September 21, 2004

Don't film me - I'm praying

MediaCow writes...

Should church be off-limits to the press? Auckland mayoral candidate Dick Hubbard thinks so. "Saying prayers in church is a deeply personal moment and I think no reporter under any circumstances has got any right to go and comment on somebody's body language in a moment of prayer," he told the New Zealand Herald's Bernard Orsman.

The reporter who had gottten Hubbard's awful rainbow tie in a twist was National Business Review's rising star Coran Lill. As part of a comprehensive series of articles looking at the political ingenue, Lill popped into the (charismatic) St George's Anglican Church in Epsom when the mayoral challenger and wife Diane Hubbard were at prayer.

He wrote: "I could tell things were about to get good, but I wasn't quite prepared for what happened ... First there was a noticeable shake, like an electric shock running through her frame. Then the right arm shuddered and headed for the ceiling. It was closely followed by the left, reaching to the heavens in a shuddering fit of biblical emotion while her devoted voice hit the rafters."

This colourful description earned him the scorn of media commentator and breakdancer Russell Brown, who said Lill had descended to the gutter. I disagree with Brown. Neither Mrs Hubbard nor her church-going should be off limits.

As she subsquently told the Sunday Star Times, Mrs Hubbard wants to reactivate the dormant role of Auckland's mayoress. That's a big call, and means that voters get more for their buck than just Dick.

The wannabe Mayoress is the first to acknowledge that faith is a large part of her life. She believes Auckland would be more beautiful if more people embraced God. What better way, then, to convey a snapshot of her personality than to do what Coran Lill did? Brown read his piece and saw mocking. I read it and saw an attempt to flesh out public figures that we know very little about.

In his column, Brown wrote: "I wonder if all the people who got up in arms about the Herald's really rather sober assessment of Banks' claims for himself - and all the stuffed shirts who have been noisily defending the churches from "liberal fascists" - will have something to say here?" I'm not a member of either group. But to be a little playful, here's my question for Brown: Where was the scorn about "hatchet jobs" and "acid" when Metro Magazine did its own 'expose' on incumbent mayor John Banks?

Post script: MediaCow placed an illegal $20 bet with the best press secretary in parliament that Dick Hubbard would win the mayoral race. The reasoning at the time was: how could anybody vote against Berry Berry Crunch? MediaCow expects to lose $20, however: Hubbard has run an abysmal campaign, and seems rather short of ideas.

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