News Heroes and Villains: Serco, Sharks and Stars

News Heroes and Villains: Serco, Sharks and Stars
Our news heroes and villains on a week that featured a series of crazy meltdowns from celebrities like Taylor Swift and Dom Harvey and companies like Red Bull and Serco.

By Hayden Donnell

Taylor Swift has had a great year. She sold millions of copies of her A+ album, 1989, became CEO of Apple, and maybe murdered Katy Perry. Lately, musicians and celebrities have been travelling long distances to swear fealty and offer the firstfruits of their talent at her concerts.

No wonder Swift was taken aback when Nicki Minaj posted a tweet hinting at possible dissent. She quickly pointed out her benevolence, and encouraged Minaj to disband her fledgling rebellion.

That was a really bad idea.

Lots of people have expounded on the problems with Swift’s response, but in practical terms, setting the entire Internet on fire is just terrible for your levels of life satisfaction.

Serco can relate.

The company running Mt Eden prison received a lot of negative feedback this week for stuff like ‘being really bad at its job’. It turns out that prisoners aren’t really meant to start fight clubs. And if they do, you’re really meant to say stuff like ‘stop’ and ‘don’t’. What you’re not meant to do is sit on the information for 18 months until people find out about it by watching videos posted on prisoners’ Facebook pages.

Swift took action where none was needed. But Serco didn’t take action where some was desperately needed. It wins a temporary break from running Mt Eden prison, and a discount on corporate cab rides out of New Zealand.

By Newsworthy Executive Producer Jono Hutchison

When professional surfer Mick Fanning had a close encounter with a shark this week, lots of journalists called it an ‘attack’ – including us. Plenty of people pointed out that it didn’t appear to be much of an attack, given that Fanning escaped almost entirely unscathed. We thought it was a fair point, so we amended our wording. Anyway, I’m getting distracted. Much like the entire news media when it was announced Fanning would hold a media conference upon his return to Australia. Why? He’d already done plenty of interviews about what happened, including one live interview on the boat he’d just climbed onto in order to escape the shark.

Still, journalists scrambled to watch the live media conference and to stream it online. Fanning emerged, flanked by fellow surfer Julian Wilson. But then the real hero appeared – Red Bull. The logos in the background, the cans of energy drink held by the surfers: the branding was as obvious as a fin slicing through the surface of the sea. And yet there it was, live-streamed around the world. Journalists were embarrassed about being baited so easily so they tried to write take-downs of the publicity stunt so they’d feel better about being duped. But it was too late. Red Bull had defeated the media.

This week there were plenty of sharks circling online after The Edge DJ Dom Harvey tweeted about Dancing With The Stars contestant Chrystal Chenery. The tweet doesn’t bear repeating but it included a photo of her crotch and a lewd comment. “It was a joke!” Dom’s email auto-responder probably said. “It was obnoxious and rude and violating!” the internet countered. The online thinkpieces rolled out during the week, culminating in Alex Casey’s erudite righteous anger, which struck chords so forcefully and so in tune with the public sentiment that the ensuing traffic crashed The Spinoff’s website.

Chenery, who did not ask to be dragged into this online furore, held her own. She talked of her fury at Harvey and called for him to be disciplined, despite the fact that doing so drew plenty of vitriol in her direction. She decided to take on an influential media figure, and she didn’t back down.

Decision: I’m ruling this one in favour of Chrystal. Red Bull was clever but their stunt kind of backfired on them, based on the eye-rolling that the media conference elicited. And I hate getting duped by marketing ploys.

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