In case you need any more convincing …


NZers like to think our mainstream media are “balanced” and “neutral,” unlike in the UK or US. That’s becoming less and less credible. New Zealand print media is basically owned by two companies: Fairfax (Stuff, Press, Dominion etc) and APN (Herald). I’ve written about Fairfax a few times before; they have a major crush on the personality of John Key and a banal pro-National way of framing things (compare this headline with this one, for example; though the articles themselves are more balanced).

I haven’t mentioned the Herald so much – they usually seem not quite as bad as Stuff. But it’s worth reviewing what they’ve been up to over the last few weeks, in case you need any more convincing that our corporate newspapers are biased towards the corporate party.

The New Zealand Herald and its reporters:

You could say the media just love a good political scandal, whoever’s the target, and it just happens that Labour’s the target this time (and often an easy target); and that sometimes the press get it wrong, and it just happens they were wrong this time. That’s basically how they’re defending themselves. But what precedent is there for major media outlets doing similar things to these for the other side? When Labour were in government, Labour were the press’s main target (notwithstanding Brethren, and certainly since Key’s ascendancy); now, in opposition, they still are (notwithstanding teapots).

Anyway, I can’t for the life of me work out what all this has to do with one in four children living in poverty, skyrocketing inequality, skyrocketing housing costs, climate change, the last 55 Maui’s dolphins, our native forests, a floundering Christchurch rebuild, educationeconomic policy, the end of our independent foreign policy, war, NSA spying, pro-corporate/anti-democratic trade agreements, corporate dominance of NZ, democracy for Canterbury’s regional council, democracy in general, or any other issues that actually matter to NZ and this election.

Post-script (Fri 4 July):

Armstrong’s at it again. David Slack says it all.

Post-script (Mon 14 July):

Here’s another example of how the Herald report when a senior National MP does something (genuinely) wrong.

Post-script (Mon 21 July):

Good points made here; another example of “Cunliffe does essentially nothing wrong; Key doing far worse not acknowledged.”

Post-script (Thurs 24 July):

Imperator Fish hits the nail on the head: Understanding the 2014 Election Campaign; see also his comments on the latest ridiculous attack on Cunliffe.

Post-script (Thurs 31 July):

Here’s a good blog from a few months ago about the media’s tendency to just repeat whatever John Key says without doing any fact-checking or real journalism.

Post-script (Wed 10 September):

This very detailed analysis by Frank Macskasy indicates the Liu hit was another example of the now-famous Dirty Politics.



  1. Peter Carrell

    Hi Caleb
    Are you missing the point of mainstream media? It’s to follow up and publish stories which they believe their readers will read. ‘Man eats dog’ always beats ‘dog eats man’ for a story!
    Sometimes this seems all oriented towards the govt and sometimes away from the govt and in favour of the opposition.
    Over the years the media has displayed a shocking bias towards … stories readers will read. But sometimes this seems biased one way rather than the other.
    Generally the media is accused by each side of bias towards the other side … doesn’t that say something about each side more than it says about the media itself?!
    Think back to Don Brash and his mishaps, his alleged American bagmen … was the media biased towards Labour, or cheerfully fastening on ‘man eats dog’ stories?
    How about challenging Labour to stop its own mishaps? Did the Herald set Mallard up to de-extinct the moa? Or was he looking for a bit of free publicity … I gather he went round the press gallery sharing copies of his speech about it!!


    • calebmorgan

      Hi Peter

      I refer you to my second-to-last paragraph (including the parts in brackets I’ve just added), and indeed the graphic up the top. There’s no precedent in my memory (to be fair, I’ve only been properly following politics since the Clark era) for a smear of this scale going the other way, and there’s no excuse for the unbalanced way they’ve treated Key’s clearly phoney “brain fades” (some of which implicated him in clear wrongdoing) compared to Cunliffe’s apparently real one (which implicates him in awkwardness but no wrongdoing).

      Re: Brash; he was so bumbling and gaffe-ful he was an obvious target – and, yes, they do favour lowest-common-denominator stories that attract readers (please note I have no complaints about reporting of Trevor Moa resurrecting the mallard); I’m not denying that, I’m just saying that’s not the only thing going on; there’s also discernible bias. David Shearer was somewhat bumbling too, mainly in his inability to string a sentence together or sound like he had any real convictions. Cunliffe, however, seems no more bumbling (or “tricky”) than John “refusing to answer the question” “spoilt brat in the debating chamber” “brain-fade” “idiosyncratic sentence structure” “three-way handshake” “gay red shirt” “awkwardly looks at things” “unidentified guest” Key. But the media make a LOT more of his imperfections than Key’s.


      • Peter Carrell

        Hi Caleb
        David Cunliffe has drawn a lot to himself by his unwillingness to disclose who his secret donors to the election campaign last year were. I also suggest there would be as much media hounding and smearing of Key if they sensed there was division in his caucus over his leadership. There appears to be division in the Labour caucus and that, I suggest, is feeding more negativity against Cunliffe than any alleged ‘bias’.


          • Peter Carrell

            Secret donors, Caleb, would not be a problem if Labour had not made a fuss over the years about National’s secret donors. It is hypocrisy which the media is good at ferretting out (ditto for National).
            When Labour mde such a fuss of National’s links to Donghua Liu etc it set itself up as a patsy for the media examination of its own links. No media bias there but incredibly poor management of a situation by a party which seemed to forget who it had previously dealt with.
            Again, difficult to imagine this happening under great leadership like Clark and Cullen.
            In short, Labour is – at this time – incompetent and its supporters need to focus on turning that around, not on exculpating the media for bias.
            If men who dogs don;t want their eating habits reported in the papers they should stop eating dog and try beef, lamb, chicken or pork!


  2. Pingback: I was wrong | Cut Your Hair

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