Pravda Project at work

01/10/2021

Is the media biased?

I can understand reluctance to give any oxygen to conspiracy theories, but it is possible to write a story on this extraordinary response without doing that.

 

Could the reluctance to report this have anything to do with the Public Interest Journalism Fund which Karl du Fresne calls the Pravda Project.

. . . Judith Collins and David Seymour were putting the heat on Jacinda Ardern over Labour’s so-called Public Interest Journalism Fund. Collins wanted to know whether the fund – applicants for which must commit to Treaty principles and support for te reo, among other things – was influencing the editorial decisions of media outlets. Seymour more pointedly asked what would happen to a media outlet that had accepted money from the fund but wanted to report something deemed inconsistent with Treaty principles.

Ardern brushed off the questions as if they weren’t worthy of an answer, but that’s by the bye. What interests me is whether the exchange in the House was reported by any media outlet that has accepted, or has its hand out for, money from the fund.

This highlights another potentially disturbing and insidious aspect of the media slush fund. Can we expect mainstream media outlets to report criticism of the fund or possible revelations and concerns about its misuse, or will that be left to independent journalists such as Adams?  

You see what’s happening here? I’m already wondering whether the media are choosing to ignore stories about the fund that might not reflect favourably on it or them. The mere fact that it’s necessary to ask this question shows how media companies compromise their credibility by accepting money from a highly politicised government agency.  

Incidentally, “Public Interest Journalism Fund” strikes me as a bit of a mouthful, and time-consuming to type, besides. So I’m giving it a shorter, punchier name: the Pravda Project, after the old Soviet Union’s esteemed official press organ, on the assumption that the PIJF will exhibit the same fearless independence and unstinting commitment to the truth. 

Michael Basset has similar concerns:

. . . The availability of money, coupled with a completely absent sense of constitutional propriety, appear to offer the divine intervention Ardern and Robertson need going forward. Their gig is to bribe the media in the run-up to the next election in the hope that they will save Labour. This is happening in two ways. First, the direct distribution of cash from the Public Interest Journalism Fund aimed at keeping the media on side until the next election. All the big daily papers have dipped into it already, and applications are now open for a further swag of taxpayer money. The second way the government is trying to keep the media on side is by over-paying them for printing the masses of Covid announcements. I’m reliably informed that the government negotiated none of the regular discounts available to those who advertise on a grand scale in newspapers and TV. The expectation is that none of the media greedies will bite the government hand that feeds them. Or not very hard.

If my information is correct, it is corruption, pure and simple. In normal circumstances there would be rebellion. But in the topsy-turvy world of this pandemic, I’m not sure that anyone any longer cares much about constitutional propriety.

Privately owned media has a lot more leeway in what it chooses to report and how it reports it.

But publicly owned media has a much greater responsibility to be balanced and fair.

Regardless of whether its privately owned or publicly, the Pravda Project makes it look like the media is softer on the government and harder on the opposition which leads it wide open to accusations of bias.


To name or not to name

14/09/2021

To name or not to name the couple who left Auckland and went to Wanaka, is a question before the court:

The Free Speech Union is calling for the couple – one reportedly a child of a Government official – who breached lockdown not to have name suppression says Free Speech Union spokesperson, and lawyer, Stephen Franks.

Both are adults, their parents and what any of them do ought not to be relevant.

“Name suppression will be the worst move for the Auckland couple charged with a cunning move to Wanaka via Hamilton. There are no good reasons for name suppression, and three bad ones.

“First, shame – the fear that your hypocrisy or lying will be uncovered should be a primary deterrent.

“Second, shame should be the main punishment for a ‘social’ crime. Police resources and court time are wasted in such cases, which would not be true if the community were able to impose a more natural and automatic punishment and if Stuff was free to publish what it ‘knew’. Insider arrogance and the love of having ‘secret knowledge’ lies behind much of our substitution of police and court resources for open reporting.

“Thirdly, in this case name suppression will be an own goal. The Streisand effect will operate eventually even if the defendants are tempted by the thought that they can hide their shame behind a court order, and even if the QC gets them a discharge based on some technicality.

“Effectiveness of community consensus against contagion depends on the restrictions being seen as fair. Name suppression will contribute to suspicion, that the elite don’t think the cost of lockdown, let alone the health risks of Covid spreading, outweighs an embarrassment cost to some of them scoffing at the law. We need to see the law being enforced, with details that will deter others.

“We, the public, should know. Freedom of speech is our right to know, not just journalists’ right to tell us. Free speech protects us from potential hypocrisy of powerful insiders. We need to see immediately that we are indeed equal before the law. And true remorse or contrition would have the people charged not trying to hide behind an application that is a byword for privilege.”

Yesterday afternoon I read that the couple’s lawyer was seeking name suppression.

A very few hours later I knew the couple’s names which left me none the wiser as I know neither. Several posts on social media show that lots of other people know too.

A suppression order would stop publication but it couldn’t make those who already know the names unknow them.

I agree with the FSU’s arguments against suppression, but the decision on granting it or not is up to the court.

You are welcome to debate the issue but any comments that attempt to share the names or identifying information will be deleted.


Rural round-up

29/07/2021

‘Groundswell’ expose rural/urban divide in media – Colin Peacock:

At the biggest national protest for years last week, farmers made it clear they are unhappy with the government and they feel unloved by the country – and the media. 

In one sense, the Groundswell protests in 55 towns and cities on 16 July last were poorly timed for farmers. 

It was not a great time to be away with heavy rain on the way that caused flooding in many places the next day. 

But in media terms, the timing was great.  . . 

Farmers’ Howl of a protest should have been front page news in all NZ newspapers – Shane Reti:

Why was one of the biggest protests of recent times relegated to the back pages of print media?

My expectation for print media on the first publishing day after the march (on Saturday, July 17) was that a protest of that breadth and size would have front-page coverage in the major metropolitan and regional newspapers.

I was surprised, then, when one of the biggest weekend papers relegated substantive reporting (assessed as page coverage) to page 5 behind a $20,000 fraud story on page 1, whiteware sales on pages 2 and 3 and free meals for schoolchildren on page 4.

Was a protest about land and fresh water and taxes really less important than whiteware sales? . .

Frustrated farmers ‘giving up’ on costly native bush restoration– Amber Allott:

On the other side of Banks Peninsula from bustling Christchurch, a sprawling, 1250-hectare forest runs almost from hill to sea.

Botanist Hugh Wilson has been restoring Hinewai Reserve from farmland to native bush since 1987 and it stands as a testament to what “letting nature get on with it” can achieve.

Hinewai sucks about 8 tonnes of carbon a hectare from the atmosphere each year and earns about $100,000 a year under the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS).

But the reserve registered for carbon credits before the ETS existed and now similar gorse-covered blocks slated for natural regeneration are having trouble qualifying for much-needed cash. . . 

Standing up for wintering practices – Blair Drysdale:

Recent photos of wintering practices in Southland has Blair Drysdale responding to the trial by media.

In general it’s the same group of people wanting dairy cows inside, who also campaign for pigs and hens to be outside.

Winter certainly has its challenges but it’s a very reliable season as it’s just damned cold every day and that suits me just fine. As farmers though, and especially those with breeding livestock, we like all the inclement weather with its southerly snowstorms to arrive now and not in spring.

The challenges are very real given we’re having a wetter than average winter which on the back of a dry autumn meant winter crops are below average, putting pressure on livestock and farmer.

Throw in some sneaky covert photography of stock on winter crops that get plastered over social and mainstream media by a few environmental activists and it is a pressure cooker situation for some farmers. The reality is that if they were genuinely concerned about animal welfare MPI would be their first port of call. . . 

Shedding sheep – wool you or won’t you? – Lee Matheson:

Are shedding sheep the answer to the wool industry’s woes? Lee Matheson, managing director at agricultural consulting firm Perrin Ag, investigates.

A perfect storm has been brewing.

Low wool prices, increasing shearing costs, dilapidated wool harvesting infrastructure (historically known as woolsheds), a tightening labour pool and an apparent lack of consumer recognition of wool’s inherent values and performance as a fibre, are all contributing to increasing moves towards shedding sheep.

It is a potentially divisive and emotive topic when raised with sheep farmers. . . 

Milking opportunities for dairy markets  :

Technical barriers remain a key challenge for Australian exporters seeking to expand market access across the region.

Dairy Australia have been awarded a $310,000 grant from the Australian Government to reduce technical barriers to trade across six markets in South East Asia.

Minister for Agriculture and Northern Australia David Littleproud said the grant would enable dairy exporters to build on our trade agreements.

“What this grant will do is identify and reduce the impact of technical barriers to trade,” Minister Littleproud said. . . 

 


Govt PR vs media, no contest

08/06/2021

Remember Jacinda Ardern’s promise to be the most open and transparent New Zealand had ever seen?

Andrea Vance writes that her promise to be open and transparent is an artfully crafted mirage:

. . . In her first formal speech to Parliament she pledged: “This government will foster a more open and democratic society. It will strengthen transparency around official information.”

Since then the numbers of faceless communications specialists have skyrocketed. The Government’s iron grip on the control of information has tightened.

And it is now harder than ever to get information. . .

In my 20-year plus time as a journalist, this Government is one of the most thin-skinned and secretive I have experienced. Many of my colleagues say the same.

Even squeezing basic facts out of an agency is a frustrating, torturous and often futile exercise. . . 

Such stonewalling might be common-place in dictatorships. It’s not supposed to happen in a democracy.

Vance gives examples of the difficulty she, and other journalists have, in getting information and notes why:

It’s now very difficult for journalists to get to the heart and the truth of a story. We are up against an army of well-paid spin doctors.

Since the current Government took office, the number of communications specialists have ballooned. Each minister has at least two press secretaries. (Ardern has four).

In the year Labour took office, the Ministry for the Environment had 10 PR staff. They now have 18. The Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Trade more than doubled their staff – up to 25.

MBIE blew out from 48 staff to 64. None of those five dozen specialists could give me those figures for many weeks – and again I was forced to ask the Ombudsman to intervene.

The super ministry – and its colleagues uptown at the Health Ministry – are notorious for stymieing even the simplest requests. Health’s information gatekeepers are so allergic to journalists they refuse to take phone calls, responding only (and sporadically) to emails.

But it is the New Zealand Transport Agency that take the cake: employing a staggering 72 staff to keep its message, if not its road-building, on track – up from 26 over five years.

There’s no contest in government PR versus the media.

PR staff will be paid far more than they’d get in the media and instead of providing information they’re keeping it from journalists and so from the public who pay them.

At every level, the Government manipulates the flow of information. It has not delivered on promises to fix the broken, and politically influenced OIA system.

It also keeps journalists distracted and over-burdened with a rolling maul of press conferences and announcements, which are often meaningless or repetitive and prevent sustained or detailed questioning.

In this age of live-streaming and blogging, organisations often feel obliged to cover every stage-managed utterance for fear of missing out. . . 

This isn’t openness, it’s obstruction in an attempt to hide the facts and present the fluff.

Perhaps the trials and tribulations of the nation’s journalists do not concern you. Why should you care?

Because the public’s impression of this government is the very opposite.

They see a prime minister that has captivated the world with her ‘authentic’ communication style, intimate social media postings, daily Covid briefings and proactive releases of Cabinet papers.

It is an artfully-crafted mirage, because the reality is very different. This is a Government that is only generous with the information that it chooses to share.

The government isn’t only withholding information from and manipulating it to the media, it’s obstructing the Opposition.

All of which begs the question: what are they hiding?


It’s us she’s not talking to

09/03/2021

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who communicates best of all?

I’m so good I pick and choose, to whom I grant my interviews.

Last week was hard, oh dearie me, someone wanted an apology.

I really need much more respect, so quick find a child so I can deflect.

There’s one in Ireland I believe, or let me tell you about mothering Neve.

I can nod and smile so sweetly to hide the fact hard questions beat me.

But I much prefer the softer asks, and wait for praise in which to bask.

The women’s mags give adoration and often global adulation.

That’s not what I get when I speak to Mike, that’s why I told him to take a hike.

 

We keep being told what a good communicator Jacinda Ardern is. That shouldn’t be a surprise when she has a degree in it.

But communication isn’t just about reading speeches and projecting warmth. It’s about being able to answer tough questions, to give firm and concrete replies not just waffle, and to deliver the message people need to hear and not just the one she wants to give.

She may have been lulled into a false sense of security by remarkable poll ratings and generally friendly, sometimes even sycophantic, reporting.

But it looks like she’s going to find out that if she bites the media, the media bites back.

Yesterday Mike Hosking told us she was no longer going to do a regular slot with him:

The Prime Minister has not been on the programme this morning, and there is a reason for that.

She is running for the hills.

She no longer wants to be on this programme each week. The somewhat tragic conclusion that is drawn is the questions she gets, the demand for a level of accountability, is a little bit tough.

Officially, her office will tell you they are re-arranging the media schedule this year and are maintaining the same number of interviews. This appears not to be true. . .Without being too unkind to some of the other players in this market, the reality is the Prime Minister enjoys a more cordial and compliant relationship. The questions are more softball. She favours a more benign pitch, where the delivery can be dispatched to the boundary more readily without the chance of an appeal. . . 

To be honest, I’m pleased. The management here, not quite as much. They argue accountability is important, and they’re right. But what I argue is the Prime Minister is a lightweight at answering tough questions. The number of times she’s fronted on this programme with no knowledge around the questions I’m asking is frightening. . . 

Those occasions are too many to be comfortable.

And then, your reaction. The two most often used lines post interview are “what was the point of that?” And “I don’t know why you bother.”

The reality is, too often it’s just noise. It’s waffle. It’s stalling. It’s filling. It’s obfuscation.

It’s a tricky scenario, she should be up for it. Any Prime Minister should be up for it. As a publicly elected official you are asked to be held to account. So, it stands to reason you, at least, put yourself up, even if you don’t enjoy it or at times struggle with the complexity or detail of the question line.

It speaks to a lack of backbone that she would want to bail and run. It also speaks to an increasingly apparent trait; they don’t handle pressure well. Last week was a very good display of that.

They say she’s willing to front on an issue-by-issue basis, so she isn’t gone forever.

As for the weekly bit, I lose no sleep. I’m just a bit disappointed she isn’t a more robust operator, or keener to defend her corner.

After all, it’s our country she’s running.

It is our country she’s running and while it’s the interviewers who are speaking to her, she’s not just speaking to them, she’s speaking to us.

They might ask questions she doesn’t want, or sometimes can’t, answer but they are asking the questions for us.

It’s called the fourth estate for a reason, it’s part of the democratic infrastructure and it’s got a job to  hold the powerful to account for us.

Heather du Plessis-Allan points out Ardern is turning her back on New Zealanders:

. . . Take out the characters involved. Take out Jacinda Ardern, take out Mike Hosking.   

This slot goes back 34 years.  Holmes, Lange, Palmer, Moore, Bolger, Shipley, Clarke, Key, English.  Those are a lot Prime Ministers prepared to front up and be held accountable.  It’s a long line of democratic history Jacinda Ardern has ended. 

I know that that it got combative between Hosking and Ardern but that’s how the big boys roll.  It’s tough at the top.  If you run the country, you should be able to take a few tough questions. 

I’ve been told a number of times that the prime minister finds the weekly round of interviews very stressful and she has herself admitted that she takes media criticism very hard.   

But it’s actually not Hosking that the PM is no longer speaking to weekly.  It’s voters: the biggest single catchment of voters listening to commercial radio in the morning.  It’s not the same to switch out NewstalkZB for a music radio station.  One is a news radio station – holding a democratic role – and the other is entertainment. 

But while I’m disappointed, I’m not surprised.  Ardern has shown a tendency to duck from tough interviews.  Recently, we’ve seen ample evidence that she’s happy to front the good stuff and make the big announcements, but when there are questions – like whether she started the pile on aimed at the KFC worker – she disappears and sends in her lieutenants. . . 

She has in the past cancelled media. I recall taking over ZB’s morning show in Wellignton.  John Key used to appear four times a year and take calls from voters.  Ardern cancelled that and appeared once in about 18 months, and refused to talk directly to voters.  

In 2018, she cancelled at the last minute her appearances on Newshub Nation and Q+A. But, she still made time to sit down with the New York Times for a soft interview in which the writer Maureen Dowd talked about her ‘fuzzy leopard slippers’.   . .  

People like to see the person behind the politician and a lot of will relate to her taking criticism hard, but she’s the Prime Minister and if she can’t take the hard questions and inevitable criticism she’s simply not up to the job.

Barry Soper calls her the accidental Prime Minister:

This rookie leader, plucked from obscurity in the lead-up to the 2017 election, was appointed by Winston Peters simply because she gave him much more than what Bill English was prepared to wear.

But she’s been confirmed by Covid, as the last election would attest to. Without Peters or Covid chances are she’d be leading the Opposition, although even that’s doubtful.

Having worked with the past 10 Prime Ministers, Jacinda Ardern would be the most removed from the media than any of them. This woman who has a Bachelor of Communications doesn’t communicate in the way any of her predecessors have.

She’s the master of soft, flattering interviews and television chat shows, blanching at tough questions.  She’s commanded the Covid pulpit to such an extent that the virus has become her security blanket; without it, she’d be forced to face the reality that her Government has been moribund.  

The Prime Minister’s press conferences usually begin with a sermon – it took eight minutes for her to get to the fact that she was moving the country down an alert level last Friday.  When it comes to question time her forearm stiffens and her hand flicks to those, she’ll take a question from.  Some of us are left barking from the side lines.

Ardern doesn’t relate to the messenger, the team of journalists who make up the parliamentary Press Gallery – they don’t know her.  

All of her predecessors got to know the parliamentary media by inviting them to their ninth floor Beehive office, at least a couple of times a year.  It puts a human face on the public performer.

Ardern has done it once, a few months after becoming the Prime Minister.     . . 

She’s a celebrity leader and she’s determined to keep it that way, which is why she’s turned her back on the Mike Hosking Breakfast Show. 

The questions were too direct, they got under her thin skin, but, more importantly, she didn’t know the answer to many of them. She was exposed on a weekly basis and it simply all became too much for her.    

In doing so she’s turned her back on the highest rating breakfast commercial radio show in the country by far and she has also turned her back of the many listeners who at the last Covid election (her description) switched their vote to her.

Leaders have in the past become exasperated with the media, and at times with good reason, but few, if any, have shied away from the tough questions.  The regular Newstalk ZB slot for Prime Ministers has been jealously guarded by them for the past 35 years.  This is the only regular slot she’s bowing out on. . .

Media 1 – Ardern 0.

Ardern’s fans will probably not be worried by this. Those who dislike her will be delighted that some of the shine has been taken off her glossy image.

It’s certainly not the end of her popularity but once you’ve got to the top there’s only one way to go, though not necessarily quickly.  When her time as Prime Minister has ended, historians and political analysts will look back at last week’s slip of the kindness mask and this serious media misstep as the time the downward slide began.


To see ourselves as others see us

02/12/2020

When I read reports on Peter Goodfellow’s speech to the National party conference I wondered if the journalists and I had been at the same event.

All took the same extract where he spoke about the impact of Covid-19 on the political landscape. He gave credit where it was due but also spoke of the grandstand it gave the government and especially the Prime Minister, and he mentioned media bias.

The reports gave credence to the last point. From where I was sitting the whole speech, of which the extract was a small part, was well received by the audience. But all reports were negative, and many commentators said the listeners didn’t like it, which was definitely not the impression I got. Most were surprised, even critical, that Goodfellow retained the presidency given the election result.

None appeared to understand that the president wasn’t responsible for the self-inflicted damage by some MPs  nor that while party members elect the board it is the board members who elect the president.

They might have known that he had called for a review of the rules after the last election. They were not privy to the report on that by former leader Jim McClay which was delivered in committee,  greeted with applause and well received by everyone I spoke to afterwards.

But why would they let the positive get in the way of the negative if it fitted their bias?

Bias, what bias?

The non-partisan website Media Bias paints the New Zealand media landscape decidedly red.

The almost universal lack of criticism has been noticed by Nick Cater who said media ‘diversity’ is alive but not at all well in New Zealand:

. . . The media paradise Rudd craves looks somewhat like New Zealand, where inoffensive newspapers compete for drabness and commentators are all but united in adoration of Jacinda Ardern.

You’ll struggle to read a word of dissent in the four daily newspapers. Mike Hosking and some of his fellow presenters are prepared to break from the pack at Newstalk ZB, but that’s it. Retired ZB host Leighton Smith remains in the fray as a podcaster and columnist but, when it comes to broadcast media, Hosking is Alan Jones, Chris Kenny, Andrew Bolt, Peta Credlin and Paul Murray rolled into one.

If the columnist listened to Magic Talk he might add Peter Williams and Sean Plunket to those who challenge the pro-PM narrative. But these are few against the many whose reporting and commentary are rarely anything but positive about Ardern.

The only hint of irritation at the Prime Minister’s weekly press conference is that she isn’t running fast enough with her agenda of “transformational change”, the umbrella term for the righting of social injustices, including those yet to be invented.

Ardern’s decision to hold a referendum on the legalisation of cannabis was widely praised as another step on the path to sainthood. The proposal was rejected by 51.6 per cent of voters, prompting this exchange.

Media: “In terms of governing for all New Zealanders, you do have 48.4 per cent of New Zealanders who did vote for legalised cannabis.”

PM: “And the majority who didn’t, and so we have to be mindful of that, too.”

Media: “But you’ve promised to govern for all of those New Zealanders, including the 48.4 per cent who did … there is an appetite among an enormous section of the population for something. And obviously the referendum did fail, but it doesn’t mean … ”

Can we assume that because 48.9 per cent of Americans didn’t vote for Joe Biden, Donald Trump can stay in the White House? Or does the ballot only count when the left is winning?

Those with a more sophisticated understanding of liberal democracy than “Media” (the generic name ascribed to journalists in the transcript, presumably because they are all of one mind) may be feeling a little queasy.

A Prime Minister who tells voters she chose politics because it was a profession that “would make me feel I was making a difference”, and holds an absolute majority in the parliament’s only chamber, is an accident waiting to happen. An independent media should be the first responders in such circumstances, ready to erect barriers in the path of the Prime Minister, should she swerve across the line.

Yet the press pack are not merely on the bus, they are telling her how to drive it.

New Zealand’s small population and splendid isolation are part of the explanation for the enfeeblement of its media. Ardern’s sledgehammer response to the COVID-19 pandemic hastened the decline.

In May, Nine Entertainment let go of the newspapers it inherited from Fairfax, The Dominion Post, The Press and The Sunday Star-Times, for $1 to a company that goes by the name of Stuff. It seems like a bargain given the copy of the Post at the newsstand will set you back $2.90, hardly a vote of confidence in the future of NZ media.

Yet market size is only part of the explanation. It doesn’t explain why, for example, in a country split politically down the middle, 100 per cent of daily newspapers and virtually every TV and radio station stand proudly with Ardern.

We can only conclude that commercial logic no longer applies. Media companies are no longer driven by the pursuit of unserved segments in the market. It’s not the product that is faulty but the customer. When commercially minded proprietors leave the building, the journalists take charge. They are university-educated professionals cut from the same narcissistic cloth as Ardern. They, too, want to feel like they are making a difference.

With the collapse of NZ’s Fourth Estate it is difficult to see what might stop Ardernism becoming the country’s official religion. The National Party is in no position to offer effective political opposition. The party that reinvented credible government in NZ is bruised from two defeats, uncertain who should lead or in what direction it should head.

Intellectual opposition is all but extinguished in the universities, but still flickers on in alternative media, blogs, websites and YouTube channels, which serve as a faint beacon of dissent.

Is this what Rudd seeks? The last thing a country needs is a prime minister basking in applause who switches on the news and finds herself staring at the mirror.

Would today’s journalists and commentators be familiar with Robbie Burns who wrote:

O, wad some Power the giftie gie us

To see oursels as others see us!

It wad frae monie a blunder free us,

An’ foolish notion.

If they are familiar with these words, would they attempt to see themselves as others see them and accept that not only are most biased but that it shows in their work?


Not just bias

23/10/2020

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.


Welcome back Listener

02/10/2020

The Listener is back and in her editor’s letter, Pamela Stirling writes:

. . . At a time when debate is increasingly polarized and governments around the world, including our own, are acting by decree with sweeping powers that represent the greatest infringements on our civil liberties in living memory, the need for strong, respected and independent media is greater than ever.

What’s certain is that never again in a democracy like New Zealand should an award-winning and profitable current affairs publication like the Listener be so casually deemed “non-essential” by the central government. While we supported, in general, New Zealand’s stance in fighting COvid-19 we cannot, even now understand why magazines were the only products banned from the supermarkets.

This was just one of many examples where the arbitrary and contradictory essential shut down businesses which could have operated safely had safe been what governed decisions.

As the March lockdown began, the Listener was being produced remotely from home, with the same controlled and safe printing and distribution systems as newspapers. If the weekend papers with their insert magazines were permitted to publish weekly, why couldn’t we?

A conspiracy theorist might say this was politically motivated to shut down analysis, debate, and potential criticism.

I wouldn’t go that far. I think is was cock-up rather than conspiracy, the result of a government Which,  contrary to the propaganda, did not go hard and early, but was late, lax and then harsh.

However, the outcome was the same – by decreeing only businesses it deemed essential could operate,  it did shut down analysis, debate and potential criticism at a time when it was so very important.

The Listener’s 30,000 subscribers could simply have had their magazines delivered in their sanitiser plastic wrapping directly to their homes via post or courier as always. Retail copies could have been sold in supermarkets. Instead at a time when even cigarettes and alcohol were deemed essential items, the reckless dismissal of this 80 year-old New Zealand icon felt like cultural vandalism. . . 

Cultural vandalism, and albeit by accident rather than design, political opportunism.

Some in the daily media have done, and continue to do, a very good job of holding the powerful to account. But we’ll never know what the more in-depth analysis that is possible with a weekly publication like the Listener and a monthly like the soon-to-be relaunched North and South, might have uncovered.

We’ll never know what we might have learned, what might have been different, what might have changed for the better,  had their journalists been able to investigate and report.

But we can be grateful that they’re back and, as the editor’s letter shows, coming back strongly.


Blinded by the halos

18/08/2020

A very angry tweet demanded to know which journalist at a weekend briefing had the temerity to ask Director General of Health Ashley Bloomfield if he would resign.

The journalist in question, Michael Morrah has broken several important stories over short comings in the response to Covid-19, most recently the ones telling us nearly two thirds of border staff hadn’t had Covid-19 tests; that the Health Minister admitted a tracking system for border workers wasn’t in place before ‘testing strategy’ announcement  and following revelations on The Nation he tweeted:

In response to the angry demand to know who asked the question about the DG, Morrah responded:

That resulted in more tweets:

 

Sometimes people in the media are guilty of bias. That is not the case in this instance.

Morrah has done what a good journalist should do – researched, found inadequacies and told us about them.

He is not the only one who is highlighting serious failings:

On Friday Pattrick Smellie wrote:

There is plenty of evidence in the bizarrely vague testing regime applied to New Zealanders working at the border that Pike River levels of incompetence and dysfunction lurk in the public health system and could yet be fatally exposed.

And in discussion with Jim Mora on Sunday Morning, both Jane Clifton and Richard Harman discussed the seriousness of the shortcomings: (3:34):

Clifton: . . . I think it’s pretty clear now that the Health Ministry has a pattern of, if not outright lying, then failing to supply the right information at the right time and I think it would defy belief to most people that testing wouldn’t be absolutely automatic and regular among border staff . . . I was against having a sort of witch hunt into what had gone wrong but . . . I think this is the last straw and I think we do need to have a few serious questions and consequences. . . 

Harman:  . . . If he’s (the Minister)  getting incorrect information he doesn’t need to resign surely, the person who needs to resign is the Director General of Health because he’s misleading his Minister and that is one of the most serious crimes that a senior civil servant can commit.  . . there’s been a pattern of this happening . . think about PPE, the original businesses about testing, Shane Reti again exposing the different versions of the truth that the Minister of Health presented over flu vaccines. It goes on and on and if you read again this excellent piece that Derek Cheng wrote this week about the difficulty of getting information out of the Minister of Health it seems that the Ministry of Health prioritises spin ahead of performance. . . 

This discussion sparked some very indignant responses from listeners, many of whom suggested that no-one should be questioning the DG or the government.

Perhaps these people have been blinded by the light from the halos some have put over the heads of both the DG and the Prime Minister which doesn’t allow them to see that there have been serious and repeated failings in performance.

Kate Hawkesby is one who has not been blinded:

. . . The left have mobilised into a tribe of such determined one-eyed acolytes, that their entire focus right now is to hunt down anyone daring to question the PM’s moves or decisions, and basically to eviscerate them.

Questioning the government makes you either a hater, a conspiracy theorist, a troll, or quite simply unpatriotic.

This venomous lobby group – includes many across social media but most of the mainstream media – has fallen under the spell too. The press gallery are most glaringly the people holding the government to account the least.

You’d think the media and government had almost forgotten about the existence of the silent majority. Those not on FB or Twitter, those not doing Instagram selfies with the PM, those regular everyday working mum and dads who’re looking down the barrel of an extremely grim economic future and are worried sick.

If people were allowed to dare question the PM, without the rabid left calling for them to be cancelled for doing so, here’s what needs answering;

Should Chris Hipkins be running Health, when he is also the Minister of Education, State of Services, and Leader of the House? We’ve already been through one incompetent Health Minister, have we not learned by now that it’s surely a fulltime job needing his full attention? And could I suggest may even be a contributing factor as to why the ball was so badly dropped on the border testing.

Why isn’t our contact tracing gold standard? They’ve had months to get it right.

What’s our Plan B beyond elimination?

Why aren’t we tougher at quarantine hotels?

Why have we come so late to the mask party?

Why is the chain of information from officials to government to public so slow?

How can we trust a government who got the availability of flu vaccines, testing kits and PPE gear so wrong first time round?

I’d also question the North Korea vibe coming from the 1pm pulpit. “There is only one source of truth,” Hipkins keeps reiterating in the manner of annoyed Dad. Unfortunately, not all their facts are accurate, just ask the seething Principal of Pakuranga College.

Likewise, many of the ‘we’re the first/best/only’ in the world’ statements, are not quite accurate either. It’s a tad Trump-esque. But it does play to an adoring base programmed not to question anything. . . 

Exactly who is responsible for the shortcomings will no doubt be uncovered when a journalist finds out through an Official Information Office request exactly what Ministers asked of the Ministry, what the response was and when all that happened.

Regardless of the answers, thanks to the work of Morrah and other journalists, we do know that we have been let down by lax practices at the border and if in the process they’ve tarnished the halos, that’s all to the good.

Many of us are biased, but that should not lead us to blind acceptance of whatever suits our partisan positions nor should it lead us to criticising the messengers when we don’t like their messages.

P.S.

What’s happened to Megan Woods? She’s the Minister in charge of managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) but has made no comments on the lack of testing of staff at the facilities.


Let’s not blame the messenger

24/06/2020

Jack Vowles thinks some in the media are overreacting in their coverage of the isolation omnishambles:

In the wake of a scattering of new cases from overseas, Stuff journalist Andrea Vance has slammed the Government for setting “allegedly unrealistic expectations” that Covid-19 would be eliminated in New Zealand. She believes the public feel they have been lied to.

Fellow Stuff journalist Tracy Watkins says the “border fiasco” has caused “incalculable damage” and “a massive breach of trust”. John Armstrong, in a column for the 1 News website, describes the situation as “calamitous”.

All are over-reacting. . . 

Social media also has plenty of posts mistakenly blaming the messengers and trying to dampen down the message too.

It must come as a shock to those who are used to a very soft approach, sometimes bordering on adulation, of Jacinda Ardern that the shine has come off her halo and her clay feet are showing.

But if the media and opposition MPs hadn’t been telling us about the omnishambles, she and her government wouldn’t have taken any action to deal with it.

The fourth estate and opposition are doing what they’re supposed to – showing us that the government has not been doing nearly as well as it should be in isolating incoming travellers to ensure Covid-19 doesn’t spread beyond those who have it when they get here.

In spite of protestations that everything is under control, there are obvious shortcomings in systems and processes:

No hold ups, oversights or obstruction. It actually takes this long – over a week – to find out how many of the 55 people granted compassionate leave weren’t tested when they should have been.

Since June 9, a negative test and at least a week in isolation were meant to be mandatory before compassionate leave from managed isolation could be granted. But that has only been the practice since June 16.

Both of those rules were bent for two Covid-infected sisters who drove from Auckland to Wellington , but who weren’t tested until after they arrived in Wellington.

The subsequent outrage was understandable, given what should have happened, the sacrifices everyone has already made, and the obvious risk of one case quickly turning into dozens.

That outrage then heightened as stories of broken protocols came forward. Mixing and mingling at isolation facilities. Testing being voluntary when it should have been compulsory. Leave for a funeral when that was meant to be banned . Even runaways .

The case of the two sisters begged the obvious question: How many others have been let out early without a test? Each of them could pose a risk of a second wave.

That question has been asked everyday – by journalists, the Opposition, even Ministers’ offices – since June 16, when the sisters’ positive results were revealed.

The answer isn’t just about giving us a better sense of the health risk. It’s also about the depth of failure that has occurred at the border, which feeds into the level of confidence in the ministry, health chief Ashley Bloomfield, the Government and the Prime Minister.

Those border measures are critical. With no signs of community transmission, the greatest Covid danger to New Zealand are the thousands of people returning home from overseas.

You’d think it would be essential to collect their information and put it all into a single database or an integrated system – contact details, symptoms, daily health check results, test results, if any.

That hasn’t happened.

Bloomfield was clear today that there hasn’t been a cock-up. It has taken so long because health officials have had to match names and dates of birth from their systems with information at isolation facilities.

Does this mean there was no proper record of who was in isolation, who was tested and when?

There was another simple way to find out that appears to have been overlooked.

All of the 55 people granted compassionate leave have been tracked down and referred for testing. Yet Bloomfield had no answer when questioned why they hadn’t been asked, when contacted: “Were you tested before you left managed isolation?”

This isn’t the first information failure for the ministry. They don’t know how many healthcare workers were infected in the workplace . Their regional public health units all used different IT systems . . . 

News of the omnishambles has led in a spike of people seeking tests for Covid-19 which isn’t surprising.

People who’ve lost trust in the government to contain Covid-19 at the border are taking responsibility for themselves. Although there is no evidence of community spread that appears to be due to good luck rather than good management, and anyone with possible symptoms will want to make sure a cold is only a cold.

It’s better to be tested as a precaution than to harbour the virus in the belief that it is no longer here and we have the media and opposition MPs to thank for giving us the information to make that call.

Contrary to what the critics are saying, they’re not overreacting, they’re simply holding the government and the ministry to account.


Sowell says

12/05/2020

When I was at journalism school, tutors told us very firmly that journalists’ role was to report the news as objectively as possible and let readers/listeners/watchers make up their own minds about the facts and views we reported.

The good ones here still do that.


Timing

04/04/2020

Letter to the Editor in what will be the last Listener, unless someone comes to its rescue:


Big holes in fourth estate

02/04/2020

Bauer Media has announced it’s closing:

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced the closure of Bauer Media, bringing an end to decades of media.

Bauer Media publishes multiple popular Kiwi magazines including NZ Listener, Woman’s Day, New Zealand Woman’s Weekly, North and South and Next. . .

I subscribed to North and South when it first launched and was proud that it accepted some of my freelance contributions.

I’ve subscribed to the Listener for several years and bought it every week before that.

Both have always had high standards of journalism and will leave a big hole in the fourth estate.

They, like much of the mainstream media will have been struggling and the dearth of advertising in the wake of the Covid-19 lockdown will have been the last straw.

How many will follow, including perhaps daily papers?

MediaWorks has asked all staff to take pay cuts as it fights for its survival.

Most of us get most of our news and views online now, some of which is of a high standard, some of which is anything but.

The higher the standard the greater the cost of producing it, and too few are willing to pay for quality even though we need a strong fourth estate more than ever now governments all over the world have imposed draconian restrictions on us.


Safe better than essential

01/04/2020

The government is deciding what is an essential business or service, Act says it would be better to determine what is safe:

 . .. If the objective is to stop the spread of COVID-19, then the test should be whether something can be done safely, not whether it is essential. Moving to a test of safety rather than necessity would be a much better way of fighting the virus while salvaging businesses.

‘Essential’ Compromises ‘Safety’

The Government rightly says it is essential to have food available. Once food is available in an area, no other activity is permissible. But making people travel further to visit a smaller number of bigger and busier stores undermines our goal of reducing the spread of the virus. Supermarkets have remained open because they are essential but they have only undertaken safety mechanisms more recently. Under a safety approach, only food stores with safe processes would be allowed to open, but all stores with such processes would equally be able to open. . .

It would be just as safe for butchers and greengrocers to be open, following best practice of allowing one customer in, one out and keeping everyone two metres apart, as it is for supermarkets, perhaps even safer if it meant fewer people in supermarkets.

Couplands announced yesterday it will close its South Island plant because it mostly supplies its own shops in the south and these aren’t deemed essential.

The bakery supplies about a third of the South’s bread. The plant closure will cause shortages and panic buying. Again, providing the stores have practices which keep their staff and customers safe, they should be able to stay open and lower the pressure on supermarkets.

Instead of the objective test ‘can this be done in a way that is safe’ we are facing a subjective test ‘does the Government think you need this.’ This level of government power is not sustainable.

Breakdown Of The Rule of Law

Subjectivity leads to absurdities and a breakdown of the rule of law. The Government has decided that eating halal meat is a goal important enough to justify opening some butcheries. Driving to the beach for a walk or a picnic is not. Which one is safer? . . .

Halal meat can be bought from supermarkets and a halal butchery isn’t any more or less safe than any other butcheries. It’s the safety practices they follow to protect staff and customers safe that matter, not religious practices.

If the decision to close butcheries isn’t reversed millions of dollars of meat will have to be dumped. That would be an unconscionable waste.

The closure of butchers is also risking animal welfare:

The Government’s decision to exclude independent butchers from the essential business list during the COVID-19 lockdown will cause an animal welfare crisis in the New Zealand pork sector, says an industry group.

All independent butchers across the country have been classified as non-essential businesses and been forced to close as part of the Alert Level 4 lock-down for COVID-19.

However NZ Pork said the decision would likely result in the sector having no place to house up to 5,000 surplus pigs on farms every week.

“By not being able to sell fresh carcass pigs to the independent butchers and other segments, we will be faced with a significant animal welfare issue,” said chief executive of NZ Pork David Baines . . 

Back to Act:

Trust The People

Underpinning the ‘essential’ approach is a belief that people can’t be trusted to judge what is safe. (Can I do this without coming within two metres of others?, without touching things other may have touched?).

Safety Approach: Essential For The Recovery

We are going to have to recover as an economy. Free Press is approached daily by businesspeople in a state of despair. Their working capital may or may not last the first four weeks, it certainly won’t last further. Being able to operate under a safety approach is, to borrow a term, essential. Essential to what? Essential to people protecting their livelihoods in the coming months. . . 

The more businesses that continue operating, the more people who are able to keep working, the less the economic and social damage the lockdown will inflict and the faster the recovery will be.

What Would A Safety Approach Look Like?

A safety approach would involve a basic set of rules that people must follow. A two metre rule (Free Press regrets this would exclude televised dance competitions). Can you do this whilst remaining two metres from others? Yes or no? A ‘touched object’ rule. Can you do this without touching objects others outside your household have touched? Yes or no? A regular testing approach. Can we guarantee regular testing and contact tracing is possible? Yes or no? Obviously there is more to do, but we need to start developing a safety approach rather than an essential approach, pronto.

The only justification for the lockdown is to keep us all safe.

Whether or not a business can operate safely should be the only criteria for allowing it to do so through the lockdown.

That won’t compromise personal health and will help economic and social health.


Terrorist pleads guilty

26/03/2020

The man charged with the Christchurch mosque attacks has pleaded guilty:

At the High Court in Christchurch, Brenton Tarrant admitted 51 counts of murder, 40 of attempted murder and one under the Terrorism Suppression Act.

Until today he had denied all of the charges and was scheduled to stand trial in June. The guilty plea means he has become New Zealand’s first convicted terrorist.

The 29-year-old showed no emotion as he appeared via audio visual link in the High Court at around 10am.

No explanation for Tarrant’s change of heart was given during today’s hearing. He has been remanded in custody until May. . . 

This will save the taxpayer the cost, courts the time and most importantly the families and friends of those killed the distress of a prolonged defended trial.

The Prime Minister decided she would not say Tarrant’s name. That was a powerful political statement but it does not, and should not, fetter the media.

The names of criminals should be made public unless the court makes a suppression order.

Tarrant has pleaded guilty to the horrific slaughter of innocent people and his name should be associated with his crime.


Taxpayer funded competing with taxpayers

05/03/2020

Taxpayer-funded RNZ is running an advertising campaign which doesn’t tell the whole truth:

The New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union is slamming Radio New Zealand’s use of taxpayer money for misleading advertising suggesting New Zealanders do not have to pay for its content, unlike other media organisations.

Taxpayers’ Union spokesman Jordan Williams says, “The idea that we don’t pay for RNZ is ridiculous. Unlike other media organisations, all New Zealanders are forced to pay for RNZ.”

“Private platforms also present a much more diverse range of views and perspectives.”

“In addition to being dishonest, RNZ’s advertising is an underarm bowl to those private media organisations, many of which are kneecapped by the state subsides for RNZ and TVNZ.”

Example of RNZ online advertising:

 

We’re all paying for that premium content through our taxes whether or not we listen to it.

Galling as these advertisements are to taxpayers, they’re worse still for those with which the state broadcaster competes:

 Stuff recently campaigned on the value of journalism.

Billboards, bus backs, paid social posts – it was everywhere. RNZ drove its message so hard it even featured in a digital display in Stuff’s own lobby. Trolling maybe?

The message was right, but only in part. RNZ doesn’t run ads. RNZ doesn’t have paid subscriptions for its content.

This, though, is only because it doesn’t need to.

You already pay for its content through your taxes, so its journalism doesn’t need to be either ad-funded, like ours is, or supplemented through a paid content model like, say, the NZ Herald.

It’s simple:

    • Commercial media make money through ads and subscriptions, which they then use to pay for public interest journalism.
    • Public media are Government-funded to pay for public interest journalism.

But, like newsrooms the world over, the advertising and subscription revenues commercial media once thrived on no longer sustain the number of journalists we once could. As audiences have shifted from newspapers to websites, so have advertising dollars. But the slice of the pie left for news organisations is tiny after the giant global platforms like Google and Facebook take their share.

In short, funding journalism, especially in regional New Zealand, has become increasingly hard. The pursuit of a new, sustainable business model to support journalism is something that is common across competitors; one galvanising connection that brings us all together. . .

Plurality of journalistic voices is deemed in the public interest. RNZ is chartered to serve that public interest. It is its purpose to serve an audience, not to compete for audiences; audiences which in one way or another are needed to fund the great journalism created by many organisations and many companies across New Zealand each and every day.

Journalism and mainstream media are under threat from digital platforms and social media.

Struggling businesses don’t need the taxpayer-funded outlet which competes with them.

The unfair competition from the state-owned Landcorp has been a bone of contention for farmers but at least it hasn’t run a campaign putting down private sector competitors the way RNZ is. That it’s doing it with what isn’t the whole truth makes it worse.


Not cricket

21/02/2020

We were in Vejer de la Frontera, a wee village in south west Spain when New Zealand was playing England in the final of the Cricket World Cup last year.

It was early evening there and we were listening to the commentary on my farmer’s phone as we went for our pre-prandial walk.

When we got to the main plaza I heard some English accents from four people sitting outside one of the bars. I asked them if they were following the cricket, they said they’d tried but couldn’t get any commentary from England.

I said we could get it from New Zealand, they asked us to join them and we sat there in Spain, about as far away as we could be from Radio Sport and listening as if we were at home.

We might be able to listen to overseas international matches in future but it’s unlikely anyone will be able to listen to home internationals and domestic games now NZME hasn’t been able to come to an agreement with New Zealand Cricket for the broadcast rights.

New Zealand Media and Entertainment’s Radio Sport has today announced it has chosen not to renew the rights to broadcast live commentary of New Zealand Cricket’s domestic season (domestic and international matches played in New Zealand) next summer.

Radio Sport will continue to keep Kiwi cricket fans in the know across next summer with match updates, robust opinion, in-depth analysis and plenty of talkback.

NZME’s Head of Talk Jason Winstanley said, “Radio Sport has enjoyed being the ‘Home of Cricket’ for over 20 years and we treasure our connection with New Zealand cricket fans. We have been in discussions with New Zealand Cricket for some time but haven’t been able to reach agreement on the rights. Our cricket coverage has run at a loss – something we’ve previously been prepared to wear, but we’re now taking the opportunity to rethink our offering in this space. . .

This is a business decision from both NZME and NZ Cricket and one the latter might come to regret because there is no obvious successor to NZME.

It’s business, but there will be a lot of fans who think this decision is hardly cricket.

 


Bigger not better for media

16/12/2019

Stuff and NZME have enlisted an unlikely ally in their quest to merge:

NZ First leader Winston Peters has thrown his support behind NZME buying rival news agency Stuff, saying such a deal is in the “national interest”.

NZME, publisher of the NZ Herald, has sought the Government’s support to buy Stuff, which is owned by Australian media company Nine.

The proposal is being considered by Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media Minister Kris Faafoi.

Peters today threw his weight behind NZME’s proposal saying it “is in the greater public interest and the national interest”. . . 

One of the commitments would be to keep a certain number of regional newspaper titles open, Peters said. Regional news was “as important as a hospital, as important as a school” in provincial areas. . . 

Business and media should know that if the government is the answer they’ve asked the wrong question.

Newspapers have been losing readers for decades and all mainstream media is struggling with so much competition from online news sources, but the answer is not for newspaper companies to get bigger, it is for them to get smaller and more local, as Karl du Fresne, writing about the Wairarapa Times-Age, said:

. . .if any papers could survive in the new media environment, it would be those that specialised in local news. Not only is local news important to people because it directly affects them in their daily lives, but it’s also the segment of the market that has been least disrupted by the internet. If you want local news, you must get it from a local provider. . . 

If the success of the Oamaru Mail is an example, smaller and more local is a far better way to go.

I started my journalism career on the Oamaru Mail way back when it was a daily paper and the first in the country to use computer printing.

It is now a weekly give-away, and its healthy size is evidence that it has the support of readers and the advertisers that fund it.

Its owned by Allied Press which also owns the Otago Daily Times (ODT), the only privately owned daily paper in New Zealand.

The Oamaru Mail succeeds because it concentrates on local news, written by people who live in and know the district it serves, its people and issues.

The ODT is following other daily papers with a drop in circulation, but it’s losing readers at a much slower rate than those owned by the companies wanting to merge.

One reason for the slower decline is that its hatched, matched and dispatched advertisements are available in the paper on the digital edition, not the free online version. This ensures older readers keep buying it.

Another reason is that it too has teams of local reporters throughout its circulation area ensuring that local stories get good coverage with the national and international news and views.

Rather than allowing the two big companies to merge and become even bigger while attempting to keep local papers alive by insisting some regional titles stay open, it would be better to sell the smaller titles and let them thrive as local papers, with local staff covering local issues for their local communities.


Prurience or public interest?

15/11/2019

The media is reporting a lot of detailed and sexually explicit evidence in its coverage of Grace Millane’s modern trial.

I can only imagine how harrowing  it must be for her family to sit through it all.

It’s been hard enough coming across it in the news without knowing anyone involved.

I have not read anything of the trial but haven’t been able to avoid hearing about it in news broadcasts.

I’ve also heard talkback discussion on whether we’re getting too much information.

The media’s right to report and the public’s right to know are important planks in an open justice system. But the line between what’s in the public interest and prurience can be a very fine one.

 


Rural round-up

31/10/2019

NZ aware of ASF threat – Sally Rae:

New Zealand’s pork industry would be “decimated” if African swine fever (ASF) was to hit the country, New Zealand Pork chairman Eric Roy says.

Since China reported the first case of ASF just over a year ago, it has culled more than 131million pigs, or around 40% of the previous pig herd.

Some private sector estimates suggested the culling might have even been larger than official estimates, BNZ’s latest Rural Wrap said. 

NZ Pork was concerned the disease was spreading “quite rapidly” and was now in Timor-Leste, or East Timor, as it continued to move south from China. It has been confirmed in the Philippines and South Korea. . .

Kiwi vegan loonies are treasonous – Ryan Bridge:

How do you know there’s a vegan in the room? They’ll tell you.

It’s an old joke but a good one.

Vegans are like evangelical Bible Belt Christians from the United States. They want to ram their ideology down your throat at any chance they can get.

On Tuesday, you will hear in the news stories about a new survey of consumers. They will claim a third of Kiwis are on their way to becoming vegetarians or vegans. We’re all going green. 

But make no mistake, the percentage of Kiwis who are vegetarian or vegan remains at 3 percent. Yes, 97 percent of us are still into our meat and so we should be, especially in New Zealand. . .

Women elected to DairyNZ board – Pam Tipa:

Two Waikato dairy farmers were elected to DairyNZ’s board last week. Tracy Brown is a new member and Elaine Cook was re-elected at the annual general meeting in Hamilton on October 22.

They are two of five farmer-elected directors and three board-appointed directors who contribute to strategy and priorities on behalf of dairy farmers. DairyNZ now has a board of five women and three men.

Chair Jim van der Poel welcomed the directors and acknowledged their role in “playing a key part in setting the future direction of DairyNZ”. . .

A voice for telling rural stories – Alice Scott:

A strong desire to capture the essence of people and tell their stories  won a former West Otago woman the Rural Champion category at the NZI Rural Women NZ Business Awards recently. Alice Scott reports.

Kate Taylor, who now lives in Hawke’s Bay, grew up in the small southern farming district of Dunrobin. 

She says entering the Rural Women business awards was a way for her to ”walk the talk” and share her story, as she has for so many years been preaching to the people she interviews.

Mrs Taylor is the youngest of four Rivett girls and grew up on her family’s sheep and beef farm known as The Glen. She attended Blue Mountain College, in Tapanui, and got her first job in Gore, at radio station 4ZG, then did a journalism course at Christchurch Polytechnic . .

NZ lamb exporters welcome Brexit deadline extension–  Maja Burry:

An extension to the Brexit deadline is being welcomed by New Zealand lamb exporters, who had been worried about possible disruptions to Christmas trade.

European Union leaders have agreed to extend Brexit until 31 January next year – meaning the UK will not leave as planned on Thursday. The bloc would also allow for a so-called “flextension” – meaning the UK could leave before the deadline if a deal was approved by Parliament.

The UK market is very important for chilled New Zealand lamb exports ahead of Christmas and there had been concerns from industry that the UK’s departure from the European Union during this period could present border delays and increased administrative costs. . . .

Deer farm for sale with tourism and hunting options :

An iconic Hawke’s Bay station founded on pioneering spirit and nurtured over 100 years by the same family is now on the market for the first time.

Historic Te Rangi Station, located 50 minutes north of Napier Airport is generating strong interest among farming circles as far afield as the South Island from potential buyers recognising the opportunities a deer fenced station of this scale and summer safe location offers. . .


%d bloggers like this: