of the alliance is fanciful. The extension of Chinese hegemony into the South China Sea via the 'Nine Dash Line' is a situation not lost on Indonesia and the Philippines, so why us?

As someone once remarked: 'Good guys waving white flags, still get shot'.