Normally I'm reluctant to criticise John Campbell because he's kind of endearing, but last night he earned my wrath. His half-hour interview with John Key was just so disappointingly vacuous. The two Johns smilingly exchanged banter, and there was almost no critical discussion of current issues whatsoever. Campbell has a habit of crossing that fine line between being personable and brown-nosing. Last night he deftly leaped over that line and didn't look back.
Really, the two Johns interview was symptomatic of the mainstream media's lightweight coverage of the entire election campaign. You wouldn't have guessed the world is in the midst of a credit crisis, food shortage or various military conflicts. Issues canvassed included John Key's chubbiness as a boy, and the fact that his daughter chose her own election night outfit. Hard-hitting stuff. The media's critiques of the election have over the last few years strayed away from the analysis of parties' policies, and towards speculation on the aesthetics of campaigns - who came across as more friendly in a debate, whose ads won awards, whose photo looked airbrushed. These details got far more scrutiny than, for example, the affordability of the financial packages released by both major parties to assist workers made redundant.
Campbell's most irksome moment occurred when he discussed Key's early life as the child of a solo mum. He suggested that Key's desire to be PM, formulated when he was a young man, was to do with the 'male leadership vacuum' of his home life. This was a moment of stunning intellectual laziness worthy of Paul Holmes. Woman-headed households have been held responsible for a great many things - producing truants, criminals and drug addicts are but a few examples - but they've never yet been blamed for producing Tory PMs, to my knowledge. Cambell knows better than to draw on reactionary gender stereotypes: it's hard to know why he did it, except to ingratiate himself. He seemed more interested in striking up some sort of personal rapport with Key than leaving viewers any better informed.
There's a place for lightweight, biographical pieces: Woman's Day. If we can't rely on our news and current affairs programmes to supply us with news and current affairs, we've got a problem.