It’s always good to start the weekend with a good piece of humour, and page C4 of the Business Section of the Weekend Herald provided it. The page was devoted to a typically well-written opinion piece by Bruce Cotterill. Cotterill was commenting that any chance of the media being in the government’s pocket is a danger to democracy. On that, I think we can all agree.
The piece of humour I spotted came not from Cotterill but from the NZ Herald itself. In the middle of Cotterill’s article, one’s eyes couldn’t miss a square black background on which the following words were printed in white: “Proudly independent – it’s the Herald’s way”. Thankfully, I had finished my two cups of Yorkshire Tea (best tea by the way) and had yet to get to my coffee.
Now who, apart from the Ardern fan club, her Government and the entire bloated civil service would believe that?
According to the paper, “our newsrooms operate freely and independently, without fear or favour, in our editorial pursuit. The Herald’s editorial independence is enshrined in our code of ethics. Any suggestion that our journalists – and those more broadly in New Zealand – are failing to ask the hard questions of the Government and opposition politicians is rejected”. Four Herald editors put their name to the explanation. Remember, explaining is losing.
Those four have never attended or watched the 1pm daily dose of BS masquerading as vital information from the “pulpit of truth”. As a journalist to whom Cotterill spoke pointed out, if you’re too hard with the questions, you don’t get invited back. Isn’t that the truth? Just ask Barry Soper.
Mike Hosking was too hard and Ardern decided not to invite herself back. Instead, as Cotterill so delightfully puts it, “she replaced that with a series of light-hearted romps around the music stations where she discusses everything but the performance of the Government and answers questions about what she had for breakfast and what she did on the weekend”.
I think the NZ Herald has, inadvertently or otherwise, subscribed to something called marketing collateral. In marketing and sales, marketing collateral is sometimes considered the collection of media used to support the sales of a product or service. In this case, the ‘service’ is the government (a very poor service, I might add). I admit this is a fairly loose use of the term but I am using it in the context of the $55 million handout of taxpayers’ largesse to media companies.
On top of that there are endless Government advertisements in the media giving us lectures and reminders on what even a half-wit would know and understand regarding testing and vaccinations. As a result, some media outlets are now crowing about making a profit. TVNZ saw fit to throw our money around in the form of staff bonuses. I bet the hospitality and tourism industries are eyeing this handout with a mix of envy and angst. Offers of free dinners are not in quite the same league as endless column inches, unfortunately.
Cotterill wondered whether it is now time to consider returning some or all of the support package. He said his reason for suggesting returning the monies is that, if there is any risk that the media are skewing their representation of the performance of this Government, then we are indeed on shaky ground. In fact, he suggests that there is nothing quite as dangerous in any democracy as a media that is beholden to the government. He goes on to say, “And there is no doubt in my mind that this Government, as it lurches from clumsy mistakes to avoidable crises, is currently getting an easy ride from the majority of the media operators”.
Cotterill then gives the Herald something of a backhanded compliment by saying it’s the closest we have to an exception, saying that, due to Newstalk ZB and some of its affiliate publications, there is a semblance of balance at least. The dictionary definition of semblance reads, “the outward appearance or apparent form of something, especially when the reality is different”. So that’s not much of an endorsement.
This is the same paper that saw fit to ban Michael Bassett for writing an opinion piece, based on facts about our history, that the NZ Herald deemed to be racist. Their official reason given was that it didn’t meet their editorial standards. The real reason was that it didn’t suit their narrative or bias.
Cotterill made the point that we see lots of smiley photos of Ardern and lots of frowny ones of Collins. He was also critical of the standard of journalism in this country. Journalists reporting only what they see and hear without question. What he is talking about here is investigative journalism.
The only investigative journalist around these days appears to be Cameron Slater on The BFD, a media outlet that can truly claim to be independent and that reports without fear or favour. Cotterill says the media must be free to ask, question, challenge and investigate. Free to publish their findings. Free to hold governments and other organisations to account. Amen to that.
Unfortunately, the media some time ago decided they would take it upon themselves to adopt a right or left political narrative. Globally, more have gone left than right and that includes the NZ Herald. Even if they themselves can’t see it, most of the rest of us can.
The difference between right and left-wing media outlets is that the right overall has a more objective line of reporting than the left. The NZ Herald would be the first to point out that The BFD has a right-wing bias, which it has. They need to be honest enough to own up to the fact that equally, they have a left-wing bias.
If the NZ Herald is so fiercely independent it shouldn’t have accepted Ardern’s financial bribe. As for their editorial independence being enshrined in their code of ethics: that appeared to have been conveniently forgotten or ignored when the money was offered.
The NZ Herald needs to start living up to its self professed holier-than-thou claims. Until that happens it is difficult to take the publication seriously.
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