How badly did Fairfax defame Jennings?

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

Stuff reports:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tags: , , ,

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?

Tags: ,

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.

Tags:

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.

Tags: , ,

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.

Bvgm2dKCYAAJVlt-630x441

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.

Tags: , , , , ,

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.

Tags: ,

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
Tags: ,

Cameron Slater and the media

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

Collins2email

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Tags: , , ,

Making shit up on Stuff

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

Stuff reports:

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

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

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

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

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

Letcher said the claims were false.

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

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

Rolinson said he stood by his post.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bvgm2dKCYAAJVlt-630x441

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

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

Tags: , , ,

Internet news now more trusted in US than TV news

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

04zos2e2weyy0fzpqwevfq

Gallup reports:

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

And there is a political difference:

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

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

 

Tags:

Herald on journalists and politics

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

The Herald editorial:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well stated.

Tags: , , ,

Canon Media Award Winners

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

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

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

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

Tags: , ,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tags: , ,

A bit misleading

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

Stuff reports:

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

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

Down the bottom they say:

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

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

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

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

Tags: ,

Why do we get media slant?

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

Greg Mankiw writes in the NY Times:

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

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

And what did he find?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Makes sense.

Tags:

What the story didn’t tell you

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tags:

Herald on Sunday story badly wrong

March 30th, 2014 at 8:59 am by David Farrar

Susan Edmunds at the Herald on Sunday writes:

The cost of feeding your family a cooked weekend breakfast rose by more than three times the rate of inflation over the past five years — and the price increases aren’t likely to stop.

This makes it sound like breakfast food prices have been rising faster than other costs. Their calculation:

If you served tomatoes, mushrooms, bacon, toast, eggs, tinned spaghetti and cereal, with coffee, tea and orange juice this weekend, it would have cost you 6.9 per cent more than the same meal in 2008, and almost 3 per cent more than in 2012. Breakfast food prices have risen more quickly than other prices.

Over the past five years, the compound average annual rate of inflation was 2.1 per cent.

This is so wrong and deceptive, it is appalling.

The story is comparing the cumulative five year price increase of cooked breakfasts with the average annual inflation rate. That is not apples and apples. That is comparing the cost of five apples to one apple.

Yes the average annual inflation rate has been 2.1%. What that means is that prices overall have increased 10.8% from December 2008 to December 2013. The CPI for those quarters was 1072 and 1188 respectively.

So if the cost of breakfast has increased by 6.9% over five years, then the cost of breakfast has increased by around 60% of the overall inflation, not by three times as much. The average annualized increase in breakfast is 1.4% – again far less than 2.1%.

This story should be pulled from their website it is so wrong. I’m not sure a correction can fix it, as its central premise is flawed.

I also doubt some of the data in there. I presume they got more detailed data from Stats NZ than on Infoshare, but even what Infoshare has doesn’t support some of the assertions such as:

A loaf of bread is now 11 per cent more expensive than it was in 2008.

The bread sub-index was 1290 in Dec 2008 and 1374 in Dec 2013 (and down to 1359 in Feb 2014). This is a five year increase of 6.5%, not 11%.

But even if you accept their figures are correct, their assertion is fundamentally wrong. The cost of a cooked breakfast has not risen three times faster than inflation. It has risen slower than inflation.

Tags: ,

17 houses available under stated rent limit for person in tent

December 10th, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Press reports:

Nellie Hunt and her children spent last night sleeping in a tent in a public park, while another 39 Cantabrians are living in similar or worse conditions.

Hunt is deemed priority A on the Housing New Zealand (HNZ) waiting list, but The Press understands 39 other people stand before her in the queue for social housing.

Her plight was revealed in The Press yesterday and offers of help have flooded in.

The 35-year-old and her three children, aged 16, 11 and 9, were evicted from their rental property and shifted into the tent in Waltham Park yesterday.

Three social agencies could not find the family a home after they were served a 90-day eviction notice in September.

Wouldn’t a balanced story include why she was evicted? The video says it is because the landlord is selling the house, but that doesn’t require you to evict tenants. In fact having tenants generally makes a sale easier.

Hunt turned down offers to move into other people’s homes because she was afraid it would forfeit her “urgent” position in the HNZ queue and one of the only chances she has of getting her children a suitable home.

So it is a deliberate choice to move into a tent.

On an average week she will receive about $760, which includes her wages and Working For Families and accommodation supplement entitlements.

Hunt is hoping to find a three or four-bedroom home in Waltham or surrounding suburbs, and said she could pay a maximum of $400 rent per week.

A lot of families have three kids and don’t have four bedroom houses.

The figure of $760 a week sounds light.  Let’s say she is on $14 an hour full-time. That is $560 gross a week. Tax reduces that to $481 a week. WFF for three kids is $290 a week and the accom supplement for that income and $400 rent in Christchurch is $106 a week which is income of $877 a week or the gross equivalent of $55,000.

Finally I’ve gone to Trade Me and done a search on rental properties in Waltham or nearby suburbs for under $400 a week for three to four bedrooms. There are 17 of them.  That would be relevant information to include in the story, and maybe ask why one of those were not rented. They’re all currently available.

Tags: ,

Editorials on whether blogs are media

December 3rd, 2013 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Press editorial:

A recent decision by a District Court judge that the well-known, some would say notorious, Whale Oil blog is not a news medium highlights the difficulty. …

In a paper on new media published last year, the Law Commission observed that bloggers are often highly partisan, can be offensive and abusive and are not accountable to anybody.

The commission later modified that view to note that some of New Zealand’s 200 or more current-affairs bloggers have become a rich alternative source of information and commentary.

The Whale Oil blog run by Cameron Slater certainly fits the commission’s first description. His commentary on a wide array of topics is heavily tendentious and often gratuitously rude.

His campaigns can also be wrong-headed, the most notable being a wildly irresponsible campaign a couple of years ago against name suppression that resulted in his incurring convictions and stiff fines.

But he also attracts more than 1 million visitors a month, more than the next five New Zealand bloggers put together and he has broken stories that have been taken up with gusto by other media.

These facts, Slater argued in the District Court recently, were sufficient to make him a journalist and his blog a news medium as defined in the Evidence Act.

He made the plea in order to be able to claim a protection provided by the act so he would not have to reveal his sources in a defamation action that has been brought against him. The judge rejected the submission.

While Slater’s blog is miles short of what most people would think of as a responsible medium that should be entitled to the protection of the law, the decision is almost certainly wrong.

Very good of The Press to argue that blogs can qualify for media protection. An unthinkable view from them a few years ago.

The Herald editorial agrees:

Blogger Cameron Slater has been told by a Manukau District Court judge his “Whaleoil” website is not a news medium. This will surprise everybody aware of the Len Brown affair. Whaleoil broke that story and was almost alone among news media in covering the seamy details. Muckraking to that degree might not be to everyone’s taste but if anybody wants to rake it or read it, they have a right to do so. The ruling by District Court Judge Charles Blackie will not stop them but it denies Whaleoil a right asserted by all news media to protect their sources from discovery in court.

The case has nothing to do with the Brown affair. Slater is defending an action for defamation on a different subject. The judge’s ruling is important for its general application to news and comment online, and possibly for the future regulation of mainstream media too.

The ruling does have wide ramifications.

The right that Slater seeks is not particularly generous, or final. If a case goes to the High Court, news media may be forced to betray a confidential source to the judge, who will decide whether confidentiality overrides other considerations in the case. Other jurisdictions give media freedom higher protection. A blogger might not have the means to challenge this ruling in a higher court but it should not stand. News comes in many and varied forms and the courts should recognise it when they see it.

Again, very welcome to see the Herald take this view.

Maybe the Newspaper Publishers Association Media Freedom Committee could consider assisting with the appeal?

Tags: , , , ,

BSA upholds complaints against Radio NZ over three strikes coverage

November 25th, 2013 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

David Garrett complained to Radio New Zealand and then the Broadcasting Standards Authority about a Nine to Noon item on 29 May 2013 regarding the three strikes law. The BSA has ruled that the item was both unbalanced and inaccurate. Their ruling is here.

David has provided Kiwiblog with a guest post about the ruling:

“Three Strikes”, Radio New Zealand and the Broadcasting Standards Authority

 On 29 May Radio New Zealand’s “Nine to Noon” featured what was supposedly a panel discussion about how the “three strikes” (3S) law  was working, almost three years after its passing.  The only problem – or at least the  most obvious one – was that the panel consisted only of Professor John  Pratt,  who had voiced his strident views against the law from well before it was passed, and the lawyer for one Elijah Whaanga,  a man with 20 odd convictions as an adult, two of them  “strikes” for aggravated robbery.

 And of course there was the supposedly neutral  presenter, one Lyn Freeman, filling in for Kathryn Ryan, who in all fairness would probably  have done a much better job. As the recently released Broadcasting Standards Authority (BSA) determination on my complaint about the programme makes clear, while nominally presenting the programme – and supposedly acting as devil’s advocate :

“…the presenter appeared to largely adopt the position of the interviewees without any real challenge….[her questions] were insufficient to provide balance on the topic under discussion, especially considering the broadcast involved two people strongly opposed to  the law” (at para. [25])

The programme began with a major  inaccuracy: that persons on their third strike “had no possibility of parole”, when in  fact  the “no parole at strike three” provision  will  not apply if the Judge finds it to be “manifestly unjust” in the circumstances of a particular case. The insertion of this proviso occurred after Judith Collins took over negotiation of the contents of the 3S  law from then Justice Minister Simon Power, and the Nats stopped playing games.

It is an important qualification – and gives the lie to the oft repeated claim that the law removes judicial discretion.  ACT readily agreed to this provisio being included. Radio New Zealand simply ignored its existence in Freeman’s introduction. Things got much worse from that point on.

Throughout the discussion, Elijah Whaanga, the second strike aggravated robber whose lawyer was a panelist, was referred to constantly  as “Elijah” and “a playground bully ”, presumably because his second strike aggravated robbery was of a skateboard and a hat. What wasn’t  mentioned was that the robbery occurred  in the street not a playground; that the victim was “only” robbed of a skateboard and a hat because he had no money; and that in Whaanga’s first strike – also an aggravated robbery in the street – the victim had all his money taken, and his head  kicked in.

As the BSA puts it in its decision:

“The offender on his second strike…was referred to throughout the discussion and  used as an example of the type of people  targeted by the law , without balancing comment to challenge this…Given the participants strongly held views that the law operated in a way that was unjust and unfair, and out of proportion to the crime committed, there was a clear requirement of the broadcaster to ensure the discussion was balanced” [paras. 19 -20]

The BSA concluded that the programme was one to which the “balance” standard applied,  that  RNZ “…did not include sufficient balance on the issue”, and therefore upheld the  first limb of  my complaint.

Inaccuracies

My second complaint was about the many inaccuracies the programme contained, none of them corrected or challenged by the presenter.  I identified a lengthy list of statements – mostly by Professor Pratt  – (see para. [37] of the determination)  which were inaccurate or misleading.

The BSA found that the programme was misleading in two crucial respects: firstly by its  many completely inaccurate comparisions with California’s “three strikes” law; the second  was the way “playground bully” Elijah Whaanga was “portrayed and used as an example of the type of criminals (sic.)  targeted by the law “ (See para. [43] of the BSA decision).

The first  point  is of course indeed  crucial. From the outset, opponents of 3S have attempted to use the indisputable   excesses of the law in California as it was originally enacted   as a reason not to enact  a law with the same name here.

In 2007, Garth McVicar and I went to California specifically to find out whether the “life for stealing a chocolate bar” stories were true (we never verified  that one, although there were others which were clearly unacceptable and unjust) and if so, to work out how to draft our  3S law so  injustices like them  couldn’t happen here.

California recently modified its law to make it much more like ours: no more “technical felonies”, and much more prosecutorial and  judicial discretion. Rather than make those points, Freeman talked about California “backing away” from 3S, and rhetorically asked “What does that tell you? ” Professor Pratt obliging leapt on his soapbox and gave his version of what the changes in California meant, untroubled by any dissenting voice.

The BSA was perhaps  harshest on this point, saying:

“…comparing the legislation in this manner, without any countering views, and in particular the presenter’s unequivocal statement that California had started to ‘back away’  from the legislation, would have misled listeners as to the nature of New Zealand’s ‘three strikes’ law  and any comparison with California.” (see para. [42] )

The BSA concluded its decision on the balance and accuracy complaints thus:

“The programme omitted any alternative voice to counteract the one sided statements  made by the panelists, and the presenter failed to adequately challenge those statements. Compounding this, the panelists also made statements which created a misleading impression in the absence of any balancing comment.” (See para. [49] )

As I did on the morning  I heard this travesty of journalism unfolding, I have offered to  appear as “balance” for any future programme on 3S. Somehow I don’t think I’ll be getting a call, but at least after receiving  a spanking from the BSA like this one, they might be a bit more careful next time.

Well done to David for getting a successful ruling, and hopefully Radio NZ will be more balanced in future on this topic.

Tags: , , , ,

The Herald rest home series

November 25th, 2013 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald has started its series on rest homes. We’ve all been waiting for this since Whale published their plans several weeks ago about what types of stories they were seeking, who they would get comment from etc etc.

I thought the opening paragraph was interesting:

A Herald investigation of rest homes – where a greater proportion of elderly people die than in 12 other developed countries – has found that although most care is at least adequate, some reflects major failings.

So in other words we have the 13th best rest home mortality rate in the developed (and no doubt entire) world, which puts us in the top third or so of countries. It takes considerable effort to make that seem a bad statistic.

That is not to say that there are not issues with some rest homes. But I’m not sure portraying what is a pretty good statistic as a very negative one is helpful.

Tags: ,

So inaccurate, probably worth a press council complaint

November 24th, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Millions of Kiwis are bombarding blacklisted child-sex-abuse sites to request access to illegal videos and photos.

That is total crap. The story would have you think somewhere between 25% and 100% of Kiwis are trying to access child pornography websites. It is alarmist crap which is trying to induce moral panic.

The Department of Internal Affairs has already blocked 34 million attempts within New Zealand to access at least one of 582 child sex abuse sites blocked by government filters since 2010.

There are two important things to note here. The first is that the 34 million attempts tells us nothing about how many people are making those attempts. There is absolutely no basis in fact for the claim in the opening sentence.

The second thing is that the 34 million number is not the number of unique attempts, but can be one page generates 100 or more “attempts”. It’s like the difference between “hits” and “visits”.

Although many of these attempts are generated by pop-ups, malicious software and a small group of heavy users, the sheer number was described by one cyber security expert as “mind-boggling”.

The opening line would have you think millions of Kiwis are into child pornography. In fact a lot of it is malware.

However, while the stream of blocked requests was huge, the actual number of people consuming child sex abuse material in New Zealand was small and most of them were being caught, he said.

DIA do a very good job of catching those who sell, buy and trade child abuse images. It’s a yucky job they do, and they deserve our thanks. They have made it clear that the actual number of people access child sex amuse material is small so how did the story end up with a misleading headline and opening sentence? It may have been a sub-editor?

Tags: ,

Best opening sentences

November 23rd, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Listener has their ten favourite opening sentences from news reports. They’re very good. They include:

  • Sweden’s Ice Hotel has been ordered by the National Housing Board to install fire alarms, despite being made completely out of frozen water.
  • Firefighters have warned of the dangers of driving into a petrol forecourt when your car is on fire.
  • Swino, the boozy feral pig that shot to international fame after drinking 18 cans of beer, starting a fight with a cow and causing chaos at an Australian campsite, has died in a car accident.
  • A gay man tried to poison his lesbian neighbours by putting slug pellets into their curry after he was accused of kidnapping their three-legged cat.
  • A German student created a major traffic jam in Bavaria after making a rude gesture at a group of Hell’s Angels motorcycle gang members, hurling a puppy at them and then escaping on a stolen bulldozer.

I think the last one is my favourite.

Tags:

Assertion as fact

November 23rd, 2013 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Waikato pensioners are starving and raiding their KiwiSaver accounts to pay back mounting credit card debt.

This is a badly written story. It takes an assertion of a financial adviser and reports it as fact. It should report it as an assertion and credit it to the financial adviser.

Hamilton Budgeting Advisory Trust manager Clare Mataira said financial abuse of the elderly is a growing problem and she is pushing for banks to tighten their lending policies.

“We’re seeing people use credit cards for living expenses.

“I’ve seen more superannuitants in the last four to five years using credit cards for living expenses than in my whole career,” she said.

Not sure why, as the pension has increased well beyond the rate of inflation. Every year the purchasing power of NZ Superannuation tends to increase. We have the most generous superannuation scheme in the world – universal, linked to the median wage, no means or asset testing etc.

Tags: ,

Most mentioned issues in September 2013

October 22nd, 2013 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

iSentia blog on the most mentioned issues last month:

  1. Emirates Team NZ
  2. Syria
  3. Ranfurly Shield
  4. Kenyan mall terror attack
  5. Labour Party leadership

Not a month where political stories dominated. I think I can guess the most mentioned issue for October!

Tags: ,