Bias only wrong when it’s right

January 16, 2018

Green Party candidate Hayley Holt is to join Jack Tame as a host on TV1’s Breakfast show.

Holt, 36, stood for the Green Party in John Key’s Helensville electorate in last September’s general election. At 17th on the party list, she missed out on a place in Parliament.

A former New Zealand snowboarder, she previously hosted alternative sports news show The Crowd Goes Wild on Prime and the breakfast radio show on More FM. . .

If this was a National candidate there would almost certainly have been an uproar from the left.

They petitioned against Mike Hosking hosting pre-elections debates because of his views but he’d never been a candidate.

The left won’t be campaigning against her appointment because in their eyes and ears political bias is only wrong when it’s right and it’s alright when it’s left.

She’s not the first former candidate to front such a show. Paul Henry who fronted breakfast shows on both TV1 and TV3 once stood for National.

Many years before that, Brian Edwards who had been a Labour candidate, was an interviewer on political programmes.

Bias doesn’t necessarily make people wrong for such work and if  they are politically biased it’s better to be out in the open than hidden.

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Colin James on journalism

December 21, 2017

Colin James’ final column in the Otago Daily Times as a political journalist gives an insight into the craft of good journlaism:

. . . Journalists are close in to events but never part of them. They meet the powerful and the celebrated. Some are seduced into thinking themselves their equals. They are then lost to journalism.

Journalists make no momentous decisions. Celebrity ill-becomes them. They are a channel through which the powerful and celebrated talk to the people and the people talk back.

To others, the journalist seems greatly privileged to be alongside power and stardust. And the journalist is privileged. But not in the way most non-journalists think.

The privilege is to spend a lifetime learning.

A journalist can ask questions of almost everyone and almost all will answer: the powerful and celebrated, the knowing and skilled, the repositories of arcane science or ways of thinking and the “ordinary” guardians of understanding of a community or of a simple truth or of a good way to live an “ordinary” life.

They are all at the journalist’s call. They all teach a journalist who listens.

It’s the journalists who listen carefully who get the inside information and the scoops, not those who do the most talking.

Yet the journalist need not be expert or knowing or complete. The journalist needs understand only so much of a topic as readers-viewers-listeners want or need to know. The journalist has only to light on and illuminate an idea or project or nation or technology.

No other occupation offers that intense opportunity — to learn but not to have to know, to learn a little and move to the next learning.

For a half-century I have had that deeply enriching privilege.

The utu is to listen with respect.

I think he’s using utu in the sense of reciprocation or balance, not revenge.

A journalist is sceptical, alert to lies, deceit, backside-covering and charlatanism. But not cynical. A cynic has stopped listening and learning. A journalist is open. If not, the communication channel that is the journalist will choke.

The utu is also to write down or talk about the learning so that others can know what the journalist has learnt. . . 

My beat was politics and policy, a high privilege. Since politics is power, I met those in power and their advisers and came to understand and respect them, even those I could not admire. Many I the inner person came quietly to like.

Almost all in politics mean well. I learned they are different: they see, or affect to see, only one side of each many-sided story the journalist sees.

Most do indeed mean well, which shouldn’t be confused with mostly doing good.

And since politics seeps into almost every corner of a nation’s life, I met thousands of interesting people from nearly every walk of life.

I met many more when I could put my email address under what I wrote and readers could write to me easily.

Almost all were thoughtful and courteous. The tiny few who were angry or abusive almost all recovered the courtesy and decency that is in everyone when I replied with courtesy and respect. . . 

Courtesy and respect – some regard them as old-fashioned but values like that should never go out of fashion.

The  media would be better if there was more of  both, from journalists, to those they deal with, and from those who respond to what they see and hear in the media.

P.S.

I met James a few times and was impressed by both his courtesy and his knowledge.

He told me that his determination to be impartial kept him from voting.

I don’t think journalists have to refrain from voting to be impartial in their work.

But I wonder if  it’s just coincidence that the examples he picks in this paragraph are from the left or if they give a clue to James’ political leaning:

. . . When David Lange died and the Greens stood in his memory opening their 2005 election campaign, I the journalist stayed sitting while I the inner person behind the journalist secretly stood. There was the same wrench when the Council of Trade Unions conference in 2015 stood in memory of the fine Peter Conway. . .

You can catch up with James’ writing at his website.


Front up Fonterra

December 14, 2017

On the AM Show this morning Duncan Garner criticised Fonterra for not fronting up.

The company had been asked to come on the show to talk about the price of butter.

No-one would.

I don’t understand why.

Explaining the high price of butter is simple.

After years of being advised to eat less fat in general and less butter in particular, the advice has changed. Butter is no longer the bad diet bogey it was, people are discovering, or rediscovering, the joy of it and demand has risen faster than supply.

How hard would it have been for someone from the company to explain that?

This isn’t the first time Fonterra wouldn’t front the media. If the company doesn’t want all the good its advertising campaign is doing to be undone it must be the last.

Chief executive Theo Spierings is paid an eye watering amount to run the company.

I don’t have a problem with that but I do have a problem if he isn’t doing his job properly. Part of a CE’s job is to front the media or, if he’s not the right person to do so, to find that person and make sure s/he does.

Fonterra is running a very good advertising campaign which shows the interconnections between everyone who contributes to making the company work and work well and the economic and social benefits of that.

It’s not just about converting grass to milk and processing and selling it. It’s about all the people who use the milk and the ones who do the work between the paddock and plate, glass or cup who enable them to do so.

It’s a really good story but there is a huge risk that good will be undone if the company turns down requests to front the media.


Ag journalists recognised with awards

October 16, 2017

The role of agricultural and rural journalists is even more important now that fewer people have links to farming and rural New Zealand.

The best have been recognised in the annual Guild of Agricultural Journalists’ Awards.

Wellington-based Radio New Zealand Radio Rurals journalist took out the top award for agricultural journalists at the 2017 awards night for the New Zealand Guild of Agricultural Journalists and Communicators.

Alexa Cook won the supreme award, the Ministry for Primary Industries Rongo Award, which recognises excellence in agricultural journalism. She won the award for coverage of a week-long mustering in Muzzle Station, the first after the Kaikoura earthquake. Her items were featured on Morning Report, Checkpoint, and Insight programmes and on the Radio NZ website. 

Rural New Zealand is very well served by specialist rural and farming publications but many of these are delivered free only to those on rural delivery postal routes.

Radio NZ, is broadcast nationwide with a big urban audience which means Alexa’s work has a broader reach in both town and country.

Runner-up in the MPI Rongo Award was The Dairy Exporter team of NZ Farm Life Media, for several features, particularly the Team Building feature.

Other award winners were:

  • The AgResearch Science Writers Award, established to enhance standards of science writing, especially about pastoral agriculture, was won by Alexa Cook and Carol Stiles
  • The Rural Women New Zealand Journalism Award was won by Sally Rae of Oamaru, for articles which appeared in the Otago Daily Times
  • The Federated Farmers Broadcast Journalism Award was won jointly by Carol Stiles and Alexa Cook
  • The DairyNZ Dairy Industry Journalism Award which recognises the ability to communicate the complexities of the dairy industry, was won by Jackie Harrigan for articles in The Dairy Exporter.
  • The inaugural Zespri Export Journalism Award, which recognises the vital importance of exports to the New Zealand economy, was won by Fairfax Media’s Gerard Hutching.
  • The Alliance Group Ltd Red Meat Industry Journalism Award, which focuses on all aspects of the red meat industry was won by Alexa Cook, of RNZ Rural News
  • The Beef + Lamb New Zealand News Award, which recognises excellence in hard news journalism, focusing on any aspect of the beef and sheep industry, was won by Nigel Stirling for articles in Farmers Weekly and NZX Agri’s Pulse, both on trade talks.
  • The Federated Farmers Rural Photography Award was won by Des Williams, for a photo which appeared in Shearing magazine.
  • The inaugural Rural Women New Zealand Rural Connectivity Award, recognising the importance of connectivity to rural communities and agri-businesses in rural areas, was won by Alexa Cook.
  • The Guild’s own award – the Agricultural Journalism Encouragement Award – is designed to encourage and recognise excellence among journalists with three or less years reporting on agricultural issues. This year, it was won by Brittany Pickett, of Invercargill, for articles which appeared in the NZ Farmer.

 

The ODT covers Sally’s Rae award here.


No more Rural Delivery?

October 10, 2017

The future of Rural Delivery is under threat after missing out on NZ On Air funding:

Federated Farmers is disappointed to learn that TVNZ’s Rural Delivery programme has missed out on the latest round of NZ on Air funding.

The programme which profiles rural New Zealand and the primary sector, highlighting farmer ingenuity and innovation is now facing an uncertain future as it considers other funding options.

“One has to question the decision making at the NZ on Air. From what I know their programming is supposed to reflect and develop New Zealand identity and culture, ” says Katie Milne, Federated Farmers National President.

“Rural Delivery surely meets that criteria and has done for the past 13 years-so what has changed?”

“This show has been attracting on average over 50,000 viewers per episode, which in the today’s competitive broadcasting environment is pretty reasonable for screening at 7am on weekends.”

The timing of decision is also unfortunate as the agriculture sector, especially farming is becoming increasingly concerned about its image among urban New Zealanders highlighted by the recent political campaigning.

“We’ve been saying this for some time now, the need for urban and rural New Zealand to reconnect. Our challenge, as farmers, is to tell our story and we rely on programming like Rural Delivery to help get that message across.”

Katie says the programme deserves a future and perhaps a different time slot from the current weekend time, would attract a bigger and more diverse audience.

“I’m not convinced that NZ on Air’s decision reflects the opinions of most kiwis. This type of programming is still popular with the mainstream and if it can’t be saved it will be a sad day for New Zealand broadcasting, as was the case with the The Dog Show,” says Katie.

Rural Delivery is available on demand  so the 7am Saturday time slot isn’t much of an issue.

The programme is sponsored by Rabobank and it might be able to find more sponsors but the failure to get NZ On Air funding threatens its ability to continue.

The loss of one of the few  programmes which informs and educates, treats its audience as intelligent and showcases positive rural people and developments is concerning.

New Zealand is unique in the developed world for the importance of agriculture to its economy.

When the majority of the population are urban based and have little connection to or knowledge of agriculture and wider rural issues,  the media plays a vital role in bridging the rural-urban divide.

There aren’t many quality planks in the bridge between town and country. It would be a great loss if this one was cut out.


Breaking news – farmer works in snow

July 14, 2017

An Ormondville farmer didn’t let the snow stop him from working on the farm during the inclement weather on July 13, 2017.

It’s the caption for a photo of a farmer feeding out in the snow.

As the Facebook friend whose post alerted me to it asked:

. . .  what was he gonna do stay inside and leave his stock without feed? ‬ go away to the islands on a holiday? Call the cattle and tell them that s/he wasn’t coming in today?

Sigh.

How could someone not know that farmers, like those in quite a few other occupations, not only continue to work in inclement weather, they have to work harder and often not in spite of it but because of it?

UPDATE:

The caption has been updated to:

An Ormondville farmer feeds out supplements to cattle.


Rural round-up

June 5, 2017

It’s Complicated: Is NZ Media’s Relationship with Kiwi Farmers Busted? – Ben Stanley:

I’m a farm kid, and a journalist, and right now that’s an awkward position to be in.

There’s a name you don’t say out loud in rural New Zealand right now unless you want to draw scorn and outright disgust.

It’s the name of one of my childhood heroes.

For the majority of the 1990s, Cameron Bennett was New Zealand’s foreign correspondent; our eye on international conflict and disaster. He’d travel to Iraq, Russia, Afghanistan and the West Bank and report back home with his gritty, but revealing, insights on war and why people make it. . .

A water battle looms in NZ’s Middle-Earth desert – Matthew Brockett & Tracy Withers:

In the rugged heart of New Zealand’s South Island, a high-altitude desert where the men of Middle-Earth made their last stand in the “Lord of the Rings” movies has become a battlefield once again.

Environmentalists and farmers are clashing over the Mackenzie Basin, an area known for its scorched-brown grasslands and crystal-blue lakes – and now, massive irrigation systems that are spreading circles of emerald-green pasture across the Mars-like terrain.

“It’s similar to greening the desert of Nevada or California,” said Annabeth Cohen, a freshwater scientist at environmental group Forest and Bird. . .

Mackenzie Basin set to lose $1.2b in farming production if wildings aren’t controlled  – Pat Deavoll:

The Mackenzie Basin could lose $1.2 billion in farming production a year if the spread of wilding conifers is not brought under control, said Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) wilding programme manager Sherman Smith.

Few species would survive if the basin was smothered by wildings, he said.

“If the basin is taken over by wildings, that’s 50 cumecs (of water) drained out of the Waitaki system, biodiversity that would suffer and there would be a lot of species that wouldn’t survive,” said Smith at the Federated Farmers High Country Conference, . .

Cut debt or go  – Hugh Stringleman:

Dairy farmers with unsustainable debt who can’t build equity buffers with profits should exit the sector, Reserve Bank governor Graham Wheeler says.

But Federated Farmers dairy chairman Andrew Hoggard says Wheeler used outdated figures when he warned the dairy sector was still a financial risk to the economy and banks should monitor it closely.

“The uncertain outlook for dairy prices and the rising proportion of highly indebted farms means there remains a risk that non-performing loans could increase in coming seasons. . . .

Whitehall kiwifruit growers come out the other side of Psa disease – Gerald Piddock:

It’s been a slow road to recovery for Mark and Robyn Gardiner since Psa ripped through their kiwifruit business.

Called Seudomonas syringae pv. actinidiae, the deadly viral disease was first discovered at their 200 hectare Whitehall Fruitpackers operation in 2010.

Left unchecked, Psa destroys green and gold vines and spawns leaf spotting, cankers and shoot dieback.

At the worst point of the outbreak, Mark cut out 40ha of his 16 Gold kiwifruit crop as well as partial cuttings of green fruit. At the same time, the more resistant G3 variety was grafted to the vines. . .

Farm win gets civic reception – Hugh Stringleman:

Winning the Ahuwhenua Trophy for Maori Excellence in sheep and beef farming was the achievement of a lifetime for Northland farm manager Lloyd Brennan and his staff, he told Hugh Stringleman.

The Ahuwhenua Trophy might be scheduled for another visit to Kaikohe, the Northland town that needs to celebrate success and encourage more young Maori into farming.

A civic reception was being planned by the Far North District Council with the Omapere Rangihamama Trust (ORT) and its board of trustees, headed by Sonny Tau. . .

National ambassadors for sustainable farming recognised:

The winners of the national ambassador title for the Ballance Farm Environment Awards describe their farm as the largest lifestyle block in Taranaki.

Ohangai sheep, beef and dairy farmers Peter and Nicola Carver won the National Ambassador title over 10 other regional supreme winners at the National Sustainability Showcase event at the Ascot Park Hotel in Invercargill on May 31.

Operating as Holmleigh Trust Partnership, the couple combine dairy and dry stock farming on their 515ha family property east of Hawera. . .


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