Media promoting selected candidates

I have major concerns about how media gives selective and disproportionate coverage for some parties and some candidates.

Media often pre-selects candidates and gives them favourable publicity while they ignore or dismiss others. This is common with the selection of which candidates or parties feature in debates.

This is doing a disservice to the public and to democracy.

In part it is probably little more than headline hunting. The amount of political oxygen they give Winston Peters is probably a major factor in his success, as is media failure to hold Peters to account adequately. They seem more interested in his story creating potential and forget their fourth estate responsibilities.

Media can also have a negative effect, often blowing problems and potential things up out of proportion to their importance.

One simple example is renewed media attention given to dildo news. Journalists like to snigger and promote offensive attacks and threats against politicians without caring about the implications of attaching dildo imagery with the targets. I doubt that media outlets would be so salacious if they were the targets.

Selective reporting can lift lucky candidates out of obscurity. This happened in the boring Auckland mayoral campaign, which was everyone thought was a foregone conclusion with a boring Phil Goff. So the media switched their attention to promote Chloe Swarbrick, seemingly for novelty value and to put some interest into their coverage.

As a result Swarbrick did unexpectedly well in the election, and has since been given more media attention when she became a Green candidate.

The media have also been prominent in the rise of Jacinda Ardern to deputy leadership of the Labour Party.

It’s unclear whether media promotion pushed Andrew Little into pushing Annette King and installing Ardern, or whether Labour or Ardern operators manipulated the media to help orchestrate the coup. Whichever it was it was democratically suspect.


The Spinoff is a new media alternative to the old school ‘mainstream’ media. They describe themselves:

The Spinoff is a New Zealand online magazine covering politics, pop culture and social issues. We also have a custom editorial division which creates smart, shareable content for brands.

There seems to be a confusion there between editorial and brand promotion. I thought that news and advertising were supposed to be kept separate.

Yesterday “Politics editor for The Spinoff” Toby Manhire drew my attention to something via Twitter:

That was an odd call for three new candidates. it referred to a this post:

‘Let’s be honest, I wanted to throw up’: Kiri Allan on taking the Labour message from the doorsteps to the TV studio

In her second candidate diary for the Spinoff, Labour’s candidate for East Coast describes door-knocking in the electorate, meeting fellow diarist Chlöe Swarbrick, fronting a press stand-up after that controversial list announcement, and a big TV appearance.

It seems that Allan (Labour), Stanford (National) and Swarbrick (Greens) are being given an ongoing opportunity to promote themselves and their election campaigns via The Spinoff.

There is no suggestion that money is involved but this looks like a selective promotion of “shareable content for brands”.

Sure, media play an important part in allowing the public to learn about political candidates and parties – but a sound democracy requires this to be reasonably fair and balanced rather than picking winners and giving them disproportionate promotion opportunities.

I sought clarification from Manhire about how their ‘candidate diary for the Spinoff’ thing worked and asked “Is giving all first time candidates the same opportunity to promote themselves? Or just a select few?”

Manhire seemed to be deliberately unclear in his response.

All candidates arefree to comment here at Your NZ, or to submit guest posts or inform me of items of interest, but I’m not going to give special preference to any.

@TheSpinoffTV later also simply answered “No”. It seems like another evasive fobbing off.

Last month Manhire detailed The Spinoff versus the 2017 election: our campaign plans exclusively revealed

Generally that sounds quite good, but…

Candidate diaries

We have enlisted a stellar bunch of first-time candidates to write regular posts documenting their experiences as newbies. We begin today with the first pieces from Erica Stanford, National’s candidate in the electorate of East Coast Bays, and Kiri Allan, Labour’s candidate for East Coast.

Not all of our candidates have East Coast in their constituency names, however; we’re also welcoming Chlöe Swarbrick, the insurgent runner for the Auckland mayoralty, Green candidate for Maungakiekie and 13th placed in the “initial” party list. And, with a bit of luck, someone from NZ First, too.

“Enlisted’ sounds like The Spinoff are recruiting – selecting – a handful of candidates to give them special attention. Just candidates from the four largest parties, who already get substantial campaign advantages.

The three already chosen are all youngish and female. Geographically two electorates are in Auckland, one in the north east of the North island. So these selections are not very representative.

Perhaps all three of these candidates will become MPs and may even eventually become Prime Minister as Manhire proposes. And The Spinoff may pat themselves on the back for successfully picking winners.

But in a fair democracy I don’t think the media should be pre-picking winners and providing them with special attention.

Media has to make enough money to sustain their operations, and to do that they have to provide news and information that interests and attracts readers and listeners and viewers.

But if a democracy is to function fairly the media also needs to meet it’s responsibilities. There are growing signs that they are straying from fair and balanced coverage.

We are nowhere near the media and political mess that the US is in, but the power and ability of media to swing an election is certainly there. They need to be as aware of this as they are aware of the need to make money and look cool by selecting a small number hip looking candidates.

Fair and balanced coverage can be difficult to achieve – but it should at least be given priority.

21 Comments

  1. duperez

     /  May 11, 2017

    “Fair and balanced coverage can be difficult to achieve – but it should at least be given priority.”
    Should all use the David Farrar playbook? After all he annually posts to show how even handed he’s been. 😊

  2. Manhire can’t possibly be biased, surely? I believe he used to write for The UK Guardian, renowned on the Left Wing for its “fair and balanced” political coverage.

    • Blazer

       /  May 11, 2017

      present some evidence of his bias…then.

      • Sally

         /  May 11, 2017

        That would be cut pasting everything he’s written in the last two years then? The problem with Manhire which the likes of Braunias share is that you cannot tell anymore if they’re being sarcastic or serious. So you ignore them completely.

        • Blazer

           /  May 11, 2017

          Not sure whether you are being serious…or sarcastic….who would you recommend,Hosking,Trevett….or ??

          • High Flying Duck

             /  May 11, 2017

            There’s no such thing as down the middle these days.
            And as it is in the eye of the beholder, working out where ‘the middle’ is, is also difficult.
            Trevett is good, but Hosking is omnipresent and omnipotent. I can’t work out why more people don’t worship him.

            • Gezza

               /  May 11, 2017

              Mike’s not suffering from lack of self-esteem like some Gods. He doesn’t need the adoration of others. A mirror supplies him with all the adoration he requires,

            • High Flying Duck

               /  May 11, 2017

              Yes, he’d be the first to tell you he doesn’t suffer from the neediness of other gods, and is therefore superior in every way.

  3. ‘Media promoting selected candidates’ – Is this like what Fox News do in America?

  4. Blazer

     /  May 11, 2017

    May is getting a smooth ride from the M.SM in the U.K….too scared to debate issues,she is spoon fed patsy examination and endorsed by media puffery.

    • High Flying Duck

       /  May 11, 2017

      I think they, like almost every voter, are just too embarrassed by the alternatives to put up a fight.

      • Blazer

         /  May 11, 2017

        she is very vulnerable as a debater …apparantly…can’t blame her for taking the easy…road,although that takes co-operation.The establishment are looking for stability,still reeling from…brexit.

        • High Flying Duck

           /  May 11, 2017

          Not sure I agree with that.

          Theresa May has been indomitable in the house. She turned down TV debates, basically because they are a crock & that has some people erroneously saying she is scared. It is more a tactic.

          Stability can be provided by any credible party with workable policies. Corbyn is the antithesis of stability, which leaves the Conservatives as the only option. Thankfully they seem to have gained a backbone and some credibility since Cameron sidled off with tail between legs.

          Brexit is more popular than ever and with every facile utterance and hissy fit of the EU leaders on the subject the Brexit support grows in the UK.

          Economically the UK is doing better than ever and the dire projections are (so far) completely unfounded:

          “UK GDP grew by a bumper 0.7 per cent in the final three months of 2016 – up from a previous estimate of 0.6 per cent – according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

          It comes on top 0.6 per cent growth between July and September, meaning the economy jumped by 1.3 per cent in the six months after the vote to leave the European Union (EU).

          The stellar performance is yet more evidence that Britain did not succumb to doom-monger predictions made by Remain campaigners ahead of the referendum in June”

          • Blazer

             /  May 11, 2017

            when did debates become a ‘crock’.?The performance of aspiring leaders tete a tete has always been a vital part of western elections.Your definition of ‘stability’ is based on what?Can’t be retaining the status quo,so what exactly…… is it?

            • High Flying Duck

               /  May 11, 2017

              Stability requires consistent & coherent policies, a relatively united caucus to implement them and a leader who can sell them effectively so the public will go along with them.

              The Thatcher Government was a good one for stability until she couldn’t sell Poll Taxes and got turfed. Blair had a good government until mired in controversy and a bit of Iraq got stuck in the craw.

              Corbyn has a completely divided caucus, scattergun policies and appears to be someone who couldn’t sell a life-raft to a drowning man.

              There is plenty of evidence that TV debates achieve little but appealing to sound-bite journalism and style over substance.

              They also favour the challenger who can say what they like and do not have to defend actual policies.

              As i said – it’s a tactic.

              The parties still need to campaign and sell their policies, so it isn’t as if democracy suffers.

  5. Blazer

     /  May 11, 2017

    @HFG…your examples suggest govts are stable,until …they are…not.’Consistent and coherent policies is rather vague.I note the present Nat govt has never delivered on a policy platform in any substantive way.They have made promises they broke,like most parties but the key factor in selling messages is a …compliant media.May has this and so have the Nats for their term,so ..far.To quote incumbent P.M…there are no ‘silver bullet’ solutions.Joyce the finance minister should resign over the Thiel deal,it makes a mockery of sound economic management’,as for a safe pair of hands’….all sizzle,no sausage.Perception…and..reality.

    • High Flying Duck

       /  May 12, 2017

      The current Government has been as steady and stable as they come.
      They have made incremental change and slowly but surely transformed large swathes of government departments without spooking the electorate.
      NZ Government now is a quite different beast to what they inherited, and yet they are still known as a “do nothing” government.
      It has been a masterclass in slowly getting to where they want to go. You may not agree with the changes, but the way it has been managed is very impressive.

      If you think the media have not attacked this government you cannot read any media – they have had sustained and often over the top attacks on many aspects of their governance and ethics. And in elections even more so.

      Mountains have been made of molehills and if I had a dollar for the number of times I read political commentators talking about whatever ridiculous nothing Labour have done being the “Game changer” that changes the political landscape I’d be able to retire.

      Jacinda is just the latest “game changer” that will win the election but hasn’t shifted the polls one bit. Again.

      Labour since Clark have been in disarray. The currently litigated election advert from last time sums it up – a cobbled together bunch of parties heading in different directions vs a unified team…whether this is true or not is irrelevant. National *appear* united and have little dissent. The opposition are constantly fighting and giving mixed messages.

      And the Thiel deal was made under rules introduced by Michael Cullen. Joyce changed the rules because of it.

      I’m no Joyce fan boy, and think the corporate lolly scramble of the Callaghan fund is a disgrace but that deal was a media beat up…again.

  6. Blazer, at least you are consistent in your pro-progressive Liberal Left ideology. However back to the subject, has anyone ever done an exercise on the ethnic origin of our MSM? I would guess that UK, US and Canada are over-represented. But I know I am prejudiced!!

    • Blazer

       /  May 11, 2017

      I like to present fact,something rather unpalatable to Nat supporters,-an example…the fact that the spike in more NZ’ers leaving for Australia was under the present govt,than under…Labour despite the disingenuous spin of the…right.

      • High Flying Duck

         /  May 12, 2017

        This chart suggests the departures rose initially but as the National Govt policies have gained traction from 2012 – or for the last 2 terms – departures have been plummeting?

        They are now lower than at any time under the last Labour Govt.

        Arrivals have consistently risen since National was elected, making the net figures even better.

        So while the ‘spike’ was higher, it was at the beginning of National’s time in power before they had a chance to enact policies, and importantly it also coincided with the Canterbury earthquakes which would have created a spike in migration by people effected by the quakes.

        http://www.stats.govt.nz/~/media/Statistics/browse-categories/population/migration/international-travel-and-migration-articles/kiwi-exodus-australia/PLT%20ARRDEP%20AUST.gif?h=294&w=607

        In January 2017:

        “About a fifth of all migrant arrivals were from Australia,” population statistics senior manager Peter Dolan said. “Almost two-thirds of the migrant arrivals from Australia were New Zealand citizens.”

        It seems your ‘facts’ are more spin than you let let on.

  7. HFD 1, Blazer 0!