Media must be open about bias

17/01/2014

The strong links between Scoop journalist and the Internet Party have raised questions about its claim to be the leading independent news publication in New Zealand:

Scoop.co.nz is New Zealand’s leading news resource for news-makers and the people that influence the news (as opposed to a news site for “news consumers”).

It brings together the information that is creating the news as it is released to the media, and is therefore a hub of intelligence for the professionals (not just media) that shape what we read.

Scoop.co.nz presents all the information driving the news of the day in the form it is delivered to media creating a “no spin” media environment and one that provides the full context of what is “reported” as news later in the day.

It’s audience has a circle of influence far greater than the number of reported readers, which averages more than 450 000 a month, and it is a key part of the New Zealand media landscape.

Scoop.co.nz is accredited to the New Zealand Parliament Press Gallery and fed by a multitude of Business, Non-Government-Organisation, Regional Government and Public Relations communication professionals.

We are the leading independent news publication in New Zealand and value our independence strongly. . .

It does present media releases as they are written without editing.

But anyone familiar with opinion pieces from the likes of Gordon Campbell would be aware of a left-wing bias.

There’s nothing wrong with a bias in a media organisation like this providing it is declared.

Apropos of which I note that in the on-line version of Josie Pagani’s tale of two stories she is described as a political commentator, communications consultant, and former Labour candidate.

The print edition just called her a political commentator and communications consultant.

Omitting the reference to her former candidacy in the print edition did a disservice to readers who are entitled to know the bias of a political commentator.


Tell ‘im ‘e’s dreamin’

16/01/2014

Gordon Campbell writes at Scoop about Alistair Thompson, Scoop and the Internet Party.

He starts with the conflict between Thompson’s involvement while working for Scoop and the problem with it signing up a domain name for the new party.

He then goes on to the party itself:

And what of Dotcom’s political party ? Assuming that it does eventuate – and this column will report on it fully once it becomes certain that the Internet Party does not disintegrate before launch – such a party has made a change of government its declared aim. To that extent, Dotcom has the potential to split the existing anti-Key, centre left vote – in much the same way that Ralph Nader did in the 2000 US election – without either winning an electorate or crossing the 5% barrier, nationwide. If so, a significant share of the centre left vote would be wasted. No doubt, Dotcom has foreseen that risk. One can only assume that he believes he can attract large numbers of new voters – most of them young, some of them in south Auckland.

To that extent, Dotcom’s efforts could arguably run in parallel with Labour’s announced plans to mobilise that pool of 800,000 non-voters nationwide, many of them resident in south Auckland. Dotcom certainly has the resources and contacts to wheel in hip hop /EDM artists who would get the attention of young voters way beyond the capacity of Labour and the Greens. Whether he can transform a dance party into a political party still seems a big call however, especially given the need to reach a 5% threshold. Much rests on pure faith that new high calibre political activists would somehow magically emerge out of the woodwork.

Moreover, the party name and scant details released to date suggest that Dotcom intends to focus almost exclusively upon Internet freedoms. In doing so, he seems willing to outsource the boring old political stuff – you know, like having a credible health policy or economic policy – to Labour and the Greens. If so, he cannot hope to have much pull with the libertarian, National leaning voters who might share his zeal for Internet freedom.

Because so much of the Internet Party looks like a toy and vanity project for Dotcom, the likelihood is that such a party will function – at best – as only a voter recruitment vehicle that by mid year, will have lost its ability to amuse Dotcom. Especially if and when the polls are indicating by then that the Internet Party hasn’t a hope of (a) winning a seat or (b) reaching the 5% mark that would make its “kingmaker” role anything more than delusionary. At which point, Dotcom may think that he can throw his imagined legions behind Labour or the Greens. If that’s Plan B, he’s dreaming. The likelihood is that the only lesson that Dotcom will have given to the kids of south Auckland is the one that they’ve already sussed out : never trust a politician. It is distressing to think that Al Thompson may have thrown away so much, for so little.

Liberation has a collection of tweets on the issue, which doesn’t, yet, include this one:

https://twitter.com/reedfleming/status/423565178781696000

Someone should channel the wonderful Darryl Kerrigan and tell Dotcome he’s dremini’.

He has has money but anyone with a passing knowledge of political history knows it takes a lot more than money to win electorate seats and/or 5% of the party vote.

There are already several vehicles for those who wish to vote against the government. If Dotcom’s vanity one manages to dent any, it will be those others, not National.


Winners & losers in donations saga

28/07/2008

Gordon Campbell sorts out the winenrs and losers in the NZ First donations saga:

At half time in the Winston Peters latest scandal – which seems to involve several money trails complex enough to merit inclusion in the Winebox – likely winners are beginning to emerge. And the main beneficiary is undoubtedly….the much reviled Electoral Finance Act. If New Zealand First’s shenanigans don’t make a convincing case for cleaning up the system by which political donations were formerly made in New Zealand, then nothing will. Unfortunately, most of the nanny state mileage has already been wrung out of the EFA – but at least the Act may now be spared further pounding during the election campaign.

Most opponents of the EFA accepted there were problems with the old system which needed to be addressed. But replacing an Act with flaws with a flawed Act created more problems than it solved.

Will the whole affair end up hurting Peters? It depends in which capacity. Peters has two levels of concern : seeing NZF get over 5 % nationwide, and winning back his seat in Tauranga. I think this affair will hurt him in Tauranga by making him look even more like the old, tainted goods that he was already portrayed as by Simon Bridges, the young National candidate and former Crown prosecutor standing against him. It is less clear the affair will hurt his party’s chances of getting over the 5 % MMP threshold in the election.

How so ? Peters will spin the criticism over the donations in exactly the same way that he spins the criticisms he gets over racism. Normally, around this point in the election cycle, Peters plays his triennial race card, and will attack ‘Asian’ migration – lumping together in the process Asians of all nationalities, brown people and Arabs into the same suspect category.

The donations affair has the same media dynamic. Conveniently for Peters, the media handling of his race gambit habitually assumes that Winston’s supporters are a bunch of rednecks, waiting only for the master manipulator to throw the switch. In fact, it is the response to this criticism that lifts New Zealand First’s boat, not the racism per se. What unites NZF supporters is their tribal dislike of Peters’ opponents, who are legion, and who include the big corporates and media commentariat. The trigger that fires up NZF’s poll ratings is the sense of persecution that these voters hold in common, rather than a shared belief system.

In previous decades, they used to call this the Citizens for Rowling syndrome. It entails an elite holding forth, unaware of how much it is disliked by the people that it aims to influence and enlighten. Rob Muldoon, Peters avowed mentor, would play those kind of critiques like a violin.

Peters is equally adept at fiddling though he’s striking more than a few wrong notes with this piece.

As the race tightens, the prospect is that a National-led government may become beholden to Peters once again, jeopardising any revolutionary centre-right agenda. John Key can probably take care of his enemies – but what is he telling the boardrooms about how he proposes to handle his budding friend from Tauranga, post election? This week, Key is telling the public is that he will wait for the election result. Thereby, National will be able to blame the public for landing him with the necessity of making an arrangement with Peters. In fact, both major parties can claim a reluctance to deal with Peters in future, but invoke democracy as the rationale for doing so. Neat.

So at half time and in a Graham Henry sense, who are the winners and losers?

Winners. for the reasons stated : New Zealand First, the Electoral Finance Act, and Winston Peters as party leader. Rodney Hide, who gets to play the indignant touch judge, in a situation where neither Helen Clark nor John Key can afford to complain directly to the ref. National, who were just starting to get stick for not releasing any substantive policy, when this affair obligingly swept everything else off the political agenda.

Losers: Winston Peters, as Tauranga candidate, for the reasons stated. Also : the New Zealand Herald, and the Dominion-Post. Both newspapers railed against the EFA, and – with a straight face – have now railed against the kind of arrangements practiced by NZF ( and in all likelihood, by other political parties who were laundering anonymous donations via trusts) that made the EFA, or legislation akin to it, essential. And oh, the public.

And oh, the truth which gets buried deeper by the day.


Youth Vote Up For Grabs

21/06/2008

Gordon Campbell says the decision to make third party insurance on motor vehicles is another example of Labour’s punitive stance towards young people and first time voters.

According to to Labour Party president Mike Williams, there will 190,000 eligible first time voters in this election, and they’re supposed to be a Labour priority. Yet the array of policies that the Labour government has promoted over the last year or so have targeted young people and their leisure habits, mainly to score brownie points on law and order issues.

Add them up. There has been have the attack on youth drugs of leisure ( the party pills ban) and on forms of protest and expression ( the anti-tagging Summary Offences (Tagging and Graffiti vandalism) Amendment Bill.) Labour has vowed to keep young people compulsorily inside learning institutions until they’re 18, via the Schools Plus initiative, which is already in some trouble.

The Schools Plus initiative won’t be popular with 16 to 18 year olds who want to leave school, nor with those who want to stay and find their education disrupted by those who’d rather be elsewhere. But the party pill ban and anti-tagging legislation probably only affect a small minority.

Now, we have this 3rd party insurance move against their driving habits and related risks. Transport Safety Minister Harry Duynhoeven has been quite upfront that the compulsory 3rd party insurance idea was ‘brought into focus’ as a mechanism to get boy racers off the streets. Unfortunately, the measure will further offload the cost onto all motorists, and onto young drivers in particular, and the insurance industry is already contesting Duynhoeven’s cost estimates.

He is right about the added expense but I don’t think it’s a big enough issue by iteslf to repel or attract votes.

This punitive stance towards the young is not an election year tactic, since it has been evident throughout this term of government. Late in 2006, Labour MP Martin Gallagher sponsored an attempt to raise the drinking age, which would have forced young people out of clubs and bars, and denied them the chance to listen to bands on licensed premises. [ Disclosure of self interest : I co-promote tours by indie bands, and raising the drinking age would have killed such tours stone dead ]

You get the pattern, and that’s only on the punitive side. In the Budget, when Finance Minister was handing out the sweets to everyone else, he conspicuously failed to address student debt and student allowances. His token best effort was to drop the age that students will be regarded as dependent on their parents from 25 to an insulting 24 – apparently, according to Cullen, because United Future wanted it that way.

With the exception of students, most young people aren’t generally organised about lobbying so are easy for Governments to ignore.

There’s a word for it : ephebiphobia. It means fear of the young and Labour needs policy treatment for it. So, of course, does National – always a haven for young fogies – who have shown themselves more than willing to pack young offenders off to boot camp, even if the armed forces supposed to be running them don’t want a bar of it. For the Maori Party and the Greens, those 190,000 voters really are theirs for the taking.

I’m not sure why the Maori Party would be attractive to non Maori and today’s Fairfax poll shows Maori are favouring National (39%) with Labour and Maroi both at 22%. (David Farrar blogs on the significance of this here and No Minister comments here).

However, the poll also shows Labour has clawed back some support from National among young people and those on low incomes – but these two groups are also most likely to change their minds before polling day.

Labour targetted the youth vote (and their parents) in 2005 with the last minute interest free student loan bribe. The public coffers aren’t so healthy now, but that won’t necessarily stop them trying to snare the young – and any other sector they feel is worth targetting – with a last-ditch spend-up.


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