Cultural Norm

Last weekend, the NZ Herald published a superb column by Bruce Cotterill, headed “Any risk of being in Govt’s pocket is a danger to democracy.”

Cotterill laid out a lot of evidence and a good argument for his claim that what New Zealand’s major media is doing is very unhealthy for a supposed democracy.

His only poor judgement was to state that “The organisation that publishes this newspaper (the Herald) is the closest we have to an exception” (i.e. compared to the media bias of its rivals).

As a disclaimer, accompanying Cotterill’s column, the Herald inserted a ‘black box’ – containing its promises of integrity and fairness and balance and its ‘code of ethics’. It was their trumpeting of what a wonderful media organisation they are.

But nothing could be further from the truth! It was all a load of mush. Hogwash, BS, call it what you want.

And here’s the proof.

Below are three Letters to the Editor that three free-thinking citizens sent to the NZ Herald during the week – NONE of which were published.

The NZ Herald instead chose to run just a trickle of pro-Cotterill letters during the week and yesterday. NONE raised the fact that the NZ Herald might have been a wee bit too precious with its claims – or even lying again.

So basically, they’ve suppressed the public’s view – and ‘closed the subject’ on any debate on objectivity, balance and their fanciful ‘code of ethics’ – or, more likely, the code once adhered to until recently by its journalists over the previous 158 years since the paper was founded in 1863.

Regular readers/subscribers can also bear witness to the startling changes to the Herald’s recent content and balance – the introduction of many left-wing and racially slanted columnists and politician/writers, and the removal of some ‘conservative’ columnists and viewpoints.

Three Letters to the Editor That Were Sent to the NZ Herald during the Week but Were Not Published.

Dear Editors,

The claim you have made to be proudly independent is laughable (September 11). When NZME/NZ Herald signed up for the Government’s Public Interest Journalism Fund, which came with the stipulation that the fund must “actively promote the principles of partnership, participation and active protection under Te Tiriti o Waitangi acknowledging Maori as a te Tiriti partner”, you became tainted by highly contentious Government propaganda. I’m appalled that you have done so. People could be forgiven for thinking your integrity has been compromised.

We can no longer trust the claim that the Herald is “independent and will not bow to improper internal or external influences”. This is such a pity, as an independent and trustworthy media is so very important to a well-functioning democracy.

Susan Short

Dear NZME,

Last weekend, your editors were trying to suggest that the NZ Herald offered quality, balanced and uncensored journalism. That is a joke, as you know because you censor anything to do with tribal governance and control of the people, our resources and our taxes.

Now I hear you are failing to accept advertising from the community group, Speak Up For Women. Their advertisements feature the Oxford dictionary definition of the word ‘women’ and is part of an important discussion about legislation coming before Parliament. Duh!

Your decision to not publish on so many issues is an affront to democratic participation. It stifles debate and public awareness on any contentious Bills before Parliament. 

As a supporter of the Free Speech Union, I implore you to stand up for freedom of expression and clarity of language by reversing all such decisions.

Your censorship as the publisher of New Zealand’s largest newspaper reduces my ability to receive information and fully participate in our democracy.

Your organisation is an embarrassment in a so-called democratic country.

Fiona Mackenzie


It was initially reassuring to read of your affirmation in the NZ Herald on Saturday 11 September when you wrote “Our NZME and NZ Herald operate freely and independently, without fear or favour, in our editorial pursuit”. And that “independence is enshrined in our code of ethics”.

I only wish it were true.

How then do you reconcile your code of ethics with your very public commitment NOT to publish any more future articles by Dr Michael Bassett?

How do you explain the allegation that Leighton Smith was advised by NZME never to interview Dr Michael Bassett again on his show; and is it true that regular columnist Richard Prebble was warned after mentioning him in a Herald piece?

How can you be independent while accepting a government handout given but with conditions attached?

How do you explain your back-tracking and refusing to publish an advertisement by ‘Speak up for Women’ allegedly because a possible backlash “could compromise NZME’s reputation”?

Really?  Even though the Advertising Standards Authority said the advertisement did not reach the threshold to be likely to cause harm or serious or widespread offence.

Fearless? Hardly.

Independent? I respectfully suggest you look up the meaning of the word.

Why was it necessary to insert your editorial “Proudly independent – It’s the Herald way” in the centre of Bruce Cotterill’s very poignant article (rare of its type in this publication these days)?  It’s as if you were trying to convince yourselves that it is true.

Derek Stubbs

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