Jacinda Ardern's criticism of MediaWorks - My take

17 March 2016

You may have seen Jacinda Ardern’s open letter to MediaWorks CEO Mark Weldon earlier this week where she criticised the movement away from hard news and current affairs to less important stories that got more website clicks.

She has a point, but news organisations are always going to focus on material that their audience wants, rather than what some would say are “more important issues.”

What can be done about this?

In a nutshell, media spokespeople have to be more interesting. In today’s world, it’s no longer good enough to have a few key points to focus on in interviews and keep referring back to those.

You certainly need points, but you have to dress them up. With so much competition for news these days and consumers having so many options, you need to help the reporter produce an interesting story if it is to be of interest to audiences.

How do you do this?

You don’t use mundane points and boring language when you talk to a reporter. Don’t say something like: “His policies are offence to immigrants.” Instead say something like: “He’s the Pauline Hanson of New Zealand politics.”

I don’t need to tell you which one of those statements would be of more interest to the reporter. It would probably also be in the story’s headline. I also bet that would get lots of clicks.

The point I’m making is that its never been more important to dress up your points into interesting sound bites. They are what the reporter wants and they are what Mark Weldon needs to get people to read stories on his website.

There are many elements reporters love to use as sound bites and direct quotes. For example, John Key often uses analogies to great effect.

Not only will they get used by the reporter and read by audiences, but they will also be remembered. In today’s world with so many messages thrown at us daily, very little gets through. This is the only way to get yours through media gatekeepers and remembered by your audience.

So while Ardern has a point, spokespeople can also influence a story’s popularity by helping reporters bring it to life.

For more on my media training workshops, contact or 029 200 8555.

Filed under Media Training

Written by

Pete is a leading New Zealand media trainer and regular blogger for his company, Media Training NZ . He has helped leaders from all sectors of society communicate with the media and other stakeholders. Pete is a former daily newspaper reporter and press secretary in the New Zealand government. From these roles, he understands the media process from both sides of the camera.

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