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.


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.


August 14th, 2013 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar
  1. Graeme Edgeler fisks Gordon Campbell multiple times
  2. Stats Chat fisks Stuff for saying pet owners have a 29 fold increased risk of breast cancer

Stuff to go paywall?

June 10th, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Press reports:

Fairfax Media is looking at paywalls for its online publications in New Zealand, plans to cut staff and may close some publications as it faces the strains from falling advertising.

The Fairfax Media business in New Zealand includes newspapers such as The Press, magazines and online news websites, such as Stuff.

In Australia yesterday, parent company Fairfax announced plans to cut total group costs by A$60 million (NZ$72m), above the A$251m already promised to the market following a restructure of its print and digital operations.

As part of the update yesterday, Fairfax released details of digital subscription for its news websites in Australia with packages from A$15 to $44 a month.

In New Zealand, acting managing director Andrew Boyle said just when or how paywalls would be brought in here remained to be seen.

I’m sort of looking forward to the paywalls coming to New Zealand. I’d say it will lead to many more people coming to blogs, as they won’t be able to get their news from the main media websites.

It will be a good opportunity to boost resources at the blog, and try to fill the gap left by the newspaper sites.

How do you remove Stuff Nation?

March 2nd, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The old Stuff website allowed you to customise your frontpage so you can choose which sections to see. This allowed you to remove the Stuff Nation section so that you wouldn’t see it unless you wanted it.

That ability seems to have disappeared. Or maybe it is just me. Does anyone know if there is a way to hide Stuff Nation?

A stuffed nation?

December 20th, 2012 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

I don’t how to put this diplomatically, so I’ll be direct.

Dear Fairfax,

Please, please, please exterminate the abomination that is Stuff Nation. 

I of all people am a supporter of allowing readers and commenters to contribute content. I think that is a good thing.

But it is a bad thing when you put that content on the front page of your website, and mix it in with the articles written by actual journalists. It devalues their work, and the entire site.

Take an example of a “story” that was on Stuff’s front page yesterday. It was this one that said:

A few years ago I applied for a job at a factory making trampolines.

The manager’s first question was: “Are you a married woman?”

I thought ‘ughh you creep’ but bit my tongue and asked why he needed to know.

His answer left me speechless: “I don’t employ married women because their place is in the home to raise their children properly.”

Guess what though? I truly hate to admit it – being a (reformed) seventies feminist  – but he’s dead right.

Let’s even put aside that a company that has a majority of female employees publishes on their front page a story saying married women shouldn’t get jobs, because that makes them bad mums who can’t raise their children recently. Let’s agree that is a valid debate (personally I think it was a valid debate in 1912 not 2012).

But the 81 word “story” doesn’t even make a case for or against. It just says an employer asked me this once, and he was right.

Danyl McL has a theory that Stuff Nation is in fact a cunning plan by Fairfax to make people appreciate real journalists even more. If so, it is working!

Look I understand the commercial attraction of Stuff Nation. Get hundreds of people to write for us for nothing, in the hope their contribution makes the front page of Stuff, and we get to make advertising revenue from the ads we place on their content. And that is a fine model for GP Forums, and other bulletin boards.

But this mixing of banal reader contributions and actual journalistic articles and columns is hideous. Has Fairfax asked their staff what they think of it? I’m pretty confident they hate it.

Is there a solution, short of my preferred option of a large radioactive nuclear bomb?

How about just removing Stuff Nation articles from the front page of Stuff? I’ve already removed the Stuff Nation section from the Stuff front page, but their articles still turn up under “Editor’s Picks”. The article on why married women should not work was an Editor’s Pick!!!

Why not make Stuff Nation a standalone website. Make it Have a link to the site from Stuff, but don’t mingle together the content from your professional journalists with your reader contributions.

Either that, or nuke the abomination!

UPDATE: The new editor of Stuff Nation has responded in the comments:

Ouch! I’m totally up for debate on this (as the new editor of Stuff Nation and Stuff’s digital communities), but abomination might be a bit rough.

I think there’s some fair points in this blog though and also in the comments. I’m glad BlairM pointed out the obvious flaw in the fact that this is a blog, based on the opinions of an individual, much like the majority of content on Stuff Nation. I think it’s dangerous as journalists for us to assume that one person’s opinion is more valid than another’s.

There was a lot of debate yesterday about the quality of the ‘job interview nightmare’ mentioned above but I think in the context of readers sharing their stories and opening up debate on key issues, it’s a very valid form of citizen journalism. And by publishing it we weren’t endorsing the content – in the same way we don’t agree with every op ed piece we publish in our papers or websites.

I think it’s fair to mention that Stuff Nation – like any new major project – is a work in progress and we’re constantly working on ways to improve it and the quality within it. We have had some really beautifully written pieces from our readers (like this ) that have not only been amazing reads, but have provoked discussion around tough issues such as suicide, miscarriage, and loss, and that we would have struggled to produce through traditional news gathering channels.

In the meantime though, the stories are very clearly marked as Stuff Nation content, so if you’re not keen, you can easily avoid them. And I’ll just work away in the next few months to win you back :)

Thanks to Janine for a constructive response to my rather inflammatory post. To some degree I find the dross puts me off discovering the gems like the ones cited above. Maybe have people vote on the best pieces and have them displayed more prominently, so that the signal to noise ratio is higher?

But here’s an example of what I was complaining about. I follow NZ Stuff Politics on Twitter. My expectation is that tweets from that account will be linking to stories written by journalists on politics. One tweet this afternoon was:

Call for new Education Minister

I clicked through on this, thinking it was a significant story. That a lobby group or school or union or MP had called for a new Education Minister.

Instead the link was to this Stuff Nation story. It was basically a letter to the editor, or a short piece by a reader called Peter Condon that he thinks Parata should go.

This shouldn’t be tweeted as a political news story by the Stuff NZ Politics twitter account. It isn’t a story. I’m not saying don’t have the opinion on the website somewhere, but this treating of a Stuff Nation opinion as no different to a news story is I think bad.

Some have said just don’t read Stuff Nation stories. I generally don’t. But when the Stuff twitter accounts promote them as if they were actual news stories, I have no way of knowing until I click on them. Set up a Stuff Nation twitter account, and leave the nation stories ou of the other twitter accounts.

A public health service

November 22nd, 2012 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Some of you may have noticed that Stuff recently decided to mix in the content from their staff (who have spent four years getting a degree and journalism school) with content from, well anyone at all. Now the only thing that distinguished an article from a 30 year veteran of the Dom Post and a story from an 18 year old about how when they were 13 a boy turned them down for a date is the little Stuff Nation logo.

They have the “best” of Stuff Nation proudly displayed near the top of their home page. Another recent highlight is how a mother hopes her 16 year old daughter will date her best friend when they are older.

Now of course we should all learn just not to click on the links. But the headlines are often tempting. So you click away, and then the neurones in your brain disintegrate as you read a few lines.

Anyway someone on Twitter pointed out that you can protect your health by deleting Stuff Nation from your Stuff homepage. Just click on the pencil icon for the Stuff Nation section and click on the word “Remove” which comes up.

Now this is not a total vaccination as Stuff have embedded some Stuff Nation content in their other sections. But it does help.

Maybe a smart reader can design some plugin which will delete every Stuff Nation article from appearing anywhere on the website? I think it would be popular!

Fairfax Sundays online

September 30th, 2012 at 3:53 pm by David Farrar

Both the Herald and the SST do a pretty good job of getting their major news stories online.

However the SST Columnists section has not been updated for over a month. This is embarrassing. Either don’t have a section for them or make sure it is kept up to date.

Even worse is the Sunday News. Their lead story is dated 5 August – almost two months out of date. Again either remove the Sunday News from the Stuff website, or make sure at least a couple of the articles are recent. Their second to top article is an April 2012 article!!

I know each newspaper is responsible for their own section on Stuff, so it is not the direct responsibility of thr main Stuff team. But nevertheless it is on their site, and if the newspapers can’t keep it current, they should chop them!

Stuff publishes the National Standards data

September 22nd, 2012 at 12:28 pm by David Farrar

First the criticism by the NZEI:

So, what will National Standards league tables actually tell you?  Not much.  In fact, they will be very misleading if you are using them to judge school effectiveness.

They won’t tell you the level of improvement of children at a school, nor how engaged or happy individual children are, whether the school is meeting the individual children’s needs and whether the teachers are inspiring them.

Actually they will, eventually. Sure the first year is static data, but what I will find fascinating is the change over time. As for the other stuff, yes national standards data is only one piece of data. The answer is to supply more data, not less.

John Hartevelt who was the project manager for the project responds:

Many people told us not to publish the information you see on this site.

They fought to stop us. Some sent us bills for the privilege of their school’s data. Others buried the figures we asked for in complex matrices and pages of indecipherable bumph.

Well done on Fairfax for persevering.

Anyone who read the National Standards results as a proxy for quality would be quite foolish. We wouldn’t do that and we don’t suggest you do, either. For starters, they are not moderated, so one school’s “well below” may be another’s “at” or “above”. There is just no way of knowing – yet – exactly how the standards have been applied across schools.

But even if they were moderated, the standards alone could not tell you everything about how a school is doing by its pupils. As many of the experts we canvassed for this project have noted, quality is most evident in what a school does to push its pupils up, not in how well they do at attracting the brainiest, most-privileged kids in the first place.


Our data handling processes have been checked by independent experts. Every school page includes decile, roll and funding statistics and a link to the school’s latest Education Review Office report. We have reported in detail across the country on a range of schools to help show that there is more to any of them than the numbers you see on this site. And we have commissioned a range of views on National Standards to debate the issue in their own words.

The link to the ERO reports is useful.

My old school is Island Bay School. I lived near St Francis De Sales and the local Intermediate was South Wellington.

Island Bay is decile 10 (which surprises me), St Francis decile 9 South Wellington decile 7. A comparison of the three is here. A very easy to comprehend format.

Stuff TV

March 30th, 2012 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff announces: will be expanding in all kinds of ways over the coming year, and one exciting new development will be the launch of an internet TV channel.

The Stuff channel will have loads of great programmes on a huge variety of subjects and in a range of genres, from news to comedy to documentaries. It will follow the same model as, launched by our Fairfax Digital cousins in Australia.

It will take our video offering beyond the news and entertainment short-form clips available on and our Sony smart TV app to a new level aimed at providing quality viewing via the internet. Nielsen Consumer Media Insights has found that 595,000 New Zealanders aged 10 and above have watched TV or movies via the web in the past few weeks. That is a lot of people and it shows us that you want flexibility and choice in hows, whats and wheres of your viewing.

We  expect to launch in the next couple of months. When we do, we want to make sure we have a really great selection of New Zealand-produced content to complement our suite of international content.

A good initiative I look forward to. And an example of the converging worlds of print and broadcast media, and why there should be one regulator for standards.

The rise and fall of Nick Smith

March 23rd, 2012 at 3:50 pm by David Farrar

In my final blog post at Stuff I chronicle the rise and fall of Nick Smith.

Reining in local government

March 21st, 2012 at 9:34 am by David Farrar

My blog at Stuff is on reining in local government.

In 2002 local councils were given the power of general competence. It meant they could do anything at all, so long as a majority of councillors voted for it. Any amount of spending could be justified so long as it contributed to the social, economic, cultural and environmental wellbeing of their communities.

For the life of me, I can’t think of anything that wouldn’t be justified under those criteria. A local council could probably build its own air force and claim it was essential to their social wellbeing.

I deal with the counter view:

Some have argued that these proposed reforms are undemocratic. They say that a local council should be able to spend ratepayers’ money on anything they want, and it is up to the local voters to keep them or sack them. They say the Government should leave it to local voters.

The problem I have with this argument is that many large items of expenditure that councils approve are not known before elections, and councils proceed regardless. Some of them turn into disasters such as the Hamilton V8s. Yes, you can sack the councillors responsible at the next election, but that doesn’t stop you being left with the bill regardless.

And the bill keeps getting bigger.

Who should rank party lists?

March 14th, 2012 at 2:39 pm by David Farrar

In my blog at Stuff, I ask the question who should rank party lists?

The protection of parliamentary privilege

March 9th, 2012 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

In my blog at Stuff, I look at parliamentary privilege:

One of the privileges members of Parliament have is they they can’t be sued for defamation for statements they make in Parliament. This privilege has existed for hundreds of years and is generally regarded as desirable as it allows MPs to expose wrongdoing without being silenced by injunctions and lawsuits.

However, there is a great responsibility on MPs to get their facts right, and to apologise when they get it wrong. They can defame people under the protection of parliamentary privilege, and their victims have no legal recourse.

Winston Peters has a long history of making allegations under parliamentary privilege, and having the vast bulk of the allegations turn out to be without substance. I had hoped that these days were behind us, but this week we have seen two serious allegations made by Peters under parliamentary privilege.

I conclude:

Perhaps one of Mr Peters’ caucus colleagues could ask their leader whether or not he has any proof of his allegation that Mr McKenzie received free overseas travel from Deloitte. And if he is unable to provide them with the proof, implore him not to turn the House of Representatives into a Star Chamber.

Maybe iPredict could do a stock on whether Mr Peters will provide said proof of his allegation, and whether he would apologise for his allegation. I suspect both stocks would sell for under 5c.

Should List MPs be able to stand in by-elections?

March 6th, 2012 at 4:30 pm by David Farrar

At Stuff I blog on another issue in the MMP review, namely should List MPs be able to stand in by-elections.

My conclusion:

However I am firmly of the view that List MPs should not be able to stand in by-elections. I think the results of elections should be transparent, and someone from Dunedin should not suddenly become a List MP because of how the voters in Mana voted. The average voter won’t get to grips with the details of how a list MP becoming an electorate MP means a new List MP enters Parliament, and won’t be making an informed vote.

You can comment at Stuff, or here.

When should work testing apply?

February 29th, 2012 at 1:34 pm by David Farrar

At Stuff I blog on when work testing should apply.

For my part I support having just a 12-month suspension of work testing for sole parents who have further children while on the DPB. There is a wealth of research that children who grow up in households where no adults are in paid employment do far worse than other children in other families – even those of the same income level. The DPB should be temporary assistance for parents who find themselves without the support of a partner. Too many recepients remain on it for well over a decade.

You can comment over at Stuff.

The one seat threshold

February 23rd, 2012 at 3:03 pm by David Farrar

At Stuff I blog on the one electorate seat threshold for MMP, as part of a series on the possible changes to MMP. My conclusion:

Overall I think there is a case for removing the electorate threshold, but only if the party vote threshold is lower so that it is easier for parties to make it into Parliament. However, my mind is not yet made up on this issue, as if the threshold is made too low, then stable government is much more difficult, as we have seen in Israel.

You can comment at Stuff, or here.

Popularity of PMs

February 20th, 2012 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

I blog a bit of context around the Preferred PM ratings at Stuff.

I also note that on the 3 News poll the CR would have 60 seats, the CL 60 seats and the Maori Party 3 seats. So they would get to choose the Government, and either way it would have a bare two seat majority.

What should the MMP threshold be?

February 14th, 2012 at 9:43 am by David Farrar

In my By the numbers blog at Stuff I look at the issue of what the party vote threshold should be for MMP. I note:

One of the most important issues is what percentage of the vote should a political party need to get, to gain list MPs in Parliament. Currently the threshold is 5 per cent. You can also qualify through winning an electorate seat, but I plan to discuss that issue in a seperate post.

There are basically four options for the threshold. They are to:

  • (A) – Increase it
  • (B) – Keep it at 5%
  • (C) – Reduce it
  • (D) – Abolish it
In general terms, the higher the threshold, the fewer parties will be in Parliament, and fewer parties will be needed to form a government. The lower the threshold, the more parties there will be in Parliament, and more parties will be need to agree to form a government. Also the higher the threshold, the more wasted votes you get.
Over at Stuff I look at what would have been the impact on the last six elections, based on the scenarios of a 7% threshold, a 4% threshold and no threshold.

Mondayising Waitangi and Anzac Days

February 8th, 2012 at 12:04 pm by David Farrar

In my blog at Stuff I say:

But how significant would this law change be, in terms of labour costs? On average it will result in two extra days of paid holidays every seven years. Over seven years there are around 1600 paid workdays, so the increase in labour cost is 2/1600 or 0.12 per cent. 

This is a pretty modest increase in labour costs. It is about 1/16th the cost of having a 2 per cent employer contribution to KiwiSaver.

I’m an employer myself, but I’m in favour of this bill. As an employer I budget for 11 public holidays a year anyway when working out my staff costs, and I suspect most employers do the same. This law change would give certainty to both employers and employees, and the impact on labour costs is very modest.

You can comment over at Stuff, as well as here. I also cover in what future years the bill would actually impact.

Is National now the underdog?

February 3rd, 2012 at 12:10 pm by David Farrar

In my blog at Stuff, I look at the latest Roy Morgan poll, and ask if National is now the underdog?

Barbarism in NZ and Canada

January 31st, 2012 at 4:18 pm by David Farrar

In my blog at Stuff I blog:

I doubt I was the only person upset and angered at the story of the 17-year-old girl in Wellington whose parents tricked her into a forced marriage. She was imprisoned at home for several months, until she escaped.

Her parents have gone back to Pakistan, but the father is reported to have said he would kill her if he saw her again.

Sadly this can’t just be dismissed as hyperbole. Canada has just had a conclusion to a trial in which a father, with help from other family members, killed his three daughters and one of his wives. This was a so-called “honour” killing. Of course honour had nothing to so with it. Secret wiretaps revealed the father saying “God curse their generation, they were filthy and rotten children,” and “To hell with them and their boyfriends, may the devil s**t on their graves.”

The 17-year-old girl in Wellington may be lucky she escaped such a fate. As New Zealanders, we need to ask ourselves what we can do to minimise this occuring in New Zealand.

You can comment over at Stuff on my thoughts on how we can minimise this.


Winston’s dilemma

January 26th, 2012 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

At Stuff I blog on Winston’s dilemma:

The sale of the Crafar farms must pose an awful dilemma for Winston Peters.

The leading bid for the 8000 hectares of farmland is $210 million from Shanghai Pengxin, a Chinese company.

Winston has spent most of the last 20 years railing against the Chinese. He has railed against Chinese immigration to New Zealand, he has railed against Chinese investment in New Zealand and despite being the foreign minister, railed against the 2008 free trade agreement with China (despite its having increased our exports to China by $3 billion and reducing our current account and trade deficits). …

But look at who else is lined up to buy them. Sir Michael Fay leads a group which is offering $170 million for the farms – $40 million less than Pengxin. If Pengxin is turned down, then Fay will pick the farms up for $40 million less than the market price.

Now if there is one person that Winston Peters hates and rails against even more than the Chinese, it is surely Fay. Peters alleged all sorts of wrongdoings by Fay and Richwhite in the late 80s and early 90s, and this led to the Winebox inquiry.

It gives me a certain pleasure to reflect that whatever the outcome, Winston will be unhappy 🙂

Can Christchurch’s council be saved?

January 25th, 2012 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

In my blog at Stuff, I ask can Christchurch’s council be saved?

But the pay rise granted to the CEO seems to be the issue that has generated the most heat. Unfortunately for the council it is the one issue they cannot fix. Once an employment contract has been signed, there is no legal way to require the CEO to accept a lower salary. The council cannot legally cancel the payrise. Only if the CEO voluntarily agreed to go back to his old salary could it happen. And it is hard to see what motivation he would have to do so. …

What do you think is the answer? Do you think the council can right itself? Do you think the only solution is to wait for the October 2013 elections, or is a commissioner warranted? Or perhaps, should the local body elections for Christchurch be brought forward to, say, March 2011, allowing residents to sack or re-elect the incumbents? Is an election campaign though what the city needs now?


Term limits for List MPs?

January 17th, 2012 at 4:58 pm by David Farrar

In my blog at Stuff, I moot whether we should have term limits for List MPs, as a way to respond to the issue of people not liking defeated electorate candidates coming in on the list.

A timely u-turn

January 13th, 2012 at 1:46 pm by David Farrar

At Stuff I blog on the u-turn by the Chch City Council on burial fees:

Someone at the very beginning should have said, wait how much money are we talking about here? $350 x 22 people is around $7,000. In the context of total Council expenditure that is petty cash. How could anyone – whether they be staff or elected, think that for $7,000 you should risk offending the families of those who died in the earthquake.

Sanity eventually prevailed, and Mayor Bob Parker announced the fees will be waived, as promised. It is better late than never, but some damage has been done. This should have been elevated to the Mayor when it first emerged – not after it hits the media.

I also talk about a similar issue back in the late 90s, with the then National Government.