Are the media critical enough of the Government?

The media, in particular political journalists, are seen as playing a critical role in a healthy democracy, being required to hold politicians and parliaments to account.

While commenters at Kiwiblog are as bitter about media coverage of the Ardern government, commenters at The Standard were as disatisfied with media coverage of the Key Government. It seems you can never please any of the opponents any of the time.

But for most of us do our media do a good enough job of casting a critical eye and pen and camera over the actions of the incumbent government? Media certainly earn some criticism, but that not just from the public, it also comes from politicians being criticised.

A few days ago the Government announced an initial support package for media, who were struggling to compete with online megacompanies for revenue before the Covid-19 pandemic struck, and now have been hit by a major business pause and another major drop in advertising revenue. Even before the support package a lot of advertising revenue was from the Government via Covid messages.

Going by comments at Kiwiblog (noting that there they are dominated by strongly anti-Government views) one might think that the support package makes the media a paid-for extension of Government public relations. They represent just a small but vocal right wing minority never happy with a left leaning government is in power – and again yesterday in response to a post ridiculing a ridiculous president comments predictably swung to ‘but Biden’, ‘but Clinton’, ‘but Obama’, ‘but Ardern’ (they are well indoctrinated by Trump’s anti ‘fake news’/critical media diversions).

It’s always easy to find things to criticise about the media in general – too much over sensationalising and too much ‘click bait’ trivia were problems long before Covid.

Media have a very important role to play in a democracy, which is why in 1787 Edmund Burke said (from Thomas Carlyle in his book On Heroes and Hero Worship):

“There were Three Estates in Parliament; but, in the Reporters’ Gallery yonder, there sat a Fourth Estate more important far than they all.”

Political journalists have difficult jobs to do. They spend a lot of time with a few politicians and risk getting too personally affected. And they constantly have to battle against ex-journalists now working in large politician defending PR departments.

Jacinda Ardern has had an unusually good ride with journalists, quite a few of whom are fellow females of a similar age or younger, so empathy with Ardern probably came naturally.

But John Key was popular with media too – he was also easy to get on with and he could be entertaining in an often dour field. Helen Clark had a lot to overcome in her early years as Labour leader but became widely admired (most of the time) in her job as Prime Minister for nine years.

Media tend to favour the people in power, incumbent Governments, in part simply because that’s who the biggest stories come from.

But media also have a tendency to hunt in a vicious-looking pack when they smell political blood, no matter who the victim. One problem is that if some media get their teeth into a big and damaging story the rest tend to join the frenzy because that’s where the attention grabbing stories come from. David Lange referred to this media mob mentality as “demented reef fish”.

Media will never do enough for everyone, and will never do any good for those wallowing in opposition to the current government.

Are media critical enough of our politicians and our Government? Or as well as could be expected in the circumstances?

Even if seen as poor at times, the alternative to inadequate political journalism – no political journalism – is far worse.

Are media critical enough of our Government and politicians?

Are we too critical of media?

 

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48 Comments

  1. Gezza

     /  26th April 2020

    Are media critical enough of our politicians and our Government?

    No. More like a Jacinda fan club

    Or as well as could be expected in the circumstances?

    Too many cub reporters, or rather, repeaters. Their material is lightweight magazine style stuff; no searching questions.

    Even if seen as poor at times, the alternative to inadequate political journalism – no political journalism – is far worse.

    Most of the Herald’s political journalists seem to be paywalled in the Herald, so I have no idea whether they’re writing anything worth reading.

    Are media critical enough of our Government and politicians?

    No. Hopeless. tv & online/print media.

    Are we too critical of media?

    If they don’t like it they can go home.

    Reply
    • Gezza

       /  26th April 2020

      Oops sorry. Last one – that’s whinging poms. Are they still a thing here ?

      Reply
      • There’s a Whinging Swiss on another blog; no one can understand why he stays here. He hasn’t a good word to say for NZ; our hospitals are third world and so on and on and on and on….

        Reply
  2. Blazer

     /  26th April 2020

    MSM play primarily to the public at large.
    Simplicity is the key and sound bites and personality prevail over policy and critical thinking.

    There is plenty of robust debate and scrutiny of political action available to the high brow spectator or dedicated ,opinionated observer.

    Reply
    • Gezza

       /  26th April 2020

      1st para spot on.

      I guess the problem I have is there’s not enuf debate & scrutiny of political action in the lamestream media, including on telly.

      Maybe it’s happening on farcebook? I’m not a fan, but increasingly I guess social media may be where the debate & scrutiny is headed. The problem with that is that Twitter (for e.g.) encourages mindless comment, fake news, abuse & shallow analysis.

      Reply
  3. David

     /  26th April 2020

    When you think of the sectors in trouble the media is the only one getting a bailout, AirNZ a loan and the GPs well thats just health spending, and there is a reason for that. The government deal for the TVNZ and Maori TV are being done before either organisation does anything itself to curb costs, salaries remain unchanged the businesses unrestructured so its hard to see its anything but taxpayers funding favourable coverage.
    The fact that there is an unallocated 11 million, a 1.3 million advertising budget plus more to come which I dont like. If you have to bail them out chuck them the money and say thats it, hanging the cash incentive is chilling.

    Reply
    • Blazer

       /  26th April 2020

      Hey David in case you hadn’t noticed ,even multi national companies are receiving wage subsidies ,amounting to billions =bailouts.

      Reply
      • David

         /  26th April 2020

        You know exactly what I mean. The media are getting the wage subsidy while they still seem to be working plus they just got another 50 million and I havent seen any of their eye wateringly highly paid people take a pay cut.
        The alternative would have been letting capitalism work properly and keeping that money for keytruda for lung cancer patients.

        Reply
        • Blazer

           /  26th April 2020

          When exactly has Capitalism worked…’properly’?Love to know David.Thx in advance.

          Reply
  4. david in aus

     /  26th April 2020

    PG in your blog, it seems clear they are not critical thinkers at all.

    Like Pavlovian dogs, they have programmed responses: reef fishes or fawning (sorry mixed metaphors).

    That is why I like contrasting conservative or liberal media. They have the incentive to be critical and if you consume both you get a fuller picture of what is actually is going on. When in the US, I liked watching MSNBC and FOX. Then you are exposed to pieces ignored in other media, you get an idea of the subtle biases. Those of editors picking and choosing news to report and the slant they put on.

    Currently, many of the media in NZ lack the ability to think independently. This may be the result of tertiary education. These days University does not teach you how to think for yourself but increasingly what to think.

    Reply
    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  26th April 2020

      Sorry, David, typed mine before reading yours which says much similar.

      Reply
    • Duker

       /  26th April 2020

      “These days University does not teach you how to think for yourself but increasingly what to think.”

      And you know this how …. from watching Fox News !
      You are intellectually lazy yourself

      Reply
      • david in aus

         /  26th April 2020

        Perhaps, you have missed the Cancel Culture that is in vogue these days. Also, the self-censorship, if your views do not fit the world-view of your colleagues. The lack of diversity of political views in universities are well documented.

        Fox news? Well, just look at your local universities like Massey.

        Reply
        • Duker

           /  26th April 2020

          “Perhaps, you have missed the Cancel Culture”
          No it had noticed it back in 2011, in fact I later publicized the cancel protests at Auckland University law school against a talk by Hone Harawira organised by Campus Young Nats and supported by Farrar in his blog at the time as the ‘right to protest’. It worked and the law school ‘cancelled’

          perhaps you have missed the Hyprocrite Culture…. are you a fellow traveler ?

          Reply
  5. Alan Wilkinson

     /  26th April 2020

    Is the NZ media sufficiently intelligent and analytical? No. Are they dominated by reef fish mentality and emotionalism? Yes, like most of their customers.

    Reply
    • Blazer

       /  26th April 2020

      Well at least you can turn to Fox..to get the real news…Al!

      Reply
      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  26th April 2020

        I don’t even have Fox on my bookmarks, B. I read the Telegraph, Herald, Stuff, Realclearpolitics, UK Independent, Guardian, Reuters and skim headlines in the Times and Bloomberg and sometimes read SA News24. If I ever read Fox it’s via a link from somewhere else.

        Reply
    • Blazer

       /  26th April 2020

      Al=….’if you don’t like my values…I do have others’….hat tip Groucho.

      Reply
  6. Duker

     /  26th April 2020

    With well over 80% of the population supporting the lockdown and was backed strongly by all parties in parliament, appealing to the 10% wasnt never going to make in to the front pages. Especially when even the intelligible part of those opposed is mostly fantasist codswallop…the newsmedia dont want their “hurrah for the Blackshirts’ moment to haunt them.
    But there is some evidence some columnists are for the lockdown when Simon was for it and now against the lockdown now that Simon is against it……silly little lickspittles

    Reply
  7. duperez

     /  26th April 2020

    Some expect ‘the media’ to be everything to everyone on any given day.

    If a branch of it isn’t being hypercritical and actively fomenting distrust on a daily basis they are seen as government toadies by some.

    The demand from some is reporting only on what happened. Others want analysis and debate and the kitchen sink but don’t want to pay for it.

    The only decent media is that which says what you want it to say. Or the one you start up yourself and control.

    Reply
    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  26th April 2020

      I pay for the one that I think gives best value for money, dups. Your last para is not the criteria. I cancelled my Herald sub when they refused to publish a column they didn’t like by a columnist I usually disagreed with. I don’t intend ever to finance censorship.

      Reply
      • Blazer

         /  26th April 2020

        not Bob Jones…then!

        Reply
      • lurcher1948

         /  26th April 2020

        Alan i would hate to be around you if you disagreed with the pattern on a toilet roll as it was a pale pink,( Labour) and refused to use it as a matter of principle

        Reply
        • Alan Wilkinson

           /  26th April 2020

          Why, there’d be more for you, Lurch? Red and pink match ok.

          Reply
  8. Tom Hunter

     /  26th April 2020

    Are we too critical of media?

    No, and that they have declined so badly in the last twenty years is the greatest proof possible that the public no longer values them.

    As Bob Jones pointed out the other day the foreign groups that own the NZ Herald and Stuff / Dom Post cant wait to dump them. The likes of TVNZ and TV3 can’t be far behind.

    Reply
    • Blazer

       /  26th April 2020

      because they are no longer viable in the face of new competition.

      Reply
  9. Duker

     /  26th April 2020

    I see that Justice Peters has released the decision for the second applicant (B) for habeas corpus over being detained under Level 4 lockdown.
    Both have asked for name suppression …death threats etc etc
    The arguments were the same but B isnt under home detention like A was.
    What jumped out for me was the Judge saying “B is an associate of A”
    No need to say a further word.

    Reply
    • The government has admitted that the lockdown rules breach civil rights…and are trying to work out a law that will enable them to enforce the rules at Level 2.

      Reply
      • Duker

         /  26th April 2020

        Civil Rights can be restricted by the Government
        ‘Limits on rights or freedoms are permissible if they are reasonable, prescribed by
        law, and demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.” Cabinet Advice

        which is also in the BORA

        Justified limitations
        S5. Subject to section 4, the rights and freedoms contained in this Bill of Rights may be subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.

        They are in essence restrictions permitted by the Bill of Rights in unique circumstances

        Reply
        • Some people might not agree that the current ones fit that category.

          And if they do, why is the government admitting that they breach civil rights ?

          Reply
  10. Gezza

     /  26th April 2020

    Andrea Vance tries to pretend she’s not just a Jacinda fangirl & fails miserably.

    https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/opinion/121247586/why-the-heroworship-of-jacinda-ardern-is-unhealthy

    Reply
  11. Corky

     /  26th April 2020

    I wonder if terrorists will get busy?The West is fractured. Governments and intelligence agencies will be overstretched contrary to what most people would think.
    Assets overseas will have limited chances to do surveillance and observations.

    Not good. Especially the huge lines of people all over the place. Let’s hope I’m wrong, and these nutters have more fear of Covid, then they do of us.

    Reply

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