It’s well-known that you should never trust a journalist’s arithmetic. Canny newspaper subeditors, a breed in danger of imminent extinction, know this and always double-check reporters’ figures.Not so widely realised is that journalists’ command of basic geography is just as suspect. Only recently I read an article in which an experienced journalist referred to the magnificent view of the Tararuas from a house in Havelock North.
This weakness obviously extends to the people who write scripts for TV reality shows such as Coastwatch, which I happened to see last night. In the opening minutes the programme referred to Titahi Bay as being on the Kapiti Coast – which starts at Paekakariki, a good 15 kilometres north – and to a search for a missing crayfish boat at Te Anau, which is 80 kilometres from the sea.These may be relatively minor errors in the grand scheme of things, but they are telling. Do the makers of these shows give a fig for accuracy? I suspect not.
And don’t get me started on TV journalists’ rudimentary command of basic grammar. My wife, for whom English was a third language, could barely believe her ears when she heard a reporter say on TVNZ’s 6 pm bulletin on Saturday that oil companies had “risen their prices”. God preserve us.