JOURNALIST INCOMPETENCE

Finance writer Brian Gaynor has written a farewell final NZ Herald column, this although he doesn’t say so, because he’s teamed up with Patrick Smellie who I gather shares Gaynor’s twin passions for line-dancing and collecting the Bradford Exchange’s products. They’ve launched a business website aiming to put the final death-knell to the now fast fading National Business Review.

Always a stern critic of others, Gaynor nevertheless has solid form for his own inaccuracies, well demonstrated in this final column,

For example, he tells us of the NZ Herald’s collapse in value over the last two decades from over $1 billion when it was a major listed company, to its current ownership by a mixed media television, radio and print media company with a claimed total value less than $80 million. The Herald’s value is thus perhaps a relatively insignificant circa $30-40 million and fast declining despite its commendable efforts to produce a quality paper. But the sad fact is that in the modern electronic instant news world, newspapers are a sunset industry.

This dramatic decline, in Gaynor’s words, is “almost totally due to the dramatic change (loss of) in classified advertising.” In fact the dramatic fall in the Herald’s value, as with all newspapers everywhere, is solely attributable to the even more dramatic collapse in subscribers, younger generations no longer reading newspapers. In another decade, perhaps freebie local newspapers excepted, they probably won’t exist. Nevertheless, with the hugely diminished readership, logically so too the consequential collapse in advertising.

Then Gaynor smugly bragged of his first column in 1997 when he criticized the NZ Stock Exchange for “granting a waiver to Sir Robert Jones’ Trans Tasman Properties from obtaining share-holding approval when it sold its Australian assets to Australian Growth Properties.” What absolute cock!

I never had anything to do with Trans Tasman Properties.

Four years earlier when the de facto controlling American shareholders in my listed company Robt. Jones Investments, refused to take my advice, as events transpired, correct, I and other key management resigned. But aware of the Americans incompetence on commercial property, and particularly the no-hoper Board and management which replaced us, now out of it, I demanded they change the company’s name. This they did to Trans Tasman Properties, which I repeat, had nothing to do with me. I quickly rebuilt a fortune which otherwise would have accrued to RJI, ironically including in the subsequent years, the ownership of some of RJI’s prime assets. Meanwhile the American chosen Board and management, none of whom had a clue about commercial property, reduced Trans Tasman to dust, exactly as I predicted.

Gaynor jumped on the easy money super bandwagon and established his own share investment mum and dad Fund, originally in one of my buildings and more significantly with delicious irony, not without its own employee-induced scandals and subsequent prosecutions, precisely the sort of outrage Gaynor was fond of pointing out with other companies.

Critics, albeit justifiably much scorned, nevertheless fill a vital role in all human activities. But it befalls them to always get their facts right and as bystanders, show some humility, something Gaynor sometimes struggles with as epitomised in his farewell Herald column.

Gaynor would do well to remember Theodore Roosevelt’s timeless evaluation of bystander critics when he wrote,
“It is not the critic who counts, nor the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done better.

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes short again and again… “and his concluding “… his place will never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”

 

 

6 Comments

As with Sir Bob’s bizarre claim, repeated to me by one of his dwindling band of close friends, that I once ran a publishing company and begged him to be able to write his biography – neither of which is remotely grounded in fact – I am no fan of line-dancing. Those who know me well will be aware of a general enthusiasm for the tuba, but the two should not be erroneously conflated, and that I derive enormous pleasure from a well-cleaned bath.

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Digital substitution’s effect on the demise of newspapers is captured beautifully by the two stifled sentences of Mr Smellie, at the feet of Sir Bob’s freely digestible blog.

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We have a family tale abut my mum’s RJI shares, that she wanted to sell when worth a bit, dad persuaded her not to…she reminded him of this in irked moments as the value crumbled…they became TT shares, passed on to her kids when practically worthless.

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