Herald on journalists and politics

May 14th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

But if these misuses of company property had not occurred, Taurima’s position would still have been untenable. He not only joined the Labour Party while working in news and current affairs, he made an unsuccessful bid to be Labour’s candidate in the Ikaroa-Rawhiti byelection last year. Strangely, after missing the selection, he was able to return to his position at TVNZ. There, his continuing Labour activities reached a level that, the report says, “would plainly be deeply embarrassing to TVNZ if it came to light”.

He must have known that would be so. It is elementary to journalists that joining a political party is not an option unless they plan to make their career in the party’s publications. Those who want to be credible reporters of news and politics for a mass audience cannot belong to a party. If they did, they would have to declare their affiliation, and their audience would rightly question the reliability of everything they reported.

The Public Service Association seems not to understand this. It thinks a recommendation to ban reporters, content producers and editors from political activity is a draconian and unnecessary breach of their rights as citizens. It believes the State Services Commission guidelines for public servants are sufficient for the state broadcaster and that TVNZ will set “a dangerous precedent for other public servants”.

Public servants serve the Government of the day. They can belong to a political party and take part in its activities after hours because the primary audience for their professional work is ministers and other politicians understand their code. State-owned such as TVNZ and Maori Television are different. Their primary audience must know their reporters, producers and editors are not a member of any party in their spare time.

I thought the position was appalling. They should be defending neutrality – but they were effectively arguing that political journalists for state television should be able to be party activists.

The Herald does not allow its editorial staff to participate in community or political activities that could compromise their work. This means not only membership of political parties but taking part in public campaigns that they could have to cover. Preserving this distance from politics is not an onerous restriction for those whose credibility is paramount. They have the privilege of observing, reporting and commenting on public affairs. Once they cross the line to partisan participation, there is no coming back.

Well stated.

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9 Responses to “Herald on journalists and politics”

  1. Redbaiter (9,561 comments) says:

    “Preserving this distance from politics is not an onerous restriction for those whose credibility is paramount. They have the privilege of observing, reporting and commenting on public affairs.”

    They cannot do this unless there is some kind of diversity in the political allegiances of its journalistic staff. The Herald for all of it preaching above, does not employ one Conservative opinion writer.

    All of the Herald’s political commentary therefore is rooted in the Neo-Marxist/ Progressive mindset of its journalists. They produce sausage factory opinions and reports that lack any kind of real divergence from the Progressive norm of the bubble living urban liberals they farm from our dysfunctional universities.

    That’s what the Herald thinks sells of course, but its balance sheet is telling it otherwise.

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  2. Pete George (23,682 comments) says:

    @Redbaiter – “The Herald for all of it preaching above, does not employ one Conservative opinion writer”.

    @TheStandard
    karol – “Laugh?!! I almost cried….. NZ Herald editorial on journalistic bias, or lack of”
    Tiger Mountain – “At least there is one accurate sentence in the editors bilge on Herald political writers. Their persistent ‘tory love’ is obviously a job requirement.”

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  3. Redbaiter (9,561 comments) says:

    Well, you all know who the Conservatives are on FOX.

    Name the ones at the Herald.

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  4. SPC (5,772 comments) says:

    By their standard how many are merely commentators who are not of the profession of journalism. Such as Paul Henry?

    And it raises the question as to how/why many journalists end up as PR people for politicians. From where there is no return to their former profession …

    And if one cannot be partisan and a journalist, then bloggers like Cameron Slater are of a “commentariat” rather than a profession.

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  5. igm (1,413 comments) says:

    “Manawatu Standard” would be by far the worst for bias editorial policy. Their editor and assistant are supposedly both members of the Labour Party, not surprising, they go out of their way to promote the ineffectual wimp MP Lees-Galloway at every opportunity, even going so far, as editing out comments on the current National contender if they are not critical of him.

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  6. OneTrack (3,221 comments) says:

    DPF – they were effectively arguing that political journalists for state television should be able to be Labour party activists.

    There, FIFY.

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  7. OneTrack (3,221 comments) says:

    Pete @2:21 – I don’t think the Standard is a useful comparison for journolistic bias. They would made the same comments about Stalin not being left enough.

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  8. Fentex (1,025 comments) says:

    They should be defending neutrality – but they were effectively arguing that political journalists for state television should be able to be party activists.

    I can’t help but think there’s a double standard being displayed here. Arguing that a person must not, while employed by the state or state owned enterprise, participate or operate as a advocate for any politically aligned entity seems to be an opinion that, if consistently held, would drive anger at ministers using their position to advocate on behalf of their spouses interests.

    Yet one does not see that consistency in opinions.

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  9. Forrest (15 comments) says:

    ‘Public servants serve the Government of the day. They can belong to a political party and take part in its activities after hours because the primary audience for their professional work is ministers and other politicians understand their code.’
    I am interested in what the Herald’s definition of Public Servants is. In the context of their editorial I can only guess that they are restricting their definition to include only the public servants working within Parliament or directly for ministers.
    What about the thousands of public servants whose primary audience is not ministers – school teachers, healthcare workers, social development and IRD employees etc? It would be interesting to find out what tax payer funded resources are used by these groups in activities supporting political parties.

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