Why the Max factor was necessary

Roy Pilott

Ōtorohanga Mayor Max Baxter deserves high praise for breaking a Covid mould.

Since the arrival of Covid, the government, health boards and local bodies have staged managed information releases where and when they want.

Mayor Baxter exposed that nonsense on Sunday when he released news about two cases in Ōtorohanga rather than wait 23 hours for the government to do so at its 1pm media stand up.

Now Waipā councillor Hazel Barnes says she was told to keep quiet about Covid information.

This is a pandemic, it’s not time for publicity stunts.

Health boards are struggling to reach their vaccinations targets.

We wonder if they have asked themselves how many of those unvaccinated people are not living in the digital world – and rely on genuine community newspapers.It is a point not lost on Cr Barnes, who said many people she knew relied on their community newspaper for news.

Take Super Saturday publicity.

It was so staged for digital and television that community newspapers like your News – one of more than 80 in the country – could not provide readers with something as basic as a list of vaccination points.

The information was rolled out on the eve of the big day.

When a case was discovered in Karāpiro earlier this month and news spread through the Waipā community, it was the News which broke the story.

The official announcement was being held back for TV audiences at 1pm.

For health boards to hit targets, they must change their media approach and acknowledge the importance of, rather than shun, community newspapers.

Our message to health boards, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Covid Minister Chris Hipkins is simple – tell your communications people to communicate, not orchestrate.

This is a pandemic, it’s not time for publicity stunts.

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