“Hey Clint” – on spin doctors and soundbites

By Toby Manhire In Politics

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When the Green Party’s Gareth Hughes was asked by 3 News reporter Tova O’Brien yesterday whether he was “pleased” that the NZ Power proposal with Labour had “really dented the government’s asset sales programme”, he turned to his adviser Clinton Smith, and said, “Hey, Clint – are we pleased?”

And lo, a meme was born. Or a bit of a laugh at Hughes and the role of the spin-doctor, at least.

 

The clip sparked a mostly good natured series of quips sporting the “Hey Clint” Twitter hashtag, even if some questioned whether it was reasonable for 3 News to have aired the exchange, which Hughes clearly didn’t expect to be broadcast.

It hardly seems to me to rank as ethicallysuspect – and the only thing that would really worry Hughes is that his face for a moment suggests they’re not just pleased but downright delighted.

The more interesting function of the clip is that it offers a rare glimpse at the soundbite-driven nature of news, and TV news especially – a brief rupture of the fourth-wall, and all that. And in that performance, it’s fair to say the media themselves are to an extent complicit.

It reminded me of a more excruciating example of a politician intent on getting the soundbite right.

When Ed Miliband gave reporter Damon Green the same answer over and over again – as he’d been briefed to do by his press minders: it was for a pooled clip, and they were determined to see their sculpted soundbite make the screen – it prompted Green to write an angry, exasperated account of the exchange.

 

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