US confidence in media at record lows

June 15th, 2016 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The latest Gallup polls shows the percentage of Americans who have trust in newspapers and television news has hit record lows of 20% and 21%. Both of these are 10% lower than a decade ago.

Borrows asks media to do their job

June 1st, 2016 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Chester Borrows writes:

To the woman who was asked where were they all living before living in the car? And who said “At home with my parents but then I got kicked out.” I want the media to find out why. To the mother of 10 children living in a carport I would like the reporter to explain that if she is on her own and her children are all school age, that she is entitled to $1500 per week from WINZ – which may not be much with 10 children – but what happened to that money this week. With an accommodation supplement on top of that her income would be much closer to $2000 per week. And another question she could be asked, bearing in mind she has probably been renting previously is, why she moved? Has she got a good rent record? Did she always pay rent on time? Was the accommodation ever damaged? Did she have to move because of the harsh and unfair treatment of the landlord or what? None of the answers affect the bottom line which is that it is all about the kids. But I want to know.

The media dereliction of duty has got even worse. They now allow the Greens to put up people and refuse to supply a surname – making it impossible for media to verify if what they are being told is correct. Yet despite this, the media all reports the claims.

Others being in bad circumstances does not make us become cold and uncaring towards them, or unsympathetic towards their circumstances. It doesn’t mean we all want to see people living in cardboard boxes under bridges, or begging on the street. It doesn’t mean we say it’s their own damn fault. The opposite is generally true. We open the doors to our homes, we open our wallets and give of our time energy and resources to help, we drop off groceries and raid our own firewood supplies to help with heating, especially when kids are involved.

Knowing the full facts doesn’t absolve us from a responsibility to help. But I am stuffed if I am going to be denied the knowledge of those full facts because a news agency can’t be bothered asking the questions. Alternatively, maybe they have decided that we don’t need to know because it doesn’t fit with the angle they are taking on a particular story.

When my bull-dust radar is screaming, the only way to turn it down is to know the truth. Let the fourth estate step up on this occasion.

Hear, hear.

The Channel Nine report

May 29th, 2016 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Stephen Rice, the producer who spent two weeks in a Lebanese jail, appears to have taken the fall for the 60 Minutes child snatch fiasco, despite a so-called “independent review” recommending that no individual be sacked over the matter.

The interim report into the saga, handed down on Friday, blasted the 60 Minutes operation for systemic failures at every level.

The report’s authors – Gerald Stone, the founder of 60 Minutes in Australia in 1979; senior Nine executive David Hurley; and Nine Entertainment Co’s in-house counsel Rachel Launders – found that a number of “critically relevant questions” relating to the decision to film the attempted rescue-cum-abduction of the children of Brisbane mother Sally Faulkner in Lebanon were never raised “by the executive producer who approved it, the senior producer who proposed it, or the reporting team that volunteered to participate in it”.

Amongst the questions the report says were never asked are:

Would payment to the child recovery agency encourage an unlawful act?

Could such a payment backfire on Nine?

Would Nine’s staff be participating in an unlawful act?

What were the potential consequences if the act failed?

What would be the impact on the reputation of Nine and 60 Minutes if the operation failed or resulted in injury? and

Did the public interest in telling the story outweigh the risks involved?

So these geniuses never even considered whether what they were funding was illegal and what might happen if it failed. Incredible. They’re lucky only one of them was sacked.

Further exacerbating the situation was the fact that 60 Minutes had come to operate with a degree of autonomy so great “that the executive producer saw no need to consult with the director of news & current affairs on the wisdom of commissioning this story”.

This is what surprised me. That a producer could decide to fund a televised kidnapping and not need to even consult with the director of news!

A new media venture

May 27th, 2016 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Stoppress reports:

The departures of Tim Murphy and Mark Jennings from their respective roles as the editor in chief of the New Zealand Herald and head of news at MediaWorks were both mourned as casualties of the changing media landscape.

However, the social media anguish seems to have been pre-emptive. 

Earlier today, Jennings and Murphy told StopPress that they were launching a media consultancy called Jennings/Murphy, which would provide strategic media assistance to businesses or individuals looking for advice across editorial, video production, strategic comms and media.

The pair will shortly launch their new website, and Jennings invites those interested in their services to approach them.

With decades of experience between them, countless contacts and inside knowledge of the challenges facing modern media companies, the pair do seem well suited to providing strategic advice for corporates struggling in this space.

The launch of the consultancy does not, however, imply that the newsmen have departed journalism for good.  

In addition to starting this business, the pair also unveiled—cue widespread journalistic cheers—plans to start a news site together.

“We are hoping to develop a home for quality news journalism here that will hopefully fill the gap from which mainstream media has withdrawn a bit,” says Murphy.

Sounds a good plan. Good luck to them.

Murphy says the aim is to develop a site that’s led by editorial judgement rather than web analytics. “We’ve got to turn away from clicks to clocks,” he says quoting a speaker at the recent International News Media Association Awards in London.

“We certainly don’t think there’s a market for something that’s dull or unworthy either. We’re not interested in setting up something that’s straight-laced niche play. It’s got to be broad and it’s got to have high appeal.

“There will be news, current affairs and investigations. And it will be about communicating in a more conversational way than traditional news.”

At this point, Jennings steps into the conversation and reminds me that the website hasn’t launched yet.

“I was smiling when Tim was saying, it’s going to be this and it’s going to be that, because we’re not off the ground yet,” Jennings says.

Like Murphy, he does, however believe there’s a clear gap in the market for the type of stories they’re hoping to tell.

“There’s constant feedback coming to us, with people saying, ‘Why can’t we have this sort of news? Why do we have to scroll to the bottom of Stuff or NZ Herald to find the stories we want? We don’t want the car crashes, we don’t want the Bachelor stories and we don’t want the lost dogs.’.

And half the stories on the main sites seem to be from overseas newspapers, but you only discover that at the very end.

Unverifiable claims

May 20th, 2016 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

While 7-year-old Emma battles a lung disease at Starship children’s hospital, her mum is facing another struggle against “discrimination” as she tries to find a place for them to live.

The family is one of many finding it difficult to put a roof over their heads in Auckland, as the Government comes under pressure to deal with those living in cars, garages and on the streets.

Mother-of-three Rhiannon, 44, told media at a Green Party event she had been struggling to find a house after her landlord decided to sell their current place in March.

She had been made redundant two years ago while her relationship also ended, and faced “discrimination” from private landlords and property agents when trying to find a rental.

“As soon as you tell them you’re a sole parent with three children, or that you’re on a Work and Income benefit, they’re not interested in you in this kind of competitive market.” …

Work and Income had offered to lend her money for the family to stay in a boarding house, but she didn’t want to take her children there.

They were on the Housing New Zealand waitlist, but were told it would take at least 18 months to find a place – even though they were high-priority because of Emma’s health.

“I felt like being sick – I was sitting in my car when they rang me and said that, and I just felt like I was going to have a breakdown.”

Rhiannon said she and Emma were currently at Starship children’s hospital while her other two children stayed with family and friends, but she wanted a proper roof over their heads.

“I’m a good tenant, I’ve always paid my rent, and I just really want to get my kids together and back to their schools and live a normal life.”

What is interesting in this story is no surname is given. The media asked for it, but it was refused. Despite this the media have reported the claims.

Now I’m not saying that the situation is not exactly as it has been portrayed. It could well be, and probably is. There are some people who have very tough circumstances and need more assistance.

But there have been dozens of other cases where claims have been made, and further information has come out which gives a different version of events.

Without a surname, it is simply impossible to verify the claims. Media should refuse to report such claims, unless they can be verified. Otherwise it is just propaganda.

Without a surname, you can’t check if there have been any cases at the Tenancy Tribunal involving the person, – for example.

I would have less of an issue with the surname being supplied to the media and then being asked not to publish it – because at least then the media themselves could verify the claims. But the media have agreed to report the claims, without having any information to allow them to verify it. That is a very bad thing.

Can blogs pick up the slack?

May 16th, 2016 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Gordon Campbell writes:

To state the bleedingly obvious: the blogosphere does not have the resources to compensate for the reduction in competition (and the loss of journalistic resources) that will be the inevitable outcome of this merger.

Why not? Sure, online startups are lively, thriving and multiplying : there’sScoop, The Spinoff, the Daily Blog, Kiwiblog, the Hard News stable, No Right Turn, The Standard, Pundit, the Dim-Post, Eric Crampton’s Offsetting Behaviour,Paul Buchanan’s 36th Parallel….to name just a few. Theoretically, the merger opens up a market opportunity for them. In reality, all of them will be damaged by the merger.

How come? Well for starters – and as this RNZ report explains here – and also here the blogosphere is poorly positioned to pick up the slack. It is run on a shoestring. It has few resources – or no resources at all, in most cases – to do news gathering. Its strength lies in its analysis and commentary; an essential role that the mainstream media has carried out timidly, or not at all. In other words, a genuine symbiotic relationship currently exists between the blogosphere and the traditional media. We rely on their news gathering and increasingly, they rely on our analysis and commentary. So… if there’s a decline in news gathering capacity, this will damage the ability of the blogosphere to carry out its valuable contribution to the public discourse.

I don’t disagree with what Gordon has said, and I’m not keen on the merger. But change can create opportunities.

The main media websites do very well at reporting news, and other sites do very well at analysis. Not just blogs, but NBR is very good at that, and I regard the best political analysis in NZ (by a wide margin) to be Richard Harman’s Politik newsletter.

But I have been thinking about what I would do if Stuff and NZ Herald combine and go behind a paywall. The initial impact would be a hassle. Rather than quote stories from their sites, and comment on them, I’d might have to use other sites such as Radio NZ or Newshub. But they have far fewer stories.

But the other thing I can do is start reporting the news more directly. 80% of stories seem to originate for PRs. I know this as I now get all the PRs. They tend to go into a folder I check once a day or so (if I have time). It is rare I’ll do a story based on a PR, as easier to quote a media story already summarising it.

But if two million NZers get blocked from most content on the Herald and Stuff sites, they’ll look elsewhere for it. I doubt many will pay for it.

I could hire someone to write a few news stories a day on interesting NZ issues. I already have good sources for overseas news.

I could also hire someone to cover parliamentary news and try and get them accredited to the press gallery. The gallery may not like it, but if they are going to hire most of their content behind paywalls, they’ll look bloody awful if they try to block a site willing to publish it freely from being able to access Parliament.

I’m not going to rush into anything, but if the merger goes ahead and the two main media websites combined and go behind a paywall, I will seriously look at whether I can grab a reasonable portion of their two million readers.

The Australian left raised $60,000 for a career criminal

May 15th, 2016 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Duncan Storrar appeared on the Australian Q+A programme and asked a question attacking the Government’s announced tax cuts as they were providing nothing for low income earners like himself. He said more help for families like him would mean he could tell his little girls they can go to the movies this weekend as Daddy isn’t broke.

He became a hero to the Australian left and Australian liberal media. He was the perfect symbol of an out of touch Government. They didn’t just fete him as the face of the ordinary Australian whom the coalition doesn’t care about, but they raised A$60,000 for him. The Twitter hashtag #duncanforpm started trending.

Then the truth about Storrar started to come out. And remember now that he decided to go on Q+A and to ask his question. Storrar put himself in the media spotlight, no-one else.

Then Storrar’s son spoke out, saying how at age 17 he went to live with him and got addicted to drugs due to him. He urged people to donate to charities, rather than giving to a someone “undeserving of the money”.

And then it came out that Storrar is a recidivist criminal with a list of convictions 20 pages long – including three spells in prison. So those blaming the Government for his situation start to look stupid, let alone those who raised $60,000 for him and proclaimed he should be Prime Minister.

His convictions include threatening to kill, unlawful assault and repeatedly breaching intervention orders.

We see this in NZ often too. Media rush in to fete someone who puts themselves forward as a victim without doing any due diligence on them.

Will the Herald and Stuff merge?

May 9th, 2016 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A major announcement on the future of media company NZME – publisher of The New Zealand Herald – is expected by Wednesday.

Shares in its parent, APN News & Media, are in a trading halt on the Australian Stock Exchange pending details of a “potentially material transaction’ for its New Zealand media arm.

The Australian reported APN and Fairfax Media were both considering spinning off their New Zealand media businesses which could then be merged, citing unnamed sources.

Wow, that would be huge. If the two media operations merged, I imagine there would be massive job losses as you would presumably have one combined news desk, press gallery team, website etc etc.

It would be very bad for media competition. However there is already limited competition at the print level, as every city has pretty much one daily newspaper only. I imagine the Sunday newspapers might rationalise also.

Fairfax Media acknowledged The Australian’s report in a statement to the Australian stock exchange but did not confirm its content.

“Fairfax continues to explore options for all its businesses including Fairfax New Zealand, but at this time there is nothing to disclose,” it said.

Hardly a denial.

Why was Channel Nine filming a kidnapping?

April 19th, 2016 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

There’s been a lot of stories about the detention of the Channel Nine crew who went to Lebanon to film the kidnapping or recovery of two children by a team hired by their Australian mother.

I can understand why the mother would want to hire a team to recover her children after their father refused to return them from a holiday.

But why a media organisation thought it would go along and film this, I do not know. Even worse, they may have put up the money for the operation, which means they face criminal liability for the kidnapping.

I feel sorry for the staff who are in jail in Lebanon. They may face a lengthy jail sentence. The ones who should be in the gun are the decision makers who decided to authorise this and authorise the money.

Blunt on media

April 9th, 2016 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

mediablunt

NZers have greater faith in Government than media

April 2nd, 2016 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

trust

This is from Stoppress.

Here’s the trust in institutions in NZ compared to other countries.

  • NGOs 54% NZ vs 55% world
  • Business 51% NZ vs 53% world
  • Government 41% NZ vs 42% world
  • Media 38% NZ vs 47% world

So the average in NZ is close to other countries, except when it comes to trust in media.

3rd biannual media opinion statistics

March 31st, 2016 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

In April I published my inaugural data looking at the opinion of editorials and columnists at the two major sites of Stuff and NZ Herald and in October, the 2nd set of data.

Another 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 October 2015 to 31 March 2016.
  • 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 personally 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.

National

medianatmar16

Turning first to the editorials of the three metro newspapers (only they were included), the Dominion Post remains the most relentlessly critical of National. Of 19 editorials referencing the Government or National, 16 are critical and only 3 supportive, so 84% negative.

Thee Herald is 67% negative and 33% positive.  This is more critical than the previous six months when it was 62% negative.

Turning to the columnists, the one who has written the most critical of National remains Brian Rudman with 7 negative and no positives. Next in line is Bryan Gould, then Stacey Kirk, Dave Armstrong, Paul Little, and Toby Manhire.

Of those with a mixture of positive and negative, Tracy Watkins is 88% negative, Duncan Garner 75%, Vernon Small 67%, Barry Soper 50% and Audrey Young 29 (last six months was 83%)

Combining columns and editorials, the Herald website is 79% negative and 21% positive in its opinion, while Stuff is 87% negative and 13% positive.

Compared to the previous six months, the coverage has been slightly more negative, with the Herald going from 77% to 79% and Stuff from 83% to 87%.

I remain amused 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.

Labour

Medialabmar16

Turning to coverage of Labour they have received better coverage in the last six months, with 33% of columns and editorials positive compared to 23% the previous six months.

The most negative columnists are Larry Williams and Tracy Watkins, while the most balanced have been Audrey Young and Vernon Small.

Greens

Turning to the Greens, they had had almost only positive columns – six positive and one negative. So 86% positive.

NZ First

NZ First have had only three columns on them, one positive and two negative.

Fairfax gets more investigative journalists

March 3rd, 2016 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Award-winning investigative journalists Paula Penfold, Eugene Bingham and Toby Longbottom have joined Fairfax Media.

They add to the existing line-up of Fairfax investigative and special projects journalists around the country and their appointments reflect a focus on increased investment in high quality journalism, Fairfax executive editor Sinead Boucher said.

“Paula, Toby and Eugene are an exceptionally talented team who have created some of the most compelling journalism in New Zealand.

“Their flair for hard-hitting investigative journalism and innovative storytelling will be a real asset to our audiences and I am thrilled they have chosen to join forces with us.”

They are the team behind the three-year investigation into the Teina Pora miscarriage of justice case that exposed faults in key evidence in the case and was credited with helping him get released from prison and having his convictions quashed.

This is very good news – not just for the journalists concerned, but for Fairfax. As the commercial media model gets harder, the focus for many is on sensationalism and clickbait. Having some high quality investigative journalists who may spends weeks or months on a worthy story, rather than have to only focus on getting three stories done by 5 pm, is a good thing.

Newspaper circulations

March 2nd, 2016 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

circulation

The latest audited circulation figures are out, and lots of change.

If we look just at the change in the past year, then those suffering double digit declines are the Dom Post and the two Fairfax Sunday papers. The Dom Post should be very concerned to lose one in seven subscriptions in a year. I do wonder if their new editorial stance is responsible for some of that.

NBR is the only paper to grow, but off a very small base. However better than shrinking. They also have a successful paywall model.

If one looks at the change since 2008, then the Herald on Sunday looks very good – actually growing 3.2%. The Sunday News has lost over two thirds of its circulation, the Dom Post and Press around one third and the Herald a quarter.

Most burgers don’t rot, not just McDonalds

February 14th, 2016 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

In case you saw the story breathlessly reported by the media about how a teacher had kept a McDonald’s burger for six years and it hadn’t rotted, so this is proof they are covered in chemicals or preservatives.

Well a scientist has found out that actually pretty much any burger won’t rot, so this is all just a big anti-McDonalds scare campaign.

The findings:

Turns out that not only did the regular McDonald’s burgers not rot, but the home-ground burgers did not rot either. Samples one through five had shrunk a bit (especially the beef patties), but they showed no signs of decomposition. What does this mean?

It means that there’s nothing that strange about a McDonald’s burger not rotting.Any burger of the same shape will act the same way. The real question is, why?

Well, here’s another piece of evidence: Burger number 6, made with no salt, did not rot either, indicating that the salt level has nothing to do with it. 

The key issue is the size of the burger. A bigger burger will grow mold as it will hold moisture for longer.

A further test was done:

So we’ve pretty much cleared up all of the confusion, but a keen scientist will notice that one question remains to be answered. We’ve proven that neither a McDonald’s burger nor a regular home-made burger will rot given certain specific conditions, but are there conditions we can create that will cause it to rot, and more importantly, will the McDonald’s burger rot as fast as the homemade burger?

The final two burgers I tested were a McDonald’s burger and a regular homemade burger of the same dimensions placed in plastic zipper-lock bags side by side. Hopefully the bag would trap in enough moisture. The question: Would they rot?

Indeed they do. Within a week, both burgers were nearly covered in little white spots of mold, eventually turning into the green and black spotted beast you see above.

So the global media story on this is basically bullshit.

A meaningless $1 billion figure

January 20th, 2016 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

First the misleading headline:

‘Free’ education system set to have cost parents more than $1 billion this year

You read that and you would think this means that parents have paid $1 billion this year towards their kid’s schooling.

The price of a free school education will soar to record heights this year.

Official figures show “voluntary donations” from parents and others will this year have collectively provided more than $1 billion to bankroll schools since 2000.

So it is not an annual figure but a figure over 15 years.

Commentators have described that as a watershed figure with some arguing New Zealand’s “free education” system is broken.

It is a meaningless figure, not a watershed one.

If you add stuff up cumulatively you will always get a big figure.

If you started in say 1996, then in 2012 you would also find $1 billion of fees and could call that a watershed figure.

Unless there is a particular reason to start in 2000, the $1 billion figure is meaningless and just an invention to get a headline.

Even worse nowhere in the article do they state how much the annual amount of donations currently is.

A story based on a third hand anonymous source

January 13th, 2016 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett is denying claims she met with a representative of a Chinese property billionaire said to be eyeing up New Zealand’s state housing stock.

The State Housing Action Network said on Friday that it understood Bennett met with Roger O’Sullivan, recently appointed New Zealand manager for Henry Cheng Kar-Shun’s Pinnacle Group, on December 11 to discuss buying state houses.

 But Clark Hennessy, Bennett’s spokesperson, said no such meeting took place and that network convenor John Minto was “making stuff up”.

“I don’t know what he’s talking about. The minister keeps quite separate from the commercial process…[ministers] don’t want to be favouring any one provider.”

Minto said the information came from an anonymous source but it seemed credible as it matched with Pinnacle’s stated intentions.

Once upon a time this would not be a story. Printing allegations from a third hand anonymous source with no verification! In the absence of proof, and a firm denial, why publish the allegation?

This incentivises groups to just make things up, because if they do so, they get a nice big story with Fairfax.

Newspaper sales plummeting

November 28th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Richard Harman writes at Politik:

The number of copies of New Zealand daily newspapers sold over the past five years has plunged by 23%.

Meanwhile Kiwiblog readership is up 18% from five years ago.

According to the media industry website, “StopPress”, Stuff averaged 1,733,000 visitors per months to its site while the NZHerald received 1,315,000 visits.

Averaged out that equates to about 80,000 a weekday on Stuff and 61,000 a weekday on the NZHerald.

Kiwiblog has around 12,000 a weekday. Not bad with no staff, just me and some helpers.

WhaleOil has numbers not far off the NZ Herald, and with again no paid staff.

No Fairfax these are not New Zealand’s riskiest industries

November 18th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The headline:

ACC statistics show New Zealand’s riskiest industries

Note that headlines are not written by the journalist who wrote the story:

The data:

Top 10 industries for ACC claims in 2014

Dairy cattle farming 11,748

House construction 8,741

Sheep and beef cattle farming 7,687

Meat processing 6,081

Fabricated metal product manufacturing 4,862

Supermarket and grocery stores 4,859

Electrical services 3,540

Plumbing services 2,775

 

This data does not show risk. It primarily shows how many people work in an industry. There were four times as many claims in supermarkets as in logging. Does that mean supermarkets are riskier? Of course not.

What would be useful is adjusting for population the number of claims for each industry.

2nd biannual media opinion statistics

October 22nd, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

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.

National

natsep15

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.

Labour

labsep15

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.

Greens

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.

NZ First

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.

Herald confuses minimum and median

September 22nd, 2015 at 1:06 pm by David Farrar

The Herald headline:

Aucklanders can expect to pay minimum of $400 a week

The first paragraph:

Auckland renters can expect to pay a minimum $400 a week – regardless of property type or size, according to Trade Me Property’s monthly report on median rents across New Zealand.

Stats Chat points out:

From a quick TradeMe search for Auckland rentals, with an upper limit of $350 a week: 525 listings.

And the Herald’s rather basic mistake:

What they mean is that the median is at least $400/week in every category of property type or size, not the minimum.

I can forgive a newspaper for not knowing the difference between mean and median. But conflating minimum and median is a horrific error, which makes the headline and lead paragraph totally wrong and misleading.

Stagnant wages?

September 21st, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Thanks to rising house prices, stagnant wages and social inequality, renters now make up at least half of our population.

I always get suspicious when a story makes an assertion like this. It sounds like borrowed rhetoric from a politician. So I thought I would check. Have wages been stagnant?

So I looked at Stats NZ average ordinary time earnings increases. The average increase in wages by year has been:

  • 2014/15 – 3.1%
  • 2013/14 – 3.5%
  • 2012/13 – 2.2%
  • 2011/12 – 3.5%
  • 2010/11 – 4.3%

That is far from stagnant, and well beyond inflation.

This then got me thinking whether other facts asserted in the article may also be less than robust. Do renters now make up half our population?

Well according to the last census, 453,135 households rent. This compares to 940,728 households that own their home directly or through a family trust. And around 50,000 households do not own or pay rent (maybe parents own).

So around one third of households rent, not one half. A big difference. But the assertion was renters are now over half the population.  So maybe rental households have more people in them that non rental households.

Well no as Stats NZ says:

In general, rental housing tended to have fewer bedrooms than housing that was owned or in a family trust.  

So if anything it is likely the proportion of people in rental accommodation is closer to 30% than 50%.

It is one thing for an article to quote someone else making an assertion that may not be true. but if the article just stats the assertion as fact, and it isn’t, it undermines the entire article.

The Maori Language Month beatup

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

newsclip

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.

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.

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?