Yes, we do know what’s going on in the world.
But we’re pretty much off the radar down here so we don’t care that much.
First, on TV here there is far less detail on world events. Generally current events on the news are presented as this-is-what-happened. Period. And you are left to make of it what you wish. Certainly there is no interminable parade of pundits like on US television. No blonde beauties like on Fox, or more ethnically diverse commentators as on the other channels, and no endless conga-line of retired generals, professors, doctors and political hacks.
You know, the endless authorities telling you how you are supposed to think and feel about every feint and nuance of events, and the commentators that one day are experts on drilling for oil in the Arctic, the next day can advise you on gall bladder surgery, and yet again, the following day on the soundness of the Federal Reserve’s decisions. One can’t help but stand in awe at the breadth of their knowledge and expertise! None of that here. In fact, as far as I can tell, there are no real television news celebrities here. And no ‘guests’ and hence none of that interrupting and talking over one another that has become the bane of American television discourse.
Also, you know how on US television when you hear someone with a British accent, they sound a bit more cultured and erudite . . . or perhaps you are just watching a golf or a tennis tournament. Well, not here. Everybody on TV generally has a British accent so they all sound the same. Even the Kiwi Billy Mays in the commercials trying to get you to buy something to get the mold out of your shower. So no points are awarded.
There are three New Zealand news channels: One News, 3News and Sky News, the latter being a 24/7 news station that combines both Australia and New Zealand news. First thing, without being here, you can’t quite understand the obsession with sports primarily rugby in one form or another, but in a pinch, cricket, soccer, car-racing and even netball will do.
On the news there is a frantic rush by the reporters (men and women both) to get through the necessary evil of covering national and world news as quickly as possible in order to get on to sports. Indeed, there is a palpable sigh of relief when they finish talking about Ebola, ISIS, the usual shark attack in Australia or bludgeoning of someone on a beach there and the shop burglary in Auckland. Even during these early minutes of the news, the tape at the bottom of the screen is already showing rugby and cricket scores. The actual news seems to take five minutes.
“Now on to sports!” The announcer visibly lights up with the rest of the 30-minute newscast allotted to sports. There seem to be more cups, divisions, leagues and trophies than one can get a handle on. And endless replays of hard tackles, breakaway runs and kicks through the goal posts. And the angst that occurs when a prominent player is injured far exceeds any concern over anything that happens on the so-called international playing field of current events.
Oh, wait—there is a brief break for the weather report. We’ve been here almost six months and the weather map looks exactly the same each night. Again on Sky News it’s a package deal, we get Australia in with our weather or they get us. On the weather map, there is invariably a swirl of clouds around the edges of Australia, and the center of Australia is cloudless with Alice Springs standing out bare and lonesome in the middle with some ungodly hot temperature. Temperatures are in degrees Celsius. New Zealand always shows the same twirling pattern of clouds with rain somewhere. Occasionally we get the dreaded isobar weather map—what does it all mean? I just want to know whether it’s going to be hot or cold and whether it’s going to rain or not. There is always a front coming or leaving—New Zealand weather.
We do get CNN and Fox News on cable. Occasionally on Fox News they say, “Welcome to our viewers on Sky TV down in New Zealand,” and we cheer.
There are two main newspapers here, The Bay of Plenty Times, which covers local news and The New Zealand Herald, the national newspaper based in Auckland.
Anyone killed anywhere in the county will make the papers since there are only around 40 homicides in the entire country of New Zealand each year. By comparison, the United States has more than 14,000 homicides/year (0.9/100,000 in NZ vs. 4.7/100,000 in the US). Car crashes are a popular topic, animals being lost or rescued (dogs seem to take a prominent role), the usual political posturing and stories on how people can’t find jobs or afford houses. Oh, there is a large pullout sports section.
As an added bit of interest, prostitution is openly advertised in the classified section of the newspapers. The ‘name’ of the girl is given followed by a number of particulars and a phone number. A bit of history—prior to 2003, prostitution in New Zealand was governed by the Massage Parlours Act 1978 which controlled prostitution under the guise of massage. In 2003, the Prostitution Reform Act decriminalized brothels, escort agencies and soliciting. New Zealand’s prostitution laws are some of the most liberal in the world which is perhaps a bit surprising given that sex isn’t in your face here at all like it is in the US.
On a sadder note, recently in the small community where we live, a five-year old boy was swept away by a large rogue wave on the beach while being watched by family members. For days, the nearby shoreline of “The Mount” where we live and where he was lost was closed with the area being searched by boats, divers and other personnel. Along with this there was a tremendous outpouring of concern and grief by the community. The body was never found and a makeshift memorial has grown on the trail alongside the beach where Jack went missing.