Andrea Vance – a disappointed Key fan

Orwell

Fairfax journalist Andrea Vance is annoyed with John Key, and rightfully so. But that hasn’t always been the case.

Fairfax reporter Andrea Vance is in the spotlight right now because apparently her phone records were handed over to the Henry inquiry – allegedly on the instructions of John Key.

The irony is that the subject of the inquiry, the Kitteridge report, found that the GCSB had been spying illegally on 88 New Zealanders and it is possible that this number now has to be bumped up by one.

Vance has come out quite strongly in an opinion piece today, criticising Key’s handling of the media. There is of course the serious issue of ubiquitous state surveillance, but Vance’s reaction also shows the narcissistic relationship mainstream media and politicians have.

Not so long ago, Andrea Vance was a great fan of Key’s. When he went on a trip to Latin America in March, Vance was his embedded reporter. Before he left, she wasted a half page (complete with graphics) in the Dominion Post on Key’s wardrobe, explaining the story behind every item he was putting into his suitcase. The ‘article’ was titled “Hot, Hot, Hot”.

When in Mexico, Vance duly reported on the important issue of whether Key thought that President Nieto’s wife was prettier than Bronagh. In Colombia, Vance took a picture of Key wearing a sombrero with the caption: “My media are going to love this.” Note the possessive pronoun.

And they did. Issues like the mass protest in Mexico City on Key’s arrival, or his strange decision not to attend Hugo Chavez’s funeral received less attention than his new hat.

Vance had good reasons to believe that she was in Key’s good books. As he said in Colombia, he wants the media to love him because he sees himself as a celebrity. But by publishing the damning report on the GCSB while Key was in China, Vance overstepped the mark. Now he has done what politicians and celebrities do: he dumped her when she was no longer of any use to him. She is now just one of those ‘knuckleheads’ who dared to criticise him over the appointment of his old school friend Ian Fletcher as director of the GCSB.

This must hurt, but Vance shouldn’t be surprised. Key’s view of the media as ‘knuckleheads’ is not that far removed from the army’s view of journalists as ‘subversives’ who pose a threat to the country, as has recently come to light with regards to John Stephenson who critically reported about the NZ army’s actions in Afghanistan. This was revealed by Nicky Hager, whose phone logs are probably the first thing the Prime Minister gets on his desk every morning.

Andrea Vance should learn one thing from this episode, and that is not to underestimate the length a government will go to in order to maintain its power. And to report about it critically.

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