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:
- (some time April-June) were fed stories by National, their donors and likely their bloggers about toxic National donor Donghua Liu donating to Labour too, and David Cunliffe sending a routine form letter for Liu 11 years ago as his local MP;
- (June 12–19) repeatedly reported that Labour’s rules meant Cunliffe could be rolled by caucus from June 20;
- (June 17) set up Cunliffe by asking him about his involvement with Liu, correctly guessing he would have forgotten the letter;
- (June 18) released the letter, portraying it as similar to what Maurice Williamson did – which is ridiculous, and calling for Cunliffe’s head because of the forgotten letter (which Occam’s razor suggests he had genuinely forgotten), despite never calling for John Key to resign over his numerous “brain fades” (most of which, Occam’s razor suggests he had not really forgotten), nor Judith Collins over her blatant Oravida corruption and lies;
- (June 21) printed one dissenting opinion by Fran O’Sullivan who criticised her colleagues;
- (June 16,18,19,20,21,22) meanwhile, gradually ramped up another smear about alleged undeclared donations from Liu to Labour, on the basis of contradictory and unreliable evidence; a story which (at most) suggested Labour have done similar things to National, and which turned out to be essentially bollocks;
- (June 24-27) when the bogus donations story collapsed, offered ‘clarifications’ but stuck to their guns and defended themselves, hitting back at O’Sullivan and not really apologising nor criticising whoever fed them the false info;
- (June 26) changed the subject by uncritically promoting a puff piece biography of John Key by one of their journalists and attacking Labour for suggesting taxes on capital gains and $150,000+ incomes, like most countries.
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, education, economic 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):
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):
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.
David Cunliffe is the new Labour leader and hopefully the next prime minister.
Cunliffe won with 51.15% per cent of first preferences across caucus, members and affiliates. Robertson got 32.97% and Jones 15.88%.
Since Cunliffe already had a majority in the first round, run-off voting wasn’t triggered (if it had been, about 2/3 of Jones’ votes would have gone to Cunliffe – see below).
(These numbers from Labour’s press release. The Herald and Martyn Bradbury have it wrong for the breakdown – they’ve misread the admittedly confusing press release, so they’re incorrectly reporting the second round instead of the first for the breakdown. UPDATE 16/09/2013 – They’ve both corrected it).
60.14% of members
70.77% of affiliates
Total vote 51.15%
26.71% of members
17.30% of affiliates
Total vote 32.97%
“13 per cent” of members
11.92% of affiliates
Total vote 15.88%
(IF A SECOND ROUND HAD BEEN TRIGGERED:
Cunliffe: 16 MPs, 67.79% of members, 78.01% of affiliates. Total vote 61.53%
Robertson: 18 MPs, 32.21% of members, 21.99% of affiliates. Total vote 38.47%)
Where to now?
The next job will be reshuffling the shadow cabinet – not sure if this is still entirely the leader’s decision? I think Robertson and Jones should be given high-ranking positions, and the rest of the top 20 should mostly be filled with people from the third and second factions listed here.
For my opinions on all this see my last blog.
Holmes is most famous for his 7pm current affairs show which ran throughout my childhood… it was like a dumber version of Campbell Live, but to its credit it did set the blueprint. Despite some hiccups, Holmes was a powerful force in the NZ media for sixteen years. Accepting a better offer on Prime TV in 2005 was a poor career move, but he’s refused to disappear since then.
The last significant thing Holmes did was write this nasty column for the New Zealand Herald. The New Zealand Press Council upheld seven complaints against the column and the Herald’s defence of it, ruling that it made racist and inaccurate attacks against Māori as a people. Hone Harawira’s response is worth a read.
The timing of Holmes’ knighthood is no doubt inspired by his recent health problems. But knighting him, now or any time, is yet another blow to the credibility of knighthoods and other such honours, of John Key, and of the assumption that we’ve moved past racism as a society.