du Fresne on media balance

January 26th, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

writes in the Dom Post:

is a very talented broadcaster and a likeable man. But I believe he is dangerously wrong when he pooh-poohs the idea of objectivity in journalism, as he did in a recent interview with this paper’s Your Weekend magazine.

”I’ve never met a journalist who didn’t want to change the world and make it a better place,” the TV3 current affairs host was quoted as saying. ”Without exception that’s why they get into journalism. And yet when they get there they are asked to be dispassionate and objective.

”Who came up with that rule? It’s stupid.”

In fact that ”stupid” rule, which requires that journalists try to remain impartial and present facts and opinions in a balanced way, has underpinned good journalism in Western democracies for decades.

The importance of objectivity is recognised, if not always followed to the letter, by virtually all the world’s great news organisations, including the BBC. It’s also upheld by the bodies that adjudicate on journalism standards, including our own Broadcasting Standards Authority and Press Council.

There’s a very good reason for this. The requirement for balance is a vital check on the potential abuse of power. If it were abandoned, journalists would be free to spin the news however it suits them – in other words, to exclude any inconvenient fact or opinion that doesn’t align with their own world view.

It’s a curious fact that those who argue that journalistic objectivity should be discarded – a view now routinely promoted in journalism schools – are almost invariably from the Left of the political spectrum. Yet the same people are the first to condemn Right-wing news outlets, such as the notorious Fox News, for making little or no attempt at journalistic balance.

A fair point. It is rather hypocritical to be a critic of Fox News for being unbalanced, but praise Campbell Live for proclaiming they are not objective.

It doesn’t seem to occur to them that objectivity, or more precisely the absence of it, can cut both ways. Being objective doesn’t mean, as is sometimes dishonestly argued, that journalists have to be timid or defer to those in power. Neither does it prevent them expressing shock and outrage when faced with obvious atrocities. But it does require reporters to acknowledge that in most situations there’s more than one side to the story, and that things are often more complex

And this is where I think John Campbell sometimes gets it wrong. 99% of NZers would agree that kids should not go hungry to school. But how to fix that is a complex issue, and any solution such as the state providing free food may have unforeseen side-effects. But if a TV show decides that “their”solution is the only solution and campaigns for that – well it is not serving the public well.

There is still a place for impassioned advocacy journalism of the type Campbell practices, as long as it’s clear to the viewer or reader that that’s what it is. But as a general proposition, the abandonment of journalistic objectivity would be disastrous. 

The challenge is making it clear when it is advocacy journalism and when it is so called balanced reporting. In print that is usually reasonably clear. In broadcasting far less so it seems.

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52 Responses to “du Fresne on media balance”

  1. Reid (16,061 comments) says:

    Disturbing but not surprising that crusading is now “routinely advocated in journalism schools.” Thinking people have seen the evidence for years. And the little shits smugly think no-one sees them doing it. That’s what annoys me, that they imagine because it passes under some people’s radars it passes under all of ours.

    If I was Key I’d demand to go onto Campbell Live lest I suspend their license and discuss how Liarbore and the Gween’s mental housing policies are dishonest and why they don’t stack up and I’d make him give me at least 20 mins to explain it in great detail.

    I mean I can now predict that he’s going to be a great supporter so I want the first word on this and then he can say what he likes. And once the debates over in about October, I’ll demand another 20 min spot and have the last word on it as well.

    Let’s see how he likes that. And I think I’ll look at Barry Soper next.

    This could be great fun as lefty journos one by one nail their colours to the mast and become conservative targets for harsh treatment in one way or another.

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  2. duggledog (1,411 comments) says:

    Campbell plays his hand. Never mind. Paul Henry never hid his political affiliations either.

    Somehow I always respect a journalist who I cannot guess the political persuasion of. To me, a journalist’s job is to report the facts whatever they are and give a balanced view of the situation, and go as deep as possible to find out as much information for me to make up my mind about the story.

    After the feeding starving kids kumbaya shit of last year I can’t watch him any more. Surely that’s Metiria / Bradford / Minto’s gig.

    Again, National, why would you throw Mediaworks a lifeline with the frequency deferral again?

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  3. Manolo (13,514 comments) says:

    Again, National, why would you throw Mediaworks a lifeline with the frequency deferral again?

    Clueless and spineless are the answers.

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  4. Fox (202 comments) says:

    I think for most reasonably observant and intelligent viewers it has long been clear that ‘advocacy journalism’ is alive and kicking at TV3.
    They are quite able to determine John Campbell is a left-wing hack, without him needing to release an official public statement declaring such.

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  5. Ryan Sproull (7,055 comments) says:

    Maybe he gets paid by PR companies to do stories on particular topics.

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  6. Sam Buchanan (502 comments) says:

    “It’s a curious fact that those who argue that journalistic objectivity should be discarded – a view now routinely promoted in journalism schools – are almost invariably from the Left of the political spectrum. ”

    I’d be intrigued to know what Du Fresne’s evidence is for saying journalism schools advocate non-objectivity, or that advocates of this are almost invariably from the left. Seems to be a rather non-objective statement.

    I don’t see a lot of thought regarding the nature of objectivity coming from the right – in fact I was recently arguing with a free-market libertarian who cited his guru as dismissing objectivity as impossible at least in the current circumstances. It’s not enough just to assert one’s objectivity in a “My viewpoint is right, therefore it’s objective” Fox News-sort of way.

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  7. thor42 (958 comments) says:

    @Sam Buchanan – I think that the best evidence that it is the left promoting non-objectivity is that if you go to a leftist blog (Red Alert, The Standard etc) and post a comment that could be construed as “rightist”, they will almost always delete it.

    This is non-objectivity in action – “comments are fine, as long as they are leftist comments.”

    (Ok, it’s not a perfect example, but I think it conveys the general idea. The general intellectual bankruptcy of the left.)

    The left hates objectivity, and it hates “free speech” (because free speech means speech that may contain anti-left views.)

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  8. hmmokrightitis (1,552 comments) says:

    I used to try posting on the standard – I know, wtf was I thinking – and tried to take a position of reasoned debate over stuff that was patently bollocks. Some of the commentators understood that and welcomed it, but then they also tended to not be as far left as the morons who would simply abuse me and attack me and not my arguments.

    Got banned twice, second time was enough to learn my lesson and not bother.

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  9. hinamanu (2,352 comments) says:

    Investigative journalism is the cred for the modern age.

    Which is why we owe so much to truly objective journalists such as Nicky Hagar and Ian Wishart.

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  10. Harriet (4,607 comments) says:

    “….I think journalism gets measured by the quality of information it presents, not the drama or the pyrotechnics associated with us…” —— Bob Woodward

    If you go to AA, GA, or Drug rehab, you first have to admit that it is YOU who has a drinking or gambling problem – not blame the rest of society. du Fresne, I suspect, would report just as much shit, lies and nothing, as Cambell does.

    NZ journalists are nothing more than carpetbaggers filling their own pockets! :cool:

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  11. Sam Buchanan (502 comments) says:

    “I think that the best evidence that it is the left promoting non-objectivity is that if you go to a leftist blog…”

    I thought we were talking about journalism.

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  12. hinamanu (2,352 comments) says:

    Campbell should help with a push for publishing suicide stats. There absolutely needs to be light shed on these gross numbers nationally so the electorate can make informed voting decisions on which parties have policies reflecting hard line agendas towards true public advocacy

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  13. noskire (833 comments) says:

    IMO, the “quality” of mainstream media (or more specifically, broadcast journalism in New Zealand) has been on a steady downward spiral since the departures of Anita McNaught and Linda Clark.

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  14. duggledog (1,411 comments) says:

    ‘I’d be intrigued to know what Du Fresne’s evidence is for saying journalism schools advocate non-objectivity, or that advocates of this are almost invariably from the left’

    Good on you Sam, want to buy a bridge?

    Thing that bugs me with some of these journalists – Campbell, Sainsbury, um is Bryan Bruce a journalist? is that when they go and record one of their bleeding heart stories about some poor people, they never, ever, ask why they thought ten kids was a good idea, why they smoke, or borrow money they can’t pay back, or live in Moerewa etc. Whether it would be better to move to Calcutta sorry Kolkata

    It’s always left to evil right wingers like DPF to point out the gaping holes in the commentary and logic.

    If you ask them (and I have) why they don’t ask the really hard questions of some of their subjects, they’ll always look down their noses at you and say that it’s none of anyone’s business and not appropriate. Yet somehow it’s appropriate to rip the shit out of the current administration – in a very circumspect way mind you – like it’s all their fault!

    It’s a sign of laziness and a lack of courage. Anyone can go out to Manurewa and say ‘oh that’s terrible’ then head back into the city for a lovely time with chums at the Viaduct. I don’t wanna watch it. I don’t wanna read it. It’s one dimensional. It doesn’t make me think, it’s meant to make me reach for my cheque book, and vote a particular way

    Anyway back to Sam. I know from experience that whatever young journalists coming out that haven’t been indoctrinated, would soon figure out that to espouse right wing views in the media is the kiss of death for your career. Unless you’re one of the dozen or so people who work at Newstalk ZB

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  15. Harriet (4,607 comments) says:

    duggledog#

    Jornalists in NZ don’t nail their ability to the flagpole.

    Noskire is right, McNaught was probably the best NZ had.

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  16. Sam Buchanan (502 comments) says:

    “Good on you Sam, want to buy a bridge?”

    Hmmm… not sure how this relates to me asking for some actual evidence of Du Fresne’s claims, except as a counter example.

    I asked if Du Fresne had any evidence for his claim that journalism schools promote non-objectivity and get a ramble about what somebody doesn’t like about journalism, followed by a reply to me that amounts to saying journalists may or may not be taught this during training, but that doesn’t matter because the writer doesn’t like the media’s politics. Not sure if some people would know objectivity if they saw it.

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  17. Reid (16,061 comments) says:

    I’d be intrigued to know what Du Fresne’s evidence is for saying journalism schools advocate non-objectivity, or that advocates of this are almost invariably from the left. Seems to be a rather non-objective statement.

    Crikey Sam I thought it’s been self-evident for simply ages. Do we have to reel off the appalling gaggles of lefty journos one by one? It’s that sort of self-evidence. As in, it’s a phenomena that exists, there it is.

    So it’s really up to the phenomena to explain itself, isn’t it and if it takes aggressive tactics to do that why that’s the phenomena’s fault for existing in the first place, isn’t it.

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  18. Griff (6,965 comments) says:

    Of more interest is who is giving these “journalists” spots at prime time. Those in control of the network have far more influence on overall direction of content than the individual journalist does.
    The left wing bias in new Zealand MSM is as obvious as the USA’s Fox’s infotainment for rednecks.

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  19. Reid (16,061 comments) says:

    Of more interest is who is giving these “journalists” spots at prime time.

    Look that’s the issue isn’t it Griff. All the sub-editors in the newspapers and in radio and TV. It’s the middle-management layer that commit it and the business side tolerates it.

    It’ll never stop, unless Key appoints Joyce or Collins as Minister in charge of journalism training institutions. That’d work, but nothing else would.

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  20. Sam Buchanan (502 comments) says:

    “I thought it’s been self-evident for simply ages. Do we have to reel off the appalling gaggles of lefty journos one by one?”

    No – you actually have to provide evidence of journalism schools promoting non-objectivity. Simple as that. You know, what’s known as ‘journalism’ – providing facts, not assertions. You not liking journalists’ politics doesn’t cut it.

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  21. Reid (16,061 comments) says:

    Sam a journalist is not entitled to a political view. If they want to spend their career advocating one then don’t enter the journalism profession because otherwise it’s mere propaganda masquerading as journalism for the feeble-minded village idiots too dim to discern the vital diff.

    In other words, it’s less of where it comes from and more of, does it exist. But since it does, then it’s about, to anyone sensible, where does it come from, since it exists, it must come from somewhere. And anyone sensible obviously wants to deal with this professional and unbecoming travesty, don’t they. And journalism schools would be a logical place to start looking, wouldn’t they.

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  22. Sam Buchanan (502 comments) says:

    In that case, probably you should be looking – as I suggested – rather than making assertions before you’ve looked.

    ..and good luck finding journos without a political view! That’s rather different – and rather more difficult – to simply requiring objectivity in their work.

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  23. Reid (16,061 comments) says:

    .and good luck finding journos without a political view! That’s rather different – and rather more difficult – to simply requiring objectivity in their work.

    Sam I was lucky enough to have Professor Bob Chapman as a political studies lecturer in the last year before he retired, and the first thing he told his young and naive NZ Politics class was that his job was to lay it out without any of us ever knowing what he himself believed. That is a professional at work and journalists as representatives of the Fourth Estate, are bound ethically to do the same thing.

    The fact that today we have a profession where an increasing number don’t abide by that tenet, does not make that refusal to so abide, the correct thing to do.

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  24. Sam Buchanan (502 comments) says:

    I would never suggest it was. But your example is one of professionalism (as I noted earlier), not Chapman not holding a political view, but being able to do a job without it showing through (I suspect a few of his views would have shown themselves, nevertheless. I kinda doubt that some common political assumptions wouldn’t have manifested themselves).

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  25. Keeping Stock (10,161 comments) says:

    hinamanu said

    Investigative journalism is the cred for the modern age.

    Which is why we owe so much to truly objective journalists such as Nicky Hagar and Ian Wishart.

    Nicky Hagar “truly objective”? Mate; whatever drugs you’re on, I’d like some!

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  26. duggledog (1,411 comments) says:

    Sorry Sam, I’m being an arse and I apologise for being churlish. It’s Saturday and I’m feeling frisky.

    What you’re actually asking for is numbers – the statistical split between, or make up of ideologies among journalists. Because every journalist, as (hopefully) free thinking, engaged individuals would have to be one or the other at any given time.

    You know full well du Fresne hasn’t got that information and as I said above, nobody is likely to find out for sure. But I still believe his assumption is absolutely correct because (a) I am in and have been in the broadcast media industry for over thirty years (b) I am a media junkie and if you read, listen and watch enough the true colours show through and (c) I’d say du Fresne is a similar beast. He’s been around for a long time and I think the guy is pretty solid.

    So getting back to it, you don’t ‘have’ to have a statistical analysis of something to know it it to be true. You do, fair enough, but I don’t in this case. It’s not necessarily a ‘gotcha’ if du Fresne doesn’t bring some actual numbers to the table. I mean case in point National Radio. You don’t need a show of hands there. Lefties 70% +

    I met one of the top media buyers in Australia once. He pointed to a big pile of paper on his desk with all the intel you could want – research, statistics, demographs, results from focus groups, you name it. He told me all that information was only partially useful; his actual decisions and advice to clients were based on instinct, what his kids and their friends were into, talking to people, thinking etc etc.

    If anything, he only used the statistical information as a reinforcement of what he already knew, and to convince the clients who just had no imagination or trust of his judgement. Earned a bloody fortune.

    I don’t need the Department of Statistics to know that most Chinese NZers are gainfully employed and are unlikely to beat the shit out of me in town for no reason at 2 a.m., or to know journalism schools are infested by a certain type of person. That’s all!

    Cheers

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  27. NSane (5 comments) says:

    As I understand
    A news story consists of 50% facts and the other Half of Opinions and the opinions part one can take with a pinch or a sack of salt.
    A Journalist/ Reporter should have to go OUT OF THEIR WAY to NOT take any sides or include their own personal opinions or feelings.

    If they do they become just another commentator and should clearly state that so readers/ listeners or viewers are informed before they read/watch or listen so they can form their own opinions on facts alone ,themselves.

    Unfortunately Journalists/ reporters including news readers and editors are under the impression and bolstered by their own inflated ego that THEY ARE THE NEWS.

    Sadly the Face book influence of “look at me-listen to me’ maybe partly to blame.

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  28. Reid (16,061 comments) says:

    being able to do a job without it showing through

    But Sam they do show it through, on purpose, all the time. They never don’t show it through. It’s nauseating and is a huge part of the reason why the MSM is becoming increasingly deserted.

    The fact Campbell has come out and admitted it, is not a “revelation.” I mean der. Everyone who knows anything has always seen this in him since forever, it’s not “news” to us that the smarmy little shit has come out and admitted it.

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  29. MT_Tinman (3,033 comments) says:

    It doesn’t bloody matter.

    Whether Campbell or any other slime working for a private organisation is communist, rabid right wing or anything in between doesn’t matter.

    It only matters if he/they pretend to be presenting balanced and fair stories instead of those demonstrating their bias.

    What does matter is if the organisation employing these people is supported by, financed by, money stolen from the taxpayer.

    Anyone in those organisations not presenting fair and unbiased (or at least balanced) reporting on anything should be shot – slowly.

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  30. Sam Buchanan (502 comments) says:

    “What you’re actually asking for is numbers – the statistical split between, or make up of ideologies among journalists.”

    No I’m not – I asked a perfectly simple question (and Reid in particular seems to want to read far more into it than there was), when du Fresne says people are taught to be non-objective in journalism school, does he have any evidence? I suspect he hasn’t. The ultimate political biases of today’s journalists, something I have no doubt exist, and which I’ve been on the recieving end of from time to time certainly exist (though we might differ on exactly what they are). But are these deliberately taught, as du Fresne claims, or do they come from elsewhere?

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  31. jonno1 (79 comments) says:

    Sam Buchanan does have a point – while it’s true that the political bias of most journalists/hosts is subjectively clear (generally left-leaning, with obvious exceptions being Leighton Smith and Larry Williams, who both happen to be old-school), and thereby indicative of how they may have been taught. But it would be useful to have some objective evidence such as the curriculum of the journalism schools in question, or some examples of course-work, to support the claim. Actually, I didn’t know there was such a thing as a journalism school, but maybe some graduates of same could confirm or deny the “non-objective” assertion.

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  32. mikenmild (11,158 comments) says:

    A typical Kiwiblog debate: A wild claim is accepted as gospel and anyone who questions its veracity is told “No, you have to prove it’s wrong”.

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  33. Reid (16,061 comments) says:

    and thereby indicative of how they may have been taught.

    It’s got little to with how you’re taught and everything to do with how you think.

    See if I was a journo I wouldn’t need to be taught that my opinions have no place at my work. I already know that and I’m not and never have been a journo.

    Lefties hate people knowing there is lefty journo bias all over the media because the fact there are so many of you in the profession means its a vital tool for you in your battle for hearts and minds. Too bad you have to skew the field, through this, rather than through fair debate, but hey, if my side had policies like you lefties have, I’d be desperate to smear as much lipstick as I possibly could all over that pig, so I guess we don’t need it as much as you do. We’re quite happy to stand or fall on ideas. We don’t need underhand tactics and that’s what it is. Unless and until journos like Soper for example, declare their bias, it’s underhand all the way, because the person is misusing the edifice of trust that the institution they work for has built up in their readers or listeners minds. And hiding it by pretending you’re objective when you’re not being really says a whole hell of a lot more about lefty gutter tactics than it does about my side.

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  34. Griff (6,965 comments) says:

    Depends on how you read it
    To me its intent is fairly obvious to you it will be as well. We just will interpenetrate the content totally differently. :wink:
    Media studies would be as good as any course for entry into journalism.
    http://www.artsfaculty.auckland.ac.nz/courses/?Subject=FTVMS&Stage=3

    University home » Arts home » Faculty of Arts Courses » Film, TV & Media Studies Courses » FTVMS 325 – Race, Indigeneity and the Media
    Faculty of Arts
    FTVMS 325
    Race, Indigeneity and the Media

    Description

    This course considers the media in relation to racial and ethnic identities. It draws on critical race theory, its counterpart whiteness studies, and post-colonial theory. The first part of the course introduces theories about “race” and the media, and examines how dominant media represent different cultural groups as “other” to allegedly mainstream identities. The second part of the course focuses more specifically on indigenous peoples and the media in both local and international contexts. It also includes a specific focus on Māori engagement with media and “Pākehā-ness” as an ethnic identity.

    Translates to me as a bunch of racist rubbish indoctrinating post colonial guilt into MSM.

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  35. Griff (6,965 comments) says:

    interpenetrate :lol: not quite
    interpret

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  36. Mary Rose (393 comments) says:

    >Media studies would be as good as any course for entry into journalism.

    No it wouldn’t.
    Media studies ≠journalism training any more than psychology classes = psychiatry.
    (If anyone’s still awake to see this!)

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  37. Monique Watson (1,062 comments) says:

    I went through journalism school. Great training for being a housewife. We were taught the old school way and did time in newsrooms all around the traps. What amuses me is how we all used to look down on PR hacks, and now it’s tits like Gower and Campbell who give the industry a bad name. I’ve seen them step into interviews with politicians with absolutely pre-prepared angles in mind. This makes them lobyists, not journalists. The girls are hopeless; they are so pale and botoxed they are just bleating wraiths. No Diane Sawyers in that lot.

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  38. Griff (6,965 comments) says:

    Shit they better change their course description then

    ‘ Film, Television and Media Studies and your career

    Film, Television and Media Studies can be useful for careers in business, politics or the cultural sector.

    Our graduates have careers in film and television production and distribution, advertising, broadcasting, marketing, public relations, curating, archiving, editing, publishing, journalism and reviewing

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  39. All_on_Red (1,464 comments) says:

    The ABC in Oz is probably the best example of an organisation staffed pretty much exclusively by Leftists. It’s been established there are NO conservative presenters or editors anywhere in the organisation at all. And this is an entity which receives $1.5 billion a year in public funding. Fairfax is much the same and to a certain extent the same here. We could probably do with someone like Gerard Henderson and his excellent blog Media Watchdog

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  40. All_on_Red (1,464 comments) says:

    For those interested , here’s a link to Gerard’s blog. You may not recognise the actors but you will spot the ” type”. He skewers them beautifully as he exposes their bullshit.
    http://www.thesydneyinstitute.com.au/media-watch-dog/

    Karl’s comment is a good start and it would be great to see someone do more

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  41. mikenmild (11,158 comments) says:

    I don’t know anything about the ABC, but our Radio New Zealand does an excellent job and follows well-established principles to ensure balance. We should beware of the largely imaginary dichotomies between ‘leftists’ and ‘rightists’ or (that awful Americanism) between ‘liberals’ and ‘conservatives’.

    Journalism has developed professional codes over time that aim to achieve balance. If some people feel that particular media outlets are biased then they might like to reflect on what audience that particular organisation serves. In a free country, anyone can set up alternatives, or organize politically to change the rules that apply to state-owned channels.
    Or you could sob loudly on the internet.

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  42. Pete George (23,126 comments) says:

    You just have to see the number of times taht media (TV and newspapers) on Twitter and Facebook ask for people who will fit a story they are doing to contact them to know how often ‘news’ stories are constructed by journalists.

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  43. All_on_Red (1,464 comments) says:

    Sure Mikey, if you keep saying that enough someone might believe you. Just like Goebbels said.
    That Kim Hill sure is impartial isn’t she.
    RNZ is a joke. Spot the conservative.

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  44. mikenmild (11,158 comments) says:

    That’s right All, the imagined partiality of the host of a Saturday morning magazine show is pretty serious stuff.

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  45. kiwi in america (2,461 comments) says:

    Sam
    What you are asking for is a tape recording of a School of Journalism lecturer encouraging his students to behave like Campbell and wear their ideological heart on their sleeve. There is no such definitive smoking gun but the evidence of the bias is still there for all to see. In the US because under FEC rules all donations must be disclosed, it is easy to check on the donation patterns of the major journalism schools. The faculties of America’s biggest journalism schools donate 90/10 to Democrat candidates. I believe you’d find the same left/right divide at similar journalism schools in the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

    Why is this significant? Because it inculcates future journalists with a subtle built in bias when they graduate. Journalistic heroes are always from the left – Woodward and Bernstein and Watergate, Pilger against anything American, Fisk against anything pro Israel. These people are passionate advocates for a left leaning world view and young journalists aspire to be like them. The bias continues as they enter the workforce. If the editors and managers at a newspaper or state broadcaster tilt left then their world view informs their every decision. They see anything outside their leftward orientation as right wing and anything centre right to them is far right. It is why the US mainstream media crawled under every conceivable rock to find any crazies associated with the Tea Party movement however small in number and isolated they were to tar the whole movement with an extremist brush all the while ignoring the growing evidence of violence, rapes, drug dealing and anarchist tendancies amongst the Occupy movement lest the truth interfere with the meme that these were ordinary folk telling truth to power to get back at the greedy 99%.

    If you express conservative views or demonstate by your affiliations and interests (eg pro-life, gun owner, long time voter for right leaning parties) you will be passed over at interview time to not rock the boat or interfere with the collegiality of the newsroom. This creates a left wing echo chamber in which journalists marinate and then they attempt to comment on the real world whose political centre is to the right of the journalist and they judge from their inside the beltway protected ideological womb. It was best personified by the famous NBC producer in Manhatten who was stunned when Nixon won 49 states in the 1972 election because he never met a single Republican voter in his narrow world.

    You see the blatant left wing bias all the time. Radio NZ is so biased that when Summer Noelle did its “2 Views” series last week the two views on each topic were both from a centre left perspective. Was their producer Zara Potts ever told to do this in journalism school? Of course not but her indoctrination began back then and continued in the pink smoko rooms at 155 The Terrace to the point where it doesnt occur to her that she’s using the taxpayers money to push one side of the story. It does not occur to Zara to have Garth McVicar from the Sensible Sentencing Trust to speak on prison rehabiltation issues because in her world, he’s a far right extremist. Now the people they had on were sound and interesting but their views on this issue would be somewhat different to McVicar’s. What ever you might think of the SST, you allow them the equal time to make their case.

    Campbell’s admission comes as no surprise but note he only admits to advocacy journalism – if you were to ask him if in his advocacy he deliberately favours left leaning causes and parties I can bet you he’d retreat behind waffle about being balanced. The left find it excruciatingly difficult to own their ideological biases thinking that their world view is just normal centirst mainstream and reasonable and anyone not on the same page is a right wing nutter.

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  46. Yoza (1,640 comments) says:

    I recently read George Orwell’s ‘Politics and the English Language’, probably his most read essay. I think Justine du Fresne would do well to consider the strength of Orwell’s criticism’s on writing style in 1946 by applying it to the piece he himself ‘penned’.

    The founding assumption on which du Fresne builds his critique of Campbell follows a predictable pattern: “In fact that ”stupid” rule, which requires that journalists try to remain impartial and present facts and opinions in a balanced way, has underpinned good journalism in Western democracies for decades.” The pretence that objectivity is a measurable state conflicts starkly with the reality that objectivity is an abstract concept carefully crafted to conform to the perception of the writer.

    As Orwell points out: “It is almost universally felt that when we call a country democratic we are praising it: consequently the defenders of every kind of regime claim that it is a democracy, and fear that they might have to stop using that word if it were tied down to any one meaning. Words of this kind are often used in a consciously dishonest way. That is, the person who uses them has his own private definition, but allows his hearer to think he means something quite different.”

    It is not much of a stretch to observe that du Fresne uses the concept of ‘objectivity’ in a “…consciously dishonest way.” designed to reinforce “…his own private definition, but allows his hearer to think he means something quite different.” or he is really so naïve that he is allowing “…ready-made phrases to come crowding in…” in the service of partially concealing their meaning even from himself.

    Orwell: “You can shirk it by simply throwing your mind open and letting the ready-made phrases come crowding in. They will construct your sentences for you — even think your thoughts for you, to a certain extent — and at need they will perform the important service of partially concealing your meaning even from yourself. It is at this point that the special connection between politics and the debasement of language becomes clear.”

    A sound lesson in “…good journalism in Western democracies …” is best illustrated by John Pilger as he relays the following anecdote: “During the Cold War, a group of Russian journalists toured the United States. On the final day of their visit, they were asked by their hosts for their impressions. “I have to tell you,” said their spokesman, “that we were astonished to find, after reading all the newspapers and watching TV, that all the opinions on all the vital issues were, by and large, the same. To get that result in our country, we imprison people, we tear out their fingernails. Here, you don’t have that. What’s the secret? How do you do it?” “

    The function of the mainstream media is to promote the illusion of impartiality while serving the interests and reinforcing the perceptions of the powerful. Like any institution it does not exist in a vacuum; if it does not conform to economic/political ‘norms’ it is ignored or attacked ruthlessly – the ongoing blitzkrieg waged against Wikileaks being the most obvious recent example. Power is never meant to be questioned, rather it is a condition to which we seem required to subject ourselves.

    When du Fresne attempts to qualify his crusade by offering the defence that: “Being objective doesn’t mean, as is sometimes dishonestly argued, that journalists have to be timid or defer to those in power. Neither does it prevent them expressing shock and outrage when faced with obvious atrocities.”, he can do so by ignoring a vast swathe of examples that crumble before any serious scrutiny – Nicky Hager’s offerings being the most compelling local demonstration of official doctrinal ‘objectivity’ meeting in-depth critical analysis. If people allow du Fresne to define ‘objectivity’ for them they are subjecting themselves to Orwell’s argument that, “… if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.” The illusion of ‘objectivity’ is preserved.

    John Campbell, on the other-hand, doesn’t require the necessarily manufactured illusions of objectivity or impartiality , when he points out , “At the liberation of Auschwitz, would you give the SS the right of reply? It would be grotesque or obscene – yet in some strange kind of way, even though it’s an extreme example, that’s the mode we are operating under.
    “That everything in life has two sides is clearly bullshit . . . The question should be not, was it balanced? But was it fair? And they are completely different questions, in my opinion.”

    John Campbell’s honesty illuminates itself in sharp contrast to Karl du Fresne’s staid conformity as du Fresne appears something other than a free thinking individual. So much so that, to once again quote George Orwell, “…one often has a curious feeling that one is not watching a live human being but some kind of dummy: a feeling which suddenly becomes stronger at moments when the light catches the speaker’s spectacles and turns them into blank discs which seem to have no eyes behind them.” , the mechanical rendering of ‘reality’ created to instill a “… reduced state of consciousness, if not indispensable, is at any rate favorable to political conformity.”

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  47. Mary Rose (393 comments) says:

    Griff >Shit they better change their course description then

    It would be more honest if they did. Does it say how many? Or how many of those did vocational training after the course?
    Media studies is a Mickey Mouse subject that proves to an employer only that you can pass a few exams.

    Though a course which includes ‘Watching Television’ as a module clearly qualifies you to walk straight into any job after you graduate!

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  48. Griff (6,965 comments) says:

    MM
    In particular the importation of the Americanism
    Liberal=left
    Conservative=right

    The difference in the meaning of the word liberal and its usage in politics is profound.

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  49. Monique Watson (1,062 comments) says:

    What does that shit all mean Yoza ? The National gummint is hiding the evidence of it’s atrocities so well that that stellar journo Campbell is the only one to pick up on it and pull the wool from our sheepy eyes.

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  50. Sam Buchanan (502 comments) says:

    The reason I asked about Du Fresne’s claim that journalism schools teach non-objectivity, was because its something possible to establish – and I don’t need a recording of a tutor pushing non-objectivity, a note from a curriculum or a few accounts of personal experience would be enough – is that the wider question of media bias is something we have no chance of settling as we couldn’t agree on what constitutes the political left or right in the first place.

    Redbaiter reckons this is a ‘progressive’ blog, Kiwi In America reckons Fisk is a leftist (I recall him praising Margaret Thatcher). Do you have to be a strict libertarian free-marketeer to qualify as ‘right’ or a commited collectivist to qualify as ‘left’? Most NZers are social democrats of some shade or another, wanting a mix of state and private control, of the economy – are these people rightists or leftists? Might be interesting to have a thread just asking how people define ‘left’ and ‘right’ sometime.

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  51. Griff (6,965 comments) says:

    Sam
    The political compass
    http://www.politicalcompass.org/test
    Dpf has posted his position on a similar scale

    Under the heading on the lower left
    Disclosure Statement
    Political Views

    I self identify as a classical liberal, which the Institute for Liberal Values of New Zealand succinctly summarises as a belief in individual rights, limited government, private property, free markets, tolerance, and reason.

    On the political compass test I score +10 (right) on economic issues and -6.15 (libertarian) on authoritarian/libertarian issues. One can see NZ blogosphere charted here and NZ politicians here.

    Griff is +6 economic
    and around -7 on authoritarian/libertarian

    By that it shows that there is still more opposing political directions then just the two postulated.

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  52. kowtow (7,844 comments) says:

    On du fresne’s own blog he qives quotes and specifics.

    Read his blog ,it’s excellent.

    http://karldufresne.blogspot.co.nz/2011/06/another-reason-to-be-suspicious-of.html

    And a few days on he follows up on this.Plenty of “evidence”,you only have to have an open mind,which of course leftists don’t.

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