The election campaign has brought to the fore a new style of television journalism.
It is aggressive, confrontational, highly opinionated and designed to provoke a reaction. Its chief practitioners are Patrick Gower and Duncan Garner of 3 News.
Both are astute political journalists who clearly see their role as much more than simply reporting. When Garner announces "This issue isn't going away", under the guise of making an objective statement about the political controversy du jour (such as the Cafe Urban furore), he does so with the confidence of a man who will make damned sure it doesn't go away.
But it's Gower who has obviously been designated TV3's resident attack dog, with a brief to get in politicians' faces.
3 News recently showed ACT leader Don Brash saying to Gower outside Wellington's Amora Hotel: "You are a deceitful bastard, quite frankly, and I don't want to talk to you anymore."
To goad the almost painfully polite Brash into responding so vehemently must have taken some doing, but I bet Gower went home that night feeling pleased with his day's work. It's just a shame that 3 News didn't explain the background to the exchange so that viewers could decide whether Dr Brash's accusation was justified.
Former ACT MP David Garrett subsequently wrote on Kiwiblog: "Gower is the prick who tried to goad me into dropping my bag and dropping him at Wellington Airport a year ago." Garrett, who was up to his eyeballs in political strife at the time, accused the journalist of blocking his path until a security man pulled him out of the way.
I watched that news item and agree that Gower seemed bent on provoking the volatile MP into lashing out. But as Mr Garrett said, that would have played into his hands.
Tripping politicians up, catching them out, is an honourable journalistic tradition. Gower had the usually cocky John Banks on the ropes last week over what was said over tea at Cafe Urban, and even John Key looked rattled in the face of Garner's questioning. Neither journalist lacks guts.
Yet there's something disconcerting about Gower's approach. You get the feeling that its purpose is to claim political scalps for the sheer sport of it.
He is a journalistic picker of scabs, a scavenger who swoops on the wounded. He scans the political landscape looking for any story that, with judicious editing and sneering voice-over, can be manipulated for maximum effect.
The Gower approach illustrates two trends in modern political journalism. One is to strive at all costs for what former British prime minister Tony Blair called "impact" something to excite the public's blood lust.
The other is to put the journalist at the centre of the story.
The modern political reporter is no longer content to be a passive observer, but wants to be a player a maker and breaker of careers.
This is an excellent piece from Karl du Fresne, who is a respected figure in the journalistic world. We find his closing three paragraphs especially interesting.
We actually disagree with him marginally over the comment regarding the public's blood lust. We don't believe that said blood lust is anywhere near as strong as certain media figures, icluding Messrs Garner and Gower believe it to be. We would argue that those who are lusting for blood the most are the media figures themselves.
But we heartily agree with the final two paragraphs, and indeed it is an argument which we have made ourselves; that the media these days is morew concerned with making or even being the news, than merely reporting it.
When the dust settles after election day, we hope that journalists like Duncan Garner, Patrick Gower and Bryce Johns of the Herald on Sunday pause for breath, and read some of the comments that have been written about them in recent days. If they are honest with themselves, and if they are prepared to look objectively at their tactics, they cannot help but conclude that, to paraphrase Winston Churchill, people will say, this was NOT their finest hour.
Well said Karl du Fresne.