TV3 is not exactly known for the quality of its journalism. But when it comes to matters that involve non-Western countries its coverage borders on high-decibel scare-mongering.
On Valentine's Day this year, the channel ratcheted up the scare factor by declaring that roses imported from India are ''routinely dipped in poison'' at the port of entry in New Zealand.
That sounded real scary - and a little over the top. So I called up the channel and asked the correspondent what she meant by poison because in my dictionary it means something that kills you in the following time spans:
1. Instantly or in minutes
2. Hours or days
Indians are one of the world's greatest litterers. If throwing plastic bottles out of a moving car becomes an Olympic event, then Indians will run away with gold, silver, bronze and fourth place as well.
Last year I and a friend took a road trip across the western state of Rajasthan, my favourite destination in India. Although I was impressed by the smooth, well-marked and picturesque six-lane highways, something seemed odd. And then it hit me - every 100 metres or so you could spot an empty mineral water bottle or a Lays wrapper caught in the hedges planted in the road divider.
Littering in the great outdoors is nothing less than a crime because there's no such thing as rubbish collection out there. It was especially galling because the hills we were driving through once provided refuge for great Hindu warriors who had sacrificed everything - including their kingdoms - while fighting off marauders from Turkey, Central Asia and the Middle East. But apparently most Indians have forgotten all that and litter such historic places.
So when I heard that some idiots from Hillsborough in Auckland were seen dumping ''multiple bags of flowers, cooked food, tinfoil, plastic bags and plastic bottles into the sea'' my first hunch was these must be Indians. More specifically, Hindus.
My guess was spot on, as this Fairfax report shows. A kayaker who often visits the area says that "on any given day he will see fruit and flower debris on the shore".
A cricket story - clearly apocryphal - from the WWII era goes like this. German leader and mass murderer Adolf Hitler is being driven through the Berlin countryside and sees a bunch of people in all-white attire playing a strange - and rather listless - game.
Hitler orders his driver to stop and asks his adjutants what the hell is going on.
''Cricket, mein Fuhrer. It's an English sport,'' says one of his Nazi flunkies.
Watching intently, the German leader says, ''How many players in each team?''
''Mein Fuhrer, there are 11 men to a side, and then there several extras and two umpires,'' the adjutant replies, and then provides a short description of how cricket is played.
It is amazing how Christmas has come full circle. In the pre-Christian era, it used to be a fertility festival celebrated by European pagans, who did not believe in a male "jealous god" and his "only son".
Two thousand years later, the pagans are gone but Christmas is now celebrated by Europeans, who do not believe in a male jealous god or his only son. Today in much of the Western world Christmas is almost completely shorn of its religious association.
It is because of this delinking of Christmas from Christianity, that Christmas has become a truly global festival. For instance, I find myself irresistibly drawn towards Christmas. Where earlier it used be just a day to sit at home and do nothing, now I'm drawn into the dazzle and sparkle of the festival.
Poking around I discovered that many non-Christian, non-European immigrants now celebrate Christmas, sometimes going all the way with Christmas trees, exchanging gifts, partying and merry making just as Christians and people of European origin do. (It's a bit like non-Hindus celebrating Diwali) For atheists like me, Christmas is tailor made for the good times. I'll say hallelujah to that!
That's not what we wanted!
For the first time in their careers, journalists are faced with the unenviable task of writing about the demise of their profession. Sure, it's a bit pre-emptive, but journalists - especially in print - have reasons to be worried.
The Audit Bureau of Circulations reports that the circulation of The New Zealand Herald has dropped a hefty 10.63 per cent during the last 12 months.
My schadenfreude at the Herald's plight lasted only a couple of minutes until I saw figures for my own group papers. Sunday News has lost a jaw dropping 17.67 per cent and Sunday Star Times is down 8.04 per cent in the same period.
Amazingly, not a single newspaper in New Zealand has registered an uptick in circulation. According to the Audit Bureau of Circulations website the lowest fall was that of the Greymouth Star which fell 1.82 per cent.
New Zealand isn't the only country where the newspaper industry is awash in red ink. It's a worldwide trend. The two major Japanese Shimbuns are down at least two million each from their peak 1980s circulation.
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