Sarah Dowie – valedictory swipe at media

Sarah Dowie mostly kept out of the spotlight as National MP for Invercargill since 2014, until it was revealed that she had had an affair with Jami-Lee Ross and had sent him a controversial text.

From Wikipedia:

On 25 January 2019, Dowie was revealed as the MP who had an affair with fellow MP Jami-Lee Ross. Ross had disclosed this in October 2018, but the news media chose not to name her at the time. After it was learned that a police investigation had been launched into a text message allegedly sent by Dowie to Ross, media revealed her identity.

However, the police decided that no further action was needed

In 2019 Dowie was re-selected by National in Invercargill unopposed, but in February 2020 announced her decision not to stand for re-election.

Dowie addressed her treatment by the media in her valedictory speech.

According to the more experienced politician, everyone has an annus horribilis. Mine hit full peak in January 2019, and I didn’t think my personal life was too out of the ordinary until my name scrolled across The AM Show‘s newsreel, bumping Brexit as the lead story. While it’s clear I had made some poor choices, the fact that a press gallery reporter was live providing analysis brought the whole sorry affair to a new level. In my eyes, it can only be described as comical. She was maniacal, could hardly get her words out, and she didn’t have the nous to work out the difference between a complaint, investigation, charge, and proceedings. What followed was worse: a litany of diatribe from even the so-called reputable outlets. At best, some comments could be called wide of the mark. Others were just downright lies. In hindsight, I question whether I should have sued some publications.

One article claimed I ran on family values in 2014. I absolutely did not. The journalist wrote that story without seeking confirmation of facts. It’s irresponsible, lazy, and just downright wrong. A subsequent article on the Politik website suggested I only got promoted because of my alliances—nothing about me holding a law or science degree, having practised and worked for the Department of Conservation. One other paper said I’m not a conservation naive, but for some reason, in 2019, my qualifications and experience were overlooked in favour of the salacious. These stories made taking the high road a very bitter pill to swallow. Nevertheless, I rose above it, continued to front and show up to work.

Compared with recent events where media analysis lasted only a couple of news cycles, the speculation and rubbish continued for me for weeks on end. One woman said to me recently, “Sarah, you were absolutely trashed in the media in 2019, and yet these other MPs experience a couple of media cycles of scrutiny and hide behind mental health issues for their bad behaviour.” The antithesis is the hypocrisy of the media calling for a clean up of politicians. Yes, we are representatives and should take responsibility for poor behaviour, but we are not elected as angels. We too are human and make mistakes, just as journalists do and have. But when a predator is able to manipulate the media for his agenda and the media is directly party to it, it is the media fraternity that needs to audit themselves as to their ethics and their conscious peddling of sexism and patriarchy. If it takes me to be New Zealand’s scarlet woman to highlight this, then so be it.

New Zealand has a long way to go with how we view women. Successive Governments have been concerned with eliminating all forms of violence against women. Violence does not stop at the physical and sexual, and from what I’ve seen and experienced, it seems that unless a woman loses her life, they are afforded very little sympathy for situations or circumstances they find themselves in—ones in which they can’t control.

It’s that underlying patriarchal view that persists in New Zealand that stimulates this. “She shouldn’t have been travelling alone.” “She shouldn’t have led him on.” “She should have seen the signs earlier.” “She should not have been wearing that skirt.” What about: “No, she deserves justice and an environment where she feels safe to report abuse.

What is surprising and deeply disappointing to me is that in some cases these views are held by women who can be most vicious in their criticisms. You cannot legislate for a women’s code, but policy can re-educate. We should encourage everyone to encourage women to contribute to our communities, and we should build a society that enables our daughters to achieve all their hopes and dreams and to do so without judgment or guilt.

Therefore, I am not unchanged from the experience of being an MP. People often say to me, “Why on earth would you want to be an MP?” referring to the endless criticisms—some fair, some not; the hours of work; the arduous travel schedule; endless days away from family and your home; and, even when you are at home or off the clock, eagerly watching for media alerts. Being an MP is all consuming; it’s not like normal employment where you get to switch off at the end of the day.

Her parliamentary experience was not all bad.

But we do not walk alone. We seek out a pack for camaraderie and support, and I have been so fortunate during my lifetime in politics to meet some of the very best men and women in New Zealand, to call them my friends, and I will be eternally thankful for their care. In particular, I mention four colleagues who came in with me in 2014.

We have spent countless days and nights in each other’s company, experiencing the highs and lows of Parliament and life. Brett Hudson, Stuart Smith, Matt Doocey, and Todd Barclay. We are the self-proclaimed breakfast club of misfits, acutely comfortable in our own skin, never actively seeking limelight—[Member hands Dowie a box of tissues] Thank you—but quietly going about our jobs, doing them well and with skill. That shouldn’t be underestimated or underrated.

I thank them from the bottom of my heart for being there in the dark times, for taking me under their wings like a sister and protecting me. I also thank you for the endless laughter and gibes and the ability not to take ourselves too seriously. These friendships are what restore my trust and faith in people. To the class of ’14, a family of alphas, each in our own niche, yet a group that has fitted together like a jigsaw and now withstood two terms without any falling outs, you are talented, kind, and compassionate, and I value each and every one of you.

She concluded:

In conclusion, I refer to the lines of The Breakfast Club, and I tailor them for the context of Parliament.

Dear media, we accept that we had to sacrifice part of our lives in your scrutiny for whatever it is we did wrong, but we MPs think you are crazy to make us write a valedictory telling us who you think we are. You see us how you want to see us—in the simplest terms, the most convenient definitions. But what each of us found out is that one of us is a brain, and an athlete, and a basket case, a princess, and a criminal. Does that answer your question? Sincerely yours, the breakfast club.

Media have a very important job to do in a democracy, but they would do well to reflect on their own behaviour at times, when they relentlessly pursue MPs in order to make their own headlines.

Trump versus everyone who doesn’t praise him & will be a “Miracle” end!

Donald Trump continues to attack anyone who is critical of him, particularly the media which are his goto scapegoat, while his administration works on erasing the World health organisation from official US health measures.

He didn’t appear at the Sunday Covid conference at the White House after taking a battering by media and health experts over his disinfectant comments.

But don’t worry, there will be a Miracle end!

Via Twitter (as usual):

We have now Tested more than 5 Million People. That is more than any other country in the World, and even more than all major countries combined!

Trump is correct that the US has tested over 5.4 million people now, which is more than every other country in the world as a total (but not per capita), but his claim that it’s more than “all major countries combined” is nonsense.

  • USA 5,430,133 tests (16,405 per million)
  • Russia 2,877,699 tests (19,719 per million)
  • Germany 2,072,669 tests (24.738 per million)
  • Italy 1,757,659 tests (29.071 per million)
  • Spain 1,199,548 tests (25,656 per million)

The US has done fewer tests than three major countries and their rate of testing is significantly lower than many countries.

New Zealand has tested 120,981 people (25,088 per million) and Australia have tested 506,449 (19,861 per million).

Trump is still talking about miracles:

The Do Nothing Democrats are spending much of their money on Fake Ads. I never said that the CoronaVirus is a “Hoax”, I said that the Democrats, and the way they lied about it, are a Hoax. Also, it did start with “one person from China”, and then grew, & will be a “Miracle” end!

And continues to spray the media:

If the Wall Street Journal “Editorial” writers had called, as they should have, they would have easily found that I was “NOT happy with the Georgia Governor on Tuesday night.” You said the opposite, and got it wrong as you often do!

Was just informed that the Fake News from the Thursday White House Press Conference had me speaking & asking questions of Dr. Deborah Birx. Wrong, I was speaking to our Laboratory expert, not Deborah, about sunlight etc. & the CoronaVirus. The Lamestream Media is corrupt & sick!

What is the purpose of having White House News Conferences when the Lamestream Media asks nothing but hostile questions, & then refuses to report the truth or facts accurately. They get record ratings, & the American people get nothing but Fake News. Not worth the time & effort!

There are reports that his own administration want him to scale back his rambling train wreck media conferences.

As well as attacking critics Trump launched into defense and self-praise:

The people that know me and know the history of our Country say that I am the hardest working President in history. I don’t know about that, but I am a hard worker and have probably gotten more done in the first 3 1/2 years than any President in history. The Fake News hates it!

I work from early in the morning until late at night, haven’t left the White House in many months (except to launch Hospital Ship Comfort) in order to take care of Trade Deals, Military Rebuilding etc., and then I read a phony story in the failing @nytimesabout my work schedule and eating habits, written by a third rate reporter who knows nothing about me. I will often be in the Oval Office late into the night & read & see that I am angrily eating a hamburger & Diet Coke in my bedroom. People with me are always stunned. Anything to demean!

And it is all a terrible injustice to Trump.

When will all of the “reporters” who have received Noble Prizes for their work on Russia, Russia, Russia, only to have been proven totally wrong (and, in fact, it was the other side who committed the crimes), be turning back their cherished “Nobles” so that they can be given to the REAL REPORTERS & JOURNALISTS who got it right. I can give the Committee a very comprehensive list.

When will the Noble Committee DEMAND the Prizes back, especially since they were gotten under fraud? The reporters and Lamestream Media knew the truth all along Lawsuits should be brought against all, including the Fake News Organizations, to rectify this terrible injustice. For all of the great lawyers out there, do we have any takers? When will the Noble Committee Act? Better be fast!

I haven’t heard of Noble Prizes before.

Meanwhile Trump expands battle with WHO

US President Donald Trump and his top aides are working behind the scenes to sideline the World Health Organisation on several new fronts as they seek to shift blame for the coronavirus pandemic to the world body, according to US and foreign officials involved in the discussions.

Last week, the president announced a 60-day hold on US money to the WHO, but other steps by his top officials go beyond a temporary funding freeze, raising concerns about the permanent weakening of the organisation amid a rapidly spreading crisis.

At the State Department, officials are stripping references to the WHO from coronavirus fact sheets, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has instructed his employees to “cut out the middle man” when it comes to public health initiatives the United States previously supported through the WHO.

“It has been impossible to find a common ground with the US about the views on the work and role of WHO,” said a senior European official, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe diplomatic discussions.

WHO officials initially hoped they could stave off a halt in US funding and a messy public confrontation by making a symbolic concession to Trump, but discussions between the organisation and the US ambassador to the WHO, Andrew Bremberg, failed to ease tensions.

Trump, who has said the outbreak could be contained with “very little death” if the WHO had done its job, reiterated his complaints during a Group of Seven conference call this month.

But critics say the president is scapegoating the WHO to distract from charges that he responded slowly to the pandemic and waited too long to implement protective measures that would have saved lives in the United States. They also question the value of seeking alternatives to the WHO at this juncture.

The institution’s defenders note that since late January, WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has held near-daily news conferences about the virus and warned leaders that the window for stopping its spread was quickly “closing.” Officials from the Trump administration and the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention were embedded in the WHO and continue to work with it, even as Trump publicly rails against the agency.

Reuters: U.S. response to virus splinters into acrimony and uncertainty

Six weeks after U.S. President Donald Trump declared a national emergency over the spreading new coronavirus, the United States is deeply divided over the correct economic and health response.

Division has been one of the tactics Trump has used to rise to the top in the US and maintain power. It doesn’t work so well dealing with a pandemic.

What was meant as a grand experiment in fast action, nearly $3 trillion in federal support to keep U.S. companies and individuals afloat as economic activity froze, is slipping into a morass of finger-pointing and uncertainty.

Millions of workers in the world’s largest economy are wondering when their unemployment benefits will arrive or even when they might be able to register for them. Groups of businesses are squaring off to compete for help. State and city governments are going their own, sometimes conflicting, ways in decisions on when to let business reopen during an infectious national health crisis that does not respect borders.

As a health matter, the approach has also become a mosaic, with a president prone to recommending off-the-cuff and even potentially dangerous remedies, and state officials who agree generically that “more” testing is needed but not exactly on how much more would be required for public safety.

A miracle may emerge from the chaos, but a lot of damage has already been sone.

 

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?

 

Covid support package for media announced

Media were really struggling before Covid-19 generally due to competition via the Internet and specifically due to international online media like Google and Facebook getting a big proportion of advertising revenue.

The impact in businesses further affected advertising revenue, ironically as audiences surged due to virus coverage. The Bauer media Group has already announced they were shutting down New Zealand operations, and other media companies have made it clear their survival was at stake, and have reduced staff and wages.

Today the Government announced support for media companies.


Media support package delivers industry request for assistance

  • $21.1 million to completely cut transmission fees for 6 months
  • $16.5 million to cut by 80% contribution for NZ On Air screen content in 2020/21
  • $1.3 million for government departments to purchase organisation wide news service subscriptions

The Government has announced a suite of initiatives valued at $50 million that have been developed with the media industry to help them get through the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This package is about freeing up cash in the short term to assist the industry get through the immediate crisis and dramatic drop in advertising revenue experienced since the start of COVID Alert Level 4,” Minister of Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media Kris Faafoi said.

“The proposals in this package were generated by the industry themselves in a recent series of workshops to identify means of delivering immediate support to the sector. We have chosen the proposals that have a relatively quick impact to get support out the door as fast as possible.

“By cancelling transmission fees we are freeing up cash the media companies can use to help them in the short term. This is in addition to the wage subsidy and other tax measures.

“Initiatives in this first stage aim to provide some immediate relief and allow time for work to be done on longer term strategies to ensure future sustainability in New Zealand’s news media“The media sector is only the third sector, after primary health care and aviation, to receive a specific pool of funding over and above the wage subsidy to help it get through the COVID-19 crisis.

“This support reflects the essential role media play at this time in delivering access to reliable and up to date news coverage and keeping New Zealanders connected while in lockdown.

“There is evidence New Zealanders are turning to trusted news sources in record numbers at this time so it is critical the media is supported to keep doing the great job they have been doing.

“We will continue to work with media organisations to make sure assistance is targeted and appropriate.

“However, I want to be very clear that this first phase of support alone will not be sufficient to see the sector through a prolonged period of restrictions and reduced advertising.  A second package of support is being developed and will be submitted for the COVID-19 budget discussions in May,” Minister Faafoi said.

Full details of the package are:

  • $20.5 million to cut 100% of Kordia TV/FM transmission fees for 6 months
  • $600,000 to cut 100% of RNZ AM transmission fees for 6 months
  • $16.5 million to reduce, by 80%, media organisations’ NZ On Air content contribution fees for the 2020/21 financial year.
  • $1.3 million to purchase central government news media subscriptions in advance for the 2020/21 financial year and encouraging Crown entities to increase their uptake of news media subscriptions.
  • $11.1 million for specific targeted assistance to companies as and when needed.
  • Commitment to build on the Local Democracy Reporting pilot as part of longer term support

More: https://www.beehive.govt.nz/release/media-support-package-delivers-industry-request-assistance

A change in approach by political media?

Here’s a sign of at least recognition that political media coverage should improve.

Tracy Watkins (Stuff): The election is nearly here – let’s strip it back to what really matters

So what’s the moral of the story? That so much of the political discourse these days is seen to be more focused on the game playing and the sport of politics, rather than the substance. And that is contributing to the sense that politicians are increasingly out of touch with voters.

We in the media can cop some of the blame. In our drive to explain the “why” and “how” of politics it can look like we’re focusing on personalities rather than policies.

It’s also no secret that there is a voracious appetite for personality-driven political coverage, while the appetite for policy-driven stories is more niche.

Is there really a “voracious appetite” for personality-driven political coverage? It is very click driven, but that is often through misleading and inaccurate headlines.

I don’t condemn that; to an extent, I’ve always believed that we vote for our politicians as much on character or judgement as the policies they hawk.

Their credibility is central to whether we believe in their promises.

But in the hot house of Parliament – where politicians and the media collide regularly on the chaotic weekly caucus run, or “on the tiles”, which is where MPs stop for journalists on their way into the House – it’s all too easy to lose perspective.

It’s also a chicken and egg thing. Politicians pay armies of spin doctors to churn out policy positions in soundbites, and the leaders spend hours being coached by their media minders on how to answer questions.

If this was all about enabling a substantive policy debate, or holding their opponents to account, fair enough.

But that’s not it, of course. It’s mostly about framing the narrative, and staying on message. It’s about winning the game in other words.

But does it win the game? I think that many people are unimpressed by PR framing and words that don’t match action s and behaviour, some to the extent of being turned off the politician, party or politics in general.

The stakes are high so it’s not surprising they play the game this way.

It surprises me. I think that substance and delivering is far more important than PR claptrap that may be perceived by analysts to win small battles of words, but loses the war of credibility and leadership.

Winning power means getting to bend an economy and a people to suit their vision.

But that’s also why we deserve much better.

So once Ardern names the date, let’s all pledge to strip this election back to its essentials, and focus on he story behind the personalities and the soundbites.

We do deserve better, from politicians and from media. Tracy Watkins has at least started the year recognising they need to do better, but once the playground begins will anything change? It’s very easy to get dragged into the PR game playing.

Media promote Luxon ahead of his time as politician

People with public profiles, or ‘personalities’ as media who like to think they are also personalities describe them, have a significant advantage over people who don’t have any public profile – name recognition. With the voting public mostly disinterested in most politics and politicians most of the time, having your name known already can be a huge advantage.

But some of them acquire  much bigger advantage, gifted to them by media.  Journalists see stories, and make stories, when  well known person hints at an interest in politics, and when they indicate or announce an interest in politics.

This is what has been happening with ex Air NZ CEO, Christopher Luxon. Even while he was still working for Air NZ media were promoting his prospects not only as a future politician, but also as a future party leader. I think it’s likely some of this at least was deliberately seeded and fed by Luxon, but media willingly obliged.

When Luxon resigned from Air NZ media obliged some more.

When Luxon stood for selection in an electorate, and was subsequently selected to stand in an electorate, media didn’t just report this as news, they promoted the chances of Luxon becoming party leader and potentially Prime Minister.

It will be about a year before the next election, and before we know if Luxon is elected as a back bench MP or not. It would be another two or three years at least before Luxon got a chance of standing for the leadership of National, and even in that sort of time frame it would be remarkable if he did. and he would probably have to compete against other ambitious MPs who have waited for many years working on their chances of rising to the top.

But so far at least Luxon has huge advantage – the media wanting to create stories and effectively create political careers. This is hugely undemocratic. but it is how our media operates in our democracy, as talent scouts and career makers and breakers.

Media does a valuable, essential job reporting politics. But when they become obsessed with making stories rather than reporting them, they are doing a disservice to our democracy.

Media have likened Luxon to John Key, but Key was actually a virtual unknown in New Zealand until he got into politics. However media did help him on his way to the top.  That was one success.

However people with public profiles prior to politics don’t necessarily become great politicians – media can give them unbalanced publicity, but they can’t make them good MPs or Ministers.

There are a number of ‘personalities’ (people with media profiles) who have been great politicians.

Pam Corkery comes to mind – after a media background she became an MP in 1996 but left after one term.

Maggie Barry was well known on TV before becoming an MP in 2011. She ended up becoming minor Minister last term but is probably better known for claims of bullying staff, and over the last year for strong and sometimes extreme opposition to the End of Life Choice bill. She has just announced she won’t stand again next year.

John Tamihere had political and media profile but that didn’t help him get close to winning the recent Auckland mayoral election (but he was competing against Phil Goff who got all the media help he could have hoped foe when first standing for mayor three years ago.

In the Dunedin elections in 2016 a radio ‘personality’ stood and got elected, but after an unremarkable term as councillor voters dumped him.

There are media ‘successes’. They certainly helped hype Jacinda Ardern and significantly enhanced her chances of becoming Prime Minister.

Media picked up and disproportionately promoted a young Auckland mayoral candidate in the 2016 election. Chloe Swarbrick went on from that, undoubtedly helped by media attention, to become a Green Party candidate, to get a fast track up the Green list and into Parliament. She would have to be one of the most promising first term MPs.

But excessive media attention can be a double edged sword. The promotion and rise of Luxon has just resulted in his first political success, candidate selection in what should be a safe electorate. And he should get a high enough list position to have  a second chance in his first election.

But media attention has led to social media attention, and that will never be all positive.

Under Simon Bridges the National Party seems to be under more influence of conservative Christian leanings. Luxon may add too that.

Stuff: National chooses former Air NZ boss Christopher Luxon as Botany MP candidate

Speaking to media immediately after he gained a majority of delegates’ votes in the first round, Luxon laid out his views on issues such as abortion, euthanasia and cannabis legalisation.

The 49-year-old Evangelical Christian had previously refused to talk about his views on abortion. But on Monday night he said he was personally against reform of abortion or euthanasia law.

Asked about the influence of his strong personal faith on his political views, Luxon said: “My faith is a very personal thing … it gives me mission and purpose.”

He cited the effect of cannabis on young people with mental health problems in saying he was against its legalisation for recreational use. But he was in favour of decriminalising medical use, he said.

Those views may be popular in the National Party at the moment, but may struggle for wider popular support.

​Luxon, armed with an endorsement from former prime minister (and current Air NZ board member) John Key was regarded as something of a favourite.

It was clear that some of the higher ups in the party’s non-parliamentary wing were keen to see such a celebrity CEO enter Parliament.

It also seems the media have been keen to see such a ‘celebrity CEO’ enter Parliament. and they have been helping promote it.

I think Luxon has already featured on a ‘preferred Prime Minister’ poll. Expect anything like that to be magnified by the media far beyond it’s significance as Luxon gets turbo charged by journalists who often seem more interested in making stories than fair and balanced democracy.

There’s nothing much us plebs can do about over the top and unbalanced media influence politics – except perhaps do more to make up our own minds and vote accordingly.

However with Luxon being gifted an electorate that should be easy for him to win the media are likely to come out on top there – picking and choosing future leaders to promote.

Poll – trust in institutions, politicians, media and bloggers

A third “Who do we trust?” survey, taken in March 2019 by the Institute for Governance and Policy Studies in association with Colmar Brunton, surveyed 1000 New Zealanders on various issues of trust and life satisfaction.

New Zealanders who trust the government to do what is right for New Zealand:

  • 2016 – 48%
  • 2018 – 65%
  • 2019 – 63%

People satisfied with life in general (10=completely, 0=not at all):

  • 10 – 6%
  • 9 – 12%
  • 8 – 25%
  • 7 – 25%

Total ‘satisfied’ (7-10): 68%

  • 6 – 13%
  • 5 – 11%
  • 4 – 4%

Total ‘neither nor’ (4-6): 28%

  • 3 – 2%
  • 2 – 1%
  • 1 – 1%

Total ‘dissatisfied’ (0-3): 3%

Total who comment on blogs and social media who are dissatisfied? Not asked, but I suspect that is disproportionately high going by the tone of many comments.

The most distrusted groups are Bloggers/online commentators, followed by Members of Parliament and Media.

But it may not be as bad as it appears at a glance. At the bottom of the pile are ‘Bloggers/online commentators’:

  • I have complete trust – 0%
  • I have lots of trust – 3%
  • I have some trust – 30%
  • I have little trust – 43%
  • I have no trust at all – 24%

So a third of people have either some or lots of trust. That may seem low, but many if not most people will have little to no idea about ‘Bloggers/online commentators’ apart from a smattering of negative headlines, if that.

I don’t trust some but I do generally trust many.

There would be few if any bloggers with a public profile (as a blogger) other than Cameron Slater, David Farrar, Dermot Nottingham and Martyn Bradbury.

New Zealanders perceptions that citizens’ interests are equally and fairly considered by government

People who live in Auckland, who were born outside of New Zealand are more likely to say citizens’ interests are considered a great deal.

People who are dissatisfied with life, distrustful of people and who have political leanings to the right are more likely to say citizens’ interests are considered very little or not at all

Victoria University: Latest trust survey explores link to political leanings

 

Is there a problem with political polling?

There is growing concern about political polling.

The Australian election result a week ago defied the polls. The Brexit referendum, Donald Trump elected president of the USA and the New Zealand election in 2017 all delivered different results to what polls were predicting.

I think the biggest problem here is the word ‘predicting’. Media has become obsessed with trying to predict election results. Polls are only designed to be approximate snapshots of voter leaning or intent, with typical statistical margins of error of 3-4% (as at the time the poll was taken, not on the election date).

ODT:  Is there a political polling problem?

In each of these examples, the Left has appeared stronger in polling data than the Right and, more importantly, the Left has polled higher than what the electorate has ultimately delivered.

It is worth noting that, in the above examples, polling data was very close to the final results. A little swing this way or that, added to margins of error, could be all the explanation required.

Don’t forget movement on voting intentions as voters close into making an actual decision on election day.

There is a school of thought, however, suggesting there is a trend at play here. The theory posits much of the major media organisations around the country and the world are staffed – at least on the “shop floor” – by a majority who swing left politically.

Is it possible an element of that presumed political thinking comes through in reporting?

There are two separate issues – polling, and reporting of polls.

Is it possible consumers of that news then feel it is more acceptable, when asked, to align themselves to the tone of the news stories and causes of the day, rather than more conservative views which may out them as morally outdated?

Is it possible the highly visual social campaigning undertaken by some on the political left – current strikes and marches are a fair example – compel those polled to err towards the left? And that, months later, in a private voting booth with just themselves, their personal views and a list of options in front of them, they opt for their own views – even if those views are more conservative than they’re willing to admit out loud?

There could be many reasons why this apparent trend in polling is resulting in a mistaken skew leftwards. It could well be the sample size listed in this piece is far too small to be worth analysing. Perhaps there is no issue at all.

I think there is very little issue. Polls don’t decide elections, media don’t decide elections (despite them appearing at times to do their best to influence them rather than report on them) – voters decide elections. It isn’t a contest between pollsters and voters.

Political arguments, intellectual disagreements and challenges to our world view are generally tiring and difficult. Is that what’s at play here?

Is the Left winning the publicity and polling battle, but losing the war?

That’s a different issue again.

And it isn’t entirely accurate – in the last New Zealand election the slightly more right leaning National Party won the election battle, but lost the coalition war to Labour, NZ First and the Greens.

There’s too many variations and variations to make any sort of statement about problems with political polling.

The best solution is to polls as approximate indicators of support prior to elections, and to ignore most media overstatements about their importance.

The media need to learn that they don’t decide election results beforehand. Voters have the only say.

Media and playing into the hands of terror

When terrorist acts happen it poses very difficult decisions for media, and these decisions have to be made very quickly, while other media are busy with their headlines.

It is important that media report big and important news, but they have to be careful about not giving terrorists too much of what they are primarily wanting, publicity.

Something media should be most wary of is feeding speculation, rumours and deliberate conspiracies before facts are known.

Laura Walters at Newsroom: International media drops the ball on Sri Lanka terror coverage

Analysis: Unsubstantiated claims of retaliation led some of the biggest news sites in the world. Laura Walters looks at the responsibility of media in covering an increasingly volatile tit-for-tat war of terror.

On Tuesday evening, New Zealanders’ news feeds were filled with a flood of media reports claiming the Sri Lankan bombings, which killed more than 300 people, were revenge for the Christchurch mosque attacks.

The reports added validitity and oxygen to this growing, somewhat biblical, idea of a tit-for-tat terror war.

In response to these reports, Emma Beals, a Kiwi independent journalist who specialises in coverage of the Middle East, ISIS and terrorsim tweeted, “This is a terrifying statement”.

Providing publicity for the terrorists and agents of the terrorists who want to drive hate and division and who are trying to escalate terror and terror wars is a difficult but essential consideration for responsible media, especially when there is so much irresponsible media around and available online now.

This reporting again raises media’s role and burden of responsibility when reporting on terror events – something that’s been a topic of much discussionin New Zealand since the Christchurch attacks. It’s an area where domestic media is still finding its feet, but news organisations have been proactive in creating internal policies, and working together to come up with reporting guidelines ahead of the shooter’s trial.

Ellis said New Zealand media did a good job at balancing the claim with the context in its coverage of the retaliation angle. With a fast-moving situation, or evolving news story, like a terror attack, it was important not to over-egg these types of claims.

“I think it behoves the media to act with a degree of greater responsibility than that,” he said.

Going forward, media outlets needed to apply constant editorial judgment when covering terror attacks, and related developments.

That’s a big editorial responsibility, but an essential requirement for media. It is most important for large media (the much maligned but essential mainstream media’ provides most of the coverage of large news events) to do this as well as possible, but at the other end of the media scale sole operator sites like this also have to consider the implications of not only what is posted, but also what is commented.

There are people who are genuinely concerned about escalations of terror and tit for tat terror and want to talk about it, but it can be challenging differentiating this from those who are deliberately trying to inflame already volatile situations, and are in effect acting as agents of terrorists.

Playing into the hands of terror

Along with the issues of prominently reporting unverified claims, there’s the knock-on effect of sending signals of a dangerous tit-for-tat terror war.

“It plants in the minds of others some sort of legitimacy in retribution and of course, there’s none,” Ellis said

“It changes the character of the events and turns them into a clash of civilisations.”

Since the minister’s comments surfaced, security and terrorism experts, including reporters like the New York Times’ reporter Rukmini Callimachi, have expressed scepticism at whether an attack of this magnitude and sophistication could have been organised in the weeks since the March 15 attack.

Massey University Centre for Defence and Security Studies teaching fellow John Battersby said he expected the planning and logistics for the Sri Lankan attacks were already in train prior to the Christchurch attack, however, the Christchurch attacks may have provided impetus to individuals or groups already determined on some terrorist act.

“As soon as the Sri Lankan news broke I wondered immediately if Christchurch featured somewhere in the calculation of the perpetrators,” he said.

On the other hand, it could all be a red-herring, “so I am allowing the possibility but will need confirmation with hard evidence”.

Battersby reiterated, like other commentators, he was sceptical about the whole attack plan and sequence being put together solely as a result of Christchurch, just as he was not convinced that Sri Lanka’s National Thowheeth Jama’ath (NTJ) fully planned and executed this without some serious outside assistance.

In times like these, it was important not to rush to judgment, and instead see what the intelligence actually said.

Likewise, when unpicking whether ISIS was behind the attack, as it unsurprisingly claimed.

This was the nuance and context missing from the initial reporting.

Some inadvertently play into the hands of terrorists (we are all at risk of this when providing coverage and forums for terrorist acts), while others, extreme activist opportunists, use terrorist acts to promote their own divisive agendas and seek publicity for themselves.

This provides a dilemma, for example on what UK extremist Katie Hopkins did in attacking Jacinda Ardern. Should her deliberately inflammatory nonsense be publicly confronted and condemned, or should it be ignored? Ignoring it is difficult of those who seeking to spread her crap have free shots with no challenge.

I considered the same issues when posting on the ongoing divisive ‘war of religion’ crap being spread at Whale Oil.

It was important media thought carefully about how to cover before playing into that plan for exposure of ideas and ambitions, and again, exercise the editorial judgment Ellis referred to.

Battersby said terrorism was now genuinely global, “where non-state actors are using the entire globe as a theatre to perpetrate their terror”.

“Extremist individuals or factions, on absolute fringes of our societies responding to each other’s provocations, by carrying out attacks on unsuspecting people at their most vulnerable times is a hideous and alarming feature of 21st Century globalised terrorism. Nations need to seriously get their heads together and confront this global risk, with a coordinated and integrated response.”

At a time like this, responsible, measured, and verified coverage is crucial.

That’s the job for large media organisations. Small ones like here need to also be responsible and measured, and try to repeat credible and verified coverage as much as possible, while still allowing relatively free discussions. That is a daily challenge.

 

Louisa Wall: “The Media have a responsibility to do no harm”

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced yesterday that she is is chairing a meeting in Paris next month in a attempt to find a way to prevent terrorists from being able to social media to promote and publicise terrorism.

Labour MP Louisa Wall on Facebook yesterday widened her focus to ‘The Media’:

Kia Ora. The Media and those that transmit their political content and other political content generated for these public mediums, are defined as The Fourth Estate or fourth power that refers to the press and news media both in explicit capacity of advocacy and implicit ability to frame political issues. It is time that it was formally recognized as part of a political system, as it wields significant indirect social influence.

This would impose a Duty of Care on The Media – a formalisation of the social contract, the implicit responsibilities requiring adherence to a standard of reasonable care while performing any acts that could foreseeably harm others.

The Media have a responsibility to do no harm. Kia Kaha PM Jacinda Ardern for the meeting on May 15 – two months after the Christchurch terror attacks which claimed the lives of 50 people – which aims to see world leaders and tech company bosses agree to the “Christchurch call” – a pledge to eliminate terrorist and violent extremist content online.

Linked to NZ Herald: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to lead global attempt to shutdown social media terrorism

This prompted a reaction from some journalists.

Andrea Vance (@avancenz):

Uh, what? Bringing media under control of Parliament … is this govt policy ?

(Facebook post image included)

Liked by SamSachdeva, Hamish McNeilly, Hamish Rutherford, Stacey Kirk, Laura McQuillan, Richard Boock, Paul Harper, Kim Baker Wilson, Tracey Watkins, John Campbell (all media/journalists) plus Chris Bishop (MP).

Two lawyers add their views:

Graeme Edgeler (@GraemeEdgeler):

It sounds bad, but I kind of feel most of these things are already present, certainly for online and broadcast media anyway. Duty of care is not a ridiculous paraphrase of the duties on media in some defamation defences, and under the HDCA.

Stephen Franks (@franks_lawyer):

Without the defences of truth and honest opinion it is completely sinister and as far from the law that protected both freedom and honest public discourse as we could get.

Graeme Edgeler:

I was thinking, for example, of the defamation defence of responsible communication on a matter public interest as provided in Durie v Gardiner [2018] NZCA 278.

Stephen Frank:

I understand that and am very conscious of NZ judges massive indifference to the vital role of liability for lies, as a condition/corollary of free speech, but your comment is still misleading rationalisation of sinister nonsense from Ardern and her fumbling Minister of Justice.

That is widening somewhat from what Wall posted.

Despite the concerns shown by journalists I don’t think Louisa Wall has much sway in Labour let alone in Government. She is ranked 23 (Clare Curran is 22), despite being an MP for 11 years, a term and a bit from 2008 as a list MP, and since 2011 as MP for Manurewa (2017 majority 8,374).