Are NZ media left or right?

An age old argument is whether the media favour or lean left or right. One common claim is that editorially they lean right but most journalists tend to lean left. I think it’s far more complex than that.

The alleged leaning of the media is often stated in relation to the leaning of the person of accusing them of favouring the other lot and not giving enough weight to their preferences.

Last month Justin Hu tried to pigeon\hole New Zeaaland media and political blogs – Subjective New Zealand media objectivity/bias chart\ –  but that seems to be a work in progress, after a lot of online discussion and criticism he adjusted his chart.

It came up on Reddit yesterday: What NZ media are neither leftist nor right and have no political opinion?

I’m truly tired of hearing stories with extreme leftist and politically correct opinion. (News hub is guilty) It seems that so much media in NZ is extreme left with all there political opinions. Does anyone know of any neutral NZ media with no right leaning nor left opinions but just tells the news as it is? Hard facts.

No media can be entirely neutral – especially not from everyone’s perspective. And no media publishes on ‘hard facts’. And if they did they would probably be accused of only publishing selected facts that resulted in bias.

An attempt to judge the media here:

I think you would struggle to call our media extreme left.

Stuff and Herald probably have centre right editorial stances but both seek leftist commentators. This probably is a result of having a traditional media base.

TVNZ is simply too bland to say it has any political persuasion. news hub is all over the place but O’Brien is clearly a fan of Jacinda. Garner is simply a dick and I have never been able to work him out.

ZB is clearly a right wing mouthpiece. Most probably a result of the fact that it is talk back.

Then you come to the independents. RNZ is largely left these days but morning report is objective and Espinar is great. Campbell clearly sits centre left.

Then you have Newsroom that is edited by Hickey and Murphy both of whom are left wing.

And blogs:

Then you come to the web natives. spinoff, standard and the daily blog (and scoop) that have left wing editorial stances. Although I agree with someone else that the Scoop has largely gone downhill and largely just straight releases press releases but Gordon Campbell is as left as they come.

Then on the right you have kiwiblog and even further Whaleoil.

All four of the above mentioned blogs (not Scoop) have clear political leanings and are to varying extents political activists promoting their preferences, and far more commonly, trying to trash their opponents.

Are any extreme?

Just out of interest what do you consider extreme left and extreme right?

Because those terms are relative to your beliefs, what one person might consider extreme right another might think is more center right.

Relative to one’s political perspective:

A general rule of thumb is that if you are a left-wing person, then all media or right-wing and vice-versa. Interpretations of media bias are a very common way to see the persecution complex in action.

Declining standards?

The reason for journalism’s decline is changing economics. Opinions are cheap, repeating press releases even cheaper. Everything has to generate its own clicks. Advertising is dead, but PR is very much alive to buy articles with.

Consistent editorial lines, a multitude of outlets and more personnel to report did make news higher quality in certain senses.

Many claim that there is a lot more crap published by media, and publishers and broadcasters are certainly under increasing financial pressure.

But we have far more available to see and read.

There was a time when almost all my news came from one newspaper and one TV channel, with a bit of variety from a Sunday newspaper.

I can find a lot more than that now if i look for it.

And I can find balance if i look for that too.

Bias can easily be detected if that’s what you want to find.

I’m only biased towards my own views, but I do try to consider and present other points of views and arguments too. One of the best ways to to this is allow other views to be expressed without restrictions.

No proof of bias in FBI Clinton email probe

Not surprisingly faults have been found in the FBO investigation of Hillary Clinton’s email server, and the way James Comey handled it, but no proof has been found of bias.

Politico: Watchdog criticizes Comey but finds no proof FBI’s Clinton probe tainted by bias

A long-awaited report by the Justice Department’s watchdog Thursday found no indication that political bias affected decisions in the FBI’s 2016 investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email server, but the review criticized agents and ex-FBI Director James Comey for violating bureau norms during the probe.

The department’s inspector general turned up fresh evidence of FBI officials exchanging messages critical of President Donald Trump and of leaking to the media, and the report faulted the FBI for several weeks of inaction following the September 2016 discovery of emails relevant to its investigation on a laptop belonging to former Democratic Rep. Anthony Weiner, who was married to a top Clinton aide.

Comey was singled out for withering criticism by Inspector General Michael Horowitz, including accusations of insubordination against top Justice Department officials and of making “a serious error of judgment” in notifying Congress shortly before the 2016 election that the FBI was re-opening its Clinton email probe. Comey later reiterated his recommendation that she not face charges, but Clinton has said the letter nonetheless helped cause her loss.

I don’t think there’s any doubt that Comey’s actions had a significant impact on the presidential election campaign in 2016.

Fox targets Comey on their coverage: IG report on Clinton email probe reveals FBI agent’s ‘stop’-Trump text, calls Comey ‘insubordinate’

Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz, in a comprehensive and at-times scathing report on the handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation, exposed extraordinary text messages by a top FBI official vowing to “stop” Donald Trump — while calling then-director James Comey’s actions in the case “insubordinate.”

The long-awaited report was released Thursday afternoon, spanning nearly 600 pages and scrutinizing the actions of numerous figures who played a key role in the Justice Department and FBI’s investigation. It is the result of an 18-month investigation, incorporating dozens of witness interviews and hundreds of thousands of documents.

The FBI, in its response to the review, said the inspector general “found no evidence to connect the political views expressed by these employees with the specific investigative decisions.”

But it said the inspector general has referred five employees for investigation into whether the messages violated the FBI’s Offense Codes and Penalty Guidelines.

Horowitz’s investigation looked at a variety of other allegations, including whether it was improper for Comey to make a public announcement about not recommending prosecution over the Clinton email arrangement.

“We found that it was extraordinary and insubordinate for Comey to conceal his intentions from his superiors, the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General, for the admitted purpose of preventing them from telling him not to make the statement, and to instruct his subordinates in the FBI to do the same,” Horowitz’s report says.


US media bias resources

There is a lot of discussion about media bias in the US, especially since Donald Trump became the centre of attention. It’s well known that CNN leaves very leftward, and Fox News strongly favours the right. There are a lot of others, some more extreme, and many somewhere in between.

Political bias or leaning is not in itself a bad thing, as long as news is well reported and backed by facts. No one media outlet can be all things to everyone across the spectrum.

Check the Political Bias of Any Media Site in This Massive Database media site political bias chart

Image Credit: Imgur

Media Bias/Fact Check claims to be The Most Comprehensive Media Bias Resource and categorises many media:

  • Left Bias
    These media sources are moderately to strongly biased toward liberal causes through story selection and/or political affiliation.  They may utilize strong loaded words (wording that attempts to influence an audience by using appeal to emotion or stereotypes), publish misleading reports and omit reporting of information that may damage liberal causes. Some sources in this category may be untrustworthy.
  • Left-Center Bias
    These media sources are moderately to strongly biased toward liberal causes through story selection and/or political affiliation.  They may utilize strong loaded words (wording that attempts to influence an audience by using appeal to emotion or stereotypes), publish misleading reports and omit reporting of information that may damage liberal causes. Some sources in this category may be untrustworthy.
  • Least Biased
    These sources have minimal bias and use very few loaded words (wording that attempts to influence an audience by using appeal to emotion or stereotypes).  The reporting is factual and usually sourced.  These are the most credible media sources.
  • Right-Center Bias
    These media sources are slightly to moderately conservative in bias. They often publish factual information that utilizes loaded words (wording that attempts to influence an audience by using appeal to emotion or stereotypes) to favor conservative causes. These sources are generally trustworthy for information, but may require further investigation.
  • Right Bias
    These media sources are moderately to strongly biased toward conservative causes through story selection and/or political affiliation. They may utilize strong loaded words (wording that attempts to influence an audience by using appeal to emotion or stereotypes), publish misleading reports and omit reporting of information that may damage conservative causes. Some sources in this category may be untrustworthy.
  • Pro-Science
    These sources consist of legitimate science or are evidence based through the use of credible scientific sourcing.  Legitimate science follows the scientific method, is unbiased and does not use emotional words.  These sources also respect the consensus of experts in the given scientific field and strive to publish peer reviewed science. Some sources in this category may have a slight political bias, but adhere to scientific principles.
  • Conspiracy-Pseudoscience
    Sources in the Conspiracy-Pseudoscience category may publish unverifiable information that is not always supported by evidence. These sources may be untrustworthy for credible/verifiable information, therefore fact checking and further investigation is recommended on a per article basis when obtaining information from these sources.
  • Questionable Sources
    A questionable source exhibits one or more of the following: extreme bias, overt propaganda, poor or no sourcing to credible information and/or is fake news. Fake News is the deliberate attempt to publish hoaxes and/or disinformation for the purpose of profit or influence (Learn More). Sources listed in the Questionable Category may be very untrustworthy and should be fact checked on a per article basis. Please note sources on this list are not considered fake newsunless specifically written in the notes section for that source.
  • Satire
    These sources exclusively use humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues. Primarily these sources are clear that they are satire and do not attempt to deceive.

The database is US-centric but includes many international media, including a number of Australian, but I can’t see any New Zealand sources. UPDATE: Stuff is included under ‘Left-Center bias’.

Journalists and social media bias

When you follow New Zealand journalists in social media you get an idea of where some of their political sympathies lie. This can be subtle, and far removed from the perceptions of some (usually hard lefties and hard righties) that all journalists are biased to the left, or that all media are biased to the right.

For US news I get both Fox News and CNN feeds on Twitter, and they are both generally biased, most notably Fox.

Ironically Fox writes about a less right leaning competitor: NY Times changes social media guidelines so reporters don’t appear biased

New York Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet issued new social media guidelines to his newsroom on Friday and advised staffers to “read them closely, and take them to heart” so that the paper’s journalists are not perceived as biased.

“Many of our journalists are influential voices on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other platforms. The voices of our readers, listeners and viewers inform and improve our reporting,” Baquet wrote. “But we also need to make sure that we are engaging responsibly on social media, in line with the values of our newsroom.”

Baquet discussed Twitter at a forum at George Washington University Thursday and said his staff should not be able to say anything on social media that they cannot say” in the Times, according to Politico.

The Times’ rival, The Washington Post, published a story back in Oct. 2016 headlined, “#Biased? Reporters on Twitter don’t hold back about Trump”. The article mentioned Times reporters throughout, noting that “reporters are supposed to keep their opinion out of the stories they write” but that policy doesn’t seem to apply to Twitter. The Post called out Times staffers Alex Burns for attacking Trump on a regular basis – and that was before he defeated Hillary Clinton on Election Day.

While some journalists state on their Twitter profile that any tweets are their own opinions they can’t help being seem as associated with their jobs and their media organisations, so they must be aware of this and behave accordingly.

Media Research Center Vice President Dan Gainor thinks it’s too little, too late when it comes to the Times’ reporters appearing anti-Trump on social media.

“Twitter has been around for 10 years and The New York Times is only now realizing that its staff say lots of stupid, left-wing things there? I know Baquet isn’t active on Twitter, but he claims he is aware of the Times agenda problem. You’d never know it though,” Gainor told Fox News.

Fox frequently slams other media for being anti-Trump, but even though she is a political relic Fox continue to show strong bias against Hillary Clinton and the liberal left, as well as an obvious bias in favour of Trump. Their current feed has scores of positive tweets like…

…about interspersed with several like:

There are mild biases in media here at times, but they are nothing like the extremes of the US media.

They can go both ways at times, this is two consecutive tweets from CNN:


Sustained attack on the media

Winston Peters got some attention earlier this week attacking Mike Hosking. Andrew Little joined in.

Politicians attacking promiment people in media is not a good sign.

It has become common to see people attacking journalists on Twitter. Sometimes these become social media campaigns, like the anti-Mediaworks campaign in reaction to the demise of Cambell Live.

This is bad for speech and democracy – if that campaign succeeds in crashig Mediaworks then we have fewer broadcasters and less media variety, which would be much worse than swapping Campbell Live (one frontperson) for The Story (two frontpeople).

The first comment on The Standard’s Open Mic today, from Paul:

The opposition and other progressive forces in the country must maintain a sustained attack against the bias in the media.
Target the main puppets and always question their impartiality.
When being interviewed live make these accusations.
Control the corporate media, don’t let it control you.
It will never accept a progressive victory in the elections unless the opposition exists on its terms.
Follow the SNP and break your dependence on the corporate media.

If the “opposition and other progressive forces’ wage a “sustained attack against the bias in the media” it would be sad times for politics, media and democracy.

The media has become the scapegoat for the failure of Labour in particular to rebuild and look credible.

Attacking the media and trying to force a ‘bias’ shift is bad enough on it’s own. But it also diverts from the real problems that the left need to deal with instead of blaming everyone else foer their failures.

A sustained attack on the media – and that’s more likley to mean a sustained attack on the bits of media that the attackers don’t like, therefore trying to force their own media bias – is an apalling approach to politics.

Newspaper opinion bias

David Farrar has been collating data on newspapers’ political opinion and rated how pro and anti National and Labour they have been over the last five months.

Partisans on both sides of politics often make sweeping claims about the media. Some on the left have claimed that the NZ Herald is relentlessly pro-National and that (for example) John Armstrong is a cheerleader for the Government. Others think the opposite.

For some time I’ve wanted to try and collate data on the media, to try and ascertain where the opinion of certain editorials and columnists tends to end up, and for the last five months have been doing so. The data below is imperfect,but it is also new – in that we’ve never seen before a comprehensive analysis of the opinion columns of major newspapers and their columnists.

More attention is given to the governing party and more negative opinion is not unexpected but to varying degrees especially from columnists.

It’s quite interesting and worth a look:  Inaugural Media Opinion Statistics.

I expect there will be a few lefties who find the results hard to believe, it’s common to see claims that the media is supportive of the hard right and promotes it’s interests.

Katie Bradford on political affiliations

I often see criticisms, presumptions and accusations made about TVNZ journalist Katie Bradford. These are all because of a family relationship – she is Sue Bradford’s daughter.

This often comes up on Kiwiblog, as it did this morning in relation to the TVNZ/Shane Taurimu/Labour story. Longknives comments:

TVNZ- Is anyone really surprised?? Considering their star reporter is Sue Bradford Jnr…

So I asked Katie:

@katieabradford a question that keeps coming up – do you have any political affiliations? Can you please advise.

She responded:

@PeteDGeorge not at all. My work speaks for itself.

I’ve never seen any obvious political bias from Katie – and watching journalists on Twitter you can often get a clear indication of their political preferences.

I haven’t seen any indication from Katie. In fact I suspect Katie tries harder than most journalists to be politically neutral.

Those journalists who are aware of possible perceptions of bias and work on being unbiased are usually more balanced than those who are ignorant of their leanings.

Labour and the nasty biased media

After a torrid week for David Cunliffe and Labour that must have been seriously deflating for them at the very time they most needed to make a strong impression the fingers are starting to point.

And the index finger is pointing straight at the media (they never notice where their other fingers are pointing).

The Labour left usually think that the media is strongly and unfairly biased towards National and against them (just as the right wing think the media is strongly biased towards the left).

And they seem to be launching into a blame the media campaign. It may be spontaneous but there seems to be quite a few like mined bloggers.

A post at The Standard by mickysavage – Media bias:

Media bias has been a topic of conversation for lefties this week.  TV3 has shown, shall we say,questionable judgment, Karol has set out the divergence of treatment shown by the Herald to National’s and Labour’s state of the Nation speeches and the media in general have jumped on National’s framing of issues.  Sam Durbin at Recess Monkey documents recent events well in this post.

That points to Have the media called the 2014 election for Key already?

John Key started the political year with his flat, dull, State of the Nation speech delivered to a stuffy room of businessmen. Rather than sketching out an inspiring vision for the country, he most of his time slagging off his opponents, before launching his cynical new pet project.

On Monday, David Cunliffe captured the nation’s attention, and the narrative, with his State of the Nation, and offered a stark contrast to Key. He addressed a school hall packed with cheering supporters, with people literally queuing to get in.

Fairly normal National bad, Labour fantastic.

Now I’m not going to defend some of the poor communications from Labour, particularly around the Facebook stuff, and they certainly have provided the avenue for attack through some carelessness in crafting. Let me be frank – Labour absolutely must get its act together immediately.

But the fact remains that key members of the media have been shirking their responsibilities to report in an unbiased fashion.

When I took my frustrations to twitter yesterday, the response was prickly, to say the least.  But it certainly appears that the most charitable interpretation of the events of this week is that the media are failing in their duties.

If I was to take a leaf out of Gower’s book, however, I might say that this isn’t just a failure, its deliberate. I might say that they are calling the election for Key already.

If Labour take to talking like this and resort media bashing then they are as good as conceding the election already. They have already conceded they can’t compete with National on their own and need the Greens.

Mickysavage had already posted Gower plays a shocker earlier in the week, and another Labour activist Zetetic had posted Note to Media – check your facts.

And there’s now yet another (guest) post No details, please, we’re gallery hacks

Political journalists do not require any special qualifications. They go to journalism school to learn how to structure an article and avoid being sued. There is no test you must pass to become a Gallery hack proving that you understand policy, economics or statistics.

Gallery hacks don’t know any of this stuff because they don’t need to.

Contrast National’s media strategy on their recent education announcement. John Key rocks up, announces something out of the blue, gives a bare minimum of detail and saunters away. The media spend their time frantically ringing around getting opinions from people and typing furiously about how National’s policy will be received. Hardly anything is known about how this policy will actually work in practice, but no one cares. The media pronounces it a winner because the people they have rung for comment by and large support it.

At least ‘Blue’ realises that Labour have made a blue.

Labour, on the other hand, puts out a great deal of detail, leaves itself open to an easy attack by John Key, the journos smell blood and start ripping chunks off Cunliffe and he starts playing their game, apologising and promising to be more careful in future. Then he gets defensive and starts complaining about their bias.

Reactions like these get you nowhere with the media. Being meek marks you out as a victim for the slaughter and being defensive leaves you looking like a sore loser. The John Key playbook – acting like you’ve done nothing wrong even if you have committed a howling error – is a much better move here. Confidence marks a person as a winner, no matter what the facts are.

If Labour is going to win the election this year then they need to smarten up their game. No details, please, we’re New Zealanders.

There’s a bit of truth to this about how the media operate, albeit a bit harsh.

But the blue isn’t that Labour have done too much detail. It’s that they have stuffed up the detail, they have had different messages, they have got things wrong, they have gone off message (David Clark and Facebook), they have been too slow to react and repair, and quite frankly they have looked chaotically out of their depth.

Of course the media are going to notice that and report it.

And another Labour supporter and satirist has a go at the media too – Scott Yorke in By all means let’s blame the media:

Today sees a couple of blogposts published about the media and, more particularly, the media’s anti-Labour pro-Key bias.

It might even be true.

 Folks, this shit ain’t new. Despite that fact that establishment-owned media organs will more often than not take the side of capital over labour, competent Labour oppositions have managed to win power from time to time.

It’s often hard to be sure with Scott what is genuine satire and what is political activism, they often intermingle. This looks more like another Labour lamenter.

But the narrative that it’s “all the media’s fault” is a compelling one for some Labour supporters. It means that slacktivists like me can take it easy during election year, since the whole thing’s rigged, so what’s the point in trying?

And who knows if this is another sign of defeatism or an attempt to inspire a fight against the nasty biased media.