Why you should care about John Campbell's demise

John Campbell
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John Campbell

OPINION: 

This is a column dedicated to those of you who couldn't give two tosses – are possibly cheering even - about the demise of Campbell Live.

For me, Hilary Barry probably summed it up best when she broke down while reading the news last Thursday night. That would be the same day that the Budget was released.

In that Budget some relief was chucked at beneficiaries with children in the form of $25 extra per week. Oh the irony. John Campbell's relentless coverage of the stark reality of child poverty was probably the single biggest factor for bringing that about.

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Nah, you say? Well, how would you know if you're so busy not watching Campbell Live

To those on the centre-right of the political spectrum there appears to be two common denominators. You tend to watch Seven Sharp for your fix of evening current affairs, and you generally despise the poor.  

I mean, John Campbell's constantly been out there talking to the people that you, and this current government, would really rather prefer we all forgot about.

The many in Christchurch still struggling to settle with their insurers. The children who go to school hungry every day. The people trying to get a foothold in Auckland onto the property ladder. Those affected by natural disasters. The list is long and limitless and, if you're honest, it makes you feel uncomfortable, or angry or bored. Or all of those emotions.

But if you're wondering, that emotion you're not feeling is called empathy. Which is what Campbell Live has in spades. Which is why many people on the centre-left are gutted about it ending.

Let me try and explain to those of you on the right why we feel this way. Bear with me. I used to be one of you.

A farming friend of very long-standing asked me just the other day what had happened to me. How did an agricultural stalwart, ex-provincial president of Federated Farmers even, go from rugged individualism to the "lefty, woofter -ish" character now before them?

It was a great question. Put simply, one day it dawned on me that economic disparity and inequality is the greatest threat to humanity as we know it (apart from climate change), and absolutely no good will ever come of it.

Why, I said to her, do we think that despising the poor, the dispossessed, the vulnerable is leading us anywhere but downhill? Fast.

She listened respectfully, nodding here and there, even agreeing occasionally. Had I switched on a lightbulb in her head? Was she too suddenly feeling the warm, sadness-tinged glow of compassion for others?

Not on your life. Basically, she said, it's all their own fault. You know, that old chestnut about us all creating our own success in life. Race, class and culture have no bearing on it whatsoever. In fact, "they" shouldn't even get the dole or any hand-up whatsoever. Full stop.

Of course, this is a common world view. This is the very world view that dominates our government, our TV executives, and most of the Western world. My friend is in good company.  

But so am I. I'm in the company of decent New Zealanders who are extremely upset and angry about Campbell Live's canning.

It's because it represented so much more to us than just a current affairs programme. It was the last mainstream media hope in the new neoliberal hell called New Zealand.

Campbell made us "do-gooders" feel like someone cared. He worked for the ordinary people, and held the powerful to account. Which, of course, is probably why he's gone.

In 2015's version of society, where most people happily choose to stand on the heads of the less fortunate and only a few choose to lend a hand, John Campbell was crucial. He represented all that was decent and all that was fair.

I know that, Hilary Barry knows that and, truth be told, even you know that.

Hilary Barry broke down on screen because she has humanity. It's an old-fashioned concept but she has it.

I want that in my journalists. You know, an insertion of themselves into the fight we're in with the new dumbed-down, corporate, soul-sucking world. 

Campbell Live's demise strikes me, on so many levels, as the beginning of the end of good, solid journalism.

You're not worried about that? You should be.

 - Stuff

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