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.



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.

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


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


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?

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.


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! :-)


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.

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.

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.


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.

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.


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.


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.

How badly did Fairfax defame Jennings?

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

Stuff reports:

Last week, 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. 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.

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?

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.

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.

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.


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.

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.

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

Cameron Slater and the media

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


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.