THE READERSHIP OF The Press continues to decline which, among other things, suggests a certain dissatisfaction with the quality of the journalism on display. Many locals for example have grown increasingly tired with the newspaper's 'happy clappy' view of the Christchurch rebuild.
The Press has developed a strangely schizophrenic quality. While on the one hand it may faithfully report the details of another fiasco, another delay and another protest, its consistent editorial view has been to to promote the government's top down rebuild, no matter what.
So just two years ago the editor of The Press, Joanna Norris, was writing that Christchurch was 'booming' - in a city where there were a reported 7000 people homeless.
Barely two months ago the newspaper reported that a Treasury paper had accused the government of making a mess of the Christchurch rebuild. The Treasury is hardly a hotspot of alternative political thought, so its report was something of an embarrassment for the government.
The response of the Minister for Earthquake Recovery was typical. Gerry Brownlee thinks the best form of defence is attack, so he proceeded to attack Treasury. He snorted that the unfavourable report was just the product of Wellington bureaucrats who had no idea of what was happening on the ground. This is from a man who, for over three years after the quakes, would not accept that there was a housing crisis in Christchurch.
Nevertheless The Press, not surprisingly, has decided that Gerry has got it right. Its first big story for the year is that 2016 is '..set to be the year Christchurch emerges from the rubble.'
The story quotes Deputy Mayor Vicki Buck who declares '"Lots of things are going to happen .... it's going to be a great year."
Well, yes, lots of things are going to happen but that doesn't necessarily means its going to be "a great year".
More and more people are going to be struggling financially as the Christchurch City Council's massive rates hike (27 percent over four years, to begin with) starts to grip. I understand that the council is sending more and more overdue accounts to the debt collecting agency it has contracted to harass those who struggling to pay.
There's also going to be 'lots of things' happening around the fire sale of ratepayer-owned assets. City Care, the Christchurch City Council's maintenance division, is the first asset on the chopping block. We can expect a flurry of activity from Mayor Lianne Dalziel and her loyal followers like Finance committee chairperson Raf Manji as it attempts to justify the sale of City Care to an overseas multinational. Perhaps the mayor will have another public display of tears, sobbing that's she's only trying to do her best. Or am I'm being too cynical - as Dalziel's good mate, Newstalk ZB's Chris Lynch, regularly tweets.
Of course Lianne Dalziel and her councillors will be more than keen to eliminate the negative and attenuate the positive because there are local body elections this year. That means they will have to defend what they've done over the past three years - which should be interesting given they ignored local opinion and opted for a rates hike and asset sales. We should not forget that this council was never given a mandate to sell its assets.
I confidently predict that Lianne Dalziel and her councillors can expect a vote of confidence from The Press. We can expect the newspaper to highlight more spin like this:
"I think it [Christchurch] is probably the most interesting city to be living in at the moment because not only do you have all of the amazing natural assets of Christchurch but you also have this incredible rebuild going on."
That's Vicki Buck talking about a top down and bureaucratic rebuild that even the Treasury has recognised is a mess.
My advice, for what its worth, is - don't believe the hype!