It Speaks

 Today I got an email. Not just any old email. Not another advertisement for cheap petrol, but an email, all to me, from Steve Johns, the CEO of Swimming New Zealand (SNZ). I knew before I opened the message it was not going to be good news. The questions were only how bad and how should I respond. Rather than tell you about the content it is probably best to show you the whole thing. So here is the email with my thoughts afterwards.


Once again you have published incorrect information, this time about Bradlee Ashby.  Bradlee is not retiring and remains committed and focused on Tokyo 2020.  You have once again put 1 + 1 together and got 3, clearly in your continued crusade to discredit Swimming NZ and anyone associated with it.

I challenge you to take a few etc steps next time you settle down to your latte and come into the Swimming NZ office and confront face-to-face the people you so enjoy writing about.  We will gladly sit down at any time with you and answer any questions that you have and give you the facts about what we are doing.  Sadly however, I suspect that for you its too easy just to put pen to paper, write whatever pops into your head and not be interested in the negative impact that you have on people’s lives.  If you think your little blogs and constant attacks are helping swimming in NZ, then you are seriously mistaken – or is it just a fun little game you like to play?

I also challenge you to ‘open’ your blog so that individuals can comment on your posts and provide a bit of balance to your crusade.

The office door is always open.



PS, I look forward to your critiquing this email in your next blog!!

Steve Johns

Chief Executive Officer

Several of the following points may seem trivial but put together there an impression of insufferable arrogance. So let’s take them one at a time.

First addressing me as “David” and launching into his “you have published incorrect information” attack is not the way to begin an email to someone you have never met. That’s just bad manners. First correspondence to someone you don’t know requires “Dear David” or possibly even “Dear Mr Wright”. There then should follow a short sentence explaining your name and position. I’ve received communications from several well-known people involved in swimming, people who I clearly knew of before their email. Both Mark Schubert and Richard Quick, for example, introduced themselves before getting into what they wanted to say – even though I knew full well that one was the National Coach of USA Swimming and the other the Head Coach at Stanford University. Steve Johns clearly believes normal good manners don’t apply to him. His position is so important that polite formalities are superfluous. There is no excuse for bad manners. The Aqua Blacks bad behaviour clearly starts at the top.

Second, nowhere has Swimwatch ever said Bradlee Ashby was retiring. The post discussing the possibility was even called “This Morning’s Poolside Gossip”. Of especial importance this is what the post said, “I made it clear that I didn’t think much at all. I’d certainly wait for Swimming New Zealand (SNZ) to confirm the rumours. However, if the story turns out to be true, SNZ should say something very soon.” Only Steve Johns could twist my personal denial of Ashby’s retirement and a request for clarification from SNZ into a claim that Swimwatch had said the swimmer was retiring. If anything Swimwatch denied the rumours.

The middle paragraph is a small personal attack tantrum. Clearly Johns is talking to a small audience that has got into his ear about the Swimwatch post. My guess is that Bradlee Ashby and his father have taken exception to the publicity, especially the rumoured departure of Bradlee’s girlfriend, and have demanded action from Steve Johns. This is probably his response.

Johns then asks for Swimwatch to open its comments facility. It is relevant to explain why it was closed. We closed the facility because the blog had achieved a level of readership (200 plus a day) that meant we were getting twenty or thirty comments a day that were political, including support for Donald Trump, or for products for which we had no association. We deleted the unwanted correspondence but the volume meant it was taking far too much time. I was upset by the decision. I thought the arguments backwards and forwards were a positive feature.

But there is a solution – Steve Johns demands the right to reply directly on Swimwatch. Perhaps we could compromise and Johns could open the SNZ website to Swimwatch comments. You show me yours and I’ll show you mine.

Johns then says “the office door is always open”. That is positive and appreciated. Johns is a busy guy or I hope he is. Just give me a day and time and I’d like nothing more than to have a chat. Clearly he will know by now that the policy of central control is a personal problem of mine. I suspect “the facts about what we are doing” will struggle to alter a pretty firm policy position. However communication is a good thing and worth a try. Makes you wonder why this first email offer only took SNZ eight years to send.

And finally Johns concludes with a poor shot at sarcasm. He says, “I look forward to your critiquing this email in your next blog!!” He may be interested to read what the dictionary of English grammar says about using two exclamation marks at the end of a sentence. “More than one exclamation mark doesn’t have any meaning. An exclamation doesn’t get more “exclamationy” by more marks. Use of punctuation that doesn’t have any grounds in grammar would be more like decoration.” Pretty much describes the performance of SNZ – all decoration and no substance.

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