Well, hello. The latest Edelman Trust Barometer contains possibly the least surprising research findings so far this century. It confirms that New Zealanders are losing, or have already lost, faith in the media.
The barometer, which surveyed 36,000 people in 28 countries, found that governments and the media internationally are fuelling a “cycle of distrust”. Both institutions are seen as divisive, a finding unlikely to come as a revelation to any vaguely sentient human being.
Perhaps most significant is the finding, reported here by Pattrick Smellie of BusinessDesk [paywalled], that 55 per cent of New Zealanders regard the media as a divisive force, against 23 per cent who see it as unifying. The corresponding split globally is 46/35, meaning New Zealanders are far more likely than citizens of other countries to view their media as agents of polarisation.
This underlines a striking trend in recent years for the mainstream media in New Zealand to align themselves consciously and deliberately with causes that they must know alienate a large proportion of their readers, viewers and listeners. Call it slow-motion suicide.
The bigger picture is that the media have abandoned their traditional role of trying to reflect the society they purport to serve in favour of advocating on behalf of divisive and often extremist minority causes. By doing so they create a perception of New Zealand not as a cohesive, stable society made up of diverse groups with vital interests in common, but as one characterised by aggrieved minorities whose interests are fundamentally incompatible with those of a callously indifferent (or worse, deliberately oppressive) majority.
Media outlets that once tried conscientiously to provide a platform for a range of opinions and ideologies now unashamedly attack, or just as insidiously ignore, views and beliefs that run counter to the narrative favoured by the leftist cabal that controls the institutions of power. The most obvious example is the collective undertaking by major media organisations to ignore any opinion, including those of distinguished scientists, that runs counter to the “approved” narrative on climate change or the effectiveness of policies intended to ameliorate it.
Such flagrant suppression of news would have been unthinkable not long ago. Now it’s official editorial policy.
The Edelman Barometer confirms that overall trust in the New Zealand media remains low at 41 per cent (although it’s up slightly on recent years) compared with 50 per cent internationally. Again, this is hardly a surprise when media independence has been fatally compromised by the industry’s acceptance of tainted government money via the Public Interest Journalism Fund, aka the Pravda Project.
This rort hasn’t gone unnoticed by the public. The latest findings of the Auckland University of Technology annual Trust in Media report, which are also reported by Smellie, reveal a continuing decline in trust – down from 53 to 45 per cent – and quote some respondents as saying the reason for their distrust is that the media are funded by the government and politically influenced by it.
One finding of the Edelman report that should particularly alarm media leaders (but won’t, because they are in denial) is that 64 percent of respondents thought New Zealand journalists purposely tried to mislead people by saying things they know are false or grossly exaggerated. This is a predictable result when journalists are given licence to use the news columns as platforms for their ideological agendas.
As an occupational group, journalists have long tended to lean to the left. Earlier generations of reporters countered this by restraining their natural impulses, knowing that media credibility hinged on public confidence that events and issues would be covered fairly, accurately and impartially. That professional discipline is long gone, along with the moderating influence exercised by editors who insisted on the now highly unfashionable principle of objectivity.
We are bombarded daily with politically slanted content masquerading as trustworthy and authoritative reportage. A recent example was an episode of the New Zealand Herald’s newly launched podcast The Front Page (which claims to “go behind the headlines” and ask “hard-hitting questions”), in which Herald journalists Damien Venuto and Georgina Campbell purported to examine the Three Waters project (which they reported in very positive terms) without once mentioning its most contentious feature – namely, the proposal for 50/50 co-governance with iwi.
“High-quality, trusted” coverage as promised by Herald managing editor Shayne Currie? It's time to revive the Tui billboards, surely.