The Maori Language Month beatup

August 4th, 2015 at 1:05 pm by David Farrar

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The SST had a front page lead about how the PM had reduced a young girl to tears because he had dismissed her idea of extending Maori Language Week to a Maori Language Month as boring.

The story was based on second hand testimony from another student (who seems to be an activist on Maori language issues) and had no verification from anyone at all.

Well I’ve been sent a copy of this article from a local newspaper, whose reporter was actually in the room! The key quote:

I was there, right in front covering the event for The Post Newspaper, and that’s not what I heard or was led to believe in any way,

The SST could have verified the claim with the journalist there. They decided not to, and smear the PM with an unsubstantiated story.

He also says:

When I read the headlines that Mr Key said “Maori Language Month was boring” I could not help but wonder if I had been to the same assembly.

And in case you think it is just the reporter,he spoke to a number of students who were there and they mostly agreed with the reporter that Key did not say what was claimed.

What this reporter has done is proper journalism. What the SST is not.

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Reporting on inequality

July 10th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

inequality

This is a fascinating graph from the NZ Initiative.

It shows how compliant the media are with left agenda. When Labour is in office, they barely mention inequality or I am sure poverty. But the moment there is a change of government, then a ten fold increase in reporting on inequality even though it has not changed over the previous decade.

This is why trust in media is at an all time low.

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Guest Post: Firemen, journalists, and a naked emperor.

June 17th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

A guest post by Deanne Jessup:

Here in New Zealand we have just had a survey that tells us journalists are the least trusted, and firemen are the most.  This got me thinking about why, and what if anything should be done about it?

Imagine the world where most fires put themselves out safely every time.  Only we never knew it happened.  Instead, firemen turn up, wave spraying hoses and extinguishers, and hit things with their axe-shaped tools.  Once the fires are out, we celebrate them as heroes, declaring them wonderful and the most trusted of us all.

Now imagine we found out through the internet that firemen are frauds!  Over time we discover it was all a ruse to keep them in work.  Would you still trust them?  What if it then came out that firemen themselves actually lit most of the fires?  Would you still call them when the fires appeared?  What if it was a fire that would not extinguish itself?  What happens then?

As absurd as this tale is, a variation of it has been playing out every day of the last decade.  Journalists have fallen from our graces.  Though obvious, my main moral is not ‘the boy who cried wolf’ though it is certainly relevant to ask what happens if we decide we don’t need the media at all.

In my view, this tale parodies the one from ‘the Emperor’s new clothes’.  We know we can get our news elsewhere; we know about social media, blogs, and live streams.  But like the people of the Emperor’s court who thought they had to pretend, perhaps we are worried what they will do if we point out their nakedness.  So instead the absurd situation persists where we pretend their relevance but trust them the least.

The internet has both caused this situation and is constantly changing the nature of it.  Initially, it revealed the nakedness of the media, now it is becoming the child from the story pointing loudly and shouting “you have no clothes on!”  Technology has radically reshaped the world.  We are moving into a new era.  Media are trying to reinvent, to clothe themselves in the attires of the day.

The current scramble to ‘change’ shows the media think the reason readership and profitability are both low is because they are printing in the wrong place, rather than the reality that they have been caught printing the wrong thing.  There is no road to trust by adopting old practices on new platforms.  Media must take to heart that no amount of blogging, social engagement, and digital media will change that we can now see around them.

They must understand that we can now see the truth, often faster than they report it.  To become trusted again, they must add value and once again report honestly, openly, and without prejudice or bias.  Of course, as they were ‘caught’ naked, a fair question is did they ever?

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The last 10 years

June 13th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

A fascinating speech on media changes at the Washington Post. An extract:

•  High-speed broadband became pervasive only in 2004, 2005, making possible the communications we take for granted today. It allowed photos to load fast and instant viewing of videos — and it allows mobile connection to the web.
• Google didn’t go public until 2004. Today, there are more than 3 billion searches a day on Google.
• Facebook was founded in 2004. Now it has more than 1.3 billion monthly active users.
• YouTube was founded in 2005. More than 1 billion people now visit YouTube each month.
• Twitter was founded in 2006. A half-billion tweets are sent every day.
• Kindle was introduced in 2007. Three in 10 Americans now read an e-book.
• Apple introduced the iPhone in June, 2007. Today 2 billion people worldwide use smartphones.
• Instagram was founded in 2009.
• Whatsapp was founded in 2009 and last year was sold for $19 billion to Facebook.
• The iPad was introduced in January, 2010.
• Snapchat wasn’t launched until 2011. It’s now valued at $10 billion or more.

Amazing how much has changed in just ten short years.

We have fostered a tight working relationship with our Engineering department, with 47 engineers working with our journalists. Four years ago, we had only four engineers in newsroom. When we move into a new office within a year, all 47 engineers will be embedded in our newsroom, working side by side with our journalists.

Interesting.

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Journalists now trusted less than MPs

June 11th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

ResearchNZ has done a poll of trust in occupations, reporting the proportion who gave them a 7 or higher out of 10.

Second bottom are MPs at 25%. But this is a 7% increase over 2013.

Now at the bottom constant on 23% are journalists.

Wonder where bloggers would come! :-)

 

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Gloriavale singled out again

June 8th, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Gloriavale Christian Community families could be claiming many thousands of dollars a year in Working for Families subsidies.

So what? Isn’t that what WFF is for?

While Gloriavale residents do not claim the unemployment benefit, members who have left claim those in the community claimed Working for Families allowances.

Again so what? They’re making it sound sinister.

The Gloriavale website says: “We do not take welfare benefits, borrow money, or invest money on interest.”

WFF is not a benefit. It is part of the welfare system, but it is not a benefit.

The Greymouth Star used the official government on-line calculator to work out how much Gloriavale parents might be getting.

Because they work for a charity, and possibly do not get paid, we entered zero income, although Gloriavale leaders dispute that. Those with the smallest income are eligible for the greatest amount of the allowance. If the family had nine children and no income, they could receive $672 a week.

Choosing the most extreme example. Gloriavale has 164 students at their school out of a population of 500. They do have some large families but obviously on average not many.

I don’t like Gloriavale, but the media are not treating them fairly. This article makes their taking WFF as something sinister or inappropriate.

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An education reporter on charter schools

June 3rd, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

There’s three interesting things about this exchange.

  1. Portraying charter schools as exploiting vulnerable kids, rather than helping them
  2. Portraying charter schools as people making money. As far as I know every charter school operator in NZ is a not-for-profit entity
  3. The tweeter is the NZ Herald’s specialist education reporter

If you were a charter school operator, teacher or parent what confidence would you have that the Herald will report fairly on your school, when the reporter seems to have such a negative view of them.

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Rolling Stone not sacking anyone for fake story

April 8th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Washington Post reports:

Rolling Stone magazine just plain got it wrong.

That’s the conclusion of the massive (and massively long) piece penned by three officials at Columbia University journalism school, a report that details the fact that the story of a gang rape of a woman named “Jackie” at the University of Virginia was, in fact, simply not right.

So, that’s bad enough. What’s worse is that the errors made by Sabrina Rubin Erdely, the article’s author, and the rest of the Rolling Stone editorial chain were entirely avoidable and encompassed the sort of basic reporting that every student in journalism school should know.

Not only were none of the claims by “Jackie” checked out, the journalist who wrote the article actually lied about having tried to contact certain people.

And yet, Rolling Stone has apparently decided that this whole episode was just a blip on the radar and not at all the sort of thing that Erdely, her editor or anyone else should lose their job(s) for. “Sabrina’s done great work for us over the years and we expect that to continue,” Rolling Stone Managing Editor Will Dana told The Washington Post via e-mail.

Um, WHAT?

I am not one to call for other reporters’ heads when mistakes are made, as I have made mistakes before and had my head called for. But there are mistakes and then there are MISTAKES. A poorly chosen tweet or, in my case, a poorly conceived and unfunny parody, is one thing. Totally misreporting allegations of a gang rape in a hugely high-profile magazine story is another. One is poor judgement, often in the world of Twitter expressed (and regretted) in a millisecond. What Erdely did is journalistic malpractice, failing to do the basic blocking and tackling of reporting because, frankly, the story she had was just too good to check.

Erdely also lied, as well as being negligent in not checking.

The Post also reports:

The University of Virginia chapter of Phi Kappa Psi said Monday that the fraternity house will file a lawsuit against Rolling Stone, calling the magazine’s discredited reporting of an alleged gang rape by some of its members “reckless.”

The fake story had real world impact. The chapter was closed down. Its members were smeared and called rapists.

“Irresponsible journalism unjustly damaged the reputations of many innocent individuals and the University of Virginia,” Sullivan said. “Rolling Stone falsely accused some University of Virginia students of heinous, criminal acts, and falsely depicted others as indifferent to the suffering of their classmate. The story portrayed University staff members as manipulative and callous toward victims of sexual assault. Such false depictions reinforce the reluctance sexual assault victims already feel about reporting their experience, lest they be doubted or ignored.”

Actual victims of rape, may be those most harmed by this awful fake story.

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Inaugural Media Opinion Statistics

April 7th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Partisans on both sides of politics often make sweeping claims about the media. Some on the left have claimed that the NZ Herald is relentlessly pro-National and that (for example) John Armstrong is a cheerleader for the Government. Others think the opposite.

For some time I’ve wanted to try and collate data on the media, to try and ascertain where the opinion of certain editorials and columnists tends to end up, and for the last five months have been doing so. The data below is imperfect,but it is also new – in that we’ve never seen before a comprehensive analysis of the opinion columns of major newspapers and their columnists.

Some notes on the data:

  • It covers five months – from 1 November 2014 to 31 March 2015. It will continue to be published every six months here-after, to see what changes over time – if anything.
  • It only covers “opinion” columns and editorials. It does not cover news stories. It is designed to shed light on what the newspaper or journalist/columnist thinks – rather than what the story is. Of course it is influenced by the stories of the moment.
  • Data is collated from the NZ Herald and Stuff websites every morning, checking the main pages, news pages, politics pages and opinion pages. It is possible some columns and editorials have been missed if they were not on the websites until later in a day. However if seen on subsequent days they are added to the table.
  • Where a journalist or columnist has done fewer than three columns that reference the Government or political parties, they are not included in the five month summary below, but they may be included in summaries over longer time periods.
  • An editorial or column is assessed against whether someone reading it will feel more positive or more negative about the Government/National, Labour, Greens or NZ First.
  • If an editorial or column is not on a political issue, or just talks about an issue in a way that is neither supportive nor critical of a party, then they are not included. This is just an analysis of columns and editorials that are positive or negatuve for a political party or the Government.
  • This is not an analysis of media bias. This is an analysis of opinion. It is quite legitimate for columnists and editorials to have views that are not split 50/50 between the parties. And it is fair to say one would generally expect an incumbent Government to be criticised more often than it is supported.
  • What may be interesting is the relative difference in tones between different columnists and editorials, and also as this gets repeated in six months, what differences over time there are.

NatMedia

Turing first to the editorials of the three metro newspapers (only they were included), the Dominion Post is the most relentlessly critical of National. Of 24 editorials referencing the Government or National, 22 are critical and only 2 supportive, so 92% negative.

The Herald is close with 79% negative and 21% positive. Hard to see how some people claim it is a pro-National newspaper.

The Press has had only six editorials about the Government or National – four positive and two negatve.

Turning to the columnists, the one who has written the most critical of National is Dita de Boni with eight negative and no positives. Andrea Vance is next with 7-0 and then Tracy Watkins, Brian Rudman, Peter Lyons and Duncan Garner.

Of those with a mixture of positive and negative, John Armstrong is 84% negative, Rodney Hide 80%, Vernon Small 80%, John Roughan 67% and Fran O’Sullivan 64%. Of interest is there is no columnist in the Herald or on Stuff that is 50/50 or mainly positive about the Government.

Combining columns and editorials, the Herald website is 81% negative and 19% positive in its opinion, while Stuff is 85% negative and 15% positive.

LabMedia

Fewer columns and editorials on Labour. The Herald editorial has been 60% positive and 40% negative on Labour while the Dominion Post 25% positive and 75% negative.

The most supportive columnists have been Fran O’Sullivan (100%), John Armstrong (80%) and Audrey Young (67%), while Vernon Small has been 43% positive and 57% negative.

Overall in the NZ Herald the editorials and columns have been 74% positive for Labour and 26% negative. For Stuff it has been 33% positive and 67% negative.

Data has been collected on Greens and NZ First mentions, but not yet enough to publish. Hopefully in six months.

Note again this is not a study of bias, but of opinion. It is also only a five month snapshot. Just because (for example) Fran O’Sullivan wrote three columns positive towards Labour and none negative in this time period, doesn’t mean the same will apply for other time periods. This is why the study will be on-going.

It’s too early for conclusions, but some interesting observations are that the data doesn’t back up some common beliefs.  It is no surprise that Dita de Boni is relentlessly critical of the Government, but somewhat surprising how critical John Armstrong has been.

The assertion that the Herald is pro-National is not supported by their own editorials. The Dominion Post used to be seen as having a centre-right editorial line, but in the last year or so has been a profoundly centre-left editorial line. I understand Anthony Hubbard is now the editorial writer, which would explain the dramatic shift.

Some on the right say Vernon Small is very pro-Labour. Well he writes the most about them, but seems to be the most balanced about them.

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How badly did Fairfax defame Jennings?

March 10th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Last week, stuff.co.nz published an article regarding New Zealand businessman Stephen Jennings, and his business activities in Kenya and Russia.

The article may have been interpreted as implying that Mr Jennings’ business activities in those countries were unethical and open to criticism. It also implied that Mr Jennings was a business rival to Bill Browder, a well known American businessman, and wanted to destroy him. 

Stuff.co.nz accepts that none of these statements or implications have any factual basis or legitimacy. No attempt was made to contact Mr Jennings prior to publication, and we accept that had we done so, the article would not have contained those statements or implications.

We accept that Mr Jennings is a respected and successful figure in the banking and business worlds, and we deeply regret any suggestion to the contrary. Accordingly, we unequivocally retract the factual errors and misleading implications contained in the article, and unreservedly apologise to Mr Jennings for any distress suffered by him and his family as a result.

On the please don’t sue us grovel scale that is around a 9.5/10.

I didn’t see the original article, but it must have been really bad.

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Who created the vigilantes?

March 6th, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

New Zealanders are not vigilantes by nature. When they start taking the law into their own hands, something is seriously wrong. A spate of accidents involving tourist drivers this summer has led to several incidents in which South Island residents have stopped drivers and confiscated their keys. The first two, at Franz Josef on Monday of last week and near Lindis Pass last month, were relatively innocuous and the vigilantes feel they did the responsible thing, handing in the keys at the nearest police station.

But the police expressed concern at where this sort of citizens’ arrest could lead and last Friday in Greymouth, their concerns were realised. A motorist signalled the visitor to pull over on the town’s Main South Rd and punched him in the face as he seized the keys of the rental car. Police said the tourist had moved to the right and moved back left in a manoeuvre that did not amount to dangerous driving.

The driver suffered bruising to his eye, his female passenger was shaken and police are seeking their assailant.

If every citizen could be trusted to act only when they had good cause and to do so with restraint, such actions could be applauded. But any unauthorised infringement of the rights of others is likely to give people of poor judgment the idea that they have a licence to do so. That is why observers of dangerous driving should confine their actions to a *555 call to the police.

While the authorities warn against vigilantism though, they must be concerned that it reflects a real problem on our roads.

Or maybe the vigilantism is because some media have spent the last few months running high profile stories about every driving accident involving a tourist, while giving almost no publicity to those that do not. Is it a surprise that after months of media scare-mongering, that some NZers become vigilantes?

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Should staged photos win a journalism award?

March 5th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Guardian reports:

Dark Heart of Europe is a series of photographs taken by Giovanni Troilo which won the contemporary issues category at World Press Photo 2015. However, Troilo has been accused of misrepresenting the town of Charleroi in which the images were taken. The mayor of the industrial Belgian town has described the study as a serious distortion of reality. Troilo has since admitted that some of his images were staged in order to recreate issues or scenes which he says typify Charlerloi, but he argues this does not affect the journalistic integrity of his work

Taking a photo is journalism and reporting news. Staging a photo is creating news – not reporting it.

The World Press Photos will have damaged credibility if they allow the award to remain for what were staged photos.

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Labour’s media targets

January 15th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Expect to see Labour leader Andrew Little in a good light on the 6pm television news – or questions to be asked at the top of his media unit.

Little is advertising for a new chief press secretary to head the party’s media and communications strategy, and the successful applicant is expected to ensure Little appears “in a positive story on the 6pm news at least twice a week”.

Have TVNZ and TV3 signed up to this?

Other key targets put emphasis on social media, including 100,000 “likes” for the party’s Facebook page, up from about 38,000 now, and 40,000 “likes” for Little’s Facebook page by the 2017 election. It currently boasts 10,422 “likes”.

Will buying likes and followers count?

The advertisement has already prompted senior press gallery reporters to plot creative ways to thwart another expected result – weekly meetings with key press gallery journalists.

And who is defined as key?

Little’s chief of staff, Matt McCarten, said the targets were guidelines and the reference to the 6pm news was a “throwaway comment” designed to show the aim was to be proactive, not just reactive, in the news.

A throwaway comment in a formal job description?

A source said the Facebook page was fed by the parliamentary party as well as the party’s head office, so setting targets for the new media boss, who will report to McCarten but is employed by Parliamentary Service, did not breach Parliament’s funding rules. 

I wouldn’t be so sure about that.

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Press Council slams Waikato Times

December 30th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

I blogged back in April on a disgraceful front page story in the Waikato Times that published an allegation from Curwen Rolinson (NZ First Youth Leader) on Facebook that the Waikato Young Nationals had purchased 202 copies of Dirty Politics to do a Nazi style book burning.

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As you can see the Waikato Times didn’t only make it their front page lead, they even commissioned a graphic of the book burning.

They were told the story was false. They decided to run it as a front page lead, and now the Press Council has slammed them for it in one of the harsher rulings I have seen.

The Press Council has said:

The Press Council recognises that social media are a frequent source of information that can be checked and developed into stories capable of meeting the standards of accuracy, fairness and balance expected by readers of a reliable newspaper.

In this case the Council does not believe the newspaper had sufficient corroboration of the claim on Facebook. The Times’ additional source, a student who would not be named, claimed to have seen Mr Letcher with more than 200 books. If that statement were true, it does not establish that Mr Letcher intended to burn them.

The Facebook posting as reported by the Times, said, “So apparently the CNI Young Nats (and presumably the NZ Young Nats) are buying up copies of Nicky Hager’s # Dirty Politics….and burning them.” The word “apparently” should be noted. It suggests the information was at best hearsay, at worst an assumption by a person associated with a rival political party.

The Times called it “rumour” but its report also claimed to have confirmed part of the rumour. It is therefore difficult to accept the Regional Editor’s response that the paper was merely reporting an allegation. Its confidence in its own source and its decision to splash the book burning allegation across its front page would have given the story credibility in the minds of some readers. 

While Mr Letcher’s denial was also reported prominently, this does not redeem the report. Newspapers need to be careful when dealing with rumour that is denied. A false accusation can easily be made for the purpose of forcing a political opponent to deny it publicly. That indeed is said to be a device of “dirty politics”. Newspapers should take care to ensure they are not unwitting instruments of it.

Basically the Press Council has said that the Waikato Times was part of Dirty Politics themselves.  They smeared Aaron Letcher on the basis of a Facebook post by a political opponent and an anonymous source.

They refused to admit they did anything wrong:

The Times did not base stories solely on social media but those media often provided tips or starting points for stories. In this case the allegation on social media was supported by a source the Times considered credible and agreed not to name, which is standard practice for news organisations.

Their anonymous source lied to them, as there were not 202 books purchased or in Letcher’s possession. You only have to protect sources that tell you the truth.

The WaikatoTimes could not substantiate this rumour to a standard that meets the Press Council’s principles of accuracy and fairness. Mr Letcher’s complaint is upheld.

The Press Council has upheld, by a majority of 8:3, a complaint against the Waikato Times over a front page report of a claim that Young Nationals had bought hundreds of copies of the book Dirty Politics, intending to burn them.

What I find amazing is that it was  only an 8:3 decision, not 11:0. I can’t think of a more clear cut example, especially when you consider how it was made a front page lead. Of interest the three who said it were fine are all members meant to be representing the public, while all the members representing newspapers, magazines and journalists condemned it.

I hope the  Waikato Times runs the decision of the Press Council with the same prominence as they did the original story, and they finally apologise to Aaron Letcher for the outrageous smear they published as a front page lead, linking him to a purported Nazi style book burning.

UPDATE: The Waikato Times has not mentioned the ruling on their front page, but have it on an inside page. The front page is devoted to the worthy talents of Miss Whangamata.

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Are students really starving?

September 25th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The headline:

Students starve to pay their bills

The story continues:

The number of hardship grant applications were increasing as more students were finding themselves in “dire situations”, Association of Students at UCOL (AS@U) president Miranda Orpin said.

It is the least surprising thing in the world that every year more and more students say yes to free cash. Students are not stupid.

Massey linguistics student Lauren Gennills and agri-commerce student Karn Dhaliwal, both 21, said sacrifices had to be made, including cutting back in things like fresh fruit and veges, to cover other costs, like rent and bills.

“You have days where you’ve got maybe $2 to feed yourself for that day and you learn to live off that, but at the end of it you’ve still got this massive student loan to pay off, and you’re stuck in that cycle for ages,” Gennills said.

On the general issue I wish media would never run stories on cost of living without asking for a detailed break down of income and expenditure, so readers can judge for themselves the situation.

On the specific issue, Lauren herself has noted on her Facebook:

hahaha oh dear, a lot of what we said was more about most students in general, not actually about ourselves, but they really made it seem like i was referring to my own financial situation! have had family members all day texting me horrified that i am now the new face of hunger in palmy!

So Lauren herself says the article is misleading.

I’ve had a look through the Facebook pages of Lauren and Karn. They both seem very cool friendly people, and in no way are they political activists for a cause. They seem very typical students. I would note however that contrary to the perception in the article of starving students (and I am not blaming them, but the story) they seem to have pretty good social lives judging by the photos, and references to Big Day Out etc.

I have no doubt that it is as tough today living on a student allowance or loan, as it was in my day. But it is not starvation.

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US trust in media hits new low

September 19th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

A Gallup poll has found:

  • Only 40% of Americans trust the mass media, a new low
  • 54% of Democrats trust the mass media, 38% of Independents and 27% of Republicans
  • 44% say media too liberal, 34% about right and 19% too conservative
  • Among Independents, 42% say media too liberal and 21% too conservative
  • Even with Democrats 20% say too liberal and 24% too conservative
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Cameron Slater and the media

August 30th, 2014 at 3:11 pm by David Farrar

Collins2email

This is the e-mail released by the PM’s Office. Obviously it has impacted Judith Collins, but if you read the whole thing you’ll see it backs something I have said consistently.

Cameron deals with a huge range of people, including Labour MPs, Green MPs, and almost every media organisation in NZ. The book only showed you his interactions with people associated with National, but this e-mail includes media contact with no less than four different journalists. One specific quote:

I am maintaining daily communications with Jared Savage at the Herald and he is passing information directly to me that the Herald can’t run and so are feeding me to run on the blog.

Now let me say again that what Cam says in an e-mail is his interpretation of events. I regard Jared Savage as an excellent investigative reporter. But the e-mail does lead to questions being asked. How is media giving Cam stories, different to a press secretary doing so?

Now again what Cam has written is his interpretation. It may not be the literal truth of what Jared was doing. But here’s the thing – you need to be consistent. If you accept everything in the e-mails written by Cam as the literal truth, then the NZ Herald was feeding stories to Whale Oil, which they could not run in their newspaper. If you do not accept those e-mails as the literal truth, then why would you accept the ones about interactions with people in National as the literal truth?

Is the Herald going to say that everything Cameron wrote about his dealings with us is incorrect, yet everything else is correct?

Will other media subject Herald reporters and editors to the same level of inquiry that they have subjected others named in the hacked e-mails to?

As I said I have high regard for Jared Savage. The point I am making is consistency.

 

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Making shit up on Stuff

August 21st, 2014 at 9:45 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

If you’ve heard enough about Nicky Hager’s Dirty Politics book and claims of Judith Collins’ leaking like a sieve to blogger Cameron Slater, you’re not alone.

Rumours doing the rounds on social media yesterday suggested a group of Young Nats in Hamilton might take matters into their own hands and dispose of a large stock of the dreaded book.

It’s not exactly on the same scale as the book burnings of the Nazi regime or the anti-communist McCarthy era but social media was yesterday buzzing with rumours of an imminent book burning at Waikato University.

The head of the Waikato Students’ Union and a former member of the Young Nats is alleged to have bought 202 copies of Hager’s book to burn.

Aaron Letcher has denied the claims, but the leader of NZ First Youth and a Waikato University source, who asked not to be named, said he did.

Letcher said the claims were false.

“There is nothing to it. I saw the allegations on Facebook by a NZ First person”

The Facebook page Letcher was referring to belongs to NZ First Youth leader Curwen Rolinson, who posted: “So apparently, the CNI Young Nats (and, assumedly, the NZ Young Nats) are buying up copies of Nicky Hager’s #DirtyPolitics . . . and burning them.”

Rolinson said he stood by his post.

His claims have been backed by a Waikato University student who saw the books in Letcher’s possession.

Stuff now runs as front page news (and lead story in the Waikato Times I believe) a rumour on Facebook, pushed by the former Head of NZ First Youth?

And people say there is a problem with standards on blogs!

Here’s what I understand to be the story from someone close to Aaron (Aaron has the flu).

  1. Aaron purchased six copies of the book.
  2. He sent five of them to an Embassy in Wellington, where his mother works, as they couldn’t buy any locally. He kept one for himself to read and was probably very disappointed he was not in the book.
  3. Someone saw the six books in his office and decided he must have purchased them for a book burning or some such stupidity and the rumour started

It’s one thing for there to be a rumour on Facebook, but for Stuff to run this as a front page story without a single shred of evidence is just making shit up.

The hilarious thing is Aaron has done lots of stupid crap in his time. But this is not one of them.

I look forward to the prominent retraction by Stuff. Nah, just kidding. I’m not that much of an optimist.

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This is their front page story, taken from Whale Oil. They ran this as their major lead, with graphics and all – on a false Facebook rumour.

I’ve never complained to The Press Council about a story, and don’t want to start. But if anything ever qualified for a complaint, this would.

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Internet news now more trusted in US than TV news

June 26th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

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Gallup reports:

Confidence in newspapers has declined by more than half since its 1979 peak of 51%, while TV news has seen confidence ebb from its high of 46% in 1993, the first year that Gallup asked this question. Gallup’s only previous measure of Internet news was in 1999, when confidence was 21%, little different from today.

And there is a political difference:

Slightly less than one-fifth of self-identified conservatives (15%) say they have a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in newspapers, tied with the 10-year low. In the past decade, the percentage of conservatives expressing a strong degree of confidence in newspapers has fallen by nearly half. Liberals are far more likely than conservatives — or than the adult population in general — to be confident in newspapers (34%). Nearly a quarter of moderates (24%), meanwhile, have confidence in newspapers.

Most of the US media has a huge liberal bias, and people have revolted against it. We’re lucky things are not so bad in NZ.

 

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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 media 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 PSA 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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Canon Media Award Winners

May 10th, 2014 at 9:54 am by David Farrar

Some of the winners at the Canon Media Awards. Congrats to the winners and all those nominated.

  • Best Digital Breaking News Coverage nzherald.co.nz
  • Best Blog Cameron Slater – Whale Oil
  • Best News site stuff.co.nz
  • Best Website Yahoo NZ
  • Best Newsstand Magazine Metro
  • Magazine Feature Writer of the Year Steve Braunias – Metro
  • Magazine Feature Writer Business and Politics Rebecca Macfie – NZ Listener
  • Magazine Feature Writer Crime and Justice Steve Braunias – Metro
  • Canon Newspaper of the Year The Dominion Post
  • Weekly Newspaper of the Year Weekend Herald
  • Reporter of the Year Andrea Vance – Fairfax political bureau
  • Junior Reporter of the Year Sam Boyer – The Dominion Post
  • Reporter Politics Andrea Vance – Fairfax political bureau
  • Reporter Business Duncan Bridgeman – National Business Review
  • Reporter Crime and Justice Anna Leask – The New Zealand Herald
  • Reporter Health and Education David Fisher – The New Zealand Herald
  • Reporter Science and Environment Marty Sharpe – The Dominion Post
  • Reporter Arts and Entertainment Michelle Robinson – Sunday Star-Times
  • Reporter General Tony Wall – Sunday Star-Times
  • Newspaper Feature Writer of the Year Tony Wall – Sunday Star-Times
  • Newspaper Feature Writer Crime and Justice David Fisher – The New Zealand Herald
  • Best Investigation Kirsty Johnston – Sunday Star-Times
  • Cartoonist of the Year Rod Emmerson – The New Zealand Herald
  • Best Columnist – humour/satire Steve Braunias – Sunday Star-Times
  • Best Columnist – general Jane Clifton – NZ Listener
  • Columnist of the Year Jane Clifton – NZ Listener
  • Editorial Writer of the Year Jane Clifton – NZ Listener
  • Reviewer of the Year Chris Barton – Metro
  • Wolfson Fellow 2014 Andrea Vance – Fairfax political bureau

Congrats especially to Cameron for winning Best Blog, and Andrea Vance for both Best Reporter and the Wolfson Fellowship. While I’m not sure either of them would appreciate the comparison, they’ve both broken a series of major stories during the year. I jokingly call Andrea the most dangerous reporter I know, because she is relentless at working her sources, digging up information and writing them up as explosive stories.

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Why Whale Oil should win the Canon Media Blog of the Year

May 9th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Canon Media Awards are tonight. Whale Oil is one of the three finalists for Blog of the Year.

While I have high regard for the other two finalists (Toby Manhire and Giovanni Tiso), I think it would be a travesty if Whale Oil does not win this year.

A win doesn’t mean one is endorsing everything Cameron has ever written or said.

A win recognises his impact on the media in 2013 and 2014.

British media magnate Lord Northcliffe once famously said that News is what somebody somewhere wants to suppress; all the rest is advertising.”

Using that definition of news, the award must go to Whale Oil. He broke the Len Brown story which has had a massive impact. He also has broken a number of stories on Kim Dotcom and the Internet Party. In both cases, these were stories that the subjects wanted suppressed but were of public importance revealing how various media were involved in setting up the Internet Party, without disclosure.

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A bit misleading

May 7th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

NZ First MP Tracey Martin was paid more than $70,000 as a local council board member – on top of her almost $150,000-a-year MP’s salary.

That’s a rather misleading sentence. The $70,000 is her board salary over two years. The way this is written makes it look like Martin is getting $70,000 a year on top of $150,000.

Down the bottom they say:

A council spokesman confirmed Martin was paid between 2011 and 2013. The annual salary was between $34,000 and $35,000.

Now don’t get me wrong. I think Martin should have retired from the board once she became an MP, but she retired in 2013 from it, so this is all historic anyway.

My point is just that the way the story was written (and this may be due to sub-editing) is rather misleading. A better sentence would have been:

NZ First MP Tracey Martin was paid more an extra $35,000 a year as a local council board member from 2011 to 2013 – on top of her almost $150,000-a-year MP’s salary.

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Why do we get media slant?

May 6th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Greg Mankiw writes in the NY Times:

Consumers of the news, both from television and print, sometimes feel that they are getting not just the facts but also a sizable dose of ideological spin. Yet have you ever wondered about the root cause of the varying political slants of different media outlets?

That is precisely the question that a young economist, Mathew Gentzkow, has been asking. A professor at the Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago, Mr. Gentzkow was recently awarded the John Bates Clark Medal by the American Economic Association for the best economist under the age of 40. 

And what did he find?

Mr. Gentzkow and Mr. Shapiro went to the Congressional Record and used a computer algorithm to find phrases that were particularly associated with the rhetoric of politicians of the two major political parties. They found that Democrats were more likely than Republicans to use phrases like “minimum wage,” “oil and gas companies” and “wildlife refuge.” Republicans more often referred to “tax relief,” “private property rights” and “economic growth.” While Democrats were more likely to mention Rosa Parks, Republicans were more likely to mention the Grand Ole Opry.

With specific phrases associated with political stands, the researchers then analyzed newspaper articles from 2005 to determine which papers leaned left and which leaned right. (They looked only at news articles and excluded opinion columns.) That is, they computed an objective, if imperfect, measure of political slant based on the choice of language.

A nice way to do it. Wonder if that could be done here?

With a measure of political slant in hand, the researchers then analyzed its determinants. That is, they examined why some papers write in a way that is more consistent with liberal rhetoric while others are more conservative.

A natural hypothesis is that a media outlet’s perspective reflects the ideology of its owner. Indeed, much regulatory policy is premised on precisely this view. Policy makers sometimes take a jaundiced view of media consolidation on the grounds that high levels of cross-ownership reduce the range of political perspectives available to consumers.

From their study of newspapers, however, Mr. Gentzkow and Mr. Shapiro, find little evidence to support this hypothesis. After accounting for confounding factors like geographic proximity, they find that two newspapers with the same owner are no more likely to be ideologically similar than two random papers. Moreover, they find no correlation between the political slant of a paper and the owner’s ideology, as judged by political donations.

Fascinating, and reassuring. So when people go on about ownership, there is no data to back up that an owner’s ideology slants most newspapers’ coverage.

So, if not the owner’s politics, what determines whether a newspaper leans left or right? To answer this question, Mr. Gentzkow and Mr. Shapiro focus on regional papers, ignoring the few with national scope, like The Times. They find that potential customers are crucial.

If a paper serves a liberal community, it is likely to lean left, and if it serves a conservative community, it is likely to lean right. In addition, once its political slant is set, a paper is more likely to be read by households who share its perspective.

So it is about meeting market demand. That’s one reason Fox News has done so well. For decades there was no TV broadcast presence that didn’t lean left.

Religiosity also plays a role in the story, and it helps Mr. Gentzkow and Mr. Shapiro sort out cause and effect. They find that in regions where a high percentage of the population attends church regularly, there are more conservatives, and newspapers have a conservative slant. They argue that because newspapers probably don’t influence how religious a community is, the best explanation is that causation runs from the community’s politics to the newspaper’s slant, rather than the other way around.

The bottom line is simple: Media owners generally do not try to mold the population to their own brand of politics. Instead, like other business owners, they maximize profit by giving customers what they want.

Makes sense.

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What the story didn’t tell you

April 27th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Yesterday Stuff had a story about a family being forced to live in a tent in Christchurch.

It’s a great example of why so many people no longer trust the media.

Whale Oil points out the facts that the Stuff story did not include.

  • They had failed to pay rent on a previous property of $2,200. Not paying rent of course makes it hard to gain a rental property.
  • They damaged their last property so badly the cleaning and repair costs were in excess of $1,500

Also buried in the story is the detail that they had turned down an offer to stay at someone’s house – preferring to be “independent” and live in a tent.

Another aspect that does not add up in the story is the assertion that one partner works full-time and the other is on a benefit. As far as I know you can’t be on a benefit if your partner is in full-time work. You can receive WFF and welfare assistance – but not be receiving a main benefit.

I have no doubt there are many families in Christchurch who are really struggling with accommodation. But media should report all the relevant facts – not just run a story probably handed to them by a local MP – without doing any research on it.

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