In April I published my inaugural data looking at the opinion of editorials and columnists at the two major media sites of Stuff and NZ Herald.
Six months has passed since then, and I can now publish an update. This will allow us to see both what the sentiment has been, but also has it changed from the six months previously.
Again some notes on the data:
- It covers six months – from 1 April 2015 to 30 September 2015.
- 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 six 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 negative for a political party or the Government. This is deliberate, it is about seeing the balance between positive and negative for those that do take a stance.
- 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.
Turning first to the editorials of the three metro newspapers (only they were included), the Dominion Post is the most relentlessly critical of National. Of 42 editorials referencing the Government or National, 35 are critical and only 7 supportive, so 83% negative. I’ve also noticed a trend that the Dominion Post editorials have become something more akin to a left wing blog, than a more reflective editorial. Time and time again I’ve noticed the author never loses an opportunity to take a dig at the Government, stating opinion as fact. They are very very different in tone to the other newspaper editorials, even when they may both be criticising the Government.
The Herald is 62% negative and 38% positive. This is less critical than the previous six months when it was 79% negative.
The Press is 50/50.
Turning to the columnists, the one who has written the most critical of National is Brian Rudman with 15 negative and no positives. Chris Trotter, Hamish Rutherford, Jane Bowron and Paul Little have also been all negatives – but have written far fewer columns.
Of those with a mixture of positive and negative, Dita de Boni is 94% negative, Vernon Small 89%, Duncan Garner 86%, Audrey Young 83%, John Armstrong 82%, Fran O’Sullivan 80%, Peter Lyons 80% and Tracy Watkins 69%.
Andrea Vance has been 50/50 and Bernard Hickey and Mike Yardley more positive than negative (but few articles)
Combining columns and editorials, the Herald website is 77% negative and 23% positive in its opinion, while Stuff is 83% negative and 18% positive.
Compared to the previous six months, the coverage has been slightly less negative, with the Herald dropping from 81% to 77% and Stuff from 85% to 83%.
Some left wing blogs insist that the media (and especially the Herald) is pro-National and too soft on it. In terms of editorials and opinion columns, it simply isn’t true.
Turning to coverage of Labour there has been a significant change from the last six months. Up until March, 74% of Herald columns and editorials on Labour were positive, but in the last six months only 25% have been. Likewise Stuff has gone from 33% positive to 21% positive.
The only columnist who has been more positive than negative on Labour has been John Armstrong.
Turning to the Greens, the Herald has had seven editorials or columns on them and four were positive and three negative. Stuff has been the same – four positive and three negative.
And NZ First has had the most positive coverage with five positive and three negative from the Herald. Ironic as they complain the most the media is biased against them. With Stuff they have had two positive and no negative.