Monday, September 9, 2019

Okay, now let's hear the other side of the story

Susan Strongman’s recent Radio New Zealand hatchet-job on Pregnancy Counselling Services has achieved exactly what I believe was intended.

Tauranga-based Sun Media picked up and pursued Strongman’s ALRANZ-enabled story about PCS, a pro-life counselling service, receiving public funding through the community organisation grants scheme (Cogs) administered by the Department of Internal Affairs.

Sun Media reported that the minister responsible for Cogs, Poto Williams, had “gone to ground” over claims that grants to PCS broke rules forbidding money going to services or activities that promote political or religious activities. PCS is loosely affiliated with Christian churches and takes a pro-life position.

The use of that loaded phrase “gone to ground” is interesting. It suggested Williams was either unable or unwilling to defend the grants, which in turn gave the impression there must be something shonky going on. But the explanation from Williams’ press secretary was a standard one in such circumstances: ministers quite properly don’t get involved in individual grant decisions, which are left to local committees to determine.

According to Strongman’s story, which she wrote after putting out a call for information on the Facebook page of the abortion rights activist group ALRANZ, PCS has received $335,000 of taxpayer money over 15 years.

Pro-life groups believe – and I’m certain they’re right – that the purpose of the story was to choke off public funding of PCS. Certainly the tone of the piece was hostile and set off what looked suspiciously like an orchestrated response.

Right on cue, other abortion rights activists came forward, such as Professor Liz Beddoe of the University of Auckland, who questioned why PCS should get funding when there were plenty of other organisations providing information about pregnancy. It offends these people mightily that PCS makes pregnant women aware of other choices besides termination.

As I say, the tone of Strongman’s piece was hostile. However there’s still a chance for her to salvage her damaged credibility and reputation as an impartial journalist. All she needs to do is exhibit the same investigative zeal by finding out how much public money has been swallowed up by Family Planning, the government-subsidised pro-abortion agency that facilitates a large proportion of the terminations undertaken in New Zealand.

It’s dollars to donuts that the amount of public money spent on aborting babies dwarfs the sum that has gone to a small organisation committed to trying to save them. If Strongman believed in editorial balance, she would have included this information in her story. Even now it’s not too late for her to find out and tell us, in the interests of a properly informed debate. But I’m not holding my breath.


Bush Apologist said...

Yup - as you predicted a few weeks back.
I'd love to get to the bottom of the ALRANZ funding stream . . .

Bush Apologist said...

RNZ continue with nothing to add this morning. There is this story that hasn’t been reported on months ago - so pathetic is their position they’ve even published the story without an author named - does that suggest it comes from the editor-in-chief?

Ruaridh said...

Karl, I look forward to reading your incisive, fair-minded and balanced views on a whole host of subjects. Just about the one exception to that keen anticipation is anything you write on the subject of abortion. It seems that many folk who are strongly for or against abortion, in terms limited or absolute, cannot help but descend into inflammatory language (eg, “hatchet job”) when troubled by the giving of prominence to those whose views are contrary to theirs. Ad hominem arguments (whether aimed at individuals or organisations) abound. I find that sad. Abortion presents as a subject upon which there will never be a consensus. So striking blows is surely pointless. And heaven forbid that we should ever see the murderous violence that, on occasion in the USA, shows where raging can at worst lead. As someone who has no strong views on the subject (and no doubt some would wish to pillory me for that) I just turn away when, so it seems to me, vitriol is being spilt.

Karl du Fresne said...

Mine is one small voice amid a barrage of abortion rights propaganda. Part of the reason I write about abortion is to offset the striking imbalance in media coverage and to challenge what I see as sophistry and double standards. I'm very aware that it's a complex, nuanced and troubling issue, and that a lot of people - yourself included, apparently - are uncomfortable with it. But that's hardly a reason to remain silent.

Bruno DeL said...

Ruaridh - Karl's blog was hardly 'vitriolic'.

Rowan G said...

Ruaridh - I think Karl's essential point is that the media are often one-sided when it comes to reporting on important issues. It is rare to get a balanced all -rounded view and in this instance the example being used is abortion.