The Dim-Post

September 25, 2014

Making things slightly better

Filed under: media — danylmc @ 8:41 am

Keith Ng has a post up about what he feels was poor media coverage of the Dirty Politics saga. I thought the reporting of Hager’s book was mostly pretty great. National didn’t get re-elected because ‘the media failed’. It got re-elected because the wider public didn’t think that the revelations in Dirty Politics were important enough to get rid of a Prime Minister that they feel is performing well and replace him with a bunch of maniacs.

What isn’t great is that the book exposed problems with the media and how adept the right is at manipulating it which don’t seem like they’re being addressed or even being acknowledged. So here are a couple of quick, off-the-top-of-my-head proposals into how I think political media can redeem themselves in the aftermath of Dirty Politics: 

  • If political commentators have a commercial relationship with a political party then they should be described as a ‘National Party Operative’, or a ‘Labour Party Operative’. David Farrar isn’t a ‘blogger’, or ‘political commentator’, or even ‘right-wing blogger’ or ‘right-wing commentator’ who can then turn around and grin and say ‘Shucks! I don’t make any secret of the fact that I support National!’ when someone challenges him about his links with the party. He’s a National Party Operative, and so are the rest of National’s eager little helpers who do ‘media training’ or ‘communications consultancy’ for National and then run around the radio stations and political shows advocating for the National Party. Same goes for Labour, obviously, and the Greens and every other party out there. And if someone can’t comment on their political clients because their work is ‘commercial in confidence’ then they shouldn’t be a public commentator
  • Anonymous sources for stories should be described as accurately as possible without compromising the anonymity of the source. No more ‘insiders’ or ‘party sources’. Tell us if something came from an MP or the leader’s office. That gets to the heart of the ‘two tier’ technique described in Dirty Politics. If the National Party wants to smear Labour or some other enemy then by all means, let em – but the story needs to be attributed. If the New Zealand Herald’s story on Donghua Liu came from the Prime Minister’s Office then the New Zealand public should know that. No more completely anonymous sources attacking their political enemies without attribution. And if an anonymous source lies to the media then that source’s identity should be revealed. Journalists should protect the identity of their sources but they don’t owe anything to a source that deliberately tricks them into publishing a false story smearing their enemies. Again, looking at you New Zealand Herald and Donghua Liu reporters.
  • Journalists will balk at that. ‘If they don’t let parties smear each other anonymously then they’ll lose the story to another media outlet who will!’ The problem with that is that it means that the ethics of the entire industry are held to the standard of the least ethical people in it. I think political parties will still leak to you under these conditions – especially if there’s a consensus on this issue – it’ll just mean that our politics is a little bit less scummy and awful than it was during Slater’s reign.

56 Comments »

  1. Any good reporting of Hager’s book was just counteracted by broadcasters who told people it was bullshit.

    Comment by Ant — September 25, 2014 @ 9:06 am

  2. The left are completely wrong about this. The reason that Key increased his vote is because of sympathy. The voters who turned to Key perceived his treatment by the Dotcom/ Hagar/ MSM faction as unfair.

    To the average voter, it looked like all the left had on the battlefield were Hagar’s book, Kim Dotcom and a biased MSM. And they saw this as an unfair way to fight an election, and they reacted against it.

    The left thought Hagar and his book, and KDC and his revelations were going to win the election for them, but instead these things caused an adverse reaction among the public and therefore they lost.

    The election became framed as the sneaky manipulative bad guys (Hagar, KDC, and by association Labour) against the wholesome John Key with his “likeable, everyman demeanour, cheerful outlook and genuine humility.” (Bob Jones)

    I think if you could identify the one thing that caused support for Key to rise it would be the perception among the public that they were being gamed by the unsavoury left wing force of Hagar, KDC, the MSM and Labour.

    So why did the left go down this road?

    Because they knew they’d lost the election anyway and had nothing to loss by giving it a go. One last desperate fling as it were. But if failed. So really you lost nothing.

    The MSM are the big losers. Their enthusiastic support for this gambit has put them even further offside with the public.

    Comment by Redbaiter — September 25, 2014 @ 9:35 am

  3. Part of the problem is that what is “true” gets lost in media reporting.

    We get to hear a sound-bite from National spin, we get to hear a sound-bite from Labour spin. We sometimes get to hear from “independent” commentators, who more often than not are the likes of Farrar or Pagani, so not actually independent at all.

    But we hardly ever get genuine comment on what is bullshit and what is not from the journalist.

    Even when we do get comment from journalists, it is just smeared (by either left or right) as being the product of media bias, etc. Which I guess is part of the dirty politics strategy too — the meme they want is that “nothing journalists say can be trusted either”.

    Comment by RJL — September 25, 2014 @ 10:07 am

  4. The problem is not and never was a lack of of a solution…

    Comment by Peter Tenby — September 25, 2014 @ 10:23 am

  5. It’s very simple, the majority of the voting public perceived the whole thing as a media circle-jerk.

    Comment by Robert Singers — September 25, 2014 @ 11:04 am

  6. Overuse of anonymity in journalism, particularly when the information being provided is for political purposes, is one of Glenn Greenwald’s hobbyhorses.

    You heard it here first: Danyl McLauchlan is just a henchman for Glenn Greenwald.

    Comment by simian — September 25, 2014 @ 11:07 am

  7. One thing you missed isn’t actually a better attribution to sources. It’s using these sources as the basis for a story – the supporting pillar – instead of actually going out and going their own investigative reporting based on things they find out for themselves instead of things that get given to them.

    It’s okay to receive an anonymous tip from a nurse that something’s going on at, for example, a DHB that needs to be investigated that may compromise patient care, and then to find people at the DHB to comment, anonymously, and provide further information that might lead to some documentation. It’s not okay to receive an anonymous tip from someone in a politician’s office that gives you an entire story about an opposition politician, some supporting documentation and how to carefully request the exact information you need from a department.

    There’s no such thing as a free lunch, but apparently some journalists think there is. Maybe it’s the subsidised food they’re enjoying at Parliament that’s confusing them. The first way to get a story requires time and effort and goes to the heart of the day-to-day business of politics and how the decisions that are being made go straight to the frontline of government services. The second can get a story written in a fraction of the time and provide a sensational splash that might sell a few extra papers or get a few extra hits, or best of all, that you can open up comments on and get repeated page impressions for advertising. But it does nothing that the fourth estate are traditionally supposed to be doing. It’s a vehicle for attack politics.

    There are day-to-day dysfunctions in frontline service delivery that go unreported, even on a basic level. The majority of our reporters, even the senior ones, are just not interested or capable of actually dealing with the figures or spending the time doing actual reporting. What they’re interested in is faces. So a good investigative reporting narrative would have two elements: the investigation part and the human face of the situation. But what’s actually happened is that they’re not doing the investigation part and they’re just superficially reporting on the human face. A case in point: guy with a brain tumour has the gates from his home stolen. They don’t have enough money for a full bout of chemo. Framing from the reporter is “How could someone steal his gates?” and not “Why, in a first world country with a public health system, are people not getting cancer treatments?”

    Having said that, the reporting was bullshit. Why? Because I hadn’t read the book, and it took me a while to piece together what actually was going on. I had to put some effort in. Most people can’t or won’t do that. And the best resource for doing that wasn’t Vance or Fisher, it was Danyl. Who most people don’t read.

    All the rebranding in the world to NZME and all the paywalls in the world isn’t going to help the fact that our media is in the lazy, populist gutter and won’t emerge until there’s some decent competition that can actually do the job properly.

    Comment by Chris (@slackjawdtownie) — September 25, 2014 @ 11:09 am

  8. I didn’t have a problem with the media.

    What struck me was the entrenchment of echo chambers through twitter and the blogosphere.

    Looking at twitter feeds and comment threads during the election all I could see were small numbers of people utterly convinced of their point of view and having that reinforced at the speed of the internet.

    Which lead to the collective internet gobsmack when the test of the public voted so against the collective wisdom of a relatively small number of people.

    I was never inclined to think the medium is the message but I’m increased thinking that’s the case.

    Comment by NeilM — September 25, 2014 @ 11:18 am

  9. BTW- Journos who support John Key & National are not necessarily right wing.

    John Key was born in a state house and raised by a single mother. Helen Clark was born and raised in a stable family of wealthy farmers. John Key runs a welfare orientated govt that is much bigger than any govt Helen Clark ever ran.

    John Key is actually a bigger socialist than Helen Clark. So if a journalist supports John Key, this is not really any indication that said journalist is right wing. (Mike Hosking good example)

    Comment by Redbaiter — September 25, 2014 @ 11:25 am

  10. Calling Hosking a journalist is a bit of a stretch. Have you seen Seven Sharp? I have. Sends chills down my spine. I haven’t heard his radio show, because I’m not a masochist.

    Last time I checked, integrity and impartiality were supposed to be hallmarks of journalists. Hosking started off a column with “I’m glad National won” and told everyone to “forget politics”. It was single-handedly the most vacuous and depressing op-ed I’ve ever read. And my dad used to buy the Daily Mail.

    Also, the second to last time I checked, most journalists weren’t driving round in 2012 Ferraris. These two things are the hallmark of a braindead broadcaster who’s got his head rammed up his own arsehole, not a journalist under institutional and financial pressure to deliver.

    Comment by Chris (@slackjawdtownie) — September 25, 2014 @ 11:32 am

  11. You forget the most of NZ media is owned by overseas interests who pay their pipers & who care not a jot what is best for NZ.

    I figured now that their astroturfer are posting replies here.

    The TTPA is what is all about & Key is slick salemen for it though he never never mentions it!

    This is about Obama & the TPPA Agreement but it’s a parallel universe with John Key & NZ here. This why the Key Govt had to win this election & win it now.

    Please watch it to the end & when there are meetings & marches please attend when you can.

    Comment by flotsy — September 25, 2014 @ 11:41 am

  12. OK Chris- I agree with much of what you say, but when I claim the media is left wing I am always told that Hosking’s presence says otherwise.

    I don’t watch or listen to him because I agree with you that he’s vacuous, but I don’t see that as a distinction. In other words, I write him off as just another mainstream media progressive. Is Rachel Smalley (for example) any better?

    You might see some decent journalism at say NBR, but I don’t classify them as MSM. (TV One, TV3, Herald, Dominion Post, RNZ, Newstalkzb, Radio Live etc)

    Comment by Redbaiter — September 25, 2014 @ 11:45 am

  13. the big bit keith misses in his review is that focusing on the period during dirty politics is only abot 1% of the story – weve had six or seven years of a consistant media barrage of the NZ public being told Key is the second coming of jesus and that your some kind of anti society communist if you dont agree that the nats will win everything from the next election to the super bowl.

    And thats not even touching on the sheer volume of stories that were based on a fact free assertions from the PM, sometimes on things he shouldnt even know about.
    How many times did the news cycle start with – “john key says X – and we havent even checked whether its true or not” – then to have that quote become a non-quote headline, then a few days later the fact that it was just an unproven claim got forgotten and ended up being put forward as truth?
    And im sure weve all heard and seen interviews where it was blatantly obvious the line of questioning was 100% about fitting a pre-determined narrative and 0% to do with journalism

    the MSM have been doing everything BUT journalism the last 6 years. Yes they somehow found a few scraps of integrity over dirty politics that made them ask some probing questions – but it was drowned by the usual tidal wave of letting JK set the narrative for them and lazily running with it – thats why it had so little impact.
    If the MSM had stopped and explained why the state using proxies to manipulate, smear and attack is so damaging the issue would have had more impact – but no, they let JK tell them it didnt matter and that all parties did it – which is utter bullshit, and not a single reporter pulled him up – not one

    I whole heartedly agree that the MSM are more lazy oppourtunist than outright partisan – but things have gone down hill a very very long way

    Comment by framu — September 25, 2014 @ 12:58 pm

  14. edit: this would be an outrage regardless of whos in power. Im not a labour voter. Just highly pissed at the gowers of this world

    Comment by framu — September 25, 2014 @ 1:00 pm

  15. This piece by Jay Rosen says really well what a lot of commenters above have said. http://pressthink.org/2011/08/why-political-coverage-is-broken/

    Comment by kmccready — September 25, 2014 @ 1:33 pm

  16. framu has a point @13 regarding the time period New Zealand has been blanketed with stories of greatness. It’s why, if you are a masochist, you’ll see comments on Stuff telling readers that Key donates his full salary to charity.

    On the flipside, raising the C/T McGeehan Close story and subsequent outcomes each election apparently shows left-wing media bias and makes DPF shriek wildly.

    Comment by Patrick — September 25, 2014 @ 1:38 pm

  17. It got re-elected because the wider public didn’t think that the revelations in Dirty Politics were important enough to get rid of a Prime Minister that they feel is performing well and replace him with a bunch of maniacs.

    The same “maniacs” that you voted for. What does that say about your decision-making?

    Comment by Ross — September 25, 2014 @ 1:46 pm

  18. “The same “maniacs” that you voted for. What does that say about your decision-making?”

    That, like most people’s, it’s better with hindsight?

    Comment by Chris (@slackjawdtownie) — September 25, 2014 @ 1:53 pm

  19. @Ross “The same “maniacs” that you voted for. What does that say about your decision-making?”

    You really aren’t great at reading are you?

    Try remembering the beginning of the sentence that you quote the whole way through to the end.

    Comment by RJL — September 25, 2014 @ 2:01 pm

  20. Have a look at the so called political expert that has been brought over from Australia to tell us to ditch David Cunliffe and try to convince me that journalists are doing a good job with “Dirty Politics.” Politics is just getting dirtier by the day.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Graham_Richardson

    Comment by Karen — September 25, 2014 @ 2:42 pm

  21. “But we hardly ever get genuine comment on what is bullshit and what is not from the journalist.”

    Why would you trust a journalist to know what is truth and what is not? Often you are being given information for which you do not know the context and it may have been framed by your source to point you in a particular direction. I was struck during the reporting on the whole moment of truth stuff how people like Glen Greenwald assume the documents they have tell the whole or even most of the story. Wow! Anyone who has worked in a bureaucracy private or public will tell you that trying to put together an accurate depiction of how a policy was formed or how a programme operates based solely on documents is fraught with danger. When you are trying to generalise about the experience across five different bureaucracies – the five eyes partners – the problems get multiplied. Nothing I saw of Greenwald suggested to me he had any understanding of this problem. Today’s spear gun story may be an example of how relying on selected documents can screw you up.

    “Journalists will balk at that (describing sources as accurately as possible)”

    And not just journalists. You do realise that strictly adhered to it is likely to hobble a left wing comeback as much as any government attempts at manipulation?

    Comment by Tinakori — September 25, 2014 @ 2:58 pm

  22. That, like most people’s, it’s better with hindsight?

    Except Danyl hasn’t just discovered the Opposition was allegedly a bunch of maniacs. He’s been saying it for a while. Which kind of begs the question of why he voted the way he did. A masochist, perhaps?

    Comment by Ross — September 25, 2014 @ 3:03 pm

  23. “…and it may have been framed by your source to point you in a particular direction.” Cross out “may have been” and insert “..it is always framed by….”

    The Manning and the Snowden material doesn’t suffer from this problem because they are basically wholesale harvesting but the selection of the material to use does. One of the highest quality dumps I’ve seen was the advice from US diplomats in Australia back to the State Department about how hated Kevin Rudd was in his own caucus and how precarious his position was with both his peers and the public. This was well before the Canberra press gallery was on to the story. For obvious reasons the dump was not reported widely as it might have been. It was a more extreme case of 2008 when most of the media – especially the veterans like John Armstrong – clung to the idea that Helen Clark was invincible and a Key victory was still improbable. The turning point for most was the first debate in the campaign when Key performed well.

    Comment by Tinakori — September 25, 2014 @ 3:07 pm

  24. @Ross 22

    Good point. On reflection I’d say that they’re all on the psychopathic/egotist end of the sliding scale and it’s preferable to vote for the ones that are stark raving incompetent rather than stark raving Collins.

    Comment by Chris (@slackjawdtownie) — September 25, 2014 @ 3:18 pm

  25. Anonymous sources for stories should be described as accurately as possible without compromising the anonymity of the source. No more ‘insiders’ or ‘party sources’.

    I think we’ve agreed to disagree on this in the past, but I’d like to see a lot fewer anonymous sources used full stop. Following the Jayson Blair scandal, the New York Times had to take a rather hard look at its policy on anonymous sources because an awful lot of Blair’s were anonymous for good reason — they didn’t exist. Granted, that’s a pretty extreme case. But in recent days, we’ve seen plenty of Labour “insiders” and “party sources” who have axes to grind and political agendas they want to pursue, without scrutiny or accountability. I’m sure it’s all very good copy, but granting these people anonymity doesn’t strike me as either good journalism or in the public interest.

    Comment by cranapia — September 25, 2014 @ 4:05 pm

  26. I don’t think Danyl’s apparent contradictions are unusual. I voted Labour, and I’m not in the least surprised at the post-election mess. In the end, my position on the “compass” is broadly centre-left, liberal slash social democrat, and Labour comes closest to that view. Even though they have some very unimpressive representatives.

    If I were voting on personal goodness, the Greens would get my vote. If I were voting on “perception” (an empty concept which means “I don’t read”) then National. If I just wanted clean hands, I wouldn’t vote at all.

    But I voted for the least bad option, as many do. It’s a choice from a list of flawed and self-interested humans, not a superhero movie.

    Comment by sammy 2.0 — September 25, 2014 @ 4:20 pm

  27. I was struck during the reporting on the whole moment of truth stuff how people like Glen Greenwald assume the documents they have tell the whole or even most of the story.

    That’s the problem I have with Greenwald, Hager and the whole crusading journalist style.

    Especially when it’s done to shift a political debate without the time to come to any conclusion re the allegations as with what happened in the election campaign.

    It’s the “mass” dumping of hacked material which gives a false sense of completeness. Especially when it’s given a narrative based on a particular political slant. And both Hager and Greenwald have a political agenda.

    That’s not a vote of support for Collins or Whaleoil it’s a criticism of dressing up a few issues worth making public in a shock horror democracy is ending the mass media are brain washing framework.

    But looking at the comments on that PAS thread theres no sense that there might be justified concerns – from a left wing point of view – about all that. Instead it’s just more of the MSM stabbing the left in the back.

    Comment by NeilM — September 25, 2014 @ 4:26 pm

  28. Also, the second to last time I checked, most journalists weren’t driving round in 2012 Ferraris.

    Hosking is also a tiny man with an enormous head. Plus he has silly hair.
    As such, he cannot be trusted to hold an opinion of any merit, let alone promulgate it with any credibility.

    Comment by Gregor W — September 25, 2014 @ 4:29 pm

  29. @Tinakori “Why would you trust a journalist to know what is truth and what is not?”

    This is my point. There should be journalists that the general public can trust. Part of “speaking truth to power” is that you are trusted.

    However, there is so much shit in the journalism pool that you would be mad to trust it. Part of dirty politics is precisely about shitting in the journalism pool. I don’t know how the pool can be cleaned, but I know it should be.

    Comment by RJL — September 25, 2014 @ 5:07 pm

  30. “Hosking is also a tiny man with an enormous head. Plus he has silly hair.” Hey, if looking ridiculous excluded people from journalism there would be a lot fewer in the trade. Journalism is an incredibly open biz that includes hair-shirted puritans and the frankly crazy, and organisations, outlets and sites that reflect those extremes, like PAS and Whaleoil That’s one of the things that make it so much fun to work in, especially for the under 40s. After that the repetition (haven’t I seen this scandal somewhere before?) and the parasitic nature of the trade can make it all bit tedious. This campaign would have been great to cover. I was almost jealous.

    Comment by Tinakori — September 25, 2014 @ 5:16 pm

  31. “This is my point. There should be journalists that the general public can trust. Part of “speaking truth to power” is that you are trusted.”

    And I was saying that journalists really have no ability to generate that trust on an empirical basis other than by trying to be fair to the story. That doesn’t mean taking Glenn Greenwald or Nicky Hager at face value just because their views or their interpretation of documents or events match yours. Somemtimes they will be right and sometimes wrong. A journalist is at the mercy of the information they acquire and most of the time it is given to you by people who have a barrow to push and you usually have little ability to test the quality of that information, especially if you are racing a publishing or political deadline. Certainly nothing I have seen done by Nicky Hager going back many years passes the fairness test. He always takes an interpretation that suits the story he is pushing. He is an activist journalist. Nothing wrong with that but it is an essential piece of information to provide context on anything he writes.The downstream reporting of both Nicky’s book and the moment of truth have a long, long way to go and a lot of the propositions in both will be tested in the weeks and months to come by journalists and a variety of inquiries.This should be far more enlightening and reliable than the first rush of “revelations” during the campaign

    Comment by Tinakori — September 25, 2014 @ 5:34 pm

  32. Point me in the direction of a journalist with a 2012 Ferrari who openly supported National before, during and after the election, and I’ll point you in the direction of someone who’s using selective quoting to dilute what it means to be a journalist.

    Comment by Chris (@slackjawdtownie) — September 25, 2014 @ 5:39 pm

  33. Chris, the segmentation of the radio market in NZ is a lot like the British national newspaper scene in that there are lots of outlets that provide a variety of programming. One of the more popular in the Auckland market, Hauraki, does wonderful parodies of Hosking. Not that long ago the most prominent political host in the market was Pam Corkery of Radio Pacific, a loony left wing populist every bit as weird as Mike Hosking but from a very different political slant. Both are journalists. Entertainment and provocation are core parts of the roles of many journalists, from Garth George to Russell Brown (sorry, Garth, sorry, Russell)

    Comment by Tinakori — September 25, 2014 @ 6:08 pm

  34. Tinakori a journalist developed trust by a consistent pattern of being accurate. So give some real examples where Hager has not been accurate.

    Comment by Andrew R — September 25, 2014 @ 6:35 pm

  35. The amount of political discourse that can be broken down into Truth vs Untruth is greatly overestimated and increased with increasing partisan loyalty.

    Comment by NeilM — September 25, 2014 @ 7:06 pm

  36. @Tinakori

    So the segmentation of the radio market in NZ is like the segmentation of the radio market in the rest of the world?

    You can’t confuse journalism with being a presenter. Neither Corkery or Hosking have done anything of late – in Hosking’s case, it’s been about 15 years – that would allow them to call themselves journalists. I used to be a mechanic, but I don’t go around calling myself a mechanic, because it’s been about 16 years since I was a mechanic, I’ve done other things inbetween and I wouldn’t know how to fix a modern car without a manual.

    Journalist isn’t something that you are. It’s not an inherent quality you gain from farting around in the newsroom for 6 years that means your future light fluff magazine programme entitles you to call yourself a journalist. It’s a job. When you leave that job, when you stop doing what a journalist does and start wisecracking for the camera and writing banal op-ed pieces about how your politics was right all along – when you do that, you are not a journalist any more than I’m a primary school child.

    Comment by Chris (@slackjawdtownie) — September 25, 2014 @ 7:10 pm

  37. For me a journalist is someone who considers alternative explanations to the one they want to be true.

    Comment by NeilM — September 25, 2014 @ 7:20 pm

  38. I didn’t realise Pam Corkery was around till Mana wheeled her out and she proceeded to make a fool of herself . I hope someone writes a book about the 2014 election capping [not Wishart or Hagar] because it would be great to read about the absolute weirdness of it with a bit of distance, its still a bit difficult to process all of it while its still being played out -Cunliffe refusing to face the obvious, the Greens not understanding why their message has been so soundly rejected again even though its obvious, Winston calling himself the real leader of the opposition etc

    Comment by Del Griffith — September 25, 2014 @ 9:09 pm

  39. Andrew R -Tinakori a journalist developed trust by a consistent pattern of being accurate. So give some real examples where Hager has not been accurate.

    Show me where he’s ever used balance in his books, if he had of called his recent book “dirty politics of the national party” it would have made more sense Not even an attempt to show some semblance of balance or even interview the people he was throwing some serious allegations at, not times or dates on the emails, he expects us to believe he’s left nothing out and that the context he infers is the right one.
    I saw a great example of that written by someone who knew a fair bit about what was going on in the book he wrote about Timberlands and he was baffled by some of the conclusions he drew. He likened to saying Graham Henry selected Stephen Donald for the world cup final, John Mitchell also played for Waikato therefore John Mitchell was really pulling the strings.
    I personally don’t think its much different to that joke of a book Wishart wrote about Helen Clark.

    Comment by Del Griffith — September 25, 2014 @ 9:20 pm

  40. “So give some real examples where Hager has not been accurate.”

    Two: In his book on the GE contamination scare from 2002 he describes how the Ministry for the Environment provided their MInister with a press release, some key messages for any interview and a series of possible questions (and answers) she might be asked in any media encounter In other words, the Ministry and her office tried to prepare her for an announcement and gave her options as to how she might respond. Nicky interpreted this as a terrible example of manipulation of the media, Secondly, from Dirty Politics, Phil Goff told a porky about a briefing from the SIS (or GCSB, I can’t remember) and said that it hadn’t happened. The information that it had was released within a relatively short time of the request from Whaleoil while other requests were not treated with the same urgency (apparently, but we won’t know until the Inspector General has reported on her inquiry. There are issues of the wording of the request and so on). This was treated as a grave scandal because the release happened quickly and the recipient was Whaleoil. The first point is ludicrous. Any request to an agency for information, including asking for their address, is a request under the OIA. There is a maximum time within which the request much be complied with, subject of course to requests by the agency for an extension, but there is no minimum. In other words if an agency (or their MInister) wants to release the response to a request instantaneously it is free to do so. Or, if a Minister wants to talk about the requested information prior to a release to a requestor they are also free to do so.They are also free to make any release when it occurs to all journalists if they wish to do so. They have no obligation to preserve a journalist’s possible exclusive. A journalist can whine about this but the key point is that the information has been disclosed. The media management is very much a second order issue. You get pissed off if it happens to you but the point of the OIA is not to enhance journalists’ careers or a publication’s “scoops” but to ensure information is available. Why it was disclosed to Whaleoil I have no idea. If I was making the decision it would gone as far and wide as possible as quickly as possible and not to a boutique operation with partisan associations. Goff told a porky was the story, not ain’t Whaleoil well connected.

    “You can’t confuse journalism with being a presenter.”

    Oh, horseshit. Journalism includes a wide, wide range of people, outlets and practises.It’s about public events and our response to them, whatever political angle we approach them from. The idea that talk show hosts aren’t journalists is simply silly.

    Comment by Tinakori — September 25, 2014 @ 9:23 pm

  41. RJL #29: “I don’t know how the pool can be cleaned, but I know it should be.”

    A Royal Commission, if it takes after the Leveson and Finkelstein Inquiries, would be a good start.

    Comment by Kumara Republic — September 25, 2014 @ 10:24 pm

  42. Tinakori must try harder.
    In any reasonable journalistic universe, ‘accuracy’ is a quality that pertains to record, facts, or information, but to interpretation, not so much. The comments about Dirty Politics OIAs and departmental management of requests hastened or delayed are simply lame. “if an agency (or their(sic) MInister) wants to release the response to a request instantaneously it is free to do so.” And of course, when ‘they’ do, it suggests an agenda’s at work, belonging either to a bureaucrat or a bureaucrat’s political master, so that rather fits Hager’s proposition about dirt in politics. Again, such an interpretation (drawing an inference) is not matter of accuracy, is it? You may consider it unlikely under the circumstances described. Many of us do not. So, continue to be a try-hard. You know you can do it.

    For NeilM, a journalist is ‘someone who considers alternative explanations to the one they(sic) want to be true’. So he won’t be joining the fourth estate any time soon, will he?

    Comment by paritutu — September 25, 2014 @ 10:50 pm

  43. @Tinakori

    Horseshit, eh? Considered response there. You carry on deriding the profession by including Breakfast hosts in there. I’m sure the rest will thank you for it, and Hosking will be next in line for the Pulitzer for Offering Unqualified Opinions On A Range Of Shit.

    Comment by Chris (@slackjawdtownie) — September 25, 2014 @ 11:14 pm

  44. “You carry on deriding the profession by including Breakfast hosts in there” It’s not now nor has it ever been a profession. Some people in it have professional or more accurately trade-like qualifications but they are a subset of the whole.

    Comment by Tinakori — September 26, 2014 @ 9:34 am

  45. “If political commentators have a commercial relationship with a political party then they should be described as a ‘National Party Operative’, or a ‘Labour Party Operative’.

    The unions aren’t going to love this idea.

    Comment by unaha-closp — September 26, 2014 @ 12:20 pm

  46. “Why would you trust a journalist to know what is truth and what is not?”

    It’s. Their. Job.

    Comment by Sacha — September 26, 2014 @ 12:41 pm

  47. It’s not now nor has it ever been a profession.

    Yeah right. As every barking snob knows, there are only three professions – doctors, lawyers, and the world’s oldest.

    Comment by Joe W — September 26, 2014 @ 1:28 pm

  48. What planet are you on Danyl?

    Our mostly commercial media are so headline hungry that they happily use any source no matter how dodgy. And for this reason they will never attribute sources as you suggest. They are in fierce competition with other media to be first. The commercialism of NZs media is the real problem.

    Comment by Myles Thomas — September 27, 2014 @ 7:56 pm

  49. As for media failure I’m pretty sure the media failed to follow up the Speargun, Xkeyscore stories, and the ludicrous lack of accountability over issues raised in Dirty Politics. Politicians who fudge or avoid questions should be hounded and then denounced for failing to account for their actions (or the actions of their office).

    Improved ethics in journalism would be nice but how would they be enforced? With a system that favours the current government there’ll be no funding for anything that encourages balanced and ethical journalism.

    Comment by Myles Thomas — September 27, 2014 @ 7:58 pm

  50. @Myles: Do you really think non-attribution of sources is simply a product of hunger for profits?

    Comment by kalvarnsen — September 27, 2014 @ 8:05 pm

  51. Would you see them as ‘maniacs’ if Whale Oil hadn’t framed it that way?

    Comment by Myles Thomas — September 27, 2014 @ 8:11 pm

  52. Kalvarnsen, Yes, in two ways – ultimately the need for profits drives tabloid news and sensationalism which allows anonymous sources if the headline is strong enough. And secondly that news media run very lean ships, reporters are pushed to make headlines every day and to get them out fast. There’s no time to fact check or consider the source. Just print and be damned

    Comment by Myles Thomas — September 27, 2014 @ 8:16 pm

  53. @Myles: I disagree. Anonymous sources have a very long tradition in journalism, and some of history’s most important news stories would not have been published if not for anonymous sources. Do you think Deep Throat would have gone on the record if not for Woodward and Bernstein’s need for profits and sensationalism?

    Comment by kalvarnsen — September 27, 2014 @ 10:23 pm

  54. Kalv, yeah sure but as with Danyl’s point, revealing relevant details without revealing the identity of a source will cut down the plethora of politically motivated smears that are nothing like Watergate and everything like Dirty Politics. But the worst smears are the ones that are false – it’s all about getting your spin out first, if it’s later proven false you can apologise but the damage is done. THIS is the one of the major problems that journalism hasn’t found a way to solve. Retractions just don’t cut it.

    here’s an example http://www.jarrodgilbert.com/blog/proof-of-david-farrars-deception-my-own-experience-of-dirty-politics

    Comment by Myles Thomas — September 28, 2014 @ 9:19 pm

  55. @Myles Thomas: “I’m pretty sure the media failed to follow up the Speargun, Xkeyscore stories, and the ludicrous lack of accountability over issues raised in Dirty Politics.”
    That’s how it looks to many of us, the indignant squawking to the contrary of many journalists notwithstanding. The media wants, it seems, to absolve itself of any responsibility for the way in which public perceptions were framed; but how else would that have happened, if not for the media’s role in the way in which these issues were reported and analysed (or not)?

    ” Politicians who fudge or avoid questions should be hounded and then denounced for failing to account for their actions (or the actions of their office).”
    Well! Wouldn’t it be something if that were to actually happen? That it hasn’t thus far says a great deal that’s not complimentary about NZ journalists in general; that may well be the chilling effect of dirty politics. Which, of course, is exactly what’s intended, as those who’ve read the book can see. If anyone here hasn’t read the book, I urge you to do so. Much of what’s happened here politically since about the Brash era only makes sense once one has read it.

    Great post from Jarrod Gilbert; thanks for the link; I’ve passed it on.

    @kmccready: “This piece by Jay Rosen says really well what a lot of commenters above have said” Indeed it does. It should be obligatory reading for NZ journalists, if they haven’t already done so. Thanks so much for the link: I’ve passed it on.

    Comment by D'Esterre — September 29, 2014 @ 11:36 am

  56. Speaking of anonymous sources …

    John Key today, on whether Peter Dunne leaked the GCSB report: “I don’t know and neither do I care”.

    That’s our Prime Minister talking about our new Minister of Internal Affairs. So leaks are fine, just not to Glenn Greenwald.

    Comment by sammy 2.0 — September 29, 2014 @ 11:56 am


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