Is our media biased? A new website Media Bias has the result of a year’s analysis and found that it is:
This shows all the mainstream media outlets are biased towards the left and the only two right sources are blogs.
How bad is the bias? Karl du Fresne, who starts by saying he’s not a National supporter, writes:
In recent weeks I’ve watched with mounting disbelief as the network formerly known as TV3 has conducted what appears to be a sustained offensive against the National Party.
Initially I gave Newshub and its political reporters the benefit of the doubt, thinking perhaps the run of events was against National and over time the playing field would be levelled. But that hasn’t happened, leaving me convinced that Newshub is functioning as Labour’s unofficial propaganda arm.
I shouldn’t be completely surprised, because it’s happened before (I wrote about it here). But nine years on, the bias is even more explicit and infinitely more mischievous.
No one who believes in the importance of fair and impartial news media can accept this is right. Fair, accurate and impartial journalism is never more important than during an election campaign. Some of us can remember when in every newspaper newsroom, someone was assigned to tot up the daily column inches given to each of the major parties to ensure no one was given an unfair advantage. But Newshub doesn’t appear to care about maintaining even a pretence of neutrality. . .
He analyses the news and concludes:
It’s impossible to convey in words the striking disparity in this coverage. It’s relentlessly positive toward Ardern – fawning isn’t too strong a word – but strives tirelessly to nobble her main rival with stories of caucus disloyalty and belittling scenes from the campaign trail. On top of all this, O’Brien had the chutzpah last night to make sympathetic noises about the ordeal Collins is being put through. To paraphrase a quotation from Robert Muldoon when talking about his bete noire The Dominion: with friends like O’Brien, who needs enemies?
I detest this style of journalism. It attempts to place journalists at the centre of the action rather than on the periphery, where they belong. They abuse their power by seeking to influence events rather than simply reporting them in a fair and balanced way and allowing the public to make up their own minds. They are every bit as guilty of abuse of power as the most despised press baron.
And while some journalists insist on seeing themselves as morally superior to politicians, it can be argued that the reverse is true. As devious and self-serving as some politicians may be, they can still claim the moral high ground because ultimately they are accountable to someone: namely, the voters, to whom they must answer every three years. No journalists have to submit to that judgment. . .
It’s not just bias but attack dog journalism which, as Sarah Ditum writes, is bad for democracy:
. . . Yes, there’s a simple principle of right and wrong, truth and falsehood here — but simplicity is exactly the problem with the way a lot of issues are handled by the media.
Carve any subject down to its barest conflicts, and you won’t help people find enlightenment and resolution. Instead, you’ll make them feel attacked, embattled, inflexible. In a recent piece Amanda Ripley warned of the dangers of journalism that goes in pursuit of simplicity; and which has, unfortunately, the effect of making everyone more committed to the certainties they’ve already chosen. Instead, she says, they should look for complexity, arguing that “Complexity counters this craving, restoring the cracks and inconsistencies that had been air-brushed out of the picture. It’s less comforting, yes. But it’s also more interesting — and true.” . . .
Rather than attack people as liars or presume their bad faith, Ripley suggests journalists should look for ways to open conversations: instead of telling people what they think, ask them about why they believe the things they do. Often, the things that people seem to be at odds over are just proxies for underlying issues; and sometimes, those underlying issues are more tractable than you ever expected.
It’s even possible that the questioner could be the one to change their mind about something. A world where you might be the dumbass after all isn’t very reassuring, but it’s a lot more plausible than one where you’re only ever right.
Newshub is privately owned and therefore has more freedom to take a side but TV1 and RNZ which are also biased towards the left have a duty to be non-partisan.
We’d be better served at any time if all media focussed much more on political performance and policy than personality, if journalists sought to understand and if they didn’t try to tell us what to think. That is even more important during an election campaign.