Sunday, March 20, 2022

Media freedom in New Zealand and how we differ from Putin's Russia

The tragedy in Ukraine illustrates with striking clarity the importance of a free and independent press.

People frequently express the naïve hope that the Russian people will rise up and depose the fascist war criminal Vladimir Putin, but that won’t happen as long as he exerts almost total control of the media.

Even in the digital age, most Russians get their information from state-controlled sources – mostly the TV news. That enables Putin and his apparatchiks to manipulate public opinion by bombarding the country with misinformation.

As a result, most Russians are convinced the invasion of Ukraine is a “special military operation” undertaken with the noble purpose of liberating the country from Nazis, drug-runners and terrorists. Or, as an alternative justification, that the Ukrainian government is a puppet regime of Western powers hostile to the beloved motherland. Failing that, there’s the rationale that the invasion was necessary to protect the Russian-speaking minority from genocide at the hands of Ukrainian nationalists. Or how about the argument that Ukraine is rightly part of Russia anyway? Take your pick.

Allusions to the Second World War, when some Ukrainians fought for Nazi Germany, feed into the sabre-rattling rhetoric. Reminders of the Soviet Union’s desperate struggle against Nazism make potent propaganda.

Russians have been fed the line that the invaders have been welcomed in Ukraine as heroes, much as the Allied armies were when they set about reclaiming Europe from the Nazis  in 1944. But we know, although most Russians don’t, that the Ukrainians despise their supposed liberators, much to the invading army’s surprise and dismay.

As for the scenes of carnage and ample evidence of civilian deaths, Russian audiences don’t see them. Or if they do, Russian TV reports that Ukrainian forces launched strikes against their own cities to make the invaders look bad. This is the propaganda technique known as the Big Lie – the use of an untruth so colossal and audacious that people believe it because it seems inconceivable that someone would invent it.

No doubt the Ukrainians have used propaganda tactics themselves, astutely playing on Western sympathy for the underdog – and who could blame them? But Putin has a couple of distinct advantages in the battle for hearts and minds. One is the Russian people’s historic admiration for authoritarian leaders (think Stalin, whom many Russians revere) and the other is their extraordinary stoicism in the face of hardship. Harsh economic sanctions such as the Russians are now experiencing must seem a minor inconvenience when compared with the Soviet Union’s agonies in the Second World War.

The barrage of Russian misinformation is so persuasive that even people in New Zealand have fallen for it. In the dead of night I’ve heard radio talkback callers argue vehemently that Putin has right on his side. One of Kim Hill’s listeners a couple of weeks ago took a similar line in an email challenging one of her interviewees.

These strange Putin cultists have uncritically bought the line that the invasion was launched for the Ukrainians’ own good and that Putin is justified in believing Russia is militarily threatened by Ukraine’s alignment with the West. What’s more, they think we’re the ones being bombarded with misinformation about what’s happening in Ukraine and that the nightly scenes of carnage on our TV screens are bogus.

While it would be comforting to report that Putin’s New Zealand supporters are mentally deficient, they’re not. The ones I’ve heard are articulate and obviously intelligent.  They’ve dived deep into Ukraine’s complicated past and are able to cite all manner of historical justifications for the invasion, including Putin’s line that Ukraine was a Russian creation in the first place and therefore has no legitimate claim to independent statehood.  

But theirs is a highly selective reading of history. It’s true, for example, that some Ukrainians collaborated with the Nazis in the Second World War; my late Polish mother-in-law remembered them well from the atrocities they perpetrated in Warsaw. But Russians did too – most notably in the notorious Kaminski Brigade. For that matter so did Dutch, Scandinavian and Belgian fascists. Yet no one brands those countries as Nazi.

God alone knows where Putin’s antipodean sympathisers get their information, but it’s evidence of the insidious reach of online mischief –  and proof that there’s always someone ready to believe it.

More importantly, though, the Russian state’s brazen manipulation of information should stand as a stark reminder of the importance of press freedom. Strict control of what the public is told is an essential part of every tyrant’s playbook, and it’s enforced by a variety of means from censorship to imprisonment, exile and even execution.

Conversely, liberal democracy depends on an informed public that is able to observe, judge and react to the actions of its leaders. New Zealanders forget this at their peril.

Media freedom is one of the crucial defining differences between a liberal democratic state and a totalitarian one. Put simply, it can be described as the right to know. It’s arguably at least as important as the right to vote, since a vote is pointless if it’s not an informed one.

So how are we doing in New Zealand? In the global index of press freedom compiled annually by Reporters Sans Frontieres, we’re in the top 10 – ahead of Canada, Australia, Britain and the US.

While such indexes should be viewed with a degree of scepticism, since they are only as reliable as the information fed into them by “expert” sources who may have their own biases, it’s true that journalists and publishers in New Zealand operate in an environment of relative freedom.

Complacency is a continuing hazard. When the Newspaper Publishers’ Association commissioned me in 1992 to write a slender book on press freedom in New Zealand, I assumed it would be a relatively straightforward job. All I had to do was pull together everything previously published on the subject.

Ha! More fool me. I could find nothing. I was effectively starting from scratch. I concluded that a free press is something New Zealanders take for granted. But as my book pointed out, a freedom that’s taken for granted is one that can easily be eroded. Press freedom was seriously compromised during the 1951 waterfront dispute, when newspapers were forbidden from publishing anything that could have been construed as sympathetic to the troublesome unions, and again during the prime ministership of Robert Muldoon. The 1990 Bill of Rights Act provided some much-needed protection, but media independence remains a surprisingly fragile right and depends very much on the goodwill of judges and politicians.

But here’s the extraordinary thing. In 2022 the independence of the New Zealand media is jeopardised not by threats or coercion emanating from the state, but by the media’s own behaviour. In this respect we may be unique.

Journalistic bias is rampant and overt. It’s evident not just in how the media report things, but just as crucially in what is not reported at all. New Zealanders wanting to be fully informed on matters of consequence need to monitor online news platforms such as Kiwiblog, the BFD and Muriel Newman’s Breaking Views – to name just three – that cover the issues the mainstream media ignore.

One notable example of media failure is the Three Waters project, coverage of which falls far short of reflecting substantial opposition to the scheme and almost completely overlooks the profound constitutional implications of 50-50 co-governance. Another is climate change, where dissenting voices are suppressed as a matter of editorial policy.

Generally speaking, news that reflects unfavourably on the government tends to be played down or ignored. Bias is apparent too in the lack of rigour in holding government politicians to account. 

The prime minister in particular seems to enjoy a level of immunity from journalistic scrutiny that Muldoon would have envied. Jacinda Ardern is protected within a magic circle that the mainstream media almost never penetrates. Those who try to pierce it, as Mike Hosking did with his weekly interviews on NewstalkZB, are punished by the withdrawal of privileges.

After a lifetime as a journalist, I’m in the unfamiliar position of no longer trusting the New Zealand media to report matters of public interest fully, fairly, accurately and truthfully. This situation hasn’t arisen because of pressure from government communications czars or threats of imprisonment, as in authoritarian regimes such as Russia’s. It’s far more subtle than that.

The Labour government doesn’t have to tell the media what to report, or how, because most journalists, and especially those covering politics and important areas of public policy, are ideologically on board.  They are sympathetic with the government and want it to stay in power. It doesn’t seem to matter to them that this means relinquishing the impartial status on which they depend for their credibility. 

It follows that the $55 million Public Interest Journalism Fund, ingenious though it may be as a means of co-opting the media as partners in a grand ideological project, may have been unnecessary. 

Nonetheless I wonder whether the editors and publishers who lined up to accept the government’s tainted money stopped to consider the full implications. While they indignantly reject claims that they are ethically compromised, they appear not to understand that the public is entitled to suspect that the acceptance of state money has influenced reportage and media comment even when it hasn’t. The public perception of media independence has been irreparably harmed.

To put this another way, in Russia the media can’t be trusted because they are controlled by the state, but in New Zealand the media have spared the government the trouble.  



Doug Longmire said...

"most Russians get their information from state-controlled sources – mostly the TV news. That enables Putin and his apparatchiks to manipulate public opinion by bombarding the country with misinformation."
Same here, but as you clearly describe, it is softly, softly, smiley face, be kind...However the media are doing the job that Comrade Ardern has paid for and demands.

Madame Blavatsky said...

Lines like "the fascist war criminal Vladimir Putin" and "these strange Putin cultists" indicate that you too are an apparently unwitting victim of the Western world’s own incessant propaganda campaign vis a vis Ukraine. What the masses believe is inherently perspectival, Russian or Western. So who’s right? The answer is probably “neither.” Thus, we have to start thinking objectively and beyond the headlines.

From the minute we wake up until the moment we go to bed, we are all subjected to a barrage of propaganda from every direction, designed to shape personal and collective opinion in the name of some commercial or political end. We are sold geopolitical ideas in the same way as we are sold toothpaste and sports cars. Strictly true propositions are not important, only selling the product. It is a fantasy to assume there are "Good Guys" going up against "Bad Guys" in the world – there are only differing interests. Interests will conflict and diverge, so divergent interests will necessitate different propaganda.

"War criminal"? If invading Ukraine is a war crime, then so was invading Iraq in 2003 and Afghanistan in 2002 (not to mention the many other recent efforts to liberalise the world at gunpoint). When do Bush and Blair get hauled before the ICC for war crimes? They don't, because they are "our" guys. "Cultists"? You can't label someone a cultist simply on the basis that they hold a different view to you, even if it is a sly rhetorical tactic. Are you a "Ukraine cultist" on the basis that you agree with the US version? No.

"The barrage of Russian misinformation is so persuasive that even people in New Zealand have fallen for it." Those poor misguided victims of propaganda – the wretched unenlightened fools! And there's that word 'misinformation' again, so beloved by the occupant of Ardern’s Podium of Truth. This word and its use exemplifies propaganda methods. Who decides what the referent of this term is? In Russia, it is the Russians; in the West it is the West. In both cases the term is deployed to advance the user's preferred narrative as to what represents "The Truth."

I’m a realist. We don't have to like or to advocate war in order to recognise that Russia has a pressing and legitimate interest in a non-NATO-aligned Ukraine acting as a neutral buffer zone between the ever-expanding NATO and the Russian border, as it was from the end of the USSR in 1991 until around 2014, when NATO began making overtures, having already expanded and subsumed nearly all of the other available former Soviet Republics. Putin has expressed and maintained the same red line over Ukraine since the mid-2000s (i.e. Ukraine joining NATO is unacceptable to Russia’s security posture, and action will be taken to prevent this), yet NATO (aka the US) have consistently disregarded those interests, they have refused to negotiate and so now there is a war in Ukraine. This was no surprise attack. What the US’s precise interest in Ukraine is remains rather opaque: something to do with platitudes like “freedom” and “standing with Ukraine.” Who really knows. Russia is defending its legitimate security interests in the face of NATO expansion. But apparently because “Putin is Hitler” and “Putin is a murderous dictator” we can accuse him of anything we like and even start WW3 if necessary, because it’s a moral crusade.

We really should drop the hypocritical moral posturing, and instead think in terms of power politics and relative legitimate strategic interests. The West has no geopolitical moral superiority, both in terms of the numerous military excursions against sovereign nations over the last 50 or 60 years, and how we sell these engagements to the public.

Karl du Fresne said...

Madame Blavatsky,
A couple of points. I happen to agree that George Bush’s bizarre invasion of Iraq could be categorised as a war crime; Afghanistan less so, at least in the early stages, because that military operation had a limited and clearly defined objective – the elimination of Al-Qaeda. It was only later that it expanded into something much bigger and more nebulous (not to say futile). But even in those cases, the invaders didn’t deliberately target innocent civilians as Russia is doing in Ukraine.
Second point: I would have been justified in not publishing your comment, since you’re engaging in direct debate with me while sheltering behind a pseudonym (see my post of March 4). But I chose to run it because you very obligingly confirm my point about Putin having New Zealand defenders who seem happy to turn a blind eye to the atrocities being carried out under his orders.

Gerrit said...

In reply to Madame Blavatsky;

Funny I thought that the Ukraine as a free and democratic entity was allowed to choose its friends as the people saw fit. Be that NATO, Russia or the shape-shifting extraterrestrial reptilian humanoids that invade earth from the dark side of the moon.

It is not Russia's entitlement to define who the Ukrainians friends may or may not be.

And bombing Ukraine back to the stone age is going to achieve that buffer? When Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania already on the Russian border are NATO members?

You are not making sense in trying to explain the Russian invasion based on establishing a buffer zone against NATO.

Bearing in mind that Russia is equipped and fighting like it is the second Chechen war all over again. Bomb Crozky flat and install a traitorous Kadyrov as puppet leader.

Problem is Chechen population was 1.5 million. Ukraine has 40 million.

Russia is going to loose any ability to influence a free Ukraine for ever more. It simply cannot win the long term occupation required to subdue the Ukrainian people.

What is even more interesting is that Russia has been planning this war for over a decade. Yet it managed to structure it's military might completely wrong.

To understand why just watch this analysis

"They've got thousands of nukes, they've got battle cruisers, and next gen hyper sonic missiles...but they have tanks missing GPS, troops with no night vision, and an air force without the kit it needs to suppress the limited Ukrainian forces opposing them.

It's all bling, no basics, and here I spend 50 minutes calling them out on it."

Anna Mouse said...

Karl, I might add to your list Sean Plunkett's The Platform, The Australian Spectator (NZ section) and Bryce Edwards Democracy Project as all having reasoned intellegent and balanced commentary.

Phil said...

You appear to have misunderstood the article. Karl is saying that the extreme propaganda used by Putin is being mirrored in New Zealand in not informing the public about the Government's Co-Governance agenda.

pdm said...

`Another is climate change, where dissenting voices are suppressed as a matter of editorial policy.'

I have been banned at Stuff since about October simply for calling Climate Change `Nature' doing what it has always done and for calling Ardern and her ministers incompetent more than once. No abuse, no foul language - just offering a different point of view and/or criticism.

Funny thing is I am allowed to join in sports threads but not initiate an original comment on them.

hughvane said...

I may have posted this before, but there is a classic line late in the 2007 movie Shooter where the evil Senator utters the infamous line .... "(and you said) the truth is what I SAY it is!"

What surprises and dismays me is that the bought, and blinkered, MSM, and the general political machinery (= propagandists), express astonishment that we don't believe half - or much more - of what they say, publish and promote.

Gabriel said...

I've never had much interest in Ukraine or Russia or the issues between the two states. However, early on in this war, before it really started even, I noticed the complete bias from the New Zealand MSM with the Ukraine good/Russia bad message pushed in every article. The only impression I brought into it was clues from other sources that there are plenty of bad actors on both sides.
However, given the performance of our media over the last five years, my natural tendency has been to lean in the opposite direction and that has become my default position, which is generally proven to have been accurate with the passage of time. Thus, my first instinct was to support Russia simply because our media are against Russia.
I'm not saying I actually support either side. I'm just telling you of my reaction on reading about it in New Zealand's media.
I believe this thing was avoidable and there is no justification for killing people on either side and blowing up the country. Tanks, artillery, infantry, bomb shelters and refugees. It's all so 1940s.

Tom Hunter said...

In 2022 the independence of the New Zealand media is jeopardised not by threats or coercion emanating from the state, but by the media’s own behaviour. In this respect we may be unique.

We're not. Merely the latest (but possibly the most incendiary) reveal has been the New York Time's admission that Hunter Biden's laptop was the real thing and not "Russian disinformation", aided by their friends at the all-powerful FaceTwit + Google nexus. As summed up by the folks at Powerline:

The New York Times expresses no regret because it doesn’t regret what it did. The Times isn’t a newspaper, it is a mouthpiece. Its purpose was obvious. It was the same purpose that animated many other news outlets, Twitter, and the 51 lying spies: they were trying to get Joe Biden elected president.

That effort succeeded. Lying about the laptop was just one of many corners they cut to achieve their desired objective, but poll data suggest that it was one of the most important. If voters had realized how demonstrably corrupt Joe Biden is–no one has ever bribed Hunter Biden–polls suggest that Donald Trump would have been re-elected. Liberal news outlets are proud of the fact that they acted together to prevent that awful possibility. If it took some lies to accomplish the mission, so what?

Thus, I attribute little significance to the New York Times’ casual acknowledgement that it blew the Hunter laptop story–really, it blew the 2020 election, if you think the Times is trying to report objectively on the news. But of course no one thinks that. For the Times, Twitter, and countless other liberal institutions, their lies about Joe Biden and Donald Trump accomplished the intended mission. There will be no apologies, no regrets–only, behind the scenes, discreet high fives.

I have to admit that it will make things easier for me in the future; it's so blatant I'll no longer have to explain to anybody when they present me with "news" from the NYT and I simply dismiss it as lies.

Odysseus said...

I think it began with the popular vote in favour of Brexit in June 2016, and then was quickly compounded by the election of Trump in 2016. The "mainstream" media's mask slipped. So began their incessant attacks on "populism". They were the self-appointed guardians of the mores of the metropolitan elites after all. Censorship of opposing views on issues like climate change, an epidemic of slander, accusations of "conspiracy theories" and cover-ups of unfavourable information (such as the contents of Hunter Biden's laptop) were all part of their so far successful struggle to overturn the new "populist" order. All this greatly influenced the heavily derivative New Zealand media too. They represent in the main the Auckland and Wellington inner city elites. Any regard for truth was long ago set aside by them.

I no longer buy their product. Instead I give my money to alternative media such as the BFD, Kiwiblog, the NZCPR, Hobson's Pledge and the Free Speech Union etc. While I don't share all the views represented by these outlets, I am glad that they can be aired and debated. And I share these sources widely, including your own excellent blog Karl. You play a vital role in keeping freedom of debate alive.

CXH said...

What will the msm do if National win and put their own conditions on the media fund?

My guess is the hypocrisy and cries of foul play will be deadening.

Phil said...

Gabriel, I am not sure if you noticed but the NZ Government was also a reluctant convert to the Ukraine side. Likewise also reluctant to condemn Russia after the Salisbury incident. I can imagine a bit of external pressure from the USA. No matter what the hidden agendas, invading Ukraine and bombing their civilians is evil.

Brendan McNeill said...

When it comes to evaluating people, places, events, and communications from all sources we typically apply the following measures:

1) The data - what statistical information can we reliably apply?
2) Life experience - what do we know about human nature, people and past events we can use to inform us?
3) Worldview - what spiritual moral and intellectual framework do we rely upon that would shape our response?
4) Intuition - does it pass the ‘sniff’ test? the ‘reasonable person’ test? what is our gut instinct saying?
5) Are we simply too ill-informed to draw a conclusion?

We may not methodically work through these criteria as some kind of ‘check list’ but for the most part these factors run in the background doing the heavy lifting for us, helping us make sense of the world. This being the case, why do two people, when confronted with the same ‘narrative’ draw entirely different conclusions? My sense is that (4), which is informed by (3) holds the answer.

Journalists these days appear to be young and religiously Woke. Any opinion that does not align with their political sensibilities is viewed with deep suspicion and hostility - presumably emanating from a cult, the alt-right, or the far-right, and therefore beyond the pale. It is their moral duty to ensure such ideas do not get any air time, except to be ridiculed.

Consequently for many of us, the media has become smug, self congratulatory and vacuous. This is not helpful for the liberal democratic process, or the future of New Zealand; arguably it is not sustainable, but it is where we have landed.

Gary Peters said...

Karl, the one thing that has puzzled me are the reports of the Monday "meeting" of editors with ardern's office.

Is that a real thing and if so, couldn't that be construed as a form of media control?

I fully agree that the current crop of media are certainly onboard the ardern train but as citizens we have little ability to do anything about that except withdraw our patronage.

Scouser said...

It’s scary how much influence the mainstream media have in New Zealand. Most people pay little attention to politics and don’t have the time or inclination to dig behind what is presented. I have no problem with a publication ala The Guardian (UK) who are clear in their philosophy (reasonably left of centre in this case) but worry we have no counter balancing publications as in the UK. We receive a relative monoculture of opinion masquerading as truths and balanced.

I am not surprised as my relatively limited exposure to mainstream journalists and TV left me underwhelmed. The admittedly small number of journalists I had longer conversations with were surprisingly one-eyed, low on general knowledge, knew little of history and had non-existent numerical skills and scientific knowledge. Great communicators though. Might be my bias coming through there.

I personally know the facts of two cases that were completely misrepresented on national TV to fit a particular message. (I do mean know and not someone told me). I was approached to be interviewed on national TV on another matter when someone was making fictional accusations against an organisation I was involved with. I declined as they didn’t deserve oxygen. When I suggested they look at the facts there were several seconds of silence at the other end of the phone. Ironic.

I attempted to discuss media bias with friends, colleagues, acquaintances, my barber …. several years ago and met almost universal surprise and disagreement. However, like a gambler who does not know to walk away with his/her winnings the media picture has become less and less relevant and more skewed in a world view that is alien to most. The opinion and bias are now too obvious to be missed by a majority and we are seeing a (small) groundswell of opposing views. You cannot fool all the people all the time.

IMO this is a huge driver of increasing distrust of the media.

I also believe this will backfire on Labour as the cult of Ardern collapses as it is now perceived as linked to the same media exercise many more no longer trust.

Phil said...


On a different matter, Chris Trotter has penned an article today at Bowalley Road discussing the uneasy co relationship in the National Party between Liberals and Conservatives. If you feel inclined it would be interesting to know your thoughts on where to from here for conservatives. New Zealand now has extreme liberal legislation flowing though parliament that seems normal to liberals. For example, aborted babies born alive have to be left to starve to death by law. We can change our sex with a simple online declaration. I tell people overseas what is going on and they don't believe it.

PaulVD said...

You cannot hope to bribe or twist
(thank God!) the British journalist
But seeing what the man will do
unbribed, there's no occasion to.

Humbert Wolfe, 1930 (hence the sexist assumption)

So little has changed in nearly a century.

Doug Longmire said...

I agree Odysseus,
Like you, I read those sites, and like you I do not always agree with everything there, I respect it as free speech.
I disagree with Madame Blav. Her bias is very evident, and yes Karl, maybe applying your rules would be appropriate here.

Muzz said...

Karl - ref your comment `Another is climate change, where dissenting voices are suppressed as a matter of editorial policy.' the New York based "COVERING CLIMATE NOW" (started by a group of journalists in association with The Guardian) is subscribed to by the following N.Z. legacy media outlets.

• Newshub New Zealand
• RNZ New Zealand
• TVNZ's 1 News New Zealand
• The New Zealand Herald New Zealand
• The Otago Daily Times New Zealand
• The Wānaka Sun New Zealand
• Newsroom New Zealand
• The Spinoff New Zealand
• Stuff New Zealand
Some news outlets, such as The Guardian, Reuters and HuffPost, have their own guidelines.

When STUFF some time ago, bought in to Covering Climate, they proudly advised that they would no longer accept articles or comments contrary to the prevailing narrative as the “science is settled”.

Hiko said...

Putins rhetoric about the historical alignment with Russia must draw a wry smile from the Chinese Parts of eastern Russia including Vladivostok was historically part of China
To Putin I guess thats different

Andy Espersen said...

I think that, following your own stipulated rules, you should have disallowed Madame Blavatsky's comment because she, writing anonymously, argues against you.

That said, I am inclined to agree with her that your article is just too "black and white" in its presentation. We should most certainly proudly stand for our hallowed, democratic principles on freedom to write anything that is genuinely thought to be true and ethically right - but we must not fall into the trap of being whipped, brain-washed, into a state of common, righteous indignation against Putin and his very many Russian adherents.

Our foreign policy must always be tempered by "Real Politik". We live in a real world. It is all very well vehemently "standing up for Ukraine" - but when it comes to laying your own life on the line to defend Ukraine's "national rights" you should stop to think again. And if you apply economic sanctions, you should seriously consider whether in the process you do not damage yourself too much. And I wonder how often economic sanctions actually do work to stop a determined aggressor.

I am inclined to let Ukraine sail her own sea (apart from sending them masses of military hardware, of course). And seen from the outside, the Ukrainians aren't doing badly at all. I greatly admire their fortitude and valour - which I think is sure to pay off (like Finland's did many years ago). It seems to me that Putin has bitten off far more than he can chew - which in fact may well prove the end of him. Very many in the Kremlin disagree with him, I have heard.

And I am pleased to see a real change in attitude to Russia from many countries: For example, Germany is rearming! My opinion is that also New Zealand should now increase her defence expenditure. If you desire peace, prepare for war.

Zoroforever said...

Interesting to see Willie Jackson come out all guns blazing against Jack Tame for having the audacity to opine that Labour, temporarily reducing the excise tax on petrol, being somewhat sinister following a poor poll result. In all my observations over the past few years I would never have accused Jack Tame of being a patsy for the right. But the moment he steps out of line he is whacked by his masters. How dare he!!

Unknown said...

Bill Moore said: As a young newspaper reporter in the 1970s I was taught, like my peers, "comment is free, but facts are sacred". We were expected to report the news in a fair, balanced, accurate way, without fear or favour, and let the crusty old leader writers (editors or backroom seniors) set out the paper's stand on local, national and international issues.
My understanding is that this even-handed approach was unusual in other countries and it worked well for New Zealand for a long time. So did the co-operative New Zealand Press Association, which covered the length of the country to everyone's benefit and provided solid parliamentary coverage for all until our Australian owners thought it better to break up the partnership and duke it out, thereby depriving all our readers of a comprehensive national news service in print.
As you point out, this dedication to balanced coverage has largely disappeared from both print, broadcast and online news. The solution is not to set up right-wing outlets as a counterbalance to the left. It lies in the far harder task of returning to reporting that gives everyone a fair go and publishing opinions across the spectrum, thereby winning the respect of readers and listeners. Oddly enough the few news organisations in odd spots around the country that still do this seem to command some loyalty even now, when the term "mainstream media" is almost always used pejoratively.
If "Madame Blavatksky" tells us who she (or he) really is, I will take her (or his) effusions seriously. The same goes for "Odysseus", "Scouser" and the rest.

Anonymous said...

If "Madame Blavatksky" tells us who she (or he) really is, I will take her (or his) effusions seriously. The same goes for "Odysseus", "Scouser" and the rest.

Is the use of a "real" name more important than the value and substance of an argument? If "Madame Blavatsky" calls herself Jane Smith will her views become more acceptable? And her arguments more convincing?

Of course Karl du Fresne has every right to require and enforce certain standards - it's his blog after all. Still, there're many reasons why people are reluctant to use their real names. In my case it's simple, there're only two people in the whole universe with my name. While I'm not afraid to call spade a spade, I see no need to advertise who and where I'm to all and sundry.

Linda Reid said...

I wonder how much the training of journalists, and how it has changed over the decades, has contributed to this result.

Once upon a time, a young person would join a local newsroom and start at the bottom, firmly under the control of an editor and/or sub-editor who trained them in how to report facts and to leave the opinions to those who knew more and better.

No such thing as by-lines as the editor took responsibility for everything that was published.

Now they all leave school and go straight to university - coming out three years later with a degree and the attitude that it's their responsibility to save the world. They just know that if only we had left-wing governments everything would be great. Or at least those evil rotters in National and Act should not be in power. Think of the children! Poor, misunderstood criminals! Gang members just want a family!

If the left screw up, it's not so bad. At least they meant well.

If the right does anything, good or bad, it must be for nefarious reasons.

Sadly, most of them never grow out of this attitude.

transpress nz said...

The amount of official censorship being applied nowadays, not just in NZ is astronomical Much of the info coming from the Ukraine regime is faked and western journalists are carefully monitored as to what they report and what they show. NATO and the EU decided they didn't want balance from the Russian media -- RT and Sputnik and banned them. In NZ Facebook/Twitter etc and blogs (like this one) are monitored by authorities and if they find you too annoying they pounce. That's happened to several people under this government.

Hilary Taylor said...

Enjoyable remarks by all & I agree with many.

Rory said...

As ever assessment of what is happening both in Russia and New Zealand is remarkable.
Thank you- as mentioned we need such information to ultimately be in a position to have truthful assessments to have an informed viewpoint. This is being deprived by The MSM to the Public of New Zealand. A deep shame on them for doing this. We did not deserve it.
It struck me that last year early in the Covid 19 outbreak here , there was panic in The Press that The Russian Crews could not get back in from Russia to man our fishing fleets which apparently one major company uses a lot of them and this was a real issue and fleet fishing boats would probably be tied up. Have not heard anything at all on this in current situation. I wonder.
Best wishes,

Karl du Fresne said...

Phew. Not sure what to say to that, except that they (whoever "they" are) haven't pounced on me. Yet.

Andy Espersen said...

I like your take on this, Linda Reid. “[.....their attitude is] that it’s their responsibility to save the world”. Recently I bought the 2007 edition of economist and philosopher Thomas Sowell’s book “A Conflict of Visions” – the Ideological Origins of Political Struggles. He first wrote it in 1987. Now in his 90’s, he was asked by a journalist which of his ca. 40 published books he thought was his best. This was the one he pointed to – so I bought it!!

I read it twice. I now occasionally pick it up and open it at random - just to enjoy his relentless logic and wisdom. It should be compulsory reading for everybody who strives to be a social commentator in our woke political environment.

Madame Blavatsky said...

Hi Karl,

" very obligingly confirm my point about Putin having New Zealand defenders who seem happy to turn a blind eye to the atrocities being carried out under his orders."

And this is my point, which you too obligingly confirm: who says that Putin is "committing atrocities"? The State Department and the Pentagon (via MSM), that's who. Hardly neutral sources without any interest in shaping public opinion to conform to their policy goals, don't you think? After all, these are the same people who told us that Saddam's soldiers were removing babies from incubators and leaving them to die on the floor (1991) and that Saddam definitely had WMDs (2003). Both later turned out to be fabricated stories purely for propaganda purposes.

It is reasonable to suggest that all sides commit "atrocities" during war time. The only difference in terms of subsequent value judgments is whose propaganda you are exposed to. As I make clear in my original post, taking a broad perspective on events and trying to form as objective a judgment as possible isn't "defending" Putin – I have no skin in the game. It's just that I am not caught up in the manufactured rush to condemn Putin in order to gain support for Washington's policy goals, goals which are not as pure as they would have us believe.


Anonymous said...

Reminds me very much of the episode of Yes Prime Minister-Sir Humphrey is explaining how unthinkable it is for a British politician to meddle in the outcome of a court case. When the PM asks what is to be done, Sir Humphrey replies.
"Simple-just find a judge who already does knows what you want"

so many woke just-out-of-school "journalists"...

Unknown said...

100% agree. It's everywhere. Mushy woke nonsense that reads like teenage romantic ideas of some ideal world. I

Jean paul said...

So who do we believe?

The eastern country blocking all the western media OR

The western countries blocking all eastern media.

Relating to your topic headline, there's no difference.

Point being find me a russian persepctive news story on Ukraine in NZ media.

So, are new zealand journalists free to write their opinions?

Yes, or are they?

Doug Longmire said...

Just a slight point to make, Madame Blav:-
Russia invaded Ukraine. Not vice versa.
Like Hitler invaded Poland.
A military invasion.

Edward Main said...

Attn: Jean Paul

" find me a Russian perspective news story on Ukraine in NZ media "

You never will. So FYI here is a blogger that I have followed for some years now.
The writer is a Russian chap based in Florida USA.
( I say ) he comes across as a feet firmly on the ground realist. Worth a read